In an attempt to cram as much sightseeing into our holiday as was humanely possible, I had decided that we would spend Saturday evening up a tree. Well, not just one tree but actually a whole bunch of them; in Whakarewarewa Forest.
The terrible Indian restaurant in which we had eaten earlier that evening had left a bad taste in our mouths (both figuratively and literally) and so I was worried that the after-dinner activity I had planned might not turn out the way I hoped for either. The Redwoods Tree Walk looked like it could be an amazing experience……………but that’s what Trip Advisor said about the Indian restaurant.
Redwoods aren’t native to New Zealand. They were planted on the outskirts of Rotorua in 1901 as part of a programme to assess the viability of exotic trees for commercial forestry. This area used to be known as Redwood Grove but is now called Whakarewarewa Forest. Due to the rich volcanic soil, the Redwoods grew much faster than they did in their native California and reached 70 metres tall in 100 years. For those who are interested here are some fun facts about Redwoods:
- They can grow up to 9 metres in diameter and more than 76 metres tall;
- the world’s tallest Redwood, Hyperion, can be found in California and stands 115.92 metres tall (that’s taller than the Statue of Liberty).
- The “General Sherman” Redwood in California’s Sequoia National Park is 84 metres tall, has a 31 metre circumference;
- the world’s oldest living tree (known as “The President”) is estimated to be about 3,200 years old and is located somewhere in the Sierra Nevada mountains in California;
- they have extremely thick, fire resistant bark;
- they need a costal climate to survive and can even create their own ‘rain’ by trapping fog in their huge branches and absorbing the moisture; and
- if they have been forced to lean over due to an earthquake, they will accelerate their grown down the hill to stabilise themselves to prevent further damage.
Billed as ‘a must do activity in Rotorua’ and constructed from 28 bridges suspended 20 metres above the forest floor, The Redwoods Tree Walk is a real treat for those who love being among nature. If you buy a day time walk, you get a night time walk for free and you can choose which way round you want to do it; night then day or day then night. We chose the former.
When we arrived at the forest at around 7pm, it was dark but the giant Redwoods were aglow with soft lights of pink, red, green and blue. You had to climb a wide circular ramp to get up to the first platform and then traverse a bridge to the other side where there was another platform built around a tree. And this was how you made your way around the forest: bridge, platform, bridge, platform.
This was where my children baulked. They were less interested in the beautifully illuminated forest around them and more concerned with how far down it was to the ground and how badly injured you’d be if you fell. I had completely misjudged this situation. Being the astute mother that I am (no laughing, please) I knew both my children weren’t too keen on heights but had hypothesised that as they wouldn’t be able to see the forest floor from the bridges in the dark, they wouldn’t know how high they were. Factor in the twinkly lights and the fun rope bridges and this activity was sure to be a winner.
It turned out that not knowing how high they were was more fear-inducing that knowing, and the rope bridges, far from being sturdy and static, bounced and swayed as you walked over them. There was an eight person limit on them too which led to my children refusing to step on the first slat until the party in front had stepped off the bridge and on to the platform. I tried drawing a parallel with the Magic Faraway Tree in Enid Blyton’s Enchanted Wood, saying that we might come across Moonface or find a Slippery Slip to go down if we were lucky.
Those comments were met with scowls.
But to their credit, they both made it round all of the rope bridges, even the higher sections, without too much fuss. In fact, they even agreed to come back the next morning and do the walk again before heading home.
I loved the night time walk. I loved how cool and fresh smelling everything was. I loved how peaceful and magical the forest seemed, even when teeming with tourists. I loved how in some sections, the forest had been lit up with little green lights that it made it look like we were surrounded by dancing fireflies. I loved the enormous hanging structures that looked like Ikea lamp shades suspended from some of the branches, the inspiration for which came from the birds of the forest.
The next morning we packed up our stuff, said goodbye to The Regal Palms Motel and its insanely large spa baths and televisions and headed out for breakfast at The Fat Dog.
Once we’d eaten we made our way back to Whakarewarewa Forest to do the treetop walk again. In the daylight, I could take better photos. Note I say ‘better’; not ‘good’.
Once you reach the bottom, you walk past The Giant Redwood Ring. This American Redwood had a 3.5m diameter and is estimated to have been at least 2,000 years old at the time of it’s felling.
The slice is marked with little plaques of events to give you a sense of how old this tree was.
If you want to know more about the Redwoods Tree Walk you can check out the website here: https://www.treewalk.co.nz/