It was probably time for a bit of R and R. We’ve done a few kms over the last week or so! 78.43km to be exact and 4,068m of elevation. Pretty impressive! So the next two days were pretty cruisy and since it was Nigel’s birthday, I thought I should cut him some slack!
We started by catching up with our old friends Chris and Ross who are currently living on their boat in Opua. They have bought some land in Kerikeri and have spent the last 6 months clearing it and exposing what is beneath the overgrown mass of weeds. They plan to build a house on it in the next couple of years. It was lovely to see them, catch up on all their news and see where they are living. Isn’t it funny how you can not see someone for years but pick up where you left off as if no time has passed at all?
They dropped us back of at our van at around 3pm and we decided to catch the ferry over to Korokororāreka (Russell) and walk up Flagstaff Hill. The flagstaff at the top is the one that was cut down 4 times either by or on the instruction of Hone Heke in protest against British sovereignty. It was a beautiful afternoon and we sat for a while at the top- another 100m of climbing! We were sat for a while just enjoying the views and the peace and quiet.
It did seem like an opportune place for a handstand….
Then we walked up to the trig point and the information boards. I have read about the history of Korokororāreka before but actually being there makes it so much easier to understand and give meaning to the stories. Like any stories, it takes time and many readings and listenings for all the details to embed themselves and to triangulate the different perspectives. So, I will need to read more to gain a deeper understanding of the history.
But a trigpoint calls for a handstand….
We wandered back down the hill into Korokororāreka and found a bar that served some decent beer and sated our thirst before getting the ferry back over to Paihia. A dinner worthy of a birthday was in order. We tried the Indian and Thai place that Ross had recommended but unfortunately it was absolutely chocker and incredibly noisy. We ended up going to Zane Grey’s – a pleasant meal that we ate sitting next to a large aquarium with fish swimming round in circles which was a little disconcerting! We have had better meals that were less expensive but we did discover a very nice wine that we have since found in our local wine shop for a third of the price!
We had a lazy start to the day but were in no hurry. Our destination was Waipu and we had planned in stopping in Kawakawa to meet a friend for coffee. Unfortunately, she messaged to say that a kaumatua had passed and she would no longer be able to meet me. We decided to stop in Kawakawa anyway and have a wander and whilst there I remembered that Ruapekapeka wasn’t far away. I like Kawakawa, it has a real charm, not least of which is the railway that runs down the middle of the main street.
It is also home to the Hundertwasser toilets which are fascinating but as a local said to me, ‘unnerving when you actually want to use them, and they’re full of tourists taking photos’! I did limit myself to a photo of the inside of the toilet cubicle whilst I was using the toilet. Although, I have been guilty of more than that in the past!
We spent some time in the library/art gallery which had some beautiful pieces all well outside our price range! The children’s mural was delightful and I bought a bright summer dress in a recycle shop for $20 that I have since “upcycled”.
We were tempted to go into the museum purely out of interest after seeing the advertising but decided that for a $10 entrance fee we weren’t that tempted!
Words cannot do this special wahi justice. You can listen to this RadioNZ or watch this documentary to hear the story. I plan to watch again now that I have visited the wahi and have a picture in my head so I might visualise more easily what happened. Māori dug an intricate maze of tunnels and trenches in which they sheltered as an army of British and other Māori iwi bombarded them for ten days. Then when it was clear they could withstand no more without losing men they withdrew into the forest behind. You can still see the remnants of the tunnels and look out at where the British had their base. On a hot, still summer’s day it is hard to imagine the violence, noise, fear and tension that must have reigned in this wāhi a century and a half ago. It was the last battle in the north.
We spent a good hour wandering around, getting a feel for the place, trying to understand the layout and how the battle must have played out. It’s incredible how nature reclaims places, reinstates peace and order, honours the lives of those who died and how somehow there is calm and serenity where once there was bloodshed and mayhem.
We walked back to the van retracing or steps over the British advance position on which you can still see indentations that marked battle positions. Then we headed southward to Waipū.
Day 7 was a transition day. We drove out of Horeke past the site of the bushfire where the smell of burning is still strong and firefighters are still up there damping down and checking hotspots we presume on the blackened hillside. If this is the aftermath on a very small bit of land we can only imagine in horror and disbelief what Australia will face when (if) the fires over there are ever brought under control.
