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|Touring New Zealand 2007 part 2|
The last section left us at the end of the Forgotten World Highway approaching Taumarunui. Taumarunui is an interesting town, it came to prominence at the turn of last century because of the railway and because it was the end of the riverboat service linking to the rail network and because it was at the confluence of the Whanganui and Ongarue Rivers. It's history goes back a lot further - it was the converging point of three Maori tribes, the Maniapoto from the Ongarue, the Hauaroa from downstream on the Whanganui and the Tuwharetoa from upstream. The tribes still exist and can trace their lineage from four of the great migration canoes, Aotea, Tokomaru, Tainui and TeAwawa. There are several interpretations of the name depending on how one splits the syllables. One is Taumaru - shade or shelter and nui - large. Another is that Maru, a great leader defeated local inhabitants and the town is named in honour Tau (you), Maru, nui (great or large). It is in the heart of the King Country and was closed to Pakeha until the 1880s. The town has not only survived, unlike so many towns along the Forgotten World Highway but grown as a regional centre. The rail links are now less important and the station now serves mostly as an information office and few trains other than freight pass through. There is however an excellent working model of the Raurimu spiral which was a fascinating way that the trains were brought up the steep slopes.
We stayed at the Taumarunui Holiday Park 3 km outside Taumarunui - we first stayed there in 2003 when we dashed in to see the end of another defeat for Team NZ sailing in the Americas Cup. The site is good and they have the Whanganui River right at the bottom of the grounds, a forest walk at the end of the site and another longer walk along the river to Cherry Grove where the riverboats moored in Taumarunui.
The owners have been gradually doing it up since we have been using it. The cabins have been doubled up by enclosing the car ports and turning them into new cabins. They have lots of animals last time they had two well grown plump lambs, two young goats, two dogs, four cats, lots of chickens and dozens of pigeons. We were presented with a couple of freshly laid eggs for breakfast last visit. The numbers seemed a little less this year but Marmalade, a huge and very friendly cat visited us and ate a huge amount of trimmings from our steaks before rolling off. In he morning we were told he had boasted too much and there was a huge pile of fur from a minor dust up on the bridge.We picked the owners brains about the Nui poles as there were pictures on his notice boards and confirmed that the road was not too bad to get to a point opposite where the houseboat had been moored and to hopefully be able to see the nui poles.
We returned 11 km back up the SH43 and took the Paparoa road on past the turn off to the Te Marie Reserve following signs to Tawata. This took us about 28 kms (about 11 unsealed) to reach the bank opposite to Maraekowhai where we could get a view across the river to the Nui Poles and the join of the Ohura river and the Whanganui River where the houseboat Makere was moored just below the lower falls. The road is reasonable but narrow and we had to overshoot a kilometre or so to turn in a gateway and return to park and get our pictures.
The two poles look well preserved and are in a well kept Reserve with picnic tables and toilets - the only problem is that now DOC have removed the swing bridge and plan to close the track this important historic area can only be reached by canoe. The nui poles were erected by the Hau Hau followers of the Pai Marire religion and were local points for prayer, parades and chants. Spirits were said to radiate through the arms of the poles calling warriors to fight and giving them supernatural powers to resist musket fire. The Rongo nui (War pole) was erected first in 1864 and the Ririkore (Peace pole) was erected in 1869 when hostilities ended.
On our return we stopped at the Te Maire Reserve - on an earlier visit we had taken a 10 minute walk with a nice river crossing on a small suspension bridge, to reach a loop walk which takes a further one hour forty minutes to complete. The initial section is in very good condition and makes an excellent short forest walk through Podocarps but with so much undergrowth growing on and up all the trees it is reminiscent of the 'goblin forest' in Taranaki round Mountain House. This time in 2007 we also completed the loop track which took us through some lovely stands of mature trees, some stretching 200 feet upwards with clean straight trunks, probably the tallest were kahikatea (white pine) along with rimu, totara and matai. The lookout was higher than we expected and the climb gave us some good exercise but the views were minimal as it was overgrown round the picnic table. We did it in sandals but got damp feet and boots would have better on the climbs and descents.
