After the semi-tropical landscape of the Northland and Coromandel Peninsula, Kate and I decided to get a little taste of home by visiting the temperate rainforest in Te Urewera (formerly Te Urewera National Park) on the eastern half of the North Island. After a long winding drive full of multiple livestock obstacles (free range cows, sheep, and horses seemed to be around every corner) we finally reached our destination.
We decided to hike the Ruapani Circuit, a 6 hour track through dense beech forests and past Waikareiti Lake, a large mountain lake that was created 18,000 years ago when it was impounded by an enormous landslide.
At times we had to remind ourselves that we were not back home in Oregon hiking in the Cascades or Coast range. Everything felt very familiar – huge trees, moss, ferns, lichen, and fungi around every corner. The giant Silver and Red beech trunks looked like Western hemlock or Sitka spruce from a distance and the Crown ferns looked almost exactly like Sword ferns.
Due to Te Urewera’s relative remoteness we only saw about 8 other people in the six hours we were hiking. With no one else around, I took a quick swim in Lake Waikareiti while Kate decided that it was a bit chilly for her swimming taste.
The region of Te Urewera is still remote and rugged country. This area provided refuge for many of the Maori that refused to sign the Treaty of Waitangi (which would have made them subjects of Great Britain) and was one of the last areas of New Zealand to be claimed by the colonizing British.
The name Te Urewera itself is also interesting – the literal translation means “burnt penis” and relates to a story of an old Maori chief who slept to close to a fire, fatally burning himself…..you know where. I’m not so sure you could get away with a name like “Burnt Penis National Park” in the good ol’ U. S. of A. 🙂 …then again, we do have Grand Tetons National Park, so there is a precedent.