Hong Kong Street Art

IMG_0185

Hong Kong has a perfect storm of huge concrete walls, secluded back alleys, and social freedom that allows street art to flourish. Wander around the downtown area and you’ll stumble on small stencils and tags on walls and sidewalks. Turn a corner and find yourself facing a mural, creeping up the walls of a building or a flight of stairs. Even the trees join in to decorate the city’s spaces, engulfing them with a complex network of roots and vines. Welcome to the concrete jungle.

IMG_0011

IMG_0042

IMG_0214

IMG_0212

Untitled

IMG_0202

IMG_0050

IMG_0191

IMG_0131

IMG_0112

IMG_0078

Trees of New Zealand

One of our first and strongest impressions of New Zealand was the trees. Everywhere we went there were magnificent windswept trees dotting the side of the road. We zipped past many of them, pointing out the tree and nodding to each other that yes, that was a good tree. We hiked in the shade of others, staring up at the canopy, wondering at their massive natures. Whether a simple pine, a spreading spiderweb canopy of branches, alone or huddled in clumps, we loved them all.


IMG_7096
If you would know strength and patience, welcome the company of trees.
– Hal Borland
IMG_7780
I like trees because they seem more resigned to the way they have to live than other things do.
– Willa Cather
IMG_7876
Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky.
– Kahil Gibran
IMG_7919
In a forest of a hundred thousand trees, no two leaves are alike. And no two journeys along the same path are alike.
– Paulo Coelho
IMG_7884
“A tree is our most intimate contact with nature.”
– George Nakashima
IMG_8885
“The clearest way into the Universe is through a forest wilderness.”
– John Muir
IMG_9065
Some see Nature all ridicule and deformity, and some scarce see Nature at all. But to the eyes of the man of imagination, Nature is Imagination itself.
– William Blake
IMG_7837
Solitary trees, if they grow at all, grow strong.
– Winston Churchill
IMG_7209
I never saw a discontented tree. They grip the ground as though they liked it, and though fast rooted they travel about as far as we do.
– John Muir
IMG_8233
Evolution did not intend trees to grow singly. Far more than ourselves they are social creatures, and no more natural as isolated specimens than man is as a marooned sailor or hermit.
– John Fowles
IMG_7417
Someone is sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago.
– Warren Buffett
IMG_7643
I grew up in a forest. It’s like a room. It’s protected. Like a cathedral… it is a place between heaven and earth.
– Anselm Kiefer
IMG_20170220_135425
A forest of these trees is a spectacle too much for one man to see.
– David Douglas
IMG_20170211_175614
Because they are primeval, because they outlive us, because they are fixed, trees seem to emanate a sense of permanence.
– Kim Taplin
IMG_7871
“The wonder is that we can see these trees and not wonder more.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson

Credit for the tree related quotes goes to the collections at gardendigest.com and treesgroup.org.

Waipoua Kauri Forest

07-IMG_20170211_175614
Yakas

On the eastern shore of the north peninsula are the world’s largest Kauri trees. These are, by volume, the largest trees in New Zealand, and they are amazing to behold. Driving down the freeway, a small dirt parking lot and a picnic area appear. To one side is a shoe-cleaning station and the entrance to four fantastic walking trails. There are three distinct trails, between fifteen and forty minutes long. One trail holds two named sites, so four sites total.

The draw of this forest is, of course, the huge trees. New Zealand Parks services have kindly labelled them for you, starting with the seventh largest Kauri known, Yakas. Named after a gumdigger who grew intimately familiar with the forest, and helped to find the largest trees, Yakas is about twelve meters of trunk and another thirty meters of canopy. All told he’s about as tall as a 14 story building, and just under a car-length across.

08-IMG_20170211_183902
Te Matua – Father of the Forest

The second largest Kauri, Te Matua is my favorite, wearing an unbelievable crown of tree-sized branches. He’s not as tall as Yakas, but is wider by an extra meter – a huge distance when dealing with diameter. Two thirds of this tree’s height are in the branches – twenty meters worth of tree-trunk style canopy.

04-IMG_20170211_165302
Tāne Mahuta – Lord of the Forest

The last of the big ones, and the most popular tree in the park. The Lord of the Forest is about as wide as Yakas, but stands an impressive 51 meters tall, about 17 stories. There are two viewing platforms for this tree, one further back than the next, so you can get a really good sense of just how large he is. When you head back to the parking lot, climb the little picnic hill and turn around – Tāne Mahuta will be rising out of the forest canopy, taking up a breathtaking volume in the sky.

Impromptu Northland Hike

01-IMG_7900 We’ve been driving for a few hours and I’m crazy to get out of the car. I am not a sit-in-the-seat, stare out, do nothing for hours kind of person, and thus am ill-suited for road trips, though I’ve somehow been coaxed into a car for days at a time to drive across the U.S. Twice. Stoytcho finally agrees to a rest break, and we pull into a turnout somewhere in the Northland next to a grassy slope.

We poke around for a few minutes and discover a narrow trail leading down past the grass into the trees. We don’t see any fences or signs, so we follow it into the shade of the underbrush. Though the heat of the day is sweltering, here it’s blessedly cooler. And downhill the going is easy, though the trail narrows to hardly a footpath.

02-IMG_7909

At the bottom of the hill we break out into the sun again and find ourselves on a grassy strip between the trees. This is probably a transient stream, filling with water when it rains. But for now, it’s ours to explore.

03-IMG_7911

We wander through the grass exploring, stretching our legs and poking our noses around just for the heck of it. There are little surprises, like the husk of a cicada left after molting…

04-IMG_7916

And then there are the larger surprises, like these bizarrely-shaped boulders that dot the landscape. Sculpted by water and adorned with plants, they greet us every few meters, each with a unique shape and personality.

09-IMG_7927 11-IMG_7940

There are some live surprises, like this cicada who buzzes by to say hello…

13-IMG_7954

…or this mysterious bird that tempts us deeper into the woods. He lands on a branch near us, singing loudly and waggling his tail. As I approach to photograph him, he flits off to another branch deeper in the underbrush. When I don’t follow, he returns to the first branch, calling to us again. We follow him this time and he leads us a few meters before we find the brush too thick to pass. Yet even as we turn back, he chirps to us, calling us forth to an unknown destination. Maybe next time, little friend.

10-IMG_7932

After nearly an hour of exploring, we decide it’s time to head back. As we return to the trail we came in on, the wind begins to blow we notice the forest around our little clearing for the first time. The trees around us sway, and a chorus of whispers and creaks issues from the branches above. They appear to be leaning toward us, examining the intruders into their land, and though it’s daylight I feel the hairs on my neck rise. I silently ask them to pardon our intrusion, thank them for their hospitality, and bid them farewell. Then it’s up the narrow dirt path, back to the road, the car, and our world.

06-IMG_7921