Sunday 16 August 2020

Wairere Boulders & the Hokianga Harbour

 Catch-up; Northland, Jan 2019 

Another tiki-tour I did while David was taking it easy after his illness was to check out the Wairere Boulders, 50kms west of Kerikeri at the head of the Hokianga Harbour.

Wairere Boulders is a private nature reserve with some amazing rock formations.  

First things first though; a refreshing morning tea from the cute little caravan cafe at the entrance to the Boulder track.

Wairere Boulders also have a lovely camping area for motorhomers, this would be a great place to stay if you're cycling the nearby Twin Coast Cycle Trail. Walk the boulder tracks one day, cycle some of the track the next.

After my cup of tea and cake I headed off up the track which is well signposted with lots of extra information...

...and a few surprises; a Highland cattle bull minus his harem (which were elsewhere on the property). Did you know that a herd of Highland cattle are called a 'fold' after the open, walled shelters that they are kept in over winter in their homeland, Scotland.

The track weaves in and out of trees and through rocky tunnels. There are clear instructions when the going gets a little narrower.

The track heads up the valley alongside a tumbling stream which you can often hear but not see. The scenery is amazing and the rocks are getting bigger. I climb the ramp and follow the track across some very large boulders with similar sized boulders stacked alongside. It looks like a Giant has tossed a handful of marbles down the hillside (click on the photo to enlarge).

Around 2.8 million years ago a volcano, located around the Kerikeri area, erupted. The eruption was so huge that a basalt lava flow spread across a massive area extending to Horeke. In fact there may have been multiple eruptions that extended this far resulting in a deep basalt layer around 30m thick. 
This basalt lava flow started to crack as the ground beneath it was eroded over time by the action of rain. The Wairere Stream formed, widening the gap below the basalt crust, so more and more chunks of basalt broke off. The boulders started to move towards the valley floor.
The underlying soil was clay and as this washed away from under the boulders they moved further down the valley, finally ending up at the valley floor in the river. It has taken the boulders 2.8 million years to get from the top of the hill to the positions they lie in today.
There are also some quirky characters (Boulder Beasts) along the way...

The fluting on many of the rocks is also unique for this type of rock.
Fluting is the name given to the type of erosions on the boulders. Fluting is sometimes also known as lapiez or solution pits and is caused by water running across the rock surface. It is most commonly seen on limestone, and it is very rare for basalt to erode this way. Basalt requires acidic water to cause fluting, and only at Wairere Boulders, due to special set of circumstances, did the water become acidic enough for the fluting to occur.

The track crosses the Wairere Stream and heads back down the other side. Firstly though, I take a side track through a rock tunnel and a lovely Nikau forest....

...down to a swimming hole.

The tannin stained swimming hole water is dark and brooding. There's no way I'd be going in there even if I had my togs with me, I'm quite positive that water hides a several humongous eels. The pool reflections are amazing though and the surrounding bush, still & peaceful.

Back at the junction, I continue on down the stream stopping to check gaps in the bush and rock hop out over the water into the open every now and then.

Even though it's often up hill and down dale, the track is pretty easy going and there are plenty of interesting features along the way to check out, including this giant rata tree on the right. Rata trees actually start life as an epiphyte vine which grows up and entwines a host tree. The host tree is eventually smothered and dies leaving the rata vine (now a tree) standing tall and strong. 

This boulder look like a large Christmas puddings with its fluted top and sides.

The track crosses several of the boulders leaving a well worn path through the moss and lichen.

I come to another junction, this time a side track heads straight up the side of the hill to a lookout. It's an hour return and I'm a little reluctant to head up there as I have other places to visit today. I walk a few dozens metres and when the track breaks out into a paddock and gets very slippery I decide that'll be it for this visit, I turn around and head back down.

Towards the end of the track there's a gap in the bush and I can see across to the otherside of the stream and the large boulders I crossed on the way up. A lady in blue carrying a sunhat comes into view as she crosses over the top of them giving me a perfect shot to show you perspective. I'd highly recommend a visit to the boulders, it was an enjoyable walk with lots of interesting features.

From the Boulders I drove down to the Hokianga Harbour and along to Horeke finding this very cute little Maori Church up a side road. Some of you will have seen this, the cycle trail passes by on the road outside.

Then it's back to the Horeke Hotel to check out the two jetties that reach out into the shallow waters of the upper Hokianga Harbour. The hotel hosts many cyclists for meals & accommodation. The Twin Coast Cycle Trail has helped revive and sustain many of these small rural settlements in Northland.

And then it's onto Mangungu Mission (established in 1828), just along the harbour from the hotel and where in February 1840, the third and largest signing of the Treaty of Waitangi took place.

Mangungu Mission House
Mangungu Mission House

Thousands of Maori, in hundreds of waka, gathered in the harbour below for the historical event.

I walked out to the end of the jetty below the mission too. In this quite backwater of the Hokianga, it's hard to imagine the hustle & bustle of those times long ago.  

It was time to head back to Kerikeri via SH12 to complete the circle. At Taheke, I also added another two churches to my collection, both have seen better days.