Then it was on to Waitangi, book into the campsite, get provisions for the next few days and pack. We called in at the i-Site in Paihia to get our track passes and book into the Cape Brett Hut. We had tried to do it online from our phones but internet access had been intermittent and the website had been troublesome as a result so it made more sense to do it in person. The guy in the i-Site also struggled and it took a few goes to get through to be able to book the track permit. It turns out on a closer inspection of the documentation we were given and after an email we received this morning, that we are actually booked in for this weekend not last weekend so there clearly are issues with the system!
The first part of the Cape Brett track from Rawhiti to the Deepwater Cove junction is on privately owned land and a fee is levied ($40 per person) to help pay for maintenance of the track. From then on it is on Department of Conservation land. DoC administer the booking process for the track through their booking system. It appears though that not everyone bothers to pay the fee (maybe they don’t also pay for the hut?) There are also complexities to the system in that you can walk from Whakamumu which is a DoC track and join the Cape Brett track where it is still on private land. You could also start from Deepwater Cove, walk to the hut and then walk all the way back out to Rawhiti crossing the private land. You can also be dropped off by water taxi at Cape Brett and walk back to Rawhiti. In theory all these options require you to buy a track permit, in practice, how many do? Margaret who runs the campsite at Kaingahoa Marae and whose iwi own the land the Cape Brett track is on was telling us that there is talk of taking back management of the permit system in the next few years. The track will officially start at the marae, there will be information boards about the history of the land and what the fee is used for and walkers will check in there and pay before they go.
We still had plenty of daylight left and decided to take a wander up to the Manawa Groves on the way up to Haruru Falls. We totally misremembered how far it was an ended up walking 10km in jandals – probably not the best preparation for a big walk tomorrow!!
We were up and ready to rumble by 5.45am to drive round to Opua and get the 6.30am ferry. It’s a 40 minute drive over to Rawhiti where we parked up at Julie’s parking spot next to the Kaingahoa Marae camping ground for $10 for secure parking for the two days. We found out later that the land was not Julie’s but she manages it for the whanau who owned the land. One of the lads, Zane, who was up at the hut with us is part of the whanau but has only recently rediscovered his roots in Rawhiti after being brought up in Hawkes Bay.
What can we say about the Cape Brett track? All superlatives! Stunning views, incredible experience, 2,300m of ascent over 32kms (except that it is nearer 35kms!) Demanding, strenuous, rewarding, relentless ups and downs!
The first 2km is just up – easy trail but it ascends from sea level to 345m over 2km so it is steep! There is a shelter at the summit of Pukehuia and an information board that tells that Pukehuia literally means hill of the huia bird but that this is representative of the gathering of chiefs from the 7 waka of the Great Migration fleet. Pukehuia is one of the 7 peaks along the peninsula and each peak represents one of the waka. Rakaumangamanga is the first at Cape Brett itself and is the branching of the canoes. From Pukehuia there is a beautiful view down to Rawhiti Bay and beyond.
The track continues on down steadily for a while through forest and whilst it is still early the heat of the sun is starting to break through and it is nice to be in the cool shade of the trees. There are steep sections of down followed by steep sections of up and also some steadily rising flattish sections along the ridge where there are views out to the ocean and the crinkly coastline that juts in and out. Blue, blue water turns to white as it crashes against the rocks. The birds are starting to sing – Tūī, Bellbirds, Miromiro, Pīwakawaka and others I can’t identify. And then amongst the birdsong, there… the shrill but heart-warming sound of the cicadas.
We reach the ‘Rabbit Proof Fence’ – a pest control fence at about 4.5km in – a description we read suggested that this was a third of the way to the lighthouse. It is not true. Not even mathematically if the track really was 16km (which it isn’t!) and very definitely not in terms of time and effort. We have been going about an hour and three quarters by now and decide that we will aim to get to 8km before we stop for ‘second breakfast’. The going has been fairly straightforward, plenty of climbs but not unduly hard underfoot. An hour later we find a sunny spot at the top of a hill where there is a space off the track in the shade of the Kanuka trees to sit down and have our picnic. We haven’t quite got to 8km but it looks like 8km will be at the bottom of a hill in the thick of the forest so this is a good bet.
A couple come past us going the opposite direction; they left Cape Brett hut at 7am and tell us that the second half of the walk is much more rugged and demanding. A single walker goes past us as we eat – we spend the next few hours playing leapfrog with him as we each walk and take breaks at different points. He hasn’t booked into the hut and when it appears to get busy later on he sets off back to walk the return trip in the same day.
