Shepherd of the Forest!
Stop me before I go bonkers with Lord of the Rings references. Better not goad me guys.
Today I saw a real ent.
Kelli and I spied a 2,000 year old tree in Hukutai Domain. An ancient tree in a pretty ancient looking forest. I all but expected a Moa to pop out of the underbrush, the monstrous, flightless bird that done went extinct some 500 years ago. Check that; it was hunted into extinction. Too much chicken for the Maori.
Picture Jurassic Park; heavy green ferns, lush palms, and a canopy providing eternal shade for the forest. But the place sits in farm country. Weird, eh?
Preserve The Past
Turns out this is on purpose. Folks here in Opotiki, New Zealand wished to preserve the jungle aka forest feel seen in this region before cultivation occurred.
After a 20 minute ride through farm country, enjoying the requisite jaw-dropping views common to much of Kiwi Land, we walked inside the preserved forest. I quickly felt as if I stepped back a few hundred centuries. Yep; centuries. Seriously, this was even deeper jungle than the remote spot we visited outside of Bribri. From a canopy perspective at least.
The cool, close, kinda humid feel seemed a change up to the Opotiki we knew. Farms, mountains, the South Pacific and the odd bush view (not what you think), we’d no clue this place existed until the homeowner suggested Hukutaia Domain.
Quick walk too. The long track took 30 minutes for a leisurely stroll. If 30 feels too long for the senior circuit you even have a mini 15 minute deal on the innermost path. Good for folks a bit up there in years or allergic to exercise.
Beyond that though, the star of the show is Taketakerau; a 2,000 year old, ancient, gnarled, giant Puriri tree residing in the center of the forest.
Life revolves around it. I expected Bran and the One Eyed Crow to be holding a pow-wow within the roots of the tree. Seriously old; if you hadn’t noted from my references so far. Think; JC was a wee lad when this tree was a seed. Some Maori and historians believe the tree to be up to 2,500 years old, which is astounding.
The tree hollow was used as a resting place for distinguished dead of a local Maori tribe. This revered tree *feels* like an observer of life, the Puriri that time forgot.
I sat in awe of the centuries of history this tree lived through. The empires risen and fallen around the globe. Maori landing in New Zealand. Europeans arriving. Cultivation. The Crown. Right up until today.
The tree doesn’t look a day over 2,000. I told it so.
Weirdly enough in today’s “It is in fact a small world” type news, we chatted with a family from Nebraska at the tree and deeper in the forest. Turns out more Americans travel than one thinks. Our Cornhusker friends knew of the place as one in the party lived in neighboring Ohope for the past 7 years. She generously noted a few other hikes Kelli and I are reading and raring to take.
Admission is free. Bring your camera and a sense of awe. I genuinely heard the Jurassic Park theme song entering the park. Feels quite unlike any place I visited during my world travels. Refreshing too how no centipede, tarantula or scorpion – let alone spitting cobra – threatens you here in New Zealand. Or as I was told by a clever Kiwi; the only thing that’ll kill you here is your own stupidity.
Must Visit spot guys.
Especially since this ranks as the #17 most famous tree on some list, according to a true Shepherd of the Forest we walked to. A human, not an ent.
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