The Northland Age,
Taste Northland, Thursday September 18 2003, Page 9, Editor Ria Bright
A unique discovery at Wairere
Its been millions of years in the making, has sat
for hundreds of years undiscovered, has taken decades to expose and
is now open to the public. This geological treasure is nestled in the
backyard of the Hokianga, Horeke to be exact. Since opening 18
months ago, this magnificent find has started to raise the eyebrows of
esteemed geologists around the world and murmurs are rippling through the
eco-tourism realms. You have probably already heard of them, but haven't
realised their significance, they are:- The Wairere Boulders.
The Wairere Boulders would not be out of place in
the Lord of the Rings, its a 1.6km valley with thousands of boulders,
some up to 30m high, which look as though they have been thrown into the
valley from the hill tops by an enraged giant. They are in fact, remnants of a
basalt flow dated approximately 2.8 million years ago.
Although there are other examples of basalt rock flows throughout the world,
what is special at Wairere is the 'fluting' - a term that usually
refers to limestone (there is no specific word for basalt 'fluting' because
it is so unusual). It is believed this unique fluting is a
result of the chemical leaching of acids generated by the Kauri forests that
once existed in the valley.
Owners of the site, Felix and Rita Schaad were
drawn to the land 20 years ago after fleeing a hectic life in Switzerland.
Locals, thought they would not last long as the valley was considered too
tough to live in and not suitable for stock or timber. The boulders were discovered
by accident while Felix and Rita were chasing goats over the
hills, "It was like discovering an ancient city in the Amazon"
recalls Felix. They enquired locally about the huge rocks, but no-one
seemed aware of them other than the odd pig hunter who cursed it as a
place to lose dogs. Felix and Rita set about preserving the land, they
fenced the valley to protect it from stock, started eradicating weeds and
developing a track. Since 1984 friends and family have been enjoying the
beauty of the valley, but it required some extensive construction of bridges
before it could be opened to the public. Fortunately Felix, (once a
Professor of civil engineering in Switzerland), is a registered NZ
engineer. He designed and with the help of Rita, (whom he fondly calls, his
metal truck) constructed 22 bridges. The materials were brought in with
the help of a flying fox, or by hand.
There are now well marked tracks that cater
for all ages, and levels of fitness. From the 'boulder loop'; an easy stroll
that takes about an hour, to a three hour walk up to a platform which
overlooks the valley. The native bush provides examples of trees at all stages
of growth and a newly developed walk way through a Nikau Palm grove is
particularly interesting. Moss and lichen said to be 100 years old
covers many rocks.
The park is open all year round. Since opening,
Felix estimates approximately 4,000 people have experienced this boulder
encounter. Its great for all ages, a 93 year old has been able
to enjoy the track. People are encouraged to come and meander, to discover
the beauty for themselves, to bring a picnic and spend the whole day. Winter offers
another side to the park, Felix's eyes fill with delight as he describes
it in the rain, or when it floods.
"It was always our wish that many people
could enjoy the stunning site of our valley" said Felix "This wish
finally came true and we hope many more people will enjoy the magnificence of
our valley". As the rumblings about the magnificent Wairere Boulders
reverberate around New Zealand and the world, it is only a matter of time
before the tourist trail via Horeke becomes well worn and this
unique, geological treasure is considered a 'must see' for all.