Category: beach

Summer 2020 – 2021: Heading South

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I had an early start with a run along the beach. I’d planned to just run out for as far as it went and then back again but aiming for 12km. Not my favourite running terrain but I needed to get out and do something after a couple of days mooching about. After a chat with my running buddy Jo, I decided that the hard packed sand might be good to do one of our sprint runs on the programme. So, I dragged myself reluctantly out of bed at 7am having been prepared the night before and made sure my shoes weren’t hidden in the cupboard under the bed!

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A pristine beach – Tangaroa has done his stuff!

Our question about how often the beach returns to its pristine condition was answered. Not a tyre track in sight – beautiful!

I wasn’t really feeling it but set off and decided I’d just go with the flow; if the speed didn’t happen I’d just stick to my original plan of 12km. But then again the speed work would mean it would all be over more quickly and I could go for a swim sooner! Haha! Such are the mind games when we run! The undulations from the waves were a bit of a surprise and made it a bit difficult getting into a rhythm but I worked out a way of picking my way between and over them and settled into the warm up. Surprisingly, when I was called on to up the speed, all went well. I had to do a ten minute warm up then 4 x 1km reps at 5min 10secs pace with 2 minutes recovery between each then finish with ten minutes cool down. A sensible person would have done two reps then turned round and come back but I sort of still had it in my head that I was going to do 12km so I just kept going! Madness! Very pleased that I hit my target pace and then came back to complete 12km. I had another 2kms to walk to get back to the van but that was good for stretching the legs and cooling down even more before I jumped into the sea for a swim. Bliss. It turns out that Tokerau Beach is 15km long so just as well I didn’t try to go as far as I could before turning around!

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Half way – the speedwork done, now to jog back the way!

Back at the van we had a leisurely breakfast, packed up and were on our way by 11am. Our vague plan was to head towards Mangonui, have a tutu there looking at some Pā sites – there was actually a 12km walk on Wildthings that linked them all up but Nigel had also seen that we could drive to them so we decided to do a bit of both!

By the time we arrived at Mangonui it was midday and we were ready for a coffee and a wee snackette of something. We pottered around the art gallery and the shops and then headed out to Rangikāpiti Pā. Rangikapiti means “Gathered together”.

06/365 6th January 2021
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Looking down to Mangonui

It is a stunning spot with 360 degree views. It’s a while since I’ve done a 360 photo but this was a perfect spot. It also seemed like a good spot for a handstand! Minor hitch was that I was wearing a skirt – but I just did what I used to do as a kid and tuck it into my knickers!

“Local traditions suggest that Moehuri made landfall at Mangonui from the canoe Ruakaramea, along with his son Tukiato. Moehuri was guided to the area by a shark, after which he named the locality (mango meaning shark, nui meaning big or great). As thanks to his guide, Moehuri placed his protection over the shark.” (from DoC brochure)

After spending some time at the top trying to imagine what it would have been like living up there with that vantage point, working out the access points and the natural defensive lines, we headed down a track. It took us through some beautiful shaded bush – more cicada serenaded Manuka – to a point where the terrain got steeper and there were ropes strung from tree to tree. I navigated my way down for a while until it was quite rugged and it was clear that the path, such as it was, was just going to lead down to the rocks at the end of the headland. Definitely a good defence from attack!

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Looking down the coast to Cooper’s Beach and then beyond from where we have travelled.

We climbed back up and to the car to drive rather than walk to Cooper’s Beach and the next wee ramble around the Taumarumaru Reserve. This beautiful walk takes in several Pā and stunning beaches. It was so hot though and we were wilting in the heat! There are three Pā sites in this reserve;

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Taumarumaru Pā looking towards Otanenui Pā

“Taumarumaru consists of Taumarumaru Pa itself, two smaller pa named Te Homumu and Otanenui and nine other associated sites including small, isolated complexes of pits and terraces, midden, gardening soils, and gardening plots delineated by a network of reticulated drains. Together this collection of sites represent a typical prehistoric or protohistoric archaeological landscape of a large, central pa or defended village, smaller headland pa, open or undefended sites or kainga and associated areas of food preparation and or consumption, and gardening plots.”

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Looking across to Te Homumu Pā

The story of who built them and lived there is all tied up with Rangikāpiti Pā. Let’s go back to Moehuri and the shark;

“Some years later when his own son Tukiato killed the shark, he and his
accomplices were banished from Rangikapiti and established their own pa at the western end of Coopers Beach, called Otanenui – ‘The place
of the old man Tamure’ was named after the large old snapper found in abundance nearby. The slopes below the pa were gardened and produced good crops of kumara, hue (gourd), and the first potatoes, pumpkins, marrows and European fruit was grown in the area.” More information can be found in this linked brochure.

