Here is what we have come into the Waipoua Forest for… We come to see the giant of all Kauri: Tane Matuta, One of New Zealand’s most famous trees.
Of course I’ve learned a lot about Kauri from the Kauri Museum, but here we have some to see the actual living specimens. An information board tells me:
Tane Mahuta, Lord of the Forest.
You are in the presence of one of the most ancient of trees.
In Maori Cosmology, Tane is the son of Ranginui the sky father and Papatuanuku the earth mother.
Tane tore his parents apart, breaking their primal embrace, to bring light, space and air and allowing life to flourish.
Tane is the life giver. All living creatures are his children. This is the largest living Kauri tree in New Zealand. It is difficult to accurately estimate the age of Tane Mahuta, but it may be that Tane Mahuta sprang from a seed around 2000 years ago during the lifetime of Christ.
The dimensions of Tane Mahuta are: Trunk height: 17.7 metres (58 feet). Total height: 51.5 metres (168.96 feet). Trunk girth: 13.8 metres (45.2 feet) , Trunk volume: 244.5 cubic metres . (802.16 cubic feet).
Note: the feeding roots of Kauri are shallow and delicate. Walking off the formed protective paths and platforms can kill these giant trees.
There are many foreign tourists here of course, and one man (white tee-shirt and grey shorts) asks if he should try and move out of the way for my photos, I tell him that he’s most welcome to be in the photo if he likes but he might therefore be on my blog on the internet. He laughs and tells me that’s not a problem and that if I want to put his name in too, then his name is Brandon Johnson (or Jackson) and that he’s from the USA.
Mea Culpa, he did tell me his surname but by the time I made my journal notes in the evening I’d forgotten if he’d said “Jackson” or “Johnson”. Brandon, if by some chance ever you get to read this post, I’d be totally happy if you could contact me so I could put your name in here correctly.
I try and get good photos of the tree but it’s harder than it looks because fitting everything in, in the available positions on the walkway is a tall order. Not surprising of course for such a tall tree.
Looking at photographs of a 2000 year old living tree can not in any way convey the feelings you have when you are close to it in person.
Yes, people are taking photos, but many are also quiet, staring in awe and respect at the giant of nature before them. It has that effect on me too, this is the one time in my life when hugging a tree would make sense to me.
I would have given it a hug to say sorry that my human predecessors cut down so many of it’s fellow Kauri, for the way it must stand silently by as mankind depletes the resources of the planet and how we are upsetting the balance of nature round the world. I would have hugged it to try and tell it that we are trying hard to mend our ways when it comes to protecting Kauri and show some respect now that we have learnt lessons from the past.
Of course I didn’t hug Tane Mahuta, even notwithstanding the crutches predicament, I respect these trees enough to heed the warnings about leaving the path as not to damage their fragile root systems.
Isn’t it amazing that such a massive tree has such a fragile root system? It seems that all living things are built with a weak link somewhere in their DNA, not even the giant is invincible or immune to all around it, and that something small could have easy access to it’s most vulnerable point shows me that no living thing is ever destined for total dominance, there should always be a point of natural balance.
I know from our Kauri Museum visit that Tane Mahuta is hollow… but to what extent this is, and for how long this amazing tree will be able to support it’s upper weight appears to be for now unknown… a few years or a few centuries? Just like each human life, Tane Mahuta too has an allotted time.