It was somewhat later than we had hoped when we finished the walk and we had to drive straight to Rotorua from Taumarunui with little time for stops. We took a different route to usual traveling east on the SH41 then North up the west of lake Taupo rather than our usual route up the east side of the lake and through Taupo Town. The road was much better than we had expected from the map as well as being shorter so we got to Rotorua with five minutes to spare before the 1800 time we had told them in the Motel. We had rung ahead and booked into the Monterey for two nights - it is very close to the lake and the centre of town and has a pool and its own thermal water bath as well as a free guest laundry we needed to use. We normally have one of their simpler rooms without full cooking but this time they only had one with a full kitchen at $80 rack rate. It is run by an ex German couple who immediately recognise us and usually give us a discount as regulars (when out of peak season anyway) - try telling them you found them on our website and ask for a discount. It is certainly a place we can recommend if you are looking for accommodation right in the centre of town.
Rotorua is in the centre of the thermal areas and forms an excellent base for touring. Rotorua and the surrounding thermal areas sit right on the pacific "Ring of Fire". There are often small shakes and on a recent visit there was one whilst we were eating breakfast outside on a picnic bench. They occur two or three times every day although this one was slightly more noticeable and we were told it was about 4 on the Richter scale. There are a number of thermal areas of interest in the town itself as well as plentiful accommodation, economic restaurants, Internet Cafes and WiFi points. We come every time in New Zealand and often end up staying for two or three days and on one occasion stayed four days - Rotorua and the thermal areas is a must on a first visit to New Zealand.Once we had unpacked it was time to visit The Pig and Whistle for a beer, they have their own brewery producing 'swine lager' - we had our usual two huge plates of spare ribs with a small side order of Kumara chips. We just struggled through it with the help of a few beers. The Pig and Whistle used to be the police station and was built in 1946 very much in Art Deco style but with some addition Maori themes in the decoration.
This has now been linked with the pleasant walk round part of the Lake starting in the middle of town which takes you past little beaches, through bush, through thermal areas on board walks and through various nature reserves, all with orientation boards that we have previously described. It is not well publicised, perhaps because it takes you through some interesting thermal areas that are free but we found a brochure last year called "Rotorua Walkways" which showed that a walk has now been completed featuring geothermal areas, native wildlife and local historic sights.
We eventually persuaded the information office to provide an extra copy of that and two other brochures covering walks round the centre for the motel - they had never seen it and they were not on display in the information centre! The extra sections after the Kurua Park, Pukuroa Hill, Lakefront and Motutara bay sections that we have written before continue the walk up the Puarenga stream so you can now reach Whakawerawera and continue in an extended loop past the golf course, through the Rotorua Tree Trust and down the Utuhina stream back to the town centre giving a total distance of 26 kms. This seemed slightly too far even after our excesses at the 'Pig' so we joined the loop at the Polynesian Pools where we looked inside to see how the new developments were progressing. We were taken on a tour of the old and new facilities and were impressed by the changes although it is a shame that they have been forced to close the old pools we used - they however have kept them on view as a reminder of the past alongside the new facilities. Their new luxury spa looks worth the extra although $35 is expensive by NZ standards.
We walked out on the familiar route through the quite active thermal area along the lake an then onto the new section up the Puarenga stream named for the patterns of sulphur particles which float on it's surface - hot and cold springs feed it on its journey from Whakarewarewa - we did not go in and the next section past the golf course on a main road looked a bit boring so we returned the same way.
It seems to us that a good days 'outing' would be to follow the walk through Kurau Park, down to the waterfront then follow the lakeside thermal path past the Pools up to Whakarewarewa, spend a couple of hours including their guided tour before returning the same route back as far as the Polynesian pools where one could spend an hour or so in the new spa. Once rejuvenated one could look round the Blue Bathes/government gardens area, the subject of another rare brochure, before returning to the Monterey.
The town returned to normal the following morning and after a walk round we decided it was time to go across towards the East Cape which we had not done properly since 1999. We also wanted to go back out to White Island so we first headed for Whakatane, the home of the PJ. The weather as we had guessed was preventing trips - there was a 3 metre and increasing swell which would make the journey unpleasant and landing dangerous. The forecast was better and we made a booking for the following Sunday to allow time for a trip round East Cape.
