This morning we got up early and went exploring in Albany. First we took a trail in Albany Heights to see a small waterfall and enjoy a nice easy trek through the bush.
Then we went further up to the Albany Scenic Reserve which is described over at Wonder Walkers:
Kauri trees and native orchids are highlights of this short walk through the Albany Scenic Reserve, just north of Auckland.
The track descends into manuka and kanuka scrub and crosses a small stream before climbing and descending again to a large kauri. From here the track climbs steadily through a small stand of kauri trees to the Wright Rd exit. Walk back the way you came or via the road (be careful of traffic). On this walk you will see North Shore’s largest kauri tree 1.8m diameter 600-800 yrs old.
This is a photo of Larry by one of the SMALL Kauri trees. We thought it was pretty huge until we got to the grandmother tree. We were in such awe of that one (and huffing and puffing from a pretty good climb) that we didn't even take a photo. Suffice it to say, it is one VERY BIG TREE.
As gorgeous as the Albany Scenic Reserve may be, sadly it has been hit with Kauri dieback, which is a very serious problem caused by a fungus that is killing a lot of these trees. Hikers are cautioned to spray fungicide on their shoes upon entering and when leaving the reserve and to stay on defined paths in an effort to reduce the spread of the problem.
After spending some time hiking amid the mighty kauri, I wanted to learn more about them.
"The New Zealand kauri is the largest tree in the Agathis genus and the only Agathis species native to New Zealand. Many of the great giants were felled by early pioneers for their high quality timber. One of the largest kauri trees ever recorded was 'Kairaru of Tutamoe' with an estimated diameter of 6.4m and a height of 56m. That tree, however, was destroyed in a fire before 1900.
The largest kauri alive today is Tane Mahuta with a diameter of 4.6m and height of 52m. It is estimated to be between 1200 and 2000 years old." (From the Kauri Dieback Management Team Website).
Naming individual trees is part of Maori culture. The kauri plays a big role in their creation stories and in other aspects of their belief systems. Some of that is explained in the Encyclopedia of New Zealand.
As stunning as it was to go hiking in the Albany Scenic Reserve, I have begun to notice that some of my initial awe and amazement I felt when I first arrived here is starting to dim. I'm getting accustomed to the bush here. With increased familiarity, some of the magic is less tangible. Don't get me wrong, I still find it incredibly beautiful. But the sensory overload of colors and textures I initially experienced is definitely starting to fade. In a way, that makes me sad.
It seems to be a part of human nature to cease to pay attention to or to fully notice most sensory input that is around us all the time - the way we tune out the hum of a refrigerator or overlook a view that we see every single day.
Right now I'm reading the book "The Other Side of Heaven" by John Groberg. In that book Groberg says: "I'm not sure we can truly appreciate something until we have lost it, or at least been without it for a while. I wonder if we can actually be grateful for something we have never been without?" (p. 69).
I've thought about that a lot. One of the challenges of mortal existence is to stay grateful. We are blessed by so many things that we take for granted. Example: I do not fully appreciate on a daily basis what a blessing it is to have clean, healthy drinking water readily available at the turn of a tap. This is something I most definitely take for granted. However, we are now preparing for a month long trip to Samoa where we will drink only bottled water and will have to be very careful in other ways to safeguard our health. Just knowing that I will soon be without potable water pumped into my house makes me appreciate what I do have here more now.
How many other blessings do I overlook? Is it possible to NOT stop feeling wonder and awe for beauty and blessings that we are surrounded by every single day?
Right now the people of New Zealand are expressing increased concern about the precious kauri trees because the dieback disease effecting them could wipe them out in a single generation unless aggressive conservation steps are consistently followed. I feel very fortunate to have had the experience of walking among these mighty giants of the forest. I hope they can be saved so that my grandchildren and their families may one day see them too.