Where am I?

I Speak for the Trees

May 10, 2006 at 10:37 AM | categories: New Zealand | View Comments

Auckland is foggy this morning.

foggy auckland

By 09:00 I had checked out of the Spencer and was zooming northward on highway 1. It leaves Auckland as a motorway, or freeway, but quickly changes into a one-lane, barrier-less, barely-paved country road. It's a little worse than highway 4 through Bear Valley, CA. On the plus side, it's sunny now.

sunny northlands

Shortly I turn off 1 and onto 12, bound for Dargaville and the east coast. I stop at the Kauri Museum in Matakohe. It's devoted to the kauri trees themselves, and to the history of logging and kauri-gum gathering in the area. The trees themselves are huge: very tall, very large around, and very long-lived. As in any tree museum, there are labelled tree rings. The wood is really pretty: I suppose it's callous to mention that, since the loggers nearly wiped out the living population of trees. But it turns out that the wood is incredibly durable, and people still make furniture and bowls from "swamp kauri", dug up out of the ground after 30,000 years or more. labelled kauri rings spotted kauri kauri table

There's a vertical cross-section of a kauri in a long hall, to give some perspective. Kauri are cone-bearers, and the cones look vaguely like pine-cones. Did I mention that you can make furniture out of the wood? vertical cross-section kauri cones kauri dresser

Kauri gum is something like amber, but not quite as nice. I looked for some jewelry-sized pieces, hoping to make a new earring, but all the pieces I saw were too big and clunky. The gum was used as varnish, which explains some of the luster of the wood. Apparently it made for a fairly flammable varnish, though, so there's no demand anymore. kauri in coal kauri bowl kauri bed

kauri panel kauri platter kauri root

The museum includes a large room of nothing but kauri gum. Really. And it's on display in kauri-wood cabinets, which look very handsome. kauri gum display kauri with barnacles kauri cabinet, with credits

That was quite a lot of kauri in one place. I resisted buying any in the gift shop, though, and drove on to Dargaville. It didn't look like a good place to stop, so I spotted a mention of the "Funky Fish" in Baylys Beach: "People drive from Dargaville just to eat here." And why not?

They have a nice garden, a massive kauri-wood(?) table, and a friendly cat (who apparently smelled the funky fish from next door). I had the seafood chowder and a glass of viognier: the cat promised to be my best friend if I gave her some chowder, but all she got was a drop of viognier. She's too young to start on a life of chowder-fueled debauchery. funky fish funky table funky cat That was a busy day, and I've only just had lunch. Stay tuned....

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