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|Touring New Zealand 2000 - part 7|
Sailing ended as you may recall with an excess of fish so our first priority was to find a freezer to store some of the Snapper and Kahawai - the obvious solution was to go back to Russell to the Top Ten Camp site, where they were very happy to put our fish into their own fast freezer in the house rather than use the freezers in the camp kitchens. The other important reason for a commercial site was the need for washing machines after the fortnight on the boat. We have made quite a lot of use of Top Ten camp sites when we have needed a commercial site for such reasons - they are not cheap but they are all well looked after and have well equipped kitchens and laundries. We have bought a twenty dollar card which cuts the cost by 10% which has quickly paid for itself. This time we were under canvas on one of their higher sites so we had a good view out over the bay and no possibility of being overlooked so we could sleep with the tent front open under the stars after a barbecue of guess what on the Red Devil. (Hint starts with an S).
We stocked up in the morning at the super Russell Bakery with fresh croissants and some more of the Rewara potato bread - it seems to keep for almost ever unlike most bread and still tastes like a fresh French brioche after a week. They confirmed that no yeast is added and it is just the naturally fermented potato juice that causes it to rise. The day was very windy and we ended up in another Top Ten site that evening in a cabin at Whatawhiwhi on the Karikari peninsular, one of our finds of last year. The peninsular has sweeping beaches down both sides and an exceptionally beautiful, even by New Zealand standards, twin beach at the end. The two beaches have headlands, reputedly good for fishing which wraps round making them very sheltered and have nice fine yellow sands. There is a DOC camp site which remains on our must try list. The morning was dull and windy but still OK for a quick swim.
We then headed on up towards our other favourite Northland DOC campsites first stopping at Rarawa which we though might be a bit more sheltered as it is in pine trees a little way back from the beach. It was still too windy for our tent especially as for some unknown reason DOC came and cut down one of the rows of trees which provided shelter from the land side. We did have a long chat to Ralph and Sue Milne, the caretakers we had spent a lot of time talking to last year. The first bit of good news was that the kitten we met last year had finally found a home with one of the DOC employees - it had been delightful, only turning up in total darkness but being very friendly. Cats are not welcome in reserves and are normally shot but this one was spared.
Ralph is writing travel books and we had an interesting discussion on the way that travel and experiences effect one - he is rewriting his latest book to take much more account of how they have been changed by their experiences in the more exotic parts of the world. He has been looking at our site and is thinking of getting some of his material up - we wait with interest. We were fortunate to catch them as it was their final day before the caravan was moved into store and they returned to Auckland and travel to far more exotic places than those we aspire to.
The far North has little accommodation of any form so we stopped to look at a cabin at Waitiki Landing, the last fuel and food before one takes the gravel road for the final stretch to Cape Reinga. The cabins were unusual in that they had a loo and shower but no cooking facilities - normally a loo is the last stage of the route from basic to luxury rather than the first. They were also on the expensive side but there is nothing comparable anything like so far North. The first surprise was the water - we have become used to water in camp sites one needs to boil and from bore holes with coloration at the end of the year but this was exceptional, between the colour of lager and bitter with more sediment than the end of a barrel. It is apparently quite safe to drink even without boiling as it is treated but they will supply clear water for drinking if you prefer. All bore holes tend to suffer at the end of a season and they had been full at the weekend and their 16 cabins full of loos had taken a big toll on their reserves. We eventually plucked up courage to have a shower and the water was the softest I have ever used and we did not turn noticeably darker!
Once we had checked in we went on up to Cape Reinga and down to look at another of our favourite camp sites at Teputaputa where we caught our first big fish. Ralph had told us that the site was overwhelmed with wasps this year and he was correct. The site was totally deserted and their were too many wasps to even risk a quick swim in the stream leading down to the beach and the beach was far too rough for swimming to be anything but a challenge. We settled for a walk down part of the cape walkway to get some exercise, a good job as you will hear. We also took one of the gravel side roads down to Te Hapua, a small village with a wharf where people are often fishing, this time mostly the local Maori children.
