Friday, 10 April 2015

Gumdiggers Park

We stopped in at the Gumdiggers Park which we were skeptical about.  The many busses making their way to Cape Reinga stop here, so we anticipated a tourist trap.  We were quite wrong.  This is a privately owned living museum commemorating a time in New Zealand's history when men and women "mined" gum from swamp kauri by digging it out of the swampy ground for export to Britain where it was turned into varnishes. The swamp Kauri was left in many cases, there being no interest in it at the time.  The park is a walk through Manuka forest and recreates a way of life which died out in the late 1800's, early 1900's.  One huge  swamp Kauri has been dug out for scientific research and for viewing.

Back in the day the gum diggers would search through swampy waters for the head or foot of theses huge trees.  Having found one they would dig down, drain the water and harvest the gum from these antient trees.  Many thousands of tons of this gum was harvested, sorted and cleaned for export or for carving. 

The workers needed waterproof footwear and they adopted wellingtons, which were originally leather but later were made from rubber. These became know as gum boots after the gum diggers, and the name persists to this day in New Zealand,  and North America for that matter!

The holes that had been dug are still there and in some cases the trees can still be seen.  In some holes tunnels were built from one treen to another, allowing for easier gum extraction.

It was very interesting to learn about this...a type of gold rush mentality which brought immigrants to the country in search of their fortune.

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