If you do go round the Pacific Coast Highway make sure you keep full of petrol - it is nearly 400 kms including diverting to the East Cape Lighthouse. Petrol stations very are infrequent and you pay a 50% premium - we paid $2.00 instead of the usual $1.37 a litre at Ruatoria. It is a good idea to fill up at Tirohanga if you are going from the Opotiki end or stop at Te Puia Springs both of which are only 10 cents over the odds. The whole area also has limited mobile coverage although it is better than the last visit when there was no coverage for 4 days. We now got marginal coverage at Tirohanga and good at Tolaga Bay.
Leaving Opotiki we passed the pipi beds at the end of the river - we have stopped and gathered them on previous visits - they make good eating if just boiled until they open like mussels or even better if barbequed till they open. They are called pipis as they give squirt of water when gathered - they are usually about 6 cms under the sand at low water mark.
We stopped first to take pictures of Te ara
Ki Te Tairawhiti - The Pathway to the Sunrise about 4 km from Opotiki. It was created by Opotiki's master carver Keke Collier and shows the arrival of the Maori people in Opotiki with a European soldier and Maori woman symbolising the togetherness of the races. They were moved to this site in 1998 due to the risk of vandalism and they have just been painted up and look rather fine in the new setting. The sun however was wrong for a good picture.
We stopped the first night a few kilometres beyond Opotiki at the Tirohanga Beach Motor Camp - we had stayed once before when we been attracted by an advert with aerial view showing it to have well spaced and sheltered sites almost on a calm sandy beach. We had a kitchen cabin with cooking, hot and cold water and a fridge was a very reasonable $40 and the tourist cabins with full cooking, fridge, loo and shower plus double bed within a stones throw of the beach like we had last time had risen to $60. The sea was a bit too rough for swimming and, unusually, there were not a lot of fishermen surf casting. It looks a good place for either a tent or cabin and is strategically placed at the start of the East Coast Highway. The owners were very friendly and came out to see if we had enjoyed the stay and if we had found out when we had stayed last. It also has a good and surprisingly cheap store at the entry with free book exchange and excellent value ice-creams so an extended stay would be practical. One for the list of places to return to again and again.
In the morning we had perfect weather with blue skies, very different to our last visit when the cloud was hanging low over the hills giving a brooding, sinister appearance. There was a considerable swell running giving some impressive looking surf beating onto the coast accentuating the grandeur of the scenery. We passed the camp site we used at Maraehako on our first visit which it seems to have gained some informal horse riding and kayaking - it is owned and run by a Maori trust. It looked as if it is now primarily used by regulars.
We stopped at Raukokore at the beautiful Anglican Church which is out on a promontory. Last time it was overshadowed by two magnificent Norfolk Pines but unfortunately they have had to be cut down as they were destroying the foundations. It however makes the white church even more striking. We went inside and there was a note, as there was last time, not to worry about a slight fishy smell as there was a family of penguins nesting under the font.
We were keen to walk up to the
East Cape Lighthouse this year, last time the weather
the was poor and the lighthouse which is 136 meters above sea level was in cloud. This time it was still not perfect with the odd spot of rain in the air but otherwise clear. You travel 21 kms down a road, about half is now sealed although the maps show it as gravel. At the end is a car park which last time had the distinction of having the farthest east dunny in the world - it has now been replaced by a swish new block with flushing toilets. I am glad I can claim to have used the farthest east dunny before it was replaced. It may still be the most easterly public toilet so savour it. You then walked back 150 metres and climb up a track over private land. The signs warn it is a steep climb taking 25 minutes and there are wooden steps to save erosion, 700 in all. It took Pete 13 minutes and Pauline 16 and the views were worth it. The lighthouse used to be on the island just off shore but was moved to the mainland. As we left we saw some mountain bikers start up the steps - it takes all types. The trip is best made at sunrise - we must try some time.
We stopped in Te Aroroa town to look at the biggest Pohutukawa tree in the country which is believed to be over 300 years old before backtracking to the Te Aroroa holiday park. We looked in as we came past but it had a sign up to come back at 1530 but seemed empty enough to not be a problem in finding space.
