2006/08/03

Taveuni Tree Trumps Tractor

I was reading an interesting post on Peceli and Wendy's Blog Babasiga the other day about Banyan trees. You'll find it in their July archive page. Check it out.

Anyway, I left a comment that two of my favorite banyans were the 125 year old tree in Lahaina, Maui, that covers an entire block providing shade for the whole park, and one in Taveuni Estates that has a 1920's era steam tractor tangled in its roots and trunk. An anonymous blogger asked if I had any photos of the tractor and if so would I post them. So here we are.

Taveuni Estates is a residential development on the west coast of Taveuni island, Fiji, where we plan to build our next home. The tree is in a large grassy area next to the marina. The estates occupies part of what used to be a coconut plantation called Soqulu (pronounced song-goo-loo). A village within the development houses the workers, and their families, who maintain the estates. On sunny days, they often come down to picnic on the grass, dry laundry and work on handicrafts while the kids enjoy swimming and playing in the marina.

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The banyan as it looked in 2000. The metal shack on the right is a "copra shed" where copra (coconut meat was dried by heating it over a fire during cloudy periods when it could not be dried in the sun. Sorry about the faded picture.

Although Soqulu is no longer producing copra, many of the trees still populate the slopes. Further south, Taveuni still has some very large producing copra farms.

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Here we see K, in July or August of 2003, playing Tarzan's "Jane" by swinging on the aerial roots of the tree.

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This is a view from the small jetty of the marina. The tree is on the right. It was damaged during cyclone Ami in January of 2003, but keeps growing and I'm sure will look full again someday.

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The tractor - or what is left of it. The boiler is gone, but all four wheels, the frame, engine and flywheel are still there. It isn't very big, the flywheel is about 3 ft or 1 meter in diameter. You can see the cylinder and the crank shaft that connects the piston to the drive shaft and flywheel.

The tree has sent roots around and through the flywheel and frame and is gradually "swallowing" the tractor. Banyans, as you can read on Babasiga, grow by sending roots down from the branches. After taking hold in the ground, the roots thicken and become trunks that add support to the long heavy branches. Not shown in this picture is a metal ring about two feet in diameter which is laying flat on the ground with part of the tree growing right through the middle.

On the side of the engine is the name of the manufacturer. I forget off hand who it was, but I looked it up after I first saw it and it turned out to be a company in England that built steam tractors in the 1920s.

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This old photo shows what a fully functional steam tractor looked like.

Looking at the picture of the roots, I am reminded of an old low budget sci-fi thriller, "The Crawling Eye", in which giant eyeballs from outer space attacked people with long tentacles that looked something like these roots. I wonder how many more decades it will take for the tree to completely surround the old machine. Arrrg! It's got me!

10 comments:

nzm said...

Awesome - I love banyan trees!

There used to be really big ones in the fields between Navua and Deuba on the Queen's Road that I loved to drive past as a kid and just imagine living in one of them!

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Last time we drove past I noticed that some of those baka trees in the Navua area have been chopped down. Many farmers who were once sugar-cane farmers and their leases expired have been resettled in the Navua area. They now grow vegetables and I hope are successful. Pacific Harbour is going ahead in leaps and bounds these days. Navua still has an excellent market. I remember a great weekend I spent with a Sikh family in the Navua area. I had been invited there by one of the Dudley High School students. A long, long time ago!
W.

Peceli and Wendy's Blog said...

Sorry Panda, I sort of ignored you and wrote directly to NZM! It's like a patient in a hospital lying there like a stunned mullet and half a dozen visitors are talking over the top of him or her, yacking away to one another!
The pictures are great. That tree is beautiful but the whole idea of crushing is really awful.
W.

Pandabonium said...

NZM - thanks. As you can see, K wanted to play in this one.

No worries, Wendy. No need to direct all or any comments to me.

Moody is back from Australia. He hasn't posted yet on his blog, but he did post a question about a banana sign in Australia on my recent banana post. Perhaps you have an answer for him.

Happysurfer said...

This sure is a shady tree. Interesting about the aerial roots becoming tree trunks to support the branches. Didn't know that. Nice post, Pandabonium.

Yeap, MM's back and he has already left a comment on my blog - a naughty one at that.

Pandabonium said...

Me too Happy! hehehe...

Martin J Frid said...

That is not just a tree, that is an entire universe. Imagine how many living beaings it supports. I do hate to think that they would be chopped down.

Wonderful photos!

Seymour said...

I saw a presentation on alcohol fuel sources a few weeks back and the lecturer (who was an organic farmer) said that all large trees form a carbohydratic relationship with plants in their vicinity. Well established trees form a caloric agreement with shrubs and grasses to break up soil in the area, in exchange for energy exchanged at the root level. So the loss of one tree doesn't take into account the surrounding symbiotic relationships. That's one reason replanted forests never have the diversity of Old Growth stands. The development takes decades to produce, and was only identified fairly recently. I'll check for documentation if anyone is interested, but he seemed fairly sure of himself.

agus said...

Cool post! Sounds like a place for kids to have their adventures, looking for ancient treasures and machines. I'd love the scene even if I stumbled upon it today. And check out that banyan tree!

Pandabonium said...

Martin - yes, it is quite a micrcocosim. Many living things compete in some ways on this planet. Hopefully we humans learn to find a balance with the others.

Seymour - thank you for your thoughtful comments. That is an interesting piece of information. All things are interconnected and we would be wise to take that into account before acting. Your comment and Martin's are on the same wave length there I think.

Agus - it is a great spot for adventures. One can access the child mind and really have a wonderful time on Taveuni. Now, why can't we do that anytime, anywhere?