We are getting used to the ups and downs now – what goes up must come down and vice versa. At least there is variation and the downs provide a sort of respite from the effort of climbing up! But the views, sometimes just glimpses through vegetation windows, sometimes full-blown, take your breath away. Vistas of amazingness make it all worthwhile.
The Deepwater Cove junction comes upon us sooner than we thought. We have been going for about 4 hours and we are more than three-quarters of the way according to the km markers. We head down the 700m that will take us to the cove where we have lunch and I have a swim. I have been looking forward to getting in the water but there is a chill breeze, and whilst it is a pleasant spot, as our companion noted, Deepwater Cove isn’t an overwhelmingly attractive cove. There are many more that are much more picturesque and inviting. Nevertheless, I am here and I will swim! Once I ventured in, tiptoeing over the pebbly beach strewn with clear, almost invisible jellyfish, it was quite refreshing and I spent 5 minutes or so swimming across the bay and back again.
Back up the hill and we have only 4km to go according to the markers. But the sign says 5km and 2 and a half hours. Hmm! Surely it can’t take us that long to do 5km?!
It is indeed much more challenging than the first section of trail. The ups are more up and the downs are more down. The ground underfoot is very rugged, rooty and loose and going down takes as long if not longer than going up. But the views are getting even better than before. As the trees thin out, and as we cross the peninsula and climb the ridge, steep drops to the side of us down impressive cliffs, we have panoramic views of the ocean and we can look back along the peninsula from whence we have come.
The last 2km are excruciatingly slow. The wind has picked up and we are literally putting one foot in front of the other. From Deepwater Cove onwards I have stayed with Nigel – before that I trotted on ahead and waited for him or went back to meet him. He is tired and his legs are sore but he battles on! What a trooper – I certainly test him with my adventures and he always responds.
As we cross the headland and can see out towards the end, it is very clear that there will be more than the 1km to go that the 15km marker might suggest. Sure enough, as we climb the last hill (Rākaumangamanga) and reach the top there is a 16km marker with small writing underneath that says ‘approx 1.2km to the hut’. Seriously!
We can now see the lighthouse and the hut down below it. The path snakes its way down, zigzagging along the contours.
Finally, we enter the hut seven and a half hours after we set off. It’s good to sit down!
That would be it for today – there is little point talking about all the usual happenings in a mountain hut; jostling for the ‘best bed’ – wondering who we might disturb with Nigel’s snoring or who might disturb us; discovering that there is just a dribble of water from the outside tap and none from any of the inside taps; working out how to switch the gas on; boiling water for drinking the next day; Nigel falling asleep almost immediately; chatting to new arrivals as they stagger into the hut in various stages of pain, exhaustion and relief!
But what is worth describing is the amazing light we witnessed during the evening. Surprisingly, we had very good mobile phone reception at the hut and had seen and read posts from people in Auckland about the orange sky. There was even a news report that Aucklanders had inundated the police with 111 calls, thinking that some catastrophe had occurred! Well, there was a catastrophe; the bushfires in Australia and the orange sky was a result of the smoke filtering and blocking sunlight.
At Cape Brett, the sky went a strange shade of gloomy yellow to start with, the sun was a pale pink colour and it seemed quite dark. There are no lights at the hut and we needed torches to cook our tea inside. I had ventured down the stairs to the jetty to explore – the history of the lighthouse is interesting and there is an old railway track that was used to winch supplies into the small community that lived here. It is now mostly home to the seagulls who nest just below the hut – it’s a bit smelly and very noisy! It was rather unnerving as the birds shrieked and swooped around, some clearly protecting nests and I was a little nervous of being attacked!
We could see across the sky – to the west the sky was quite yellow, but to the east it was clear. You can see in the photo below a line in the sky where it starts to lighten.
Then the sky started to darken even more and turn orange and spread more across the sky. The two photos below are looking up towards the lighthouse which is more to the east. They were taken a few minutes apart and you can see how the light has changed.
It started to get cold and feel like night was setting in but it was only 6.30pm! We retreated inside and watched through the windows as the light changed. The part of the kitchen facing east was much brighter! This photo is taken from the window facing west.