We first visited the Te Araroa holiday park on our trip in 1999. It's main distinguishing feature was that it had the Furthest East Cinema in the world. It has now been closed. Since our last visit the camp site has unfortunately taken a turn for the worse and now has the distinction of being the worst camp-site we have stayed at because of an aggregation of a number of small factors in addition to being more expensive and with less matching facilities than the other sites we used on the East Cape. There were signs to boil all water and our 'kitchen cabin' at $55 only had a cold tap with a top that kept falling off. We found big nests of insects in the folds of the curtains and room divider with wiggling grubs a centimetre long- we took them all down and put them outside. The electric cable on the toaster was melted with bare wires showing. This led me to check the fire extinguisher which had not been signed up for annual checks since December 2004. The facilities did not encourage one to use them and the catches on the doors were mostly broken, the showers area looked worse and the insects were thick in the air. The washing machines were leaking on the floors. We must have emptied half a can of insect spray into the room and I am still getting bitten as I write this up.
On the positive side the shop looked well stocked with food and drink which is much used by locals and opens at 0700 in the morning. The floor of the room had obviously been washed as it was wet when we moved in and the flower beds outside were new and full of bloom.The site seems so sheltered that a tent would be OK in almost any wind strength and direction although there were horses roaming and they had left plenty of offerings. The large private beach was bleak with the onshore wind and a long walk but looked as though it would normally be pretty good. In the morning we showed the owner the curtains and he said the nests were from masonry bees and not dangerous - they must have been busy for a long time undisturbed to have got to the size they had with grubs inside and we think he will have a word with the cleaner. Overall not a place to return to and if they had been a member of any of the "professional associations" we would have forwarded these comments - not surprisingly they do not seem to belong to any.
We continued round the coast. Tikitiki was memorable only because they had run out of petrol. We put in the minimum possible at an even more extortionate price at Ruatoria - $200 a litre! We took an interesting diversion to Anaura Bay where the campsite at the bottom of the hill is a possible stop in the future, a nice but windswept campsite right on the sea front and further round there is a DOC site but only for campers with a chemical toilet. There is also a walk.
The most interesting diversion was to Waima where we found some old freezing works and a wharf which was in use until the mid 1950s. We took several pictures as we have a poster of Nelson Bro's Australian and New Zealand Freezing and Shippers of Lamb.
We continued to Tolaga Bay to see how the restoration to the longest wharf in the Southern Hemisphere was proceeding. On our first visit it was not even safe to walk out on it to fish. It is now safe but still in need of much more work to arrest the deterioration. The initial contractors were alleged to have used a lot of sand from beaches in the concrete and the salt has rusted the reinforcing rods and exploded the concrete. We also went into the adjacent camp-site, which we noted last time was in new hands and that it looked a very attractive option for a stay either on a trip round East Cape or just for a couple of days fishing. We were correct and this time we got a kitchen cabin with a spectacular view out over the beach and wharf for $55 which must count as one of top spots - everything was new and matching, there was a fridge freezer and the view was one one to die for.
We reluctantly left the following morning - the cabin was booked that night otherwise we might have put off the trip to White Island. We stopped in Gisborne long enough to stock up and the set off back to Tirohanga and hopefully a trip on the PJ to White Island.
We took the old coach road through Motu and Toatoa which had been recommended to us by several people as an interesting drive. The first 20 kms to Motu were fairly normal and sealed and we took a worthwhile five Km diversion to look at the Motu falls. They were right alongside the road and one got an excellent view from the swing bridge which was sited just above.
The remaining 48 kms of the road had various health warnings which were justified. Quote one was that "we should be at the campsite in an hour", quote two from Pauline after an hour and a half was "I am not sure it is a road to be repeated, quote three was not fit to repeat but in summary was "I am glad I was not driving" after a high speed hoon came round a blind corner very fast, lost control and came at us sideways until just gaining enough control to shoot past us on one of the few wider stretch alongside a near vertical drop. It was the first vehicle we had seen moving in the couple of hours of driving up to that point. The road and views were however fantastic and it must count as one of the more interesting roads we have done - it was very reminiscent of the Thomson Valley Gorge Road in South Island which was an old goldmining trail but without the 45 gates to open. It had the same feeling of clinging to steep hillside, perhaps even more so as in places as the road was routed along the ridges as well as clinging to the slopes with near vertical drops. It must have been quite a trip in a coach although probably almost as fast as much of the time we were below 20 kph.