We wandered around the reserve, visiting each of the Pā and the small beached between them. It is an inspiring and interesting place and we reflected on how easily it could have been lost to developers as it really is prime real estate. Māori clearly picked it for its position and we’re not sure how it escaped the urban sprawl but somehow out did. What a jewel and a real asset as it stands to the rohe.

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Standing on Te Homumu Pā looking back towards Otanenui Pā (the hidden headland beyond the one in the photo!)

Finally, we headed down to Cooper’s Beach and I had another swim. We had heard people talk about Cooper’s Beach and we can see why it is a popular spot. The beach is so pretty and the water was deliciously warm and the waves gentle.

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Cooper’s Beach looking towards the coastline. Te Homumu Pā is around te next wee headland.
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Looking at Cooper’s Beach from my vantage point in the water!

By now we were hungry! A quick stop at the supermarket for some supplies for the next day and then back into Mangonui. Mangonui is allegedly the best place in Aotearoa for fish and chips. So, we decided that if there was place to park and if there wasn’t too big a queue and there was something vegetarian for Nigel, we would have tea here. If not, we’d head down to Puketi and prepare dinner in the van. Quite a lot of ‘ifs’ there but time was getting on and it was going to be another hour before we’d get to Puketi so we were willing to give it a go. The Atua must have all lined up because all the ‘ifs’ came together. We had to wait about half an hour but that soon went by with a beer. I have to say that whilst the fish and chips were good, I’m not sure they beat Raglan Wharf for price and value combined with freshness and tastiness. Maybe they are a victim of their success and have got greedy. At Raglan the portions are twice as big, half the price and just as tasty!

Anyway on the road again and off to the coolness of the forest. A bit of a trek on metalled road for the last 12 km or so but we settle into the DoC campsite in Puketi Forest Park for the evening with some different sounds around us – and bitey things for the first tin=me all holiday. The drawbacks of a forest!

Summer 2020 – 2021 Maitai Bay

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Olives

One of the places we noticed as we looked for a campsite yesterday evening was an olive grove and an invitation to taste. I suggested cycling out from the campsite – it was only a few km away but Nigel wasn’t convinced. In the end, we called in on our way out to Maitai Bay. It’s a small family-owned place and unfortunately, as a result of not being able to harvest as many olives as normal due to COVID lockdown, they had pretty much run out of olive oil and had no olives left at all. Anyway, we had a taste of the oil and bought a bottle to take away.

Cicadas

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We headed out along the peninsular to Maitai Bay and walked the Headland Loop. This is a short walk (4km) that goes from the top of the DoC campground, through a field above the beach and then through Manuka forest out to the headland where there are spectacular views of the bay and across the sea.  We walked from where day visitors can park which adds another km or so to the walk. The first thing we noticed was the sheer quantity of honey bees buzzing around the Manuka trees – photos just don’t capture it. Then a weird creeping plant that grew over the Manuka and seemed to be strangling it. We haven’t seen it before so will need to try to identify it. There were also a couple of other plants that we haven’t seen many of before – some work to do on identification.

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Welcome coolness in this shady avenue of Manuka

As we left the paddock and entered the avenues of Manuka trees the noise of the cicadas intensified – I love their sound and for me, it is a real sign of summer and they remind me of the south of France too. I can’t help but start singing a very irreverent French song the chorus of which goes like this:

C’est la chanson des cigales

Pendant que les fourmis travaillent

Les cigales elles se régalent

Les pied en éventails

(Translation:

It’s the cicadas song

Whilst the ants work hard

The cicadas party 

their feet in a fan shape.)

You have to sing it with a Midi accent or it doesn’t really have the same effect!

We carried on through the manuka and then the path rose (not more hills!) quite steeply and we had views all around us. We reached a high point where it looked like there was a choice of path. The right hand branch was the one we wanted and the description didn’t mention another although it looked like a well-worn 4wd track for at least as far as we could see. Alarmingly, there was a rusty old-fashioned iron ‘Man Trap’ animal trap attached to the post the marked the way on. Clearly not in use but could be dangerous for little, inquisitive hands.

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Looking down the left hand branch – looked promising but it didn’t go anywhere!

We started to descend the right-hand track – it dropped away quite steeply to the headland. I think we had imagined that we would end up at the highpoint of the headland but in fact, this track took us all the way down to the rocks by the sea and a view out across the bay.

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It was a bit of a scramble after this point…
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Looking back towards where Nigel waited

Nigel stopped as the path got more rugged and much steeper and watched me scramble down. Clearly these rock pools don’t get washed over very often as the water in them had evaporated leaving salt crystals.