Part 2: The Return Journey
We slept well and late – didn’t rise until 7.30am. Legs a little creaky but it didn’t take long to crank them into gear and start the climb up from the hut to the summit of Rakaumangamanga. Slow and steady was the order of the day. We did feel a little daunted about the climbs ahead after the first day but also felt a bit proud that here were we, two ‘old’ people up and walking out when the majority of the youngsters at the hut had opted to pay $50 a head to get the water taxi out!
It was much windier and cloudier than yesterday and I was a tad nervous about the strength of the wind at the point where we cross the peninsula – a hefty gust could lift you off your feet and down off the cliff. However, the wind seemed not too bad at that point and as we walked back the cloud lifted and we walked into sunshine.
One of the young men had tried to convince himself when deciding on the water taxi that there was little point walking out as he had seen all the views on the way in. A different day brings different weather and different views! The light across the ocean with dark clouds was beautiful.
We were making a good pace and decided to stop for something to eat at the top of the cliff at around the 9km to go mark. The rugged stuff was under our belts and whilst there was still plenty of climbing to do, it was gentler and we knew that the last 3km was all downhill! It was hot though, the wind seemed to have dropped at least in the shelter of the bush and the humidity was high! Plenty of water stops!
As the sun came out, so did the birds and the cicadas and we were surrounded by the noise of the bush. It was lovely. Miromiro flitted about – difficult to get a photo but you can just about see this one!
The top of Pukehuia – all the climbing is now done and all we have to do is negotiate the dry, sand, gravelly downhill on tired legs!
Plan B, Day 2 – a bit of an adventure up the Maitai Valley. Starting at the Maitai Dam, this trail took us for 3kms or so along a really runnable, undulating trail.
Then we hit the river, which we had to cross! Knee deep and about 15ft wide with freezing water! The trail from here on in, as described in the guide was very gnarly, lots of tree roots, narrow, greasy and at some points the stream flowed along it. So we sloshed our way upwards as the path climbed through beautiful woodland.
After a couple of kms (less than the signs indicated) we arrived at Maitai Cave.
I ventured in to explore while Jo and Paula waited outside for me. I could hear the stream from above and it sounded like there was quite a lot of water. Difficult to see initially how far down the climb was to get to it and how much of the passage it filled. I clambered down greasy, muddy boulders making tentative use of the rope that was belayed around the rock that wedged across the entrance.
Landing in the ankle-deep stream at the bottom I could see that it emerged from a small opening directly ahead of me. I looked to my right first to see what was there but after a few steps saw that there was no way on. I ducked down and could see that it was possible to get into where the stream was emerging. I crawled into a short passage that only went a few metres. the water seemed to be coming from under the rock wall.
On coming back out, I followed the stream (all of 2 – 3 metres!) to where it disappeared underground – a couple of tree trunks were wedged in the stream.
Turning around to my right, I looked up and saw that there were more boulders with a piece of tat hanging down. Above them was an aven. I climbed up, inspecting the rope carefully as I may well need it to get down again. The floor was strewn with large boulders, mostly covered in greasy mud and knowing that Jo and Paula were waiting outside I decided not to go any further. It didn’t look like there was a way on.
Shining my light upwards I could see that the aven was about 30 ft high but difficult to see if there were any stals. Apparently Maitai Cave is the home to a very rare snail but I couldn’t see any pools that it could have been in – all water I saw in the cave was flowing quite fast!
I was quite cold by the time I clambered out, very muddy and wet! We made our way back down through the forest. It really is a beautiful trail. The river flowed on our left and we soon came to a point where the path met the river and by then I was warm enough to give myself a bit of a wash and get rid of the bulk of the mud!
It took us about 2 and a half hours in total to do the 11kms and 20 minutes or so of cave exploration. The sign at the start says it is 13km and will take 5 hours. However, we did run all the runnable parts (approx 6km).
Two weeks ago my family and I became New Zealand citizens. We came here 10 years ago this coming January from the UK. Why did we choose New Zealand over any other country? Partly because Nigel lived here 40 years ago when his parents emigrated from Scotland when he was 2 years old. He went to primary school here and his brother was born here. Although they went back to Scotland when he was 8 years old, by that time his Aunties had come out and so we have some relatives here and a strong connection with the place. Partly because it is an English speaking country so the boys and Nigel wouldn’t have to cope with learning a new language (our other option had been France). Partly because we are adventurers!
