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Touring New Zealand 2015 - part 4

The last part left us leaving Wellington and the Reserve bank Museum and heading for Martinborough and the vineyards which we had not visited for many years. Martinborough is a small area compared to Marlborough or Hawkes Bay but is renowned for its Pinot Noirs. Pinot Noir is a fickle grape at the best of times but Martinborough has some of the best conditions including long sunny autumns, even better than Otago which also specialises in Pinot Noir. I have to admit I have been a bit biased in the past and have not thought the New Zealand Pinots to be anything exceptional although they carry a premium price. On the way we stopped at Featherstone which is home of the fell Engine Museum which we have written about in the past so I will say no more as we did not go into it this time having spent too long in the Reserve Bank Museum. We did however find an excellent cheese shop selling local Dutch Cheese, that is Cheese made by Dutch Cheesemakers using local New Zealand milk in the style of the various Dutch cheeses and aged in the same way for months through to many years. We prefer them to imported Dutch Cheese and usually stock up on the rare places they sell them - that used to be Dutch Cheese shops in Bulls and Kaiwaka of which only Kaiwaka remains. So finding another source was excellent.

We stayed at the Martinborough Top Ten, there are very few campsites with cabins in Martinborough and it turned out to be pleasant surprise after the previous Top Tens. Top Ten Camp sites used to be expensive even with a discount card but were the best one could get. This time we had been very disappointed in ones we used - expensive but with standards cut to the bone. in both Wanganui and Wellington. The cabin we had was new, roomy and well appointed as were all the facilities. It had relatively new owners who were determined that it should be the highest standard.

The next day we had an exploration of the Martinborough Wineries including Lunch at Poppies. Martinborough only accounts for one percent of New Zealand’s wine production, from approximately 3 percent of New Zealand’s total plantings by hectare. Pinot Noir is Martinborough’s flagship wine: its elegance and style made Martinborough’s international reputation. In only three decades, Martinborough has been transformed from a sleepy colonial town to world-class wine village, and has taken an impressive collection of international awards in the last 25 years. Martinborough Pinot Noir has a boutique Burgundian style.

The wines at Poppies were quite drinkable although the tasting samples were the smallest I have ever seen but the lunch made up for that. The most interesting of their wines was their Late Harvest Riesling which had an unmistakable bouquet of Lavender which I have never experienced so strongly before.

We will write about the other Wines at a later stage as I also want to update our wine page in parallel and just note we went to Martinborough Vineyard, Palliser, Poppies and Te Kairanga (now rebadged as TK as allegedly Americans could not pronounce it) . Craggy Range also have vineyards in Martinborough which we have tried at there main winery in Hawkes Bay. There are over 25 active wineries in the area

The next day we took a trip out to the coast aiming for Cape Paliser which is the furthest South point in North Island and where we knew there was a lighthouse we could walk up to. On the way we went through Ngawi where there is supposed to be a major seal colony. We saw no seals but we did find a big collection of very sturdy boat launching cradles the majority of which were attached to old but apparently functional bulldozers. We eventually reached the the Cape Palliser Lighthouse and started the climb up to it. There were various signs with different figures for the number of steps but our count was 263 and the view back down was spectacular. The van looked just a dot below us and there was an excellent view in all directions. We could not get to the edge as they seemed to be in the process of painting the lighthouse which was gleaming white and red. At the bottom of the steps there was the furthest \South dunny which had some impressive cable ensuring it did not blow away. On the way back we diverted to Lake Ferry which was not very impressive although we did not venture out onto the spit which is supposed to be a mecca for birds including the rare dotterels we had seen on Waiheke.

Hood Airfield near Masterton: On our way North from Martinborough we went through Masterton and diverted to the nearby Hood Airfield which is the home of New Zealand's 'Sports and Vintage Aviation Society', which has had a hangar on site since 1978. The Society is also developing the 'George Hood Museum of Aviation' on site, and since 1999 has held a biennial airshow, "Wings over Wairarapa", to support the venture. The Vintage Aviator’s have a rare and diverse collection of airworthy WWI Fighter Aircraft at Hood Aerodrome. The Fighter Collection can be viewed inside the showcase Hangar of The Old Stick & Rudder Company where they have a rotating collection of approximately 12 WWI aircraft of various countries on show. The collection includes a British SE5a (Scout Experimental) and the recently test flown and beautifully built Sopwith Triplane. There is an original and still airworthy WWI Bristol F2.B Fighter, alongside German Fokker Dr.1 Triplanes, Fokker D.IV and Pfalz D.III adversaries. Original 1917 and 1916 Rotary engines power the Sopwith F.1 Camel and the little French Nieuport XI - we saw and heard both at Warbirds 2008. Often aircraft from the collections can be seen flying at weekends. Unfortunately we found that the collection is only open weekends.

