Waikato Times, 07.2009


Royalty of the forest

It may be the road less travelled for many tourists heading to Northland, but Roy Pilott finds a lot to celebrate on the wild and beautiful west coast.

Scarred: The fluted boulders in the Wairere

Boulders Nature Park.

FELIX SCHAAD maintains poverty is the main reason Northlandís west coast has not developed into the tourist haven that exists on the other side. He may be making that observation as a positive rather than a lament, though the fact we are the only people at his Wairere Boulders Nature Park this morning is telling.

Mind you, itís an effort to get here. The sign after we turn off into Horeke Rd says there are 14 kilometres to go. My partner Le Vonne takes issue with that as we leave the tarseal and proceed to coat the Mazda in dirt. Itís an effort to get to a place to see a man with rocks in his garden, and on a tourism trip with an eco-theme itís been an eyebrow-raiser since we headed inland from Omapere to see large tracts which are ruled by weeds and car wrecks.

When we arrive at the entrance between showers, Felix emerges from up the hill. He looks like a cross

between Santa Claus and Gepetto. He says the road signs are accurate. And how can you doubt a man who looks like a cross between Santa and Gepetto?

A small shed lined with pictures provides shelter from the showers as this Swiss immigrant explains the unusual story of his backyard. It is a valley filled with fluted boulders, piled on top of one another.

Not your everyday garden limestone variety, he explains. These are basalt, and you will not find them scarred in this way in this volume anywhere else. Schaad says a unique set of circumstance is responsible for this Ė and the key factor is the chemical leaching which was caused by the kauri forests which once dominated the land. Just one mildly impressive kauri catches our eye as we stroll along the track made by Felix and wife Rita. When the forests were butchered Ė Felixís accurate description Ė this one was too small.

The weather improves once we start the walk and by the time we reach the lookout the dancing asian paper wasps are out in force enjoying the warm sunshine, and we have discarded the thermals and rainwear. The umbrella has been forgotten and will benefit a future visitor should they get caught in a shower a third of the way round.



Roy Pilott travelled courtesy of Destination Northland.