New Zealand Travel Guide: Paihia to Auckland

May 7, 2009
Back on the Magic Bus

Back on the Magic Bus

The drive out of Paihia was really lovely and our Magic Bus driver stopped to let us take some photos from a lookout over the bay. We also took a quick look in the Hokianga Historical Society to watch a video about Opo the Dolphin.

Opo swam into the bay in 1955 and created a tourism boom as news spread that there was a dolphin there who did tricks, played with children and would let people swim with or ride him.

The video shows Opo making everyone happy (except for the little girl whose ball he takes to bounce on his nose), and leaves you feeling like you really missed out by not living in this simpler time when everyone was kind and happy and could be entertained for hours by a dolphin with a ball. I gave a $2 donation because the elderly woman who started the VCR for us seemed very hopeful that we would get out our wallets, and because the video of the playful Opo put me in a pretty good mood.

Welcome to Opononi, home of the murdered dolphin.

Welcome to Opononi, home of the murdered dolphin.

Then our driver told us that what the video left out. Opo was found dead after just a few months, possibly killed by a local who was sick of all the traffic and crowds the dolphin caused.

Yeah. Kind of a downer.

There was one more stop on the way to Auckland, to see Tane Mahuta, the tallest kauri tree in New Zeland. I had really hoped to have an extra night at the end of my trip to do the Footprints of Waipoua trip, where you go into the forest after dark to see the trees. It’s one of Lonely Planet’s “Code Green – Experiences of a Lifetims” and I read nothing but good things about it.

Tane Mahuta would have been the greatest Ent ever.

Tane Mahuta would have been the greatest Ent ever.

Luckily the Magic Bus includes the forest as a stop, and while I don’t think it’s quite as moving as seeing it at night, at 51 meters tall and more than 1200 years old, Tane Mahuta is still damn impressive during the day. Our Magic driver told us that before the forest became a sanctuary in 1952, many of these trees were cut down. Because of their size they were difficult to move, and some ended up at the bottom of rivers and lakes, too big to float downstream to the logging plants.

First the death of Opo, then the pointless slaughter of these majestic trees. This really wasn’t the happiest day of the Magic tour. Maybe going back to the big city wasn’t such a bad idea.

Next: I meet a Hot Kiwi Guy, then leave the country.


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