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Salt crystals in rock pools
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Looking towards where the other track might have once descended to.

Once I rejoined Nigel we climbed back to the junction and I went for a brief exploration of the left-hand track. It pretty much only goes as far as you can see and although it has been a path in the past, it is now very overgrown and I gave up when the gorse started to scratch!

We headed back to the van and I had a swim while Nigel prepared lunch. Maitai Bay really is a beautiful beach. Interestingly though, after yesterdays little rant about cars on beaches, there are notices asking people not to drive on the beach to protect the dunes and the space.

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Looking left to Maitai Bay from the highpoint by the pou.

There is also a rahui in place stopping people from fishing and collecting seafood. There are two beautiful pou on the top of the hill – (I wonder if it used to be a pā?) which were erected to mark the start of the rahui. They represent tupuna Kahutianui and Te Parata, and on the other side, the gods of the sea Hinemoana and Tangaroa.

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Kahutianui and Te Parata
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Hinemoa and Tangaroa

Winery

We decided to visit the Karikari winery to sample the local plonk. Officially the wine cellar was closed but they still let us in! It’s an incredible place high up on the hill with an amazing view. We were spun the spile and the wine was pretty good so we ended up getting a couple of bottles – one of their Chardonnay – unusual for us but it was a bit different and one of the reds. Looking forward to enjoying them at some point in the future!

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View from Karikari winery

Tokerau Bay

By the time we got back to the van, it was time for food and then an evening walk on the beach. We wondered about how often the tyre tracks from the cars are washed away and the beach goes back to its natural state. There were still plenty of people driving along to do some evening fishing or maybe just taking a short cut along the beach – who knows? One hapless person had got themselves stick in the soft sand on the access road and was being pulled out by some locals. I wonder how often that happens?

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Evening at Tokerau Beach

Summer 2020 – 2021 Tokerau Bay

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A very lazy start to the day in paradise. A morning swim, leisurely breakfast, another swim and then time to pack up and move on. We had a vague idea that we would head towards the Karikari Peninsular and see what we could find to do there. We needed to dump our grey water as the tank was full and that probably meant we needed drinking water too. Electricity was less of a problem as the solar panels seemed to be doing a good job at keeping us ticking over and a hot shower might be nice too so we looked to book into a ‘proper’ campsite. 

We tutu’d down the road and stopped on the way in Te Kao at the wee shop to get some essential supplies – bread, shampoo, milk and a beautiful kete. I wished afterwards that I had asked who had woven it but I will carry it and always know where I bought it. 

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Rarawa Beach

Then we pulled down to Rarawa Beach for a walk and to have lunch. We were a tad disappointed as neither of us had remembered that vehicles were allowed on it. We had remembered beautiful white sand that squeaked as you walked on it. It was white but it was flattened by the cars that were all along the beach. I’m just not sure what I think of cars on beaches. There was some parking at the end of the main road but not enough for the number of people who visit. Most cars were full of families with heaps of beach stuff; picnics, chairs, surf boards, boogie boards which I know are a pain to lug down from a car onto the beach especially when you have to manage kids as well. But I like the idea that my beach experience is a natural one, just people, maybe dogs (but I’m a bit ambivalent on dogs too) and maybe a trolley to cart all the stuff down but not motor vehicles. 

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The seagull which had been feeding on a fish on the beach – it flew away as we approached then went back to the fish once we passed by.

When we looked back at the photos from last time we were there, it was a couple of weeks later, the beach was deserted and there were no tyre tracks so maybe we just hit it at a very busy time and the rest of the year it’s all good.

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Aforementioned fish

Nevertheless, we walked along to the end, beachcombing as we went and enjoyed some peace and quiet just sitting on the rocks looking out at the waves. I didn’t swim although I had planned to – it was a bit windy and I was put off by the whole experience.

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We decided that the carpark at Rarawa wasn’t the best place to make food and time was getting on so we called in at Pukenui for some chips and a drink.  Back on the road and our next stop was in Awanui for petrol and we also got some fresh tomatoes, a rock melon and sweetcorn from a roadside stall – all of which were delicious – so reminiscent of travelling in France and getting fresh produce from the side of the road!

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Onwards to Karikari Peninsula and we ended up at Tokerau Bay campsite – it really is a case of sticking a pin in the NZMCA directory and picking somewhere! The first one was full so we just carried on. It’s a small site clearly been around for a while but quiet and family oriented. It was lovely to see kids playing on the grass in the middle of the campground.  The amenities were old but clean and well-maintained. Our host was just lovely and told us how they have cut back on the capacity since COVID to ensure that everyone is safe and has space to keep themselves to themselves if they want to. We effectively had a double space all to ourselves!  

