Category: geology

Day 6: Boulders, swimming but no tourist stuff!

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Handstand at Magic Rock

We awoke late. So peaceful here. After a leisurely breakfast, we wandered up the hill for second breakfast of Raglan Roast coffee and freshly made scones and cinnamon koru. Luxury! (Graham and Paula lived in Raglan before they made the move north and bought Wairere Boulders. It was awesome to have a taste of our rohe up here!) We made the most of a good WIFI connection to checkout accommodation around Paihia and found that there was none until tomorrow so decided to stay here another night.  It was already 11.30 so we decided we’d finish off the bits of the walk we didn’t do last night, drive down to Horeke and check it out, go to the Mangungu Mission House then come back and decide whether to kayak through the mangroves to the harbour or not. The tide times meant that this couldn’t be done until 4.30pm. 


We rebelliously went the wrong way round the walk to get straight up to the Magic Rock rather than going all the way round the Loop Track. It is a steady climb from the stile and although it was overcast, it was very humid and hot. You can see the Magic Rock from the campsite and it seems a long way off, but it took us about 25 minutes to climb the 185m hill. It is a BIG rock! The view of the harbour and the rolling scenery is beautiful although there is no view of the boulders – the best place to see them from is the Lookout.  After a handstand at the top (not the top of the boulder although I reckon it could be scaled – just not by me on a windy day with no backup!)


We headed down to the swimming hole. When we had looked at this yesterday, I was a little unsure about it – the water is a peaty brown and you can’t see the bottom. We found out later that it is stained by the bush tannins and is perfectly clean. As I couldn’t see the bottom, I poked my feet down until I could feel a rock, and then a bit more to find the shingly bed before I launched in. It was deliciously refreshing.  I splashed around for a bit, swam out to the middle and found a rock to stand on before coming back and getting out. A quick dry while Nigel practised his weaving on the Nikau Palms and then we headed back. 

Swimming in brown water!

Next stop Horeke. Or maybe not. Horeke is a reasonable size settlement. It has the oldest pub in New Zealand and the oldest Post Office. There is a school, a church, a community centre, a sports centre and a medical centre. The pub is closed. The Post Office has been moved and is now a resource shed.  But it is busy with cyclists as it is the endpoint of the Twin Coast Cycle Way. The ice cream van in front of the Sports Centre is doing the roaring trade the pub could have been doing had it been open. There are well to do looking houses and along the Horeke Road there is also evidence of the poverty of the rohe. A place of haves and have nots. As I wrote this blog I came across this article from written earlier this year.


We had read that the Mangungu Mission House was open 10am to 3pm from December to February. It was now 1.45pm so we headed off to have a look.  Only a few kms down the road but we found it too was closed. We looked around the grounds, wandered through the cemetery, read the information boards and then decided that we might as well come back to the campsite and have lunch there. 


The afternoon has been spent writing this blog, generally relaxing. We decided not to kayak though it does sound interesting and I sort of had FOMO when another group were getting kitted up to go. 

Onwards: Day 5 Mangroves and Bushfire

Sunrise – looking a bit smoky – Australian Bushfires?

A crack of noon start to our onwards journey. Still not sure of our plan except that we are heading towards Wairere Boulders.  Shall we go on the ferry to Kohukohu and around or up to Kaikohe and along?  We decided to go to Rawene for coffee and some groceries, do the mangrove walk and then make a decision. Procrastination is strong but we are on holiday after all!

The coffee in ‘1 Parnell’ is good and we had another look around the artworks but didn’t buy anything. Tempted. A bit of WIFI access gave us chance to check the best route and we opted to go to Kaikohe thinking that it might be a good space to stop for lunch and get more supplies. 


But first the mangrove walk. The mangroves (Manawa) are an essential part of the marine and coastal eco-system. When the logging industry came to Rawene and the Hokianga, some of that ecosystem was compromised by the mills and trade.  Since the mills have closed down the mangroves have started to reclaim the land on which the mill was built.  Some of the hauling mechanisms remain but most of the wood has rotted and sunk into the mud. According to the information boards, sulphur dioxide still oozes from the treated wood that lies buried in the mud. But nature has an amazing propensity to regenerate and it is good to walk along the boardwalk through the forest and see the new growth. 

Curious fact: between 1914 to 1948 Dr George McCall Smith developed a unique health-system for the Hokianga – he developed ‘pain-free childbirth‘ and women from all over came to Rawene to have their children!


I am always amazed by the cleverness of plants to survive. The mangroves expel the salt from the seawater from the upper part of their leaves which have soft hairs underneath to trap the moisture so they don’t dry out. You can clearly see the salt crystals on the leaves and if you brush the leaves with your fingertips and then lick them you can taste the salt.


Onwards then to Kaikohe: “Hub of the North” is the proud proclamation on the sign as you enter the town. It really didn’t feel like a hub mid-afternoon midweek. Nothing much was open and the place seemed pretty quiet. This fish and chip shop’s advertising may be just holding onto past glory a little tenuously! We managed to get some homemade samosas and mango lassi from a wee dairy which we saved until we found a spot to enjoy them in Okaihau. They were delicious. 

Still award winners?

Okaihau, ( I love the meaning and the story behind the name of this place) provided us a place to eat our samosas and then have a wander. It is a wee place with a proud colonial and Māori history going by what we read on the information boards. There were a few shops and a couple of cafes though the cafe where we wanted to get takeaway coffee in our refill cups, refused to let us use them. Said they had a policy that only their takeaway cups could be used. We decided that was a policy we couldn’t support and left. Weird in this day and age where the majority of cafes now offer a discount if you have your own cup!


It was half an hour round to Wairere Boulders but just a few kms out from Horeke, we were stopped by a firetruck.  On the way round we had smelled smoke and the air seemed hazy. We had assumed that it was the haze and smoke from the Australian bushfires reaching Northland. We had already seen photos from Kirikiriroa and Taranaki of haze and discoloured sun.  But as we turned a bend in the road we could see the smoke on the hillside and helicopters buzzing backwards and forwards dumping water. 


No way on, road closed to Horeke for at least the next few hours so back the way we went to Ohaikau and the longer metalled road round. 

We arrived at Wairere Boulders – very well signposted and were welcomed by young Magnus who very politely and articulately explained the way the walks went, how much it all was and booked us into the campsite. 

All we can say about this place is just “WOW”! From the moment you walk into the valley, you see these huge house-sized boulders. Lying higgledy-piggledy where they came to rest. 

This is one boulder!

The erosion on them is like that on limestone; lapiaz, karst, solution pits, karren, fluting but these boulders are not limestone they are basalt.  I won’t start to try to explain here the process involved in their formation – read more here , and here and here

We did the main loop and then the spurs off to the swimming hole and the lookouts but decided to leave the ‘Magic Rock” until the next day.  From the lookout you can see right down the valley and the enormity of the mayhem of boulders. Like a massive boulder choke in a cave the boulders are balanced around, on and under each other.

Looking down the valley from the Lookout
You can see the fluting on the right-hand side of this boulder. When the erosion happened, the left hand side of this boulder would have been the top.

The walk takes you in, around and through the maze of boulders so that it is more than a walk, it is an adventure, an obstacle course. I loved the way that the signs showing us the way through are bold, artistic and brightly painted. There are also signs for all the different trees and shrubs with their names in the red Māori and in English. Information about the kauri and their connection with the boulders are in ‘lift up’ boards and if you look carefully there are some hidden beasties around the place as well as fairy houses. 

The campsite had filled up by the time we got back but it is a beautiful peaceful place and we soon settled in for the night! Usual routine – dinner, reading, cards. 

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