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Sunday 26 Jan 2014
Dargaville, New Zealand

Matakohe Kauri Museum

Leaving Dargaville, I decided to learn a bit more about the region’s history at the Matakohe Kauri Museum.  Dargaville was once the centre of the Kauri logging and gum-digging industry.  Kauri trees secrete a thick sap to protect themselves from cuts in their bark.  Over time, this hardened sap falls away and gets gradually buried at the foot of the tree.  Years later, settlers discovered fossilised amber gum, which could be sculpted, carved and polished.  It became highly sought after and a huge gum-digging industry grew up in the region, along side the logging of these enormous trees.

The Kauri Museum displayed huge cross-sections of Kauri trees (the biggest slice was over 27m long and had an entire room built especially to house it), Kauri furniture, boats and masts.  Half the museum was made up of recreated rooms, paneled in beautiful timbers, furnished with Kauri furniture and set out as they had been in many old homes in the region.  In one place they’d recreated an entire Victorian boarding house, filled with original pieces right down to the crockery in the parlour and the travelling dentist set up in the scullery. 

They’d also recreated an entire sawmill, showing the range of steam-driven machinery used to tackle everything from the initial tree trunk, down to a multi-bladed saws that could slice ten identical planks at once.  They’d added a few animatronic characters running the machines.  Most of the machinery had been donated by descendants of families who had had worked in the industry for several generations.  Buttons by each piece of equipment played recordings of the original workers talking about their life, which I found fascinating.  It was a really interesting display and I spent almost an hour in that room alone.

They had some clever techniques for getting the felled trees down to the port, including an ingenious temporary dam on the river.  The dam gates were made up of a series of thick planks hanging from a bar across the top.  A single bar along the bottom kept them in place until it was full of water and logs.  When they were ready, they could knock out the pins at the side, freeing the bottom plank.  The force of the water pushed the gate planks aside like a bead curtain on a shop doorway, allowing the water to carry the waiting logs down river on a tidal wave.  With this technique they could carry the logs up to 40 miles downstream in only 15 minutes, and reuse the dam by fixing the hanging gate planks back into place with a new support plank.  Incredible.

Several hours later, I got myself back on the road and headed south to Auckland.  I made it back to the city before I realised I’d forgotten to get the Sat Nav out of the glovebox.  Never mind, I thought, Eden Park Stadium is bound to be signposted off the motorway through the city.  I’ll follow those signs and find my way back easily from there.  But no such luck.  I eventually turned around when I started picking up airport signs (south of Auckland).  I put the Sat Nav on and headed north again, realising the exit I needed was only accessible to northbound traffic, so it was no wonder I hadn’t recognised it.  However, there were no signs for the stadium until the end of the road it sits in – I wonder how many people waste hours driving around Auckland looking for it on match days?

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Zoe's Big World Adventure Part II - #4 New Zealand and Australia

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I had so much fun in New Zealand and Australia that I'm going back around again! This time I'll see more of the North Island and catch up with friends and family in Melbourne

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