We rang in to see whether our trip on the PJ to White Island was on and in the evening they said check in the morning - we got up early and drove over and after several delays they eventually cancelled as the swell was still to big out at White Island to get people on and off the Jetty safely from the rubber dingy used for the transfer. We were disappointed and looked at several options before driving back to Opotiki and crossing to Gisborne on The SH2, a surprisingly scenic road for a state highway, which takes one through the Waioeka Gorge. There is a road sign on entry to the gorge saying "Falling Rocks for 50 KMs". On the way through the gorge we noted a camp site which was marked on the GPS without details as DOC-H2 and found it was a delightful DOC site by the side of the river with an old bridge where we had stopped in 1998, it is no longer free but a well placed stop for future trips and is at Manganuka and is signed from the road as a picnic area. After Matawai we were back on the road we had used the other way but as usual it looks different the other way.
We cut across on some side roads as we approached Gisborne to intercept the Tinoroto Road which continues
through Te Reinga down to Wairoa- it goes through some magnificent scenery and is usually almost deserted. The views are great, we stopped several times. There is lookout which is signed at Gentle Annie which has a picnic table as well as good views. The views are not the small areas you can capture on film but broad canvases from horizon to horizon. There are some river gorges and mudstone cliffs towering over the road and some times falling onto it. one time a baseball sized rock hit the road just in front of us and we looked up to see a goat leering down from a near vertical face above us. We turned off at Te Reinga where a sign marked falls and went to the set of magnificent waterfalls with a viewing platform from above and there is a very rough track with a final steep scramble down to look from below. Another track over a style allows one access to the top of the falls, also with a bit of a scramble at the end. An old picture shows they were an early and now forgotten tourist attraction. This time we only had time for a visit to the viewing platform.
We stopped in Wairoa rather than continuing to Tutira as originally planned, the backroads had taken longer than we thought and we were seduced by a sheltered and well set up commercial site for our first erection of the tent for the year. It took less time than we feared - we had obviously remembered all the tricks from last year. The site was really well looked after with flowers and little curtains hung blow the sinks in the toilets and even in the kitchen. The kitchen had a cupboard full of crockery and utensils and even tea towels and washing up liquid. We talked to the owner and her assistant. The barbeque is built into the boot of an old car that is attached to a dummy garage. The assistant had come, like us, on spec for a day and was still there after four and a half years, living in a well founded bus - she had had it stretched and it had a side extension sliding out for the bedroom when stationary. In the evening we got out the Red Devil and had barbequed kumara and venison - some of the most tender yet. We started a bottle of lightly oaked Chardonnay 2006 from the Tolaga bay Estate which we had gathered up on spec in a Pak-and-Save which was remarkably good and our first East Coast wine - their quote on back was 'Excellence is no Accident' and we will check in the future.
We ended up staying an extra day at Wairoa, once the big tent is up we like to stay for two days so Lake Tutira had to wait. In the morning we did shopping and a look round town and had a long talk in the information office, mainly with Jenny who was a fund of information and came from the Otago area we know well so we traded a lot of information. We looked in the excellent little local museum which we had missed on previous visits - strange as it was on marine parade which we always drove down to a good shop for ice-cream at the end. We followed up in the DOC office and picked up some more local DOC information.
In the afternoon spent time on some of the more local short walks given in the sheets we had picked up from the DOC office. We went to the tiny Waiatai Scenic Reserve known for its giant puka, a rare tree which only occurs naturally on the Three Kings and Taranga Islands. The reserve was very over grown but we found the picnic table and puka tree off the short loop track - many of the trees had labels. It was once the site of a farmhouse which was moved after being damaged in 1931 earthquake - the reserve was once its front garden. It is only 4 km from Wairoa on the road to Gisborne - turn left for 200 metres up Waiatai Road.