We came for a holiday in 2005 with our boys and we were struck by the beauty of the landscape, the open spaces, the lack of traffic on the roads…. Careful not to be swayed by the rose tinted glasses of being on holiday, we tried to look beyond the veneer as we travelled and considered whether NZ was a place we could live in. As a traveller and a linguist, I am fascinated by language, culture, customs and people and how they interrelate. I was fascinated by the fact that Aotearoa is a bicultural country with three official languages. Although I was struck early on by the lack of visibility of Te Reo; apart from a few signs at the airport saying Haere mai, Kia ora, Haere ra, images of the All Blacks performing the haka, Māori patterns and carved pou, there is little beyond that to indicate that the Māori language is living and breathing in all facets of the country .
Over the last ten years, I have learned a lot. I have made every effort to find out more about Māori tikanga (customs), and learn Te Reo Māori. It is hard. Not like any other language I have learned. Mainly because so many of the words have multiple meanings depending on the context. It is heavily nuanced and spiritual. I think to learn it you really need to be immersed in the language and the people. I am surprised as I learn about the pronunciation of the words, how badly the general populace articulates place names such as Taupō, and how they refuse to accept the Māori names of places they have long known in English such as Taranaki (Mount Egmont). Places whose names were changed when Europeans came to Aotearoa and settled here. This is because they have been mispronounced for so long that people believe that the way they were brought up pronouncing them is the correct way. However, there is a growing awareness of the language and how words should be pronounced and I hear that on the radio, on TV and amongst my friends and colleagues. I also know that many resist!
As an educator, I am encouraged to recognise diversity and respect the bi-cultural nature of Aotearoa. For the last two years, I have been lucky enough to work for a company that values the language and the tikanga, celebrates what everyone brings to the table and promotes cultural responsiveness. I am learning more language, developing a greater understanding of tikanga (though I have so much to learn) and I am learning more about Te Tiriti o Waitangi and how it represents a partnership between Māori and Tou Iwi (other people). A responsibility to recognise the values that all cultures bring to the rich tapestry of Aotearoa. The articles are:
A1. Kāwanatanga Honourable Governance: the right of the British to govern
A2. Rangatiratanga Māori Retaining Agency, Voice, Choice the right of hapū to retain sovereignty
A3. Ōritetanga Equity: the guarantee that Māori would have the same rights as others
A4. Tikanga, Ahurea, Whakapono Cultural & Spiritual Freedom: Māori customs shall be protected (the spoken promise)
By Archives New Zealand from New Zealand (Printed Sheet, Te Tiriti o Waitangi) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
So, back to our citizenship ceremony. This was our official welcome to the country we have chosen to call home. We dressed in our best clothes – I got the boys “Robertson” ties to reflect their Scottish heritage (we thought about kilts but it was just too expensive!), took the day off work and school, planned a celebration (at the behest of friends – any excuse to party) and turned up at the Pavilion in Hamilton Gardens.
It was pleasant enough – 132 people representing 22 different nations, all seeking to become NZ citizens. We recited our affirmation of allegiance together and then one by one, family by family, received our certificates from the mayor and a Kowhai sapling to plant.
What was missing then? Any indication that we were becoming citizens of a bicultural country. Oh, apart from a bit of tokenism.
Neither the MC, nor the Mayor, nor the Member of Parliament who spoke to welcome us after we received our certificates of citizenship made any attempt to use any Reo Māori. The Kaumatua seemed to have been ‘wheeled’ in to fulfil the niceties of the occasion but it was shallow and meaningless. How can officials of our bicultural country, a country which has at its basis a partnership, hold an important ceremony in which they fail to even use the most basic words of one of its official languages? Our Member of Parliament even made reference to the diversity of the country and how all cultures were welcomed and recognised. He even urged those 22 different nationalities to hold on to their customs and languages, to keep our identities, hold on to our whakapapa (though he didn’t use that language). He went as far as stressing that our language is an essential part of who we are. Yet he didn’t use Te Reo Māori, he didn’t even make reference to the Māori name of Hamilton, Kirikiriroa, as he welcomed us.