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The beach is interesting – it’s not the prettiest of beaches and because it’s long and flat it is used as a road and so vehicles hoon up and down. I’ve already expressed my views on cars on beaches but the problem in Aotearoa is that they are classed as public roads and beaches like this one are so long and flat that they are drivable. When I posted about it on Facebook with one of my photos a friend suggested that Tangaroa gets his revenge frequently when cars get stuck in the sand. It made me smile a wee bit when we saw a car having to be pulled out of the soft sand at the entrance to Tokerau Bay the next day! We watched someone on a trail bike racing down the beach, doing wheelies and hopping over the soft sand close to the dunes as we sat out in the envying sun on the beach. But mostly it was fishermen driving to their fishing spot and casting out their lines – still don’t know why they can’t just walk along the beach. I have memories of my Dad trudging along with all his fishing gear and standing on cold East Coast English beaches – maybe the Kiwis have the right idea after all?!

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The sun going down on another day

Summer 2020 – 2021 Pandora Bay

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Nigel was ready for another day out. Well, he didn’t say he wasn’t and we had talked about going the other way from Tapotupotu Bay to Pandora Bay. The walk according to the DoC times and distances was either 9km or 10km and 5 and a half hours. After yesterday’s outing we were sure that it would be wrong so we decided to set off and see how far we got. I had done two reasonable runs in the last two days so was happy to go with the flow and walk more or less with Nigel. I set my watch to ‘hike’ rather than ‘Trail Run’ so that I wasn’t tempted to run. 

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Mangroves in the river that flows into Tapotupotu Bay

The plan was to get away earlyish so we weren’t walking in the heat but it was 10.15 before we set off! The best laid plans of mice and men! 

Oof! It’s a pretty steep climb out of the bay after a gentle warm up on the boardwalk through the mangroves.  Once we reached the first high point we could see the path in front of us – climbing up and then dropping down, and then up and down! 

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Looking down to Tapotupotu Bay from the top of the first climb
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Nigel trugging up one of the hills

There was little in the way of shade but the views are amazing. After about 3km the path settles into a Manuka lined ridge still undulating but trending steadily downhill. Much pleasanter walking.

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Manuka avenues – provided brief respites from the sun

The junction to Pandora comes at roughly 7km. Nigel had already said he’d make a call there about whether to continue on or head back. The sign said 2km and 1 hour. We’d just done 7km in 2 hours but it had been steep and hot.

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Looking down to the ridge we have just walked along. The track to Pandora goes off to the right a bit lower down. I climbed up to get the view.

We decided to continue along a red sandy track which seemed to hug the contours of a slope until we found a shady spot for lunch.  A few 100m further on there was a small stand of Kanuka trees which provided perfect shade for a picnic. 

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This track hugged the contours of the hill and eventually branched off down to Pandora Bay.

After lunch we carried on. Nigel decided he’d continue as long as the path was relatively flat. We soon came to a junction where the path looked like it was going to descend more steeply. There was also a path continuing on but very much upwards along another headland. It may have gone to a view point but we decided we didn’t need to go there! I continued on down. By our reckoning and Garmin’s navigation, and DoC signs (all considering any of those were accurate) it was another 1500m to Pandora. Nigel headed back. 

The path now descended steadily through forest, cool and leafy, a few wooden bridges crossed dried up stream beds, and it was a bit more uneven underfoot. I soon came out at the junction with the 4WD track that comes from SH1. Almost there! On my left as I went down the track there was a set of stairs which I had to investigate. They led to a rocky mostly dried up stream. There was a pool full of murky water…probably a good wee swimming hole when there is more water and also a dangerous swirly thing in flood! It looked like there would also be a decent waterfall dropping off from there in wetter weather.

Quick exploration over, I headed back to the main track and soon found myself at the Pandora Microcamp. This would be a cool wee place to stay; a grassy area with a shelter, a sink and water which presumably was fed from the stream I saw higher up, and long drop loos. There were also a few trees where you could pitch your tent to get some shelter and a great view of Pandora Bay.

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Pandora Bay

It was another few 100 metres to the beach so I scooted down there to have a swim. It was going to be a decent climb back up so I didn’t really want to do that either commando or with wet knickers. But…the beach was deserted apart from a wee fishing boat right at the other end ….There is something deliciously freeing and a bit naughty about swimming naked on an (almost) deserted beach! I swam out enough to see round the corner of the bay and then let the waves take me back to the shore.

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View from in the water….
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A welcome dip in the ocean

Body temperature suitably down, I sat on a rock for a few minutes to dry off then I got dressed. I almost lost my shoe in my attempt to wash my feet before putting them into my socks when the rock I had put my shoe on was washed over by a wave. Hopping on one foot (already with one sock and shoe on) I scrabbled to grab aforesaid shoe before it was washed away. In the process the other foot ended up fully under water too! Never mind, wet shoes and socks are all part of trail running and at least I still had two shoes!