We then went out to look at the lagoon and wetlands. Wairoa is a bar port and the bar used to continually move and sometimes access was limited for weeks or even years. There are pictures in the museum of both small steamships going out through clear water and of men digging a new channel through many metres of sand. The lagoon and beach area were worth a visit with huge trees and driftwood covering a black gravel beach covered in pumice but the most interesting view was from a high point down to the arms containing the lagoon and the bar a little further out - it is difficult to image anything other than a tinny making the sharp turns needed for access now.
We left Wairoa on the SH2 ultimately heading for Napier with 3 days to spare. We had a heritage Train guide 'Napier to Wairoa' which had some details on a number of places we had already visited but also had some suggestions for interesting diversions. The guide has 20 points of interest of which we had already found and visited 8. We first diverted on the Mohaka Township Road and on to Mohaka. We could have continued on the original Mohaka Coach Road but that would have missed some other points of interest but were tempted as it had all the health warnings which lead to interesting scenic drives. We understand it is used for car rallies - in the old days it was so muddy that passengers used to have to trudge beside or push the coaches on the steeper grades.
Mohaka has an interesting bridge, one of a series build and destroyed in successive floods before the main road was built. Mohaka is now a bit of a ghost town but was supposed to have a unique and huge round hall built in 1885 of pit sawn timber, the Rongo Mai Wahini standing beside the meeting house Te Kahu o te Rangi. We looked both sides of the river and never found them and being a ghost town we found nobody to ask.
Once back on the main SH2 we passed the spectacular Mohaka Railway viaduct which takes the single track line for 278 meters and 95 metes above river it took 7 years to complete and the foundations are sunk 21 metes below the river bed. It was the fourth highest in the world. It was recognised by the Institute of Profession Engineers of New Zealand as part of NZ's engineering heritage and a a commemorative stone is in the picnic area.
The Road Bridge has also gone through interesting stages the first bridge for the main road bypassing the old coach road was built in 1922 and in 1928 had a Rabbit Proof gate fitted and was known there after as Rabbit Bridge. The replacement built in 1975 was one of the first bridges designed to absorb earthquake forces by flexibility.
We stopped at Raupunga, a town which declined after a brief provenance during the railway and road construction era. We eventually found the 130 year old and recently restored Hineringa meeting house which was originally sited at the Mohaka River mouth where it was a resting house in the coaching days. It stands next to a modern constructed and carve meeting house , Te Huki.
We were then close to familiar areas for walks close to Lake Tutira. Last year we had discovered various walks but had nor done the one to Shine Falls. Coming from Wairoa there is a loop road entering on the Matahoura Road and leaving on the Pohokura Road down to the Tutira Store. The access to the Shine Falls is from the Heays Access road off the loop. The loop road is one of the best scenic diversions we have found and is well worthwhile in its own right. It is partly well formed gravel and part seal with spectacular views without being challenging driving. If one turns North on the Pohokura Road ie away from to the Tutira Store, one reaches, the Opouahi Scenic Reserve and Walkway, the Bell Bird Bush Scenic Reserve and the Boundary Stream Scenic Reserve from which there is a longer tramp to the Shine Falls.
Shine Falls were shown on one of our brochures and looked spectacular, even so it was even more beautiful than we expected. The water fans out from entries 58 metres above spraying off the near vertical faces into a small pool with a sandy entry point giving easy access to a a swimming hole where you a well sprayed with icy water from above. Pete had brought trunks just in case but only the fact that some other walkers had braved it persuaded him to try - it was most invigorating but he did wish he had brought a towel. The picture below shows the scale of the falls - you can just see Pete standing up to his waist at the bottom shivering! Fortunately it was a sunny and low humidity day so one dried and warmed very quickly.
The walk to the falls took about two hours return including time for a swim and had some of the best scenery we have found walking because of the variety as well as the quality. You start off across pasture and under towering wind sculptures sandstone cliffs before climbing to enter the Boundary Stream Scenic Reserve which is a Mainland Island offering a protected area of a couple of square miles where traps, poison and fences keep the area free of exotic predators such as musalids, cats and dogs. Until now we had only been to the one at the Trounson Kauri Park. It does seem to be working here and the birds and other life do seem to be increasing.
