Thursday, September 16, 2010


On Anzac day Jan and I returned to the mountain with a four of our neighbours: 
Reggie and Neal; Rob and Elaine, a picnic party with serious exploration in
mind.  This time we were determined to penetrate to the very end of the enchanted
Kawaka Promontory.  We knew there had to be parents for the ever-increasing density
of matai seedlings among all the crisp kawakas and copses of kinky trunked Coprosma
areolatas.  So we pushed on through a dense wall of wind-compacted bush that hitherto
had excluded us, seeming to suggest it was the end of the promontory and that a
sudden cliff edge would precipitate us headlong into the bay.  First we followed the cliff
edge line of pohutukawa, coprosmas, hebe clumps, a few stumpy nikau and patches
of wharangi.  Wind pressure out here has bent the tops of the bushes at right angles so
they look weird and grotesque.  But this was a mellow autumn day with a frisson of an
offshore breeze and the sea below, sparkling and clear, revealed extensive forests of
kelp where three Maori divers were snorkelling for kina.
tawapou berries: rare coastal tree

To my delight almost at the end of the promontory I found what I sought: a solitary
tawapou tree with a few ripening berries on it.  But no seedlings to propagate this rare
coastal tree.  Beyond here the wind compaction made progress extremely hard. Finally
a dense mass of flax bushes perhaps purpose planted long ago by cliff dwellers.  The
rope factory…And an awe-inspiring ocean panorama including our beloved Poor
Knights Islands.
coastal kauri

Returning along the eastern side of the promontory, above Purapuratahi Cove, we
found even more kauri of all sizes from seedlings to sturdy, gnarly trees.  More than I
cared to count.  No massive giants of inland forests here but these wind exposed trees
had muscles.  They showed signs of hard lives out on a knuckle of rock facing into the
most powerful winds this coast ever knows; such as Cyclone Bola.  And adjacent to
them the density of young kowhai seedlings was remarkable.  'The force that through the
green fuse drives the flower' wrote Dylan Thomas: there seems to be a green power out here that enables every tree to reproduce with immense vigour.  Little sign of the months of drought that has tree leaves elsewhere hanging limp.  The bush above the cove is quite dense: rewarewa, taraire, karaka, and kohekohe with their fruits like nutmegs sprouting from their trunks, now beginning to split open and reveal crimson seeds like little tongues just as fresh buds appear for early winter blossom.

All this and much, much more slowed our progress but as we walked back towards the
densest part of the kawaka grove I found those powerful, hammer patterned trunks I so
dearly sought.  There they were: mum and dad matai, probable progenitors of the
densest grove of seedlings I have ever seen; as dense as are the kawaka in this same

Our party could now set off on the cliff edge walk to Harakeke Island where we met a
pod of six bottlenose dolphins cruising by close to the rocks.  After visiting the deep
caves, and scrutinising a rock-clinging morsel of rare fern inches beyond wave reach;
traipsing through cove after sandy cove, each a paradise wherein to spend a lifetime sun
basking and then striding summitwards to the sacred puriri tree with the wide spread
limbs which once cradled a crying baby placed there to decoy enemy from fleeing cliff
dwellers; after the deep valley where a huge deep red rata vine embraces a puriri; after
passing gnarly old mamangi, biggest coprosmas in the world and sleek lancewoods and
descending to our waiting cars and draughts of water my neighbour Rob said he was
amazed at the diversity of Whakairiora. “There are so many rooms,” he said.  “You
never know what to expect next.  Lots of windows offer long views, even right out to
the Chicks and Little Barrier Island but at no stage can you see it all or gain any
impression of a complete panorama.  It just leads you on from one delight to another.
Those giant spreading pohutukawa, the broad swathes of Muehlenbeckia covered
sand hill; the deep shady forest, sunlit ridges, long prospects through open woodland,
cliff edge shrubberies, Ngunguru sandspit in its entirety, on and on and on.' 
And we, all my dear neighbours, after our daylong walk, agreed this should be protected
 forever as a National Heritage Park.

On the T.V. news that night: controversy over a bull-dozered road across Gallipoli's gauntbattlefields in far away Turkey.  I thought of those brown warriors on the Ngunguru sandspit and the burial ground at Purapuratahi Cove of people from the Poor Knights massacre…all threatened by dozer-bladed development…And our Resource Management Act says: there should be no unnecessary subdivision… Can we save Ngunguru Sandspit and Whakairiora Mountain?…

1 comment:

  1. This serene outdoor setting provides access to a boat ramp.
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