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This way!

Re-energised and nice and cool, I set back off up the hill wondering when I would catch Nigel up. The return journey was simply a backwards version of the first 10km so little to report really except that it was now mid afternoon and stifling hot. The terrain provided little respite from the sun so in the patches where the path goes through the manuka trees it was hard not to dawdle and make the most of the shade.

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View out to Sand Dunes from the ridge

I ran out of water about 6km from home but still had a few 100ml of electrolyte which I rationed!  I bumped into the young couple from yesterday who once again expressed their admiration at my speed! They had parked their car at Spirit’s Bay, got the shuttle to Te Paki then tramped with full packs and tents over three days stopping in Tapotupotu and Pandora before finishing back at Spirit’s Bay. I reckon their effort was greater than mine! I caught Nigel up only a km from the van. He was just crossing the bridge over the river. 

Annoyingly,  I was going to end up on just under 20km so I had to ‘tidy up’ – past the van to the end of the beach and back again! 

When I got back to the van Nigel had made a cold drink for me – delicious! I persuaded him to walk down to the sea to plant his legs in the water,  I planned to swim but when we got there we were told that there had been a couple of sharks spotted quite close into the beach so everyone had got out of the water. We stood knee-deep and let the waves wash over us whilst scanning the sea for shark fins for half an hour at which point I decided to submerge myself in the shallows anyway!

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A good day out which ended up with more running and effort expended than I had expected. It’s interesting how the trails have been graded by DoC as neither yesterday’s trail nor today’s really seemed to fig the ‘Advanced Tramping Track’ label they have. I completed the 10km to Pandora in well under 3 hours, Nigel would have taken just over 3 hours, yet it is signposted as taking 5 and a half hours!  Go figure!

After a G & T, dinner and wine we ventured out to watch the sun cast its pink glow on the beach and the waves. Later on we sat on just looked at the night sky. So many stars and a such a bright Milky Way – I wish we could see it more often but in Kirikiriroa there is just too much light pollution. 

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Summer 2020 – 2021 Tapotupotu Bay

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Tapotupotu Bay

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We left Te Pua camp at Paua after a leisurely breakfast looking out over the estuary as the tide came in. I went for an ‘early’ morning swim aka 9am which was a lovely start to the day. And then we watched the rays come in again and feed as we ate breakfast. Fascinating. I should probably have waited longer for my swim as the water was much deeper and more accessible by the time we left at 10.30ish. I was tempted to jump back in but since we were heading to Tapotupotu Bay, I decided to wait. 

As we left the campsite we spotted two seagulls sitting on the fence – were they the same two we had seen yesterday?! Funnily enough, when we looked back on our photos from this place a few years ago, there were two seagulls sitting on the same bit of fence!

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We pulled in on the way at Radar Bush. It looks over to the east at the ridge line that runs from Tapotupotu Bay to Pandora Bay and is apparently where there were radar stations set up during WW2 to listen out for Japanese attacks. To the west and seemingly immediately in front of the pull in is where a pā once stood. You can see the depressions that would have been kūmara pits in the field. Across the valley, two obvious hills mark where other pā would have been. The sign says there are terraces that would have been where produce was farmed but they were difficult to make out. At the far end of the field there was a carved stone which looked a bit like a gravestone but one side of it was damaged and there was no indication of what it might be. Curious.

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Anyway, onwards to Tapotupotu with an abortive coffee stop at the coffee cart on the hill – the coffee machine was ‘playing up’! 

The sign at the road end for Tapotupotu said there were no vacancies at the campsite. We decided to drive down anyway and see. There was space after all and we set up camp with a view of the sea. Our awning provided us with some decent shade and we had lunch. I might also have donned my togs and run into the waves! Delicious! (kai and moana!) We had a wee wander along the path into the mangroves just to remind ourselves of the place. It was lovely to wade back across the river to keep cool.

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View from the van
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As the afternoon wore on, my legs got itchy! I read my book, did some of my Māori puzzles, went in the sea again and then decided to see if the 5km walk (10km return) to Cape Reinga was really going to take 6 hours. We can normally reckon on halving the times on DoC walking tracks. But this was billed as an Advanced Tramping track and they are a generally a bit more accurate. Even so 6 hours for 10km!? It was 3pm so I decided to give it 3 hours,  I’d run out for 90 mins and see how far I got then turn around. 