I left feeling a little empty and quite angry. Maybe I expected too much. From the land where the Haka is performed with such pride and gusto at every international rugby match, a visible and very physical representation of Māori-ness to the world. I have grown used to Pōwhiri, to waiata, to karakia. To the warmth and richness of celebrations and welcomes in schools I have been a part of and that I have visited. I have been privileged to have been welcomed on to Marae as I have travelled the country, to have been welcomed into communities with warmth and friendship. Our citizenship ceremony lacked that warmth, that true welcome, it lacked a bi-cultural depth. It felt like it was a ceremony that goes through the motions – well oiled, smoothly executed. But it didn’t really seem like it was all about he tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata. It was Hamilton’s opportunity to show how important it perceives Te Tiriti to be as a guiding document and a way of living in partnership. To exemplify what partnership is to 132 people who have chosen to live in a bicultural, multicultural country. I don’t feel that it did that.
However, we do feel that we belong…we have been welcomed by friends. colleagues and whānau ever since we arrived here 10 years ago, so maybe we should put the ‘official’ welcome in context. This whakatauki talks of Turangawaewae, of belonging.
E kore au e ngaro, he kākano i ruia mai i Rangiātea
I will never be lost for I am a seed sown in the heavens
Ulva Island is an unmissable trip if you are on Stewart Island. We crossed from Golden Bay on the Ulva Island Ferry – a small 8 seater motor boat, fortunately with a zip up canopy to protect us from the wind and spray. We were handed our boarding passes by Anita – an elegant, tall lady wearing a long, flowing, green coat and wooden clogs; Mutton Scrub Leaves with the words Ulva Island Ferry handwritten on them. Mutton Scrub leaves were used as postcards and could legally be sent by mail until the 1970s in New Zealand.
The crossing only takes 5 minutes and going over was a bit bumpy but by the time we came back at 4.30pm the wind had got up and there was a two metre swell and 85kmp winds! Quite exciting and just a little scary!
We landed at Post Office Bay, site of the first Post Office in the Stewart Island region established in 1872 by Charles Traill and immediately saw the flash of green Kakariki fly across the bay and into the bush. The trail from there to Sydney Cove, to Boulder Bay and then back to the wharf is only 4km and we did initially wonder how we would make it last four hours! No need to have worried, we even ended up rushing the last section to get back to the wharf in time for the ferry.
I think what struck us most was the richness of the birdsong; there was rarely a time when the forest was silent. The glossy green and black plumage of the Tui as they swooped across the path was a constant. One of my favourite birds it was wonderful to be able to watch them and listen to their songs. We were very excited when a wee grey bird hopped fearlessly on the path when we sat down on a bench to have a biscuit. It posed happily for us as we took photos and identified it as a Stewart Island Robin. Aonghas decided it looked like a Brutus and so the game of naming Stewart Island Robins began! There were plenty more – cheeky little things, they followed us along the path and every time we sat down they would come begging for crumbs.
The bush too was lush and green. Bright green ferns, spiky Lancewood, droopy Rimu, Manuka and so many more plants and trees of every shade of green, brown and yellow camouflaged the birds which we could hear but not see. Bright red Rata flowers carpeted the forest floor at times and lichens and cushiony mosses enriched the fallen logs and leaves.
As well as the Robins, Tomtits, Bellbirds and Yellow Heads stayed around long enough and close enough as they flitted around in the trees for us to see them and positively identify them. We may have seen Grey Warblers and Brown Creepers but can’t be sure as they move so fast through the leafy branches in the bush.
The telltale soft thudding of Kereru as they fly through the bush was also a constant and we saw them often perched statue-like on branches. Their white “apron” and metallic green head makes them easy to pick out.
We heard the noisy chattering of more Kakariki but didn’t see any more but we did see several Kaka majestically seated on high branches carrying on their conversations. I love the way that their claws are almost prehensile as they walk along the branches and then hang upside down to reach food. Their habit of stretching a leg and a wing out fascinated us too.
The sections of the walk are punctuated with visits to the bays. Here we were subject to the onslaught of the burgeoning wind from which we were sheltered in the forest. An incoming tide stymied our plan to have our picnic lunch at West End Beach although it is unlikely we would have found a spot out of the wind anyway. As on other beaches we visited around Stewart Island, the Oyster Catchers were fiercely guarding their nests in the sand and I, for one, would not like to be on the receiving end of those long pointy beaks! So we took photos, marvelled at the wild beauty of the coastline and the crashing waves and retreated to the forest and the waiting Robins.
