Tokorangi Forest, simply known as The Redwoods, is part of the greater Whakarewarewa Forest situated in Rotorua. It encompasses a total of 13,993 acres, is home to native and exotic trees, and sits adjacent to the Blue and Green Lakes that can be included in a daylong hike. For a small fee, you can purchase a map illustrating the routes available at The Redwoods Gift Shop & Visitor Centre. For shorter walks, there are six walking tracks that begin just outside the visitor centre marked by sign posts with each track indicated by a different color.
The attendant in the centre explains that Whakarewarewa Forest was actually a test ground for 170 different tree species from around the world beginning from 1899. Their purpose: to see which species could be successfully grown and manufactured as timber for building in Rotorua and surrounding areas of the central North Island. As a result, radiata pines were found to be the most successful of them all, and became the most important commercial species in New Zealand. These pines are gorgeous; some of them have a windswept look to them, and can be seen in many pastures throughout the North Island (remember Hobbiton and its radiating pine?).
One of the species selected for this test was the Coastal Californian Redwood originating from its namesake on the U.S. continent's western coast. In its natural environment, the redwood has a lifespan of 600 years and can grow up to 360 feet tall. In The Redwoods, the largest trees now stand at about 219 feet tall with a diameter of 66.5 inches.
Starting off on a leisurely, two-hour path, I'm surrounded by these mammoth redwoods. Still young in terms of their total lifespan, many of the trees are still small enough for me to completely hug them. However, the trees do get larger as I walk deeper into the forest. They soon hide the visitor centre from view with only the wide meandering path ahead of me. I don't see many other people while walking, just the occasional runner and walkers.
Upon going deeper along the path, I feel a settling of sorts...of spirit perhaps. A complete and total hush surrounds me. I feel as if I'm the only person left on this earth. The only sounds are the sweet chirps from the forest's feathered residents. If I were in a gloomier sort of mindset, I might have felt overwhelmingly lonely and alone. However, all I feel is a calmness of being. A serenity and appreciation of these timeless redwoods.
There's a familiar call of a bird that intermittently breaks the silence as I walk through the forest. I'd first heard it near Ruakuri Cave, but could never spot the bird though I tried to find it through the trees. In The Redwoods, I could hear it once again. I really wish I had thought to record it with my camera, but it didn't even occur to me each time I heard it; I'm bummed about that! I've even checked online listening to all the calls of New Zealand birds but no luck. Well, as much as I try to see the elusive bird, all I can catch of it is its unique call echoing through the trees.
After my forest walk, I return to the visitor centre to use the restroom and see these really interesting restrooms sitting amid the trees. Eco-friendly and built to blend in with the surrounding environment, the cylindrical restrooms reflect the traditional Maori imagery of birds. They are really quite cool and reflect New Zealand's environment-focused practices and respect for its native cultures—two positives in my book!
I would definitely have made the effort to explore at least one of the nearby lakes had I had more time and nicer weather, but that will have to wait for my next trip. Have you ever you been to Whakarewarewa Forest? I'm in search of the bird described and want to know if you've heard it. The only way I can describe its song is that it's three short bursts of sound: a slight warble followed by a middle-grade "sigh" and then a full-on warble. This bird has me entranced, for some reason, and though I could replicate it, I won't (I did practice when I heard it in the forest so I wouldn't forget the sound). I'm hoping I'll find the source one day!
I hope you stick with me as I continue my discovery of New Zealand's lovely North Island. Sign up for upcoming blog entries and please share if you like this as well. Cheers!