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Looking down at Tapotupotu Bay

Nigel accompanied me across the beach to where the track starts up the hill. It climbs steadily, then steeply for 1km before descending for 2km to the first bay. The trail is really runnable after the first ascent. Easy gradient through Manuka trees then steps wind down more steeply snaking along the ridge. There are a couple of diversions to viewpoints, one of which I went to, the other seemed a bit further so I decided to leave it for the way back if I had the energy. 

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Sandy Bay

I arrived at Sandy Bay (3km) after 30 minutes took a little while to find the route onwards – this is the only place where the signage is lacking. I had spotted some people walking down what looked like a steep descent but wasn’t sure that it looked right, so I made my way to the back of the beach to where the vegetation met the beach. No way on there! I came back to where I could hear voices and came across the couple who I had seen descending. That was the way on and the track climbed quite steeply!  At first it was quite rocky and loose but that soon gave way to a grassy slope and then gravelly trail. I emerged onto the Cape Reinga tourist track with still 400m to go to make 5km. So I headed down the path to the lighthouse, took a couple of selfies then set off back up! 56 minutes!

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At the meeting of the oceans

Give me a target and I’ll go for it! By my reckoning, I had 3kms of down and 2kms of up on the return journey so that should be quicker, right? I promised myself a swim at Sandy Bay before the 2km climb. What a treat! I think I have set myself a new target – a swim in every new bay! 

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Suitably cooled, I set off up the hill. Steady away, my legs were tired but I know how to plod! On the way down the last km I overtook a couple who I had met at the bottom of Sandy Bay on my way out. They were amazed that I’d gone there and back and was overtaking them. 

I arrived back at the van 1hr 43 minutes after leaving it! Boom! 

Nigel wasn’t there – I presumed he’d gone for a wander so I dumped my stuff and headed for a swim to cool off. He arrived back after I’d come back and got changed a little bit worried because he had gone to wait for me at the end of the track and hadn’t seen me come down. Somehow we missed each other but all good in the end. 

I had a treat of some freshly caught (and cooked) mussels from the people next to us who had too many – they even gave me a dressing to go with them which was yummy!

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We had a wander on the beach in the evening as the sun went down and marvelled again at the night sky. Paradise!

Summer 2020 – 2021 Cape Reinga

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New Year’s Day

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I started the day with a swim – the tide was in right up to the rocks so I scrambled down the wee cliff and waded in. It is surprising how clear the water is – it’s only shallow, about mid-thigh deep but enough to immerse and swim along the shore.

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Cape Reinga – the northernmost point of Aotearoa, where the spirits of the dead set off from Aotearoa to Hawaii. Strictly speaking they set off from a little rocky outcrop that has an ancient Pohutakawa tree clinging to it. It never flowers apparently but it’s where the spirits leave Papatuanuku and rise up to Ranginui. At Matariki, they are swept up by the waka as the star Pohutakawa rises – she is the star that carries those who died throughout the year onto their onward journey. I wonder now about the significance of the Pohutakawa star and the tree on the outcrop which is called Te Rerenga Wairua (where the spirits fly) 

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02/365 2nd January 2021

We have been here before but wanted to visit again. The sky was overcast and it started raining as we drove north. The place was packed – vans and cars parked all along the grass verges because the car parks were full. Luckily we found a spot next to a very badly parked hire car on our 2nd turn around the car park and managed to squeeze into it. We joined the masses walking down the track. The information boards are well done and I was pleased that I could read the Maori language ones and get most of the information before checking my understanding by reading the English. It was also interesting noting the translations and how ideas were interpreted in the two languages. 

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The clouds swirled around and we decided that we would stick to our plan of walking from the Cape Reinga to Cape Maria van Diemen – well, getting as far as we could. It looked like it would be a bit too far as a first walk of the holiday and it was already late morning.  We packed up some sandwiches and snacks to have on the way and set off. 

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The track leaves the main Cape Reinga Tourist track about 500m down. It’s a well-formed trail that winds its way along the ridge after dropping down some stairs. There are a couple of wee side routes that take you to little summits with good views along the coast. You come out on Te Wērahi Beach after 2kms. The route from there is 3kms straight across the beach. At high tide it may be difficult to get around the first part. 

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We had set off from the top in mist and a light swirling wind and I made the mistake of not putting on sun cream and wearing a sleeveless tee shirt. I also forgot my hat! By the time we reached the beach we could see that the top of the hill was still in cloud but we were in full sun and exposed! I ran across the beach whilst Nigel walked across. At the other end, I waited for a bit then decided to run back towards him. 