We stopped at Lake Tutira , arguably our favourite camp site. It is a basic camp site now run DOC although partly owned by the local council and the walks go over land put into trust from Tutira Station - it is currently free with a box for contributions which they suggest should be at a level similar to DOC sites. Lake Tutira is about a mile and a half long and we could not camp at at our old favourite spot, one of the two pitches just past the first gate and opposite a long drop - it was a little too small for the new tent.
The first night we had a good spot opposite the picnic tables about 500 metres further down but a spot we moved to a pitch easily the equal of our favourite the other end for the second night. It was also just a few feet from the water with a view defying any description over the lake and a huge variety of scenery. We were camped under weeping willows and the lake was, as usual, covered in Australian Black swans - neither are natural to New Zealand - in some places Willows are being actively suppressed as they are displacing the natural trees such as Pohutukawa on coastlines. The spot had been occupied the first night but it was worth the effort of moving for the second although we had some doubts just after we had set up and a big thermic gust stretched all our guy ropes and it changed from bright sun to overcast in 5 minutes - such is New Zealand weather in the hills. In the event we had a peaceful night and woke to bright sun and the mist rising over the lake.
One can, and Pete did, swim off the sand bottom in front of the tent amongst the black swans, ducks and grebe. The water is quite warm and the only problem was it shelved very slowly and once it got waist deep one was into deep weed on the bottom which one had to swim out over. We were told the weed has come since the extensive use of fertilisers on pastures which eventually drain into the lake. It is the dreaded Hydrilla?? which so far only affects 4 lakes all in the area and we hope it will not effect the wild life too much.
wildlife and in the morning we sat and watched a Kingfisher darting into the water and returning with fish right in front of us in the Willows. We have watched pukeko, little white shags New Zealand scaup whilst fantails flit by and a Kingfisher sat quite close fishing from a nearby willow. In this visit and previous ones we have observed at Lake Tutira: New Zealand Scaup, New Zealand Grey Duck, Australian Black Swans, Little White-throated Shags, no larger than a grebe,, Black Shags, White Faced Heron, Pukeko, Fantails, Thrushes, an Australasian Harrier, a Pair of New Zealand Pigeons, and Kingfishers as well as the common imports - swallows, mallards and sparrows, magpie finches and starlings. Strangely at Tutira we rarely hear Moreporks overnight or Tuis and Bellbirds in the dawn chorus although we have learnt there is a Tui near the entry who has learnt to imitated the sound of the trucks airhorns.
We like to always do some of the local walks. There is one round the small adjacent lake which takes about 20 minutes and we have also done the two hour Pera loop track which takes one high up above the lake with some spectacular views before dropping down to the main camping area and back along the lakeside. Last year we discovered the walks in a beautiful area just to the North of Tutira which are accessed by roads described above which start close to the Tutira store which is just up the road. The store is in new hands and all looks a lot smarter than before.
The first morning we initially went to the Holt Forest trust to walk around at our leisure - we went there first on a Steam Train for a picnic as part of the Art Deco festival. It was set up in 1933 by the Holt's and over 45 years they planted some 500 species of indigenous and exotic trees shrubs, ferns and flowering plants. It was proclaimed a wildlife sanctuary and is open throughout the year. There are shady walks good for an hour or more. We then followed our route of last year up to Lake Opouahi and continued to Bell Bird Bush and the main entry to the Boundary Stream Mainland Island Reserve. This time we new what to expect and it seemed an easy journey although the road turns to gravel and climbs steeply.
We particularly wanted to see what progress had been made at Lake Opouah where is a 30 hectare predator-free Reserve being set up The intention is that it will take the young birds at about 20 weeks old and helping them to become "street wise". Only time will tell how successful this will be as although numbers will certainly be dramatically reduced as losses from predators will no longer occur the downside will that all natural selection will be removed with the obvious consequences in the long term. When we saw it last year the entry, with huge double entrance gates forming an 'airlock' to keep out unwelcome predators, was under construction and some fencing had been started. There seems to have been some progress on the fencing but overall progress seems to have stalled. We did the new loop track round the lake which we found a little disappointing.
