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Saturday, March 2, 2024

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The Whirianki Rainforest | Buddhima Wickramarachchi | Melbourne

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Nestled in the heart of New Zealand’s North Island lies the enchanting Whirinaki Rainforest, a captivating haven that beckons nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers alike. Stretching across 60,000 hectares of pristine wilderness, this ancient forest stands as a testament to the resilience of nature and the importance of preserving our planet’s ecological treasures. The beauty and majesty of this forest which is over 200-million-year-old was once walked by the dinosaurs.

Whirinaki, which translates to ‘To tower above,’ is a fitting name for this lush expanse of greenery that seems to reach for the sky. The rainforest, a part of the Te Urewera region, is renowned for its rich biodiversity, ancient trees, and awe-inspiring landscapes. As one delves into the heart of Whirinaki, a world teeming with life and hidden wonders reveals itself.

The towering giants of the forest, some of which have stood for over a thousand years, create a cathedral-like ambiance that transports visitors to a realm untouched by time. Towering Kahikatea, Totara, Rimu, and Matai trees dominate the skyline, their roots intertwining with the rich soil, creating a complex web of life that sustains a myriad of flora and fauna.

A network of walking trails winds through the rainforest, allowing visitors to immerse themselves in its natural splendour. The Whirinaki Track, in particular, offers a mesmerizing journey that traverses the heart of the forest, providing glimpses of ancient trees, pristine rivers, and cascading waterfalls. It is on these trails that the true magic of Whirinaki comes to life, where every step is a brushstroke on nature’s canvas.

The forest is not only a haven for plant life but also a sanctuary for a diverse array of wildlife. Native birds, including the iconic Kaka and the elusive Kiwi, find refuge within the dense foliage. Birdsong echoes through the trees, creating a symphony that underscores the vibrancy of this living ecosystem. Keen-eyed observers may also catch a glimpse of the rare and endangered Hochstetter’s frog, a testament to the ecological importance of this ancient rainforest.

Whirinaki Rainforest holds cultural significance for the Maori people, who consider it a taonga, or treasure. The forest is not merely a collection of trees; it is a living entity with spiritual importance. The ancient trees, rivers, and rocks are woven into the cultural fabric of the Maori, and their presence imparts a profound sense of connection to the land.

We embarked on The Whirinaki Track which took us two days to complete, spanning over 26 kms. Our journey started at the northern end, River Road (you can also start the walk from the southern end, Plateau Road). The track throughout was well formed, however we stumbled upon some river crossings which we found really exciting. So be prepared to walk with some wet footwear.

We stayed at the Central Whirinaki Hut, a nice yet cozy hut located pretty much at the midpoint of the trek. As we walked in, we noticed there wasn’t sufficient firewood, so we had to venture in search of some wood to heat up the hut and also to make sure there was enough wood for anyone visiting the hut after us. Therefore, if you’re planning on walking during winter, be sure to stack sufficient firewood at the hut before leaving.

Throughout our journey we witnessed marvels of what the rainforest had to offer. As the sun filters through the dense canopy, casting dappled light on the forest floor, one cannot help but marvel at the majesty of Whirinaki Rainforest. It is a place where time seems to stand still, where the past, present, and future converge in a harmonious dance of life. In the heart of Whirinaki, nature’s masterpiece is unveiled, inviting all who enter to witness the wonders of a truly timeless landscape.

Whirinaki Rainforest offers many day trips to anyone visiting the conservation park. Always be prepared to endure changing weather conditions regardless of how long your hike is.

  1. Whirinaki Waterfall Loop Track – Distance: 11km (access from River Road car park)
  2. Waiatiu Falls Track – Distance: 3.2km (access from River Road car park)
  3. Arohaki Lagoon Track – Distance: 5.5km (access from River Road car park)
  4. H-tree Track – Distance 2.2km (access from Fort Road)

By Buddhima Wickramarachchi – Melbourne

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