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The track from the beach winds up on vegetated sand dunes until it drops down into the bay on the other side which is really just a continuation of Te Wērahi Beach.  From here you climb up over hard packed sand formations – quite the lunar landscape. We climbed up to a high point at about 6km. It looked like it was going to be another 3km to traverse then skirt around the back of the hill to access Cape Maria van Diemen. We were hot, didn’t have enough water, and so decided to make that our turn around point. It seemed like a good handstand spot so I duly obliged and we headed down to the rocks at the end of the wee jutty out bit to have lunch by the rock pools. 

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Suitably sated, we set off back along aforesaid exposed beach.  I ran again, Nigel walked which gave me time at the far end to have a swim before he got there. It was so good to immerse myself in cold water and reduce my body temperature. I decided to wade through the water back towards him – great resistance training! 

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Then the 2km climb back to the van. I had been doing my maths (Jo would be proud of me! ) and realised that to get 16km I needed to run back down the track for 750m then turn around. Madness, I know! I met Nigel about 500m down, but caught him up again halfway back up the tourist trail. Also bumped into Anahera and Alex…so lovely to see friends and colleagues out of context! 

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What did we learn (again!) today?  Always put sunscreen on, always take more water than you think you’ll need. I ran the last 7km wearing my spare long sleeved thermal top that is part of my emergency gear to protect my shoulders from the sun. So emergency gear is always useful! 

The landscape is amazing on this walk and we’ll definitely go back someday to do the rest of the route.

Back at Te Pua, I jumped in the water for another swim – it was still quite shallow as the tide was not fully in so I really just lay in the warm water and floated. Bliss! Later on we sat and watched the Rays feeding – I was tempted to go out and have a closer look but was too comfortable with glass of wine in hand! We watched the sun go down on the first day of 2021 and then marvelled at the stars and the Milky Way in a sky untainted by the glow of city lights. 

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Summer 2020 – 2021 Plan B

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Paua

Hogmanay morning dawned bright and sunny and when I woke at 6am, I thought I’d go for a run and then a swim. All galvanised to go, I then realised that my running shoes were under the seat under Nigel and he was still asleep! I had to be content with just the swim. I met Tania as I headed down to the beach and she came with me. What a lovely way to start the day! 

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The rest of the day was spent travelling north through almost parched countryside so early in the summer. Drought looks like it will hit Northland heard this year unless there is some rain soon. We burled around in Mangamuka to take a photo of the radio station. “Tautoko Radio was established to give voice to our concerns for the ongoing wellbeing of our people, communities and environments, where the promotion and use of Te Reo Maori and Tikanga Maori is essential and expressive of an inclusive Universal Maori World View.”

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Years ago we had travelled over the steep and windy Mangamuka Gorge road and been appalled by the rubbish that had been tipped at the top and the lack of a view. We had vague recollections of a group of teenagers about to set off on their longboards down the road too – thrill-seekers! We weren’t sure if we were mixing memories of different places up, though, but when we reached the summit, it all looked very familiar. Pleasing that there seemed to be less rubbish but still no view!

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Our plan such as it was was to get to the Cape and stay at either Tapotapotu Bay or Spirits Bay to see the New Year in at the far north. We knew that it was likely that there may not be space – they are both DoC ‘first come, first served’ sites and sure enough, just past Pukenui, there was a sign that said both sites were full. Plan B. The sign indicated that Rarawa campsite still had vacancies so we headed down the metalled road to find that there was a no vacancy sign on the entrance. U-turn and consult the NZMCA directory! A campsite was marked at Paua so we decided to call to see if there was space. There was and so we headed down the road. 

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The campsite at Paua is on iwi land and run by the local iwi. It is right by the white sands in the Parekareka harbour. It is a shallow harbour, its coast lined with Pohutakawa Trees and Mangroves starting to form as you get further up the estuary. The tide was out when we arrived and people were out gathering shellfish from the flats.  We skirted around trying but failing to keep our feet dry! 

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6.30 and it was time for a Hogmanay aperitif! There was enough of a breeze to keep the midges away but not to be too cold. Nigel had bought a bottle of Champagne, partly for seeing in the New Year and partly for toasting the new van. We refrained from using the bottle to ‘launch’ her as that would have been a waste! It went down very nicely as a pre-dinner drink!

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The campsite was busy and everyone was friendly but pretty much kept themselves to themselves. We played cards, chatted and watched the sun go down on 2020. Pretty much everyone’s ‘annus horribilis’ but we felt very fortunate to be in Aotearoa and travelling freely as we read the news from elsewhere in the world. It was a full moon and we sat out on the wee hill above our camper van and watched the moon and the stars as midnight came and we saw in 2021. 

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Summer 2020-2021 Pātaua North

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Heading north again but with a new campervan. Our old one died of rust from the inside out which was a shame as her engine had plenty of life in it yet.