We next stopped at Bell Bird Bush, and we did a small loop track through a beautiful stand of trees. There is another walk of about a couple of hours leading to a lookout which some other people we met in the camp site had done and said gave spectacular views and was well worthwhile. Then we continued to Boundary Stream Mainland Island. It is a new North Island Brown Kiwi sanctuary, with eggs taken from the Kaweka Forest Park and then incubated and baby birds being hatched at Rainbow Springs in Rotorua and then grown birds are settled into the Reserve. There are a number of walks in the area and the Boundary Stream Track leads across to the Shine Falls and on to the Heays access road. We did part of that walk from the other direction as an out and return to the falls. At this point we turned back but if one continues the road eventually joins the road from Napier to Taupo.
The last morning was absolutely beautiful with an early morning mist hanging over the lake which quickly cleared to blue skies and so little wind there were reflections only broken by breaking fish and paddling birds. We sat around reading, painting and writing up as the tent dried and for another couple of hours. It was Tutira at its best. Pete had a swim to cool off. We chatted to a gentleman who brings his caravan here every year and has known the area almost from its start as a sanctuary - he planted some of the first 1000 trees regenerating the area. There was a lot of information on one of the boards on erosion and the effects of Hurricane Bola in 1988 where the soil eroded came down and buried much of the area which is now a camp site - he was able to fill in many details. We have a picture of an old fence strainer less than a foot above the ground and the height of the new fence but we had not realised that where we were standing talking to him was on top of the old completely buried fence! The changing use of the land has increased the erosion by 8 to 16 fold and now only 15 cms of rain causes soil to wash off the land and Bola deposited 75 cms in 6 days - it put nearly 8 cms of sediment onto the lake bed.
We told him we had the book by Guthrie Smith - Tutira Station and he had some interesting insights into the differences between editions in particular the extra sections that were put in about Maori which he doubts as no Maori middens (rubbish dumps) or other evidence has been found and he knows the area intimately. He said he used to fish the Mohaka river so we asked about the town of Mohaka and he explained how we had managed to miss Mohaka's unique and huge round hall built in 1885 of pit sawn timber, the Rongo Mai Wahini which stands beside the meeting house Te Kahu o te Rangi. It is unsigned and only the top can be seen from the road as you drop down on the North - you have to take a side road to the right as you pass through the town. By the time you get to the road to the quarry you have missed it. He suggested we should look at the Tutira Memorial Church and went to have a look when we left for Napier. It is on the main road opposite to the lake and the entry is gated. We parked at the bottom but it would have been easier and safer to have opened the gate and driven up. The drive is well formed and there is plenty of turning space. It brick build and has a huge glass window behind the altar looking over the lake - like the church of the Good Shepard at Tekapo the view is better than any stained glass.
We continued to follow the suggestions in the Heritage Train booklet and stopped at the White Pine Bush Scenic Reserve which is quite small, only 19 ha of native bush with kahikatea (white pine) the dominant species with a big grove of nikau palms. We took the short and well formed loop track which takes one past a picturesque stream and little waterfalls. We also passed Tongoio Falls Scenic Reserve where we have taken a walk a previous year.
The next stop was at Esk Valley Winery to see Sue, taste the new wines and to stock up with a couple of bottles for the next few days. Unlike many of the New Zealand vineyards we buy from, Esk Valley exports to the UK. We have normally bought their various red wines, Merlot in various blends with Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and sometimes Cabernet Franc. Esk Valley. We have got to know their sales manager, Sue, quite well and are usually greeted as old fiends and have a long chat. She has recently been to England for a long holiday - her daughter is living in Henley, only a few miles away from us.
We have spoken at length about the wines in the past so all we will say is that we tried many wines and bought half a case for the next part of the holiday as well as a picnic rug. All the pressing and fermentation and maturing in a variety of French and American oak barrels is done at the Esk Valley site and on a previous visit we had a fascinating exposition about the various oaks used and degrees of toasting employed to get the best from every batch and parcel of ground. Esk Valley is now part of a group with Villa Maria and Vidal and the bottling and shipping is jointly organised providing economies of scale without any sacrifice of quality or style by the partners.
We also diverted a few hundred metres to an ice-cream shop we remembered was beside the exceptionally good fish and chip shop on the outskirts of Napier - those in the centre are more expensive and smaller.
The next part will start with our arrival at Napier at the City Close Motel for the Art Deco Festival