Monday, December 28, 2009

A new family tradition

On Boxing Day my son, Danny planned a family expedition into the Tangihua Forest that is our neighbour. The entrance gates on our side of the forest is kept locked but said son leases a block of land that borders on to the forest and we could drive as far as the boundary fence. Which is a very high deer fence and had to be climbed. Thankfully, only my daughter and I had cameras and we weren't tempted to take embarrassing photos of each other scrambling over that fence. But was easier (and quicker) than the 30 minute walk from the road would have been.

The day was warm but noticeably cooler once we got inside the forest. Dan decreed a walk to the Kauri Dam was first on the agenda. The original kauri dams in New Zealand were copies of the timber-built structures of Nova Scotia. But over time and as experience was gained, improvements included a simple but effective lifting gate design that allowed the dams to be released by a rigger and then re-used. It is estimated that over 90 years, up to 1,000 log dams were built. And one of those is at the head of the little creek that runs through our farm.

The walls of a kauri dam

The dam collected a large amount of water on a fairly small stream. Over many months, as the dam slowly filled, logs were felled and laid in the stream bed. The gate of the dam was tripped, usually during a storm (to enhance the natural flood), and the power of the water drove the logs down the little creek. The little creek flows into a bigger creek and that creek into a bigger creek still and the logs would float on down until they reach Dargaville on the west coast. There, a floating structure of wooden booms collected the logs. A dam might be re-used for several years before it was abandoned.

Can you imagine the noise when the dam was tripped? Witnesses described the power of a log drive as unforgettable.

Little remains up in the forest now. A few huge planks across the bottom of a gorge. But you can imagine by the shape of the gorge how it would have worked.

The walk to the Kauri Grove was bit longer (twice as long actually). While the others were playing on the Challenge Course that is set up near the Lodge that is used by school groups, the youngest and the oldest, Georgia and I set out. This track was narrower and in denser bush. It followed along the banks of the little stream for about 20 minutes before coming to a creek crossing. In some places the track was very slushy and muddy, there must be springs everywhere up there in that forest.

Two of our party decided to stay at the creek but I decided to carry on and trail on behind the younger ones at my own pace. (As the two who stayed by creek sat there quietly they saw little native lobsters in the water!) Georgia dropped back to be my companion. She had been listening when we'd explained the rules of walking in the bush - never leave the group, never leave the track, etc. And after much huffing and puffing, we made it to the Kauri Grove. (The literature says the walk may require skill and an average level of fitness - yay me!)

Danny and daughters dwarfed by the kauri.

The light shining through the trees was quite magical.

Strange how the walk back always seems quicker! No, it definitely was, it was mainly downhill. And by then Danny had found me a sturdy walking stick.

Danny decided this going for a Boxing Day bush walk would make a great new family tradition. I think he should have come up with the idea when I was younger and fitter.


  1. That does sound like a challenging but worthwhile ritual. And beautiful photos. The light is magical.

  2. Hi Pauline, before next Boxing Day buy yourself (or hint heavily to Santa) a pair of hiking/trekking poles. Even having just one would make a big difference. Mine has a point for snow and sand and a rubber foot to go over the point for rocky and solid ground trekking. I bought it this summer and now I'm thinking about adding a second one for the winter walking. Take care!

  3. Thanks for the tip, Elaine. My birthday is coming up soon, the hint will go out. I need all the help I can get! :)

  4. Oh Pauline, that sounds like a wonderful day and what beautiful photos. The light is just amazing. Happy to hear you had a good Boxing Day.

  5. Pauline, thanks for the lovely cool looking photo's I think the temperature has just dropped a few degrees looking at them.

  6. What a wonderful thing to do. I would need someone to get me off my bum to go and do that these days. Funny considering tramping used to be my first love.


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