As we walked back along the track I paused to look at a bird that flew across in front of me and landed in the bush to my side. It was clearly a Bellbird and was chatting away as I tried to turn my camera on to take a photo, it flew to the next branch frantically calling. I turned around to see a Weka run out of the bush and across the path. It almost seemed as if the one was following the other as they made their way noisily through the trees, the Bellbird flying and the Weka running. Later on we saw more Weka foraging in the leafy undergrowth, and wandering across our path, seemingly unperturbed by humans. Eagle-eyed Aonghas also spotted a baby Weka which was quickly joined by its Mum although she didn’t seem bothered about us watching.
We really were sheltered in the bush and even on the beach at Sydney Cove where we sat watching the curious, comical, synchronised dance of the Oyster Catchers we were unaware of just how strong the wind was.
The steep walk up to Flagstaff Point was done rather faster than we had planned but, amazingly, time was running out! It was here that we were hit by the gale force of the wind – quite exhilarating. The view was spectacular out to Rakiura with white clouds scudding across the blue sky.
We had to wait at Post Office Bay – Ulva Island Ferries had clearly had a busy afternoon navigating the short stretch of water from Golden Bay as there were twenty or so people waiting to be taken home. It was an interesting 5 minutes back with the waves, at times, coming right over the top of the plastic awning on the tiny boat!
Having gone left yesterday, today we went right. The plan was to go all the way to Waipapa Lighthouse and then work our way back but we were distracted by the Lost Gypsy Gallery which at first glance seemed to fit the bill to be in Owaka – rusty old bits of bicycle fashioned together and a ramshackle caravan.
However, we were soon mesmerised by the quirky, ingenuity of the ‘lost gypsy’. A hundertwasser style coffee shelter with coloured glass bottles embedded in bench seats and walls along with a myriad cornucopia of cogs, wheels, old tools, coins and anything else I recognised from my dad’s collection of tins in his shed. The ‘temptation’ button tempted us (and everyone else who went past!) and our transgressing was rewarded by being sprayed with water.
Inside the old caravan is packed with an amazing array of inventive engineering using aforementioned bits and bobs of everyday life. All those things my Dad hoarded because they might come in useful; springs, wires, string, bolts, nails, cogs, wheels artfully blended with shells and driftwood with snippets of cartoons, interesting newspaper cuttings, pithy sayings and political satire thrown in for good measure. Press a button and a wee train runs around a shelf above your head activating lights, jingles and other stuff. Kaleidoscopes, light boxes, mechanical trompe d’oeil – the more you looked, the more you saw. We spent a happy half an hour exploring the caravan and were so intrigued by it all that we decided to pay the princely sum of $5 each to enter the ‘Theatre’.
The ‘Theatre’ houses larger scale inventions, some simple and some intricate but all made of things we would normally throw away; old telephones, bicycle wheels, bits of transistor radios, television tubes, dolls, buckets, bells, hairdryers, whistles….. The pièce de résistance was the piano, each key activated a different set of noises or actions. We must have spent a full half an hour ‘playing’ and identifying which key did what in this amazing theatre of light, sound and action. Probably the best 5$ I have ever spent.
Back on the road we amended our plans.
The day hinged on getting to Cathedral Cove for low tide so we decided to go straight to Slope Point and miss out Waipapa. The rain fell for much of the car ride but cleared by the time we got to the most southerly point of South Island. Here the trees and grass appear to grow horizontally so strong is the prevailing wind! It was a bracing walk to the point which is marked with signposts indicating the distance to the two poles. Below the waves crashed on to the rocks the white foam exploding out of the blueness of the water on impact. Mesmerising.
Onwards now to Curio Bay where 160 million year old trees lay petrified in the rock. Mud and ashflow from volcanoes felled the forest and buried the trees, the ocean levels rose and all were covered. Dropping sea levels exposed the rock and the action of the waves has gradually eroded the softer rock around the trees so trunks and stumps are clearly visible.
I love walking around rock pools anyway but Curio Bay is special. Once you get down onto the bay and look from ground level you can see the extent of the tree stumps and easily visualise the forest – tall, leafy trees where now there are only stumps. Where there might have been lush undergrowth there are now rock pools rich with life – easy pickings for the gulls, oyster catchers and shags that stalk the beach.
Seaweed is an incredible plant, isnt it? There is a narrow channel there which is full of huge ochre coloured seaweed. clamped to the rock at one end its long ‘tails’ are free to snake backwards and forwards as the waves pulse in and out. It is other worldly and the ‘heads’ atached to the rock made me think of the ‘ood’ from Dr Who!
