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California dreaming

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May 2020 Issue

Waitawa Walk, Whakarewarewa Forest

Like many introduced species, the Californian redwoods of Whakarewarewa Forest have found stronger roots in New Zealand than in their habitat of origin.

First planted here in 1901, the sky-scraping giants quickly surpassed even the grandest kauri trees in height, despite being just a fraction of the age. The tallest in Whakarewarewa is a staggering 72m tall – 20m taller than Tane Mahuta.

The best place to experience the enormous trees – apart from California, of course – is Whakarewarewa Forest’s Waitawa Track, right in the heart of Rotorua.

From the car park, the track passes through endless rows of towering redwoods. A distinct lack of undergrowth here accentuates the uniformity of the trunks, standing straight like hairs on a spooked cat.

Natives enter the fray as the car park fades from view – giant mamaku ferns reach for the canopy inspired by their Californian invaders, while silver ferns sleep beneath.

Ten minutes into the track, the path turns to boardwalk and crosses a vibrant acidic pool, eerily choked with bleached branches and logs, seemingly lured to their end by the enchanted waters. So blue and still are the waters, the scene has a film set vibe.

From here, the track veers right to lead past an open clearing, eventually turning parallel to Long Mile Road through a more integrated forest of Douglas firs and native bush.

Follow signage to complete the 3.4km loop.

Total Ascent
Long Mile Road

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