We stopped for the night at Pahiatua staying in the Carnival Park Domain. When we got there (following a recommendation in the HEMA guide we found they only had a single cabin. The office was empty but there was a notice saying that if the key was on the table and nobody had put booked on the list help yourself - we did. It was the cheapest cabin we have had for many years at $30 a night and was basic but clean and tidy as were all the facilities. We extended the stay to two days to give Pauline a chance to work and generally relax. There was some native bush at the edge of the campsite and investigation showed that it had a very overgrown lake and fountains. It seems that the campsite grounds, park and bush were funded by a Queens Carnival in 1914 and contained 17 acres, mostly native bus at that time. The campsite had a young and very playful cat with the most extraordinary markings.

Our plan was to now take backroads as we worked North. Before we had gone any great distance we came upon the Tui Brewery and stopped to have a look round there small display area and museum - it was a bit early for a guided tour with serious tasting at the end. The museum was fascinating and contained not only the history and some artifacts but also many boards covering the stages of the 'Yer Right' adverts which you really have to watch to appreciate as well as having a particular sense of humour.

Our next stop was a short walk to a viewpoint for a Waterfall at the Waihi Falls Scenic Reserve which we just came upon. The falls plunge 25 metres and it was made into a Reserve in 1899 making it the first reserve in the Hawkes Bay area. We then thought we ought to see the place with the longest place name in the world namely 'Taumata whakatangi hangakoauau o tamatea turi pukakapiki maunga horo nuku pokai whenua kitanatahu', which translates into English as "the place where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, who slid, climbed and swallowed mountains, known as 'landeater’, played his flute to his loved one.". Tamatea was a famous chief and warrior. One day, while traveling through the back of Porangahau, he encountered another tribe and had to fight them to get past. During the fight his brother was killed. Tamatea was so grieved over the loss of his brother that he stayed at the battle site for some days. Each morning he would sit on the hill and play a lament on what is called the koauau or Maori flute. It was then on to Waipawa where we stayed at the River's Edge Holiday Park for a night in a nice roomy cabin looking out onto a paddock of LLamas. The following morning we spent some time in the Central Hawkes Bay Settlers Museum in Waipora before driving on past Hastings and Napier but stopped at Westshore for lunch then at Esk Valley to see if Sue Cranswick was there - bought bottle of Rose, highest rated Rose in ANZ awards (only Rose with Pure Elite Gold) but no category of its own for a Trophy. We finally stopped for night at at Eskdale Holiday park, first time, reasonable roomy cabin. Had a quick look at Domain which is a short walk up the banks of the Esk river.

We stayed a second day to do walks round Tutira backblocks as it was obvious the weather was not improving enough to camp. Modern tents are fine in the rain and rarely let in any water but putting a big tent up in windy or gusty conditions and taking down a wet tent is no fun for just a day or two. We decided to do the 'loop' past the interesting walks and the Boundary Stream Mainland Island the other way round to usual so we continued on the road past the camp site towards Taupo and turned off onto the side road to Glenfalls where we stopped and set up our chairs and table to drink our remaining coffee. It looked quite a nice camp site by the river and had all the usual DOC facilities although it seemed to be free. We also looked for the Everetts camp site but discover that it was down 5 kms of 4 wheel drive track. We however got some nice views down into the area from beside a little reservoir for the fire services.

We were now on some pretty bad gravel roads and reached a section which was one way with passing places and warnings about logging trucks which travel at high speed. The passing places were all numbered and they obviously communicated by radio so they never need to slow down. We were somewhat apprehensive as they would have no idea we were also on the road but we got sight of one in the distance which thundered by and we hoped would alert the others. However shortly after we reached the branch which took us towards the Boundary Stream Scenic Reserve whilst they were coming from a logging track and it was once more peaceful.

The Boundary Stream Reserve is one of more major Mainland Islands and was set up to provide 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 after a period at the Opanui Reserve which we will come to latter. There are a number of walks in the area and the Boundary Stream Track leads across to the Shine Falls and on to the Hayes access road. We did just did tone of the smaller loop tracks this time.

They also have a series of cages the other side of the road and are in the process of re-introducing Kaka to the area - these are a very rare native NZ parrot and the highlight of the day was to watch some of the Kaka which have recently been returned and released into the area feeding. We saw 5 of them out of the twenty or so that have been released. We talked to one of the rangers and he said there had been 17 that morning when he came to put the food out. Once they become more established the extra food they are being given will be gradually reduced.

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.