Yellow eyed penguin nesting sites are roped off to protect them but it is sad that some people ignore the signs. We spotted a group clustered up on the rocks close to the shrubs and dunes and realised that they were following a penguin. Nigel managed to get a great video with his new camera on zoom of the penguin hopping away but that was the closest we got.
Last stop of the day was Cathedral Cave. You will get wet, she said. How wet will depend on how well you judge the waves. We got wet! The huge caves are formed by erosion from the waves beating against the cliff. Cathedral Cave is unusual in that there are two parallel caves which join at the back and form a horseshoe. Apparently, years ago they were easy to access at low tide but the sand level shifts over the years and currently it is lower so the sea is always around the entrance.
Along with tourists from all over the world we hopped on rocks, dodged the waves and dashed between them to get into the cave without getting too wet. By now the sky was blue and the sun was out so the views out of the majestic archway were impressive. We wandered around for ten minutes or so before getting cold and heading out.
To Aonghas’ great amusement, Chris was caught by the back splash of a wave on the rock against which she was leaning and was drenched from head to toe! Before setting out on the steep track through the bush back up to the car park Gus persuaded me to go for a swim. Well, it has to be done, doesn’t it? Who can resist sun dappled, crashing waves? Not me!
Part 4 of our plan to top and bottom the extremities of New Zealand. The south of North Island was easy; Wellington is the capital city, after all and we have ample excuse to visit with rellies in the area. I think Cape Palliser is officially the southernmost point and I think we have driven round there on a trip to the Wairarapa.
Next came the ‘Top o’the South’; the Abel Tasman track was our main goal and we took the opportunity to explore the area by camping out at Collingwood. It was an eventful trip – more details in this blogpost.
Two years ago we headed up to Cape Reinga on our northern odyssey and took in sand dunes, kauri forest, silica sands and gum diggers on the way.
Summer 2015/16 then is the turn of the south and here we are.
Hogmanay with cousins in Rangiora gave us the chance to explore Christchurch a little before driving down via Moeraki Boulders to Dunedin.
We had seen similar geological phenomena up in Northland at Koutou Boulders in Opononi but time and the tide prevented us from seeing all of them. The Moeraki Boulders are impressive even with hordes of (other) tourists milling around and we had fun jumping from one to another, taking silly photos and marvelling at how they were formed.
Onwards to Dunedin and the stately victorian buildings are evidence of it being the oldest city in New Zealand. One of the things we miss about the UK and Europe is the history but being so used to it, we almost took it for granted in Dunedin before realising that it is not what we see very much in Hamilton especially but even in Auckland and Wellington. Historic buildings are there, of course, but not to the same extent.
After a week or so of sweltering weather up north we had been brought down to earth with the unpredictability of southern climes with temperature differences of 10 degrees from one day to the next.
A visit out to the beautiful Otago Peninsula to see nesting albatross was characterised by hot sun tempered by chill winds. It is difficult to believe we were only half an hour from a big city as we walked out to the Pyramids, beautiful golden sands and azure seas. Unfortunately, (or maybe fortunately) we didn’t encounter any sea lions in the sand dunes and, sadly nor did we see any penguins.
January 2nd brought the rain so we were glad we had saved the Cadbury chocolate factory tour but so, it seemed, had the rest of the New Year visitors to Dunedin and the first available tour was after lunch. Luckily the rain stopped for a while so we decided to do the street art trail. A series of 25 murals by different artists decorate the walls in alleyways between buildings around the city centre. The paintings are beautiful, all very different and they definitely brighten up some dilapidated areas. It kept us happy for a good couple of hours until it was time for chocolate! The Cadbury tour is everything you might expect it to be… very Willy Wonker-ish but entertaining nonetheless and we did learn a little bit about chocolate making.
Our whistlestop road trip back on the road, we headed south to the Catlins. As we had driven down from Christchurch the huge expanses of flat lands had given way to rolling hills and then steep gorges. Now we were struck by the lush greenness of the pastures and hillsides.
Our home for four days is Hilltop cottage in Papatowai. As its name suggests it is perched on a hill with beautiful views out to the coast to the east and inland up the Takahoma valley to the west. A wee weatherboard house with “character”, we have fallen in love….