Whilst cooking our "guess what?" in the kitchen we started talking to Marty who had just come in from fishing with some much larger Snapper fillets (oh I have given it away). He claimed he had caught 2 seven kilo sized snapper and let them go as they were not only more than he needed but also the main breeding stock (it takes twenty or so years for a snapper to reach that size. It eventually transpired that he acts as a guide for fishing trips and he had gone out having been let down by some American who did not want to go out in the rain. He did an excellent sales job and his fees were quite modest so we agreed to go out and get some proper instruction the following day if he could get free.
In the morning he confirmed that he would be free in the afternoon and we booked in for an extra day and whilst doing so the management team bent over backwards to assure me of their water quality and processing - they must have seen me taking pictures of the first glass of water I drew into the glass by the bedside table. There are some good reasons to stay there which I will come to shortly but you may wish to carry some water with you if you are concerned about bore water.
We did not have a lot of time so we went down another side road towards the Paua Station where again there is a wharf at the end. This time there was only one person fishing who had originated from Guernsey. He had spent the last three days there trying to land some of the large Kingfish in the area. He was very happy for us to also set up so we tried for an hour or so and eventually using a bit of fresh Kahawai he provided I hooked a very big fish, almost certainly one of the Kingfish he was seeking which eventually cut through the strong (30 lb.) leader on my line and disappeared off. He was far more upset than I was. He had been, like everyone in New Zealand, very helpful and even found a spare part to repair my reel as one of the adjusting screws which held the handle in place had come loose and had, we thought disappeared into the sea. He just happened to have an identical reel with all the internal parts stripped from the loads in playing one of the big Kingfish. You can not take them under 65 cms and they can be twice that length - formidable fish and I was lucky to keep it for as long on the line if it was a Kingfish.
That was a good start for our instruction with Marty. He drove us to quiet, almost hidden and very rough car park and we hike down a steep path forming part of the Coastal Walkway to the rocks at the end of a beach, not one of his best places but the best he thought for the strong wind and seas. We took his longer stronger rods and reels and taught us how to tie his own special knots (a quick variation on the Uniknot with an extra lock) and how to sew the freshly frozen bait onto the hook. The hook is past through the bait (with skin) twice before tightening up the line onto the bait and the hook is lightly into the end with the barb well exposed.
He knew the location of several deep holes within the rocks and foul ground into which he did most of the casting into - it went of with a whiplike crack for distances which we could not hope to reach with our rods and probably not with his class of rod and certainly not with the accuracy required. He took us to several places in the local area and we were very glad that he had insisted on walking boots although we are not sure they will ever be quite the same as we were nearly up to our knees at times making our way onto the various bits of rock. Fishing off the rocks needs great care and a continually monitoring of the sea - many inexperienced people are swept away.
We caught a good range of fish, Pete got a small snapper which we put back as Marty was hoping for the big ones like he had got the previous night. Pauline then caught her first two large Kahawai, she only kept smaller one which still measured over 52 cms, and a couple of Blue Maumau one of which was worth keeping - they are prized eating. Pete had a good fight with what turned out to be a big Trevally, the first we have caught and by far the heaviest fish yet and about 54 cms long. Adding on a couple of small fish turned into bait it was a good bag even if we did not get a big Snapper.
The fish were finally filleted on the rocks and we set up back up the track to the car making us realise we were not as fit as we would like and glad we had had a bit of practice the previous day - We were certainly not keeping up with Marty by the end. We would thoroughly recommend such a trip even if you have never fished before, it was instructive, excellent fun and quite economical. We left at 1300 and got back at 1900 after which he finished the filleting and skinning. The half days guiding is normally $40-50 and he charges another $25 each for the use of his rods, bait, tackle etc for which you get a fit, knowledgeable enthusiast and with average luck enough fish to feed you for a couple of days.
The next morning we were nothing like as stiff as we (and Marty) had expected after the pace he had set up the hills and we started to work our way back down the coast having first met the tame Boar belonging to Waitiki Landing. We made the brief diversion into Manganoui (the furthest point a charter boat is allowed to reach) to have look at the harbour for the future. We were once more seduced by the famous fish and chip shop and even Pauline was keen to try their renowned Bluenose. You can watch the fish being filleted in the background and choose the pieces you want cooked whilst you sit on the decking over the harbour.
