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Hiking and Caving on Rare Weekdays Off


Patrick Andrews

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Spring aerification is finished and I had Monday and Tuesday off , allowing me to explore New Zealand. Typically I would not have  weekdays off, but I swapped a weekend. Our crew is split into three teams to work alternating weekends.

On Monday, I went north to the Waipoua Forest to visit the largest known living kauri (Agathis australis) tree, named Tāne Mahuta (Lord of the Forest). Standing about 150' high and with a girth of about 50', it is named for Tāne, the Māori god of forests and birds. It is estimated to be between 1250 and 2500 years old. I couldn't do any hiking in the area due to Kauri dieback disease (soil-borne Phytophthora agathidicida), but there is a boardwalk that leads you to the tree about 200 meters from the road.

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Tāne Mahuta, the Lord of the Forest. The canopy supports many epiphytic plants.

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Every park and trail has a shoe washstation to prevent the spread of soil-borne Kauri dieback disease.

I also found out that New Zealand has some accessible caves. The one cave I went into on Monday was called the Waipu cave, which is a go-in at your own risk and takes about 30 minutes to complete. I was not prepared when I got to the cave. I thought it would be a walk-in and walk-out ordeal, so I did not bring a headlamp. That was a good call, though, because when you look at the cave walls in complete darkness, you can see thousands of glow worms that cover the ceiling, almost like a starry night.

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Entrance to the Waipu cave (above). Glow worms covered the cave ceiling (below).

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Tuesday, I went to Abbey Caves in Whangarei. There were three different caves, and you had to go through knee-high water in some spots. I spent two hours in the Abbey Caves and plan to return soon.

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I also hiked Peach Cove in Whangarei Heads. The hike was mainly in the woods but had a few fantastic lookout points. The hike took three and a half hours 2.5-mile walk, mostly uphill.

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View of Peach Cove.

In those two days, I drove 370 miles and only saw a fraction of the North Island. I’m hoping on my next days off to make it to the most northern part of New Zealand, Cape Reinga, which is five hours from Tara Iti.

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