Located at Horeke, about 45mins north of Kawakawa – home to the World Famous Hundertwasser toilets and the only main road with a working railway truck running straight down the middle – are the Wairere Boulders.
You’d be forgiven for thinking it is just another picturesque Northland forest walk – taken at face value it’s is still a magnificent spot – but it is far more intriguing, far more phenomenal, far more significant on an international and geological stage once you hear the history from owner, caretaker, and Swiss Geologist, Felix Schaad.
Felix and his wife Rita bought the property in 1983 after arriving from their native Switzerland and looking to put down some roots. Had anyone else purchased the rundown, overgrown, and remote valley, bang smack in the middle of nowhere, there is a distinct possibility it’s potential may never have been realised – and this national treasure may have laid undiscovered.
Wairere Boulders – the most accentuated fluting on basalt rock in the world – Felix Schaad
The story begins around three million years ago with a volcanic eruption. At this time the valley as it appears now was a plateau – flush with the top of the hills at either side of the now rock-lined valley. The volcano itself has never been discovered. From the surrounding landscape and volcanic rock scatterings, geologists have made calculated guesses where the eruption originated but we may never know for sure.
Under the sheer weight of the lava flow, the hills collapsed and the valley of boulders was created.
Here’s where it gets pretty interesting – we’ll start with the little stuff. We live in a pretty volcanic country, so we’re no strangers to volcanic rock like pumice and scoria. The scoria in this particular area is a little different! Rather than the reddish, earthy tone we’re used to seeing in scoria, the rock here is just a dull brown. Don’t be fooled – the dull colour is the only dull thing about these rocks. The electromagnetic elements in the cooling lava continued to move at speed once the lava flow slowed down and the layer where scoria is formed became devoid of iron and copper. In laymans terms: the absence of these metals in the rock meant the scoria lost it’s ability too rust – which is what gives scoria it’s reddish tinge. Cool, right?
Let’s go bigger: the piece du resistance – the fluting in the basalt rock.
Felix and his wife needed to make money, and their overgrown valley had a promised source of income – GOATS! Remember, when they first bought the property they had no idea what was hidden beneath the acres of overgrown native bush. So they set off clearing scrub so they could cull the wild goats and make some money off the hair and pelts.
Unintentionally they stumbled across the giant Wairere boulders – and Felix could not believe his eyes. He had never seen or heard of fluting occurring in basalt rock – ever. Limestone? For sure! Basalt rock? Never!
“It was just not possible – I could not believe my eyes.” – Felix Shaad, Geologist
To understand the impossibility of it all, you simply must hear the explanation from Mr. Shaad himself. While I would love to share every single inch of this fascinating geological wonder, it is not my story to tell.
We were fortunate enough to spend a great deal of time with Felix, and while I can’t say I’ve ever been too interested in the history of rocks, to call his story fascinating is a gross understatement.
It has to do with our magnificent Kauri, soil acidity, the periodic table, and Mother Nature’s captivating ability to defy her own laws. Add this place to your New Zealand Must See list – and take the time to hear the tale from the couple who made this amazing discovery right on their doorstep.
Geology aside, the walk they have created provides a great family day out. The track is really interactive for little ones – lots of rocks to climb over, and under, and through, “rock animals” to spot (we found a turtle, a crocodile, and a dragon), waterfalls, waterholes, native flora and fauna perfect for hiding fairies, and the shorter or longer options means the track is suitable for explorers of all ages.
We spend four hours exploring every nook and corner we could wriggle ourselves into. The bottom track has a walk time of around 40mins – closer to an hour with the added detours through the Dragon’s Cave, and up to the Bush Pool which are both well worth a look. The walk up to the top viewing platform adds an hour onto your adventure – although it added close to two hours to our day as we got stuck in a torrential downpour and took shelter under some giant overhanging rocks for some time before mustering up the courage to finish our day in the deluge.
The rain certainly added an element of magic – the river level rose pretty quickly and the trees looked so much greener and lush – but I wouldn’t recommend doing this particular walk in the rain. The paths turned from damp underfoot to full on mini ankle-deep rivers within minutes, and there were a few sketchy moments coming back down the track.
If you love getting off the beaten track and away from the bustle of the cities – like we do – then we highly recommend a day of exploration in this magical, almost untouched wonderland. There are great picnic spots for the whole family, safe walking tracks for kids, and so much respect paid to the native bush by the landowners.