It was then on down to Opua and over the ferry towards Russell before taking the atrocious unsealed back-road over the hills heading for Whangaruru camp site. Hint - take the longer coastal road which is now largely sealed regardless of what the map says. At Whangaruru we discovered that Brian & Lynn Bulmer had just turned up to take over as caretakers for a few weeks from the DOC ranger - nice to meet old acquaintances once more. It was a bit windy but we set up regardless and it turned into a lovely evening and even better morning. The tent was only feet from the beach and we could sleep with the front open under the stars with the gentle sound of surf almost under our feet. We tried casting into the surf in the morning just in case the Kahawai came in like last year and Pete went round onto the closer rocks with no success - not a single bite which took the bait to make one continue for a pleasant hour or so whilst the tent dried out for what we thought would be the last time.
We eventually tore ourselves away from the idyllic beach and went on down to Sandspit (where the ferries run from to Kawau) and the lovely little campsite we found last year with the cabin called Willow. Unfortunately all the cabins were taken so it was out with the nice dry tent and pitch almost as close as the previous night to the sea and the Red Devil again for the last of the Trevally fillets and Kahawai in its skin. Both have their pros and cons. Cooking in the skin is ideal on a barbecue and has very little wastage - if you do it right you can lift the flesh off most of the bones. Filleting is great if you have lots of fish and do not want to hump it up hills etc.
The morning was initially occupied with our reason for coming - the washing of the sleeping bags which gave us plenty of time to once more dry out the tent and ground sheets before heading for Auckland and Charterlink to fix up for next years sailing. Unfortunately she was just leaving for Europe so we only had a few minutes on the telephone but I am sure something will be worked out and we will definitely be wanting a longer rather than shorter period on the water and hopefully we will be loaned by Kev as well as Chris for part of the time.
Auckland was the usual pleasant lazing around, packing eating and drinking with Chris for a couple of days before we set off with the bare essentials to Rotorua to deliver the van, which has severed us so well, back to Grahame to use until Jenny and Kev return in July. We spent two nights in Rotorua which gave us time to look round a couple of the Thermal reserves, Whaimangu and Orakei Karako. Whaimangu is a long valley down past Frying Pan lake and many other feature to Lake Rotomahana. Orakei Korako or Hidden valley is the one accessed by boat across a lake. We described both last year so I will not bore our regular readers with full descriptions but just add a couple of pictures. Every year there are changes depending on the weather and degree of geothermal activity and this was no exception so we were glad we had gone back to them.
We stayed at a Motel we used several times before we started camping more. The Monterey is very close to the lake and the centre of town and has a pool and its own thermal water bath. We had one of the simpler rooms without full cooking but even that turned out to have a microwave. It is run by an ex German couple who immediately recognised us and it is certainly a place we recommend.
She told us about a recent walk which has opened up round the lake. It is almost in the middle of town but takes you past little beaches, through bush, through thermal areas on board walks and through various nature reserves, all with orientation boards - a pleasant hour and a half walk on nice evening to get ones appetite up before a Mexican on Fenton taken back to consume with our last bottle of Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc.
Well our Touring in 2000 is nearly over - I wrote this part on the train back to Auckland from Rotorua. The van was safely back in Grahame's hands after taking us faultlessly over 8000 kms with the only attention needed being some new tyres and the occasional top up of oil. Christine helped wash it and to our surprise there weren't even any stone chips worth touching up to show for the occasional gravel roads. The van shape seems to suffer much less from chips, broken headlights and holes in windscreens that we have suffered with hire cars in the past, strangely they never seem to occur on the gravel roads. This years write up ends on the Geyserland Express (277 kms in 4 hours) as it draws close to Auckland, our final packing and the return flight. The bank accounts are closed, the pigs are polished and ready to fly and it is time to start planing for next year.
Copyright © Peter and Pauline Curtis
Content revised: 26th September, 2001