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On the road #campervanlife

In a rash moment back in September, I saw an advert for the Bay of Island Music Festival in Kerikeri which just happened to be on Nigel’s birthday and I bought tickets without really thinking about the logistics. It meant that we pretty much had to head back north for our summer holiday. At the time I didn’t know for sure that the old van was terminal and also didn’t factor in that every tourist place in Aotearoa would be full because every Kiwi would be travelling to see their own backyard! Then the van died and there was a certain imperative to replace it with another one or go back to the tent.

After spending a few weeks looking on Trademe and visiting car yards, we took the plunge and decided to buy a newer, empty van and have it kitted out exactly how we wanted it! Exciting! We picked it up on Christmas Eve morning, spent a few days packing it up and sorting it out. We went for a wee test drive to Whaingaroa on Boxing Day and a stressful following day at the Boxing Day sales to get some essentials to help keep everything well-organised in the cupboards and then we were off. 

So, little in the way of a plan – head north was pretty much it! I am sure Nigel has guessed what his birthday surprise is by now, although he is tactfully keeping quiet and playing the game!

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The ‘stick game’!

I had arranged with my friend Tania to be able to park at their house in Pātaua North for a couple of nights. It’s a beautiful spot just 40 minutes east of Whangarei. We arrived late afternoon just in time for early evening drinks. There are a crowd of other people who we quickly got to know. Nigel was invited to play a game which involves chucking sticks around to knock other sticks over – it’s a good spectator sport and the competitor comes out in all of them! Delicious freshly caught fish and steak on the barbecue for tea – (Halloumi for Nigel) and the boys were despatched on their bikes to collect chips from the shop on the south side of the estuary. 

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Evening at Pātaua North

We went for an evening stroll along the road to the lookout where it is much calmer – no wind on the sheltered side! It was a beautiful full moonlit night. 

Morning dawned and we decided to walk across the bridge and to the other side of the wee maunga to where there is a sheltered bay. We walked all the way to the quiet end of the bay to sit under the rocks where there is some shade and I jumped into the ocean for a swim. Delicious! 

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Pātaua Maunga

I had hoped to be able to climb the maunga but it has been put under a rāhui. According to the story, and confirmed by the wahine that came with her whanau to sit at the same end of the beach to us, Pātaua Pā was inhabited by the local iwi until Captain Cook came. The iwi greeted the visiting ship with their traditional haka which was misinterpreted by Cook who thought it was an aggressive gesture and he ordered his crew to attack. Which they did using the ships cannon and muskets. This brought down some of the cliff and most of the Māori who died on the beach below. Local iwi apparently don’t eat on the beach because their ancestors died there.  Our storyteller (I have to admit to eavesdropping on her story to her whanau, she wasn’t actually talking to us) suggested that half the maunga was destroyed by the attack and it is true that it looks like there is only half a maunga. On the northern side the slope is terraced and whilst steep, has a more gradual profile. On the south side, there is a cliff and pretty much a sheer drop. I am not sure though that that is the result of Captain Cook’s bombardment – the current formation of the cliff came about much longer ago and by more natural means!  However, her version certainly had an impact on her listeners! 

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The ocean was just sublime!

For a long time the path to the top has been walked by locals and visitors but in recent years, iwi have quite rightly become upset at people entering the caves on the maunga which would have been used as burial chambers and may still contain bones of their ancestors. So recently, in consultation with DoC and until more information can be provided to support visitors’ understanding of the history of the area and the significance of the site, the path has been closed. We have to be content with looking at the maunga and imagining the vantage point iwi would have had up there and how until the British came with their superior fire power it would have been pretty much an impregnable stronghold. 

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Just chilling!

Hungry tums and growing heat spurred us to walk back to get some lunch and find some shade for the afternoon. It was a lazy rest of the day reading and dozing. Perfect holiday activities! Later in the afternoon, Tania and I went to the ‘drop off’ where we dropped into the deep channel of water created as the tide goes out and we just floated round to the bay we had visited last night. It was still windy at the house but here was sheltered and I spent too long on the beach chatting and ended up with sunburned shoulders! But it was lovely to chat and just sit in the warmth of the sun. 

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Grey heron watching

We went for evening drinks with the friends who we met yesterday and then ate again with Tania and Scott and Kezia and Greg. We tried to make a contribution but didn’t really have much to offer. I know that were we the hosts we wouldn’t expect anything from our guests but it still feels weird not be able to contribute. Fortunately, we had stopped in Waipu on the way to get some beer from McLeods Brewery (that was a failed mission!) But I had bought a couple of hand painted pot stands/wall art in a wee art shop and so was able to leave one of them for Tania as a thank you gift when we left. 

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Early morning swim before we left

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