Our final stop was at the Opouahi Reserve. When we first explored this area we had identified Lake Opouahi as a nice spot, and in those days camping was permitted there. The lake is small but was popular with canoeists and for picnics - there was a shelter and the usual simple DOC toilet. On our next visit the camping sign had disappeared and there was a major construction project in progress - to build a sanctuary for kiwis. It has now been completed and there is an ugly 3.3km long Predator proof fence which walked up the hillside on both sides of the lake, like a sore thumb, one would expect some sensitivity from the Department of Conservation. It was similar to the fence we had seen in Wellington, at the Korori reserve, a similar eyesore. There are many predators for kiwis - stoats, cats. dogs, weasels and rats. The area is now the PanPac Kiwi creche, and the idea is that kiwi eggs are collected from the Kaweka Forest and hatched. When the chicks are old enough they are transferred into the creche. The entrance to the reserve involved sliding a very heavy door and passing into a small fenced area, from where the same sliding door gave access into the reserve. Work has finished and Lake Opouahi now has a good loop track, just 1.2kms, which was obviously also used by DOC to check their predator traps. We set off and were glad we had walking boots as parts were more overgrown than we had expected. There is an extension to a lookout marked on the map but we just did the lakeside walk this time. We then dropped down, still on gravel roads but of a bit higher standard to the join the main road at the Tutira Store, a natural stop for an ice-cream.

I am now going to reproduce part of what I wrote in 2002 when we first met the concept of Mainland Islands and the use of poisons. This is of particular interests as the protests about 1080 in particular have built up to the point that one of the protesters has threatened to add 1080 to baby formula which has caused enormous damage to the whole dairy industry and is the hot topic in the NZ news as I write up this section.

This following box refers to the work at Trounson earlier this holiday where the boards and information has been changed but they do say they are just about to start a new cycle of 1080 which may have been one of the catalysts.

DOC have set up a new information area (this is 2002) and there is a lot of information Please wait before clicking imageindicating how successful the concept of a Mainland Island has been with full and alarming information on the number of pest caught or poisoned. The forest is surrounded by farmland and has been cleared of almost all Possums, stoats, rodents and feral animals by an aggressive program of poisoning and trapping with great success and Kiwi and other endangered species are now thriving. The number of Kiwi reaching a "safe" size of a kilo rose from 5% to 30% after the first two years of poisoning rodents and Possums and has now climbed to 70% since they have been eliminating stoats and cats by trapping. Feral cats do untold damage to bird life and they are trapping several dozen every year. Dogs are perhaps worse and one single dog killed nearly 200 Kiwi in a six week period in the past.

I mentioned 1080, a controversial poison earlier and promised to return with some comments and this is an appropriate time as well as being the last chance. 1080 has certainly played an important part in clearing Trounson of some of the imported pests. It seems, when correctly used, to be a silver bullet, which can take out most mammals, none of which are native in any case, without significant danger to birds or other native wildlife. It is however highly toxic to dogs, which are banned from Reserves, but is much less dangerous to humans, even children, and quickly biodegrades in water supplies if it ever reaches them. The belief is that it is non cumulative and sub fatal doses quickly clear from a mammals system without any lasting damage.

The main objections seem to come from hunters (most of whom have dogs) and especially when it is used by aerial drops into remote areas where it kills the deer which they want to hunt. Deer also count as vermin and cause enormous damage themselves and are ruthlessly culled in most areas. The damage and health risks from Possums is even greater and needs drastic and urgent action. There seems to have been possibly been an over reaction to the risks of 1080, a poison occurring in plants in countries such as South Africa at quite high concentrations, more than that used in the bait used in aerial drops in New Zealand and without obvious risk through water supplies etc. The DOC web site lays out some of the facts. We have also seen some of the earlier reports on trials on Rangitoto Island where, for example, the increase in honey production and bird life was spectacular and immediate due to increase in vegetation on the elimination of Possums.

The next day we decided to spend the last day before the start of our pre-booked stay in Napier for the Art Deco Festival by going the short distance North to Wairoa. On the way we went into the Lake Tutira reserve which used to be a favourite place for camping but recently they have been pushing the camping away from the beautiful lakeside pitches we used down to a paddock at the end. They have now removed the toilet and tap from our old area making it untenable - a great shame. I will not say much more about Lake Tutira, the walks road and from it or the classic book about Tutira Station by Guthrie Smith as we have done so many times before but it is a magic area and carries many lessons about the unexpected side effects of introduction of non-native species.

On our way to Wairoa (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 in Wairoa. The site is 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. The barbeque is built into the boot of an old car that is attached to a dummy garage. In the morning we did shopping and a look round town. We looked in the excellent little local museum which we only found recently - strange as it was on marine parade which we always drove down to a good shop for ice-cream at the end.

The next part continues with Napier and Art Deco Weekend

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Content revised: 18th July, 2020