Ahipara, New Zealand Family vacations are wonderful things. I idealize them perhaps. After four days in Auckland and Ahipara in the “far north” of the country where we are traveling, I rated not only the trip, but the family interactions in the A+ range. In organizations there’s something called “founder’s syndrome” which speaks to many issues, some real and some false, but valuably warns of self-delusion. Perhaps there’s a “father’s syndrome” much like that. To my surprise not everyone was grading the marks as high as I was. There was even a B-!
Outside of the car though, there is universal agreement about the beauty and wonders of the country. We’re not in Lord of the Rings space, that’s the South Island. We’re in the north island and in the far north, though it is winter here, they refer to the climate as subtropical, and it in fact has been near perfect temperatures. I hope I didn’t just put my dirty mouth on it.
Of course, it’s crazy expensive, but that’s not atypical of island countries and continents. A cup of coffee, even at a gas station, is 4.50 NZ which is about $6 and change in USD. Gas is through the sky. Food is crazy, but, as I say, it’s what seasoned travelers would expect. As for driving on the left side of the road, what can I say, thankfully, so far so good.
We visited the Auckland Botanical Garden. I’m a huge fan of such gardens. I try to visit them everywhere I travel if I have an extra minute. The one in Rio de Janiero is my favorite and Kew Gardens outside of London I might have thought was the best, but Auckland might just be in a different league. It was amazing!
I can’t help but try to find out more about a such a gorgeous and exotic country and environment and of course there’s always other features not visible cruising along the highway. We picked up some $2 NZ books at the Botanical library. Reading one, Historic Trails of the Far North from 1981 by E.V. Sale, has been eye opening. Though ostensibly Sale is writing about what’s along the roads going north all the way to Cape Reinga, he details the bloody missionary and colonial imperialist battles with the Maori including some coverage of the Maori’s inter-tribal wars. There’s nothing pretty to read here. This is the American story of exploitation of native peoples with another accent but the same through line.
Every story and plaque talk about the giant kauri forests, yet I’m not sure I’ve seen a single tree. Some of the sheep grazing on green grass hills along the road are really an example of almost total deforestation. Kauri was immensely valuable. The girth of the trees was huge and their height serious. Ships coveted kauri for their masts and builders for their endurance and ability to stand the weather. They are protected in some state forests, but they were sacred to the Maori and just commercial to others. The sap produced a gum and brought thousands of gumdiggers. Fresh or moistened, it could be chewed, but its real value lay in how flammable it was as tinder or torches.
So far, the only kauri I have seen are as stumps or as tree fall. There’s a wonderland in New Zealand, but there are also lessons from the past, still important today if anyone is willing to learn.