Saturday, 23 March 2019

Magnificent Maitai Bay- Karikari Peninsula


From Mahinepua we headed north by-passing Taupo Bay (we'll save that for another time) and Mangonui (we'll be back for their famous fish and chips), passing through Doubtless Bay's beautiful beach settlements of  Coopers Beach & Cable Bay, through a busy Taipa before turning right up the Karikari Peninsula. The Inland Road up the middle of the peninsula reminded me of the Mahia Peninsula; a dry landscape of  rolling sand dunes, dune grass and scrub, pine trees and sparsely populated barren farmland.

Tokerau Beach from Ramp Road Reserve
We stopped at the public reserve at the end of Ramp Road for lunch, just a few hundred metres south, and accessed by a rough sand track, is the Ramp Road freedom camping area (click on the photo, you can see some vans by the pine trees). We may come back here to stay but for now we're heading to the top of the peninsula.

There are a couple of rare yellow pohutukawa flowering in amongst the red flowering trees planted along the edge of the beach in the reserve. Yellow pohutukawa descend from a pair of trees discovered in 1840 on Motiti Island in the Bay of Plenty. The yellow species is a taonga (treasure) to Maori.

Rush hour- Tokerau Beach. 

Once again proving that we're just 2 degrees removed here in New Zealand, I posted the photo above on a motorhome Facebook page I belong to and the guy on the bike responded, "Hey, that's me!" He also mentioned that is was 9.2km to the top of the beach (below), he was heading back to the Ramp Road camp when I captured him.

There's a large dune lake at the end of Ramp Road- in fact it's beside the track to the freedom camping area- it's colloquially know as Coca Cola Lake because of it's tannin stained water. Dune Lakes don't have rivers or streams flowing in or out of them, the water seeps through the sands over hundreds of years, darkened by peat and tannins from the Manuka scrub and other leaf litter around them. Apparently the locals extol the beauty and health properties of the water but you wouldn't get me swimming in there; the water's too dark to see if anything is on the bottom! Like big fat eels.

We stopped at Lake Rotopokaka (it's official name) later in our stay but unfortunately the colour wasn't as easy to see on a cloudy day. Roto= lake, pokaka= native tree, and kaka is our bronze/brown coloured parrot.

We bypassed the seaside settlement of Tokerau Beach for now and carried on to the top of the Karikari Peninsula, passing through the middle of the 1200 hectare luxury Carrington Estate on the way. The estate includes top-end accommodation, the Karikari Estate Winery & cafe and a championship standard 18 hole golf course. I'm not so sure I'd want to stay here though if I didn't have my own transport, it's a pretty isolated area.

The views from the villas out over the protected wetlands to the white silica sands of Karikari Beach are spectacular. That's Mt Camel/Tohoraha you can see in the middle picture on the left. Mt Camel forms the north head of the Houhora Harbour way across the bay and on the way to the top of the North Island.

The last four kilometres of road are gravel and then with a sharp right turn we finally we reach our destination, Maitai Bay DOC Camp, and while it looks like that's Maitai Bay ahead of us as we drive down into the camp, it's not. There are two small bays side by side and this one is Waikato Bay.

There are also two sections to the camp; the top camp and the bottom, we take the road to the lower level and find a site in a large grassy bay very close to the day car park with walking access to Maitai Bay. The camp is a large one and is very popular with families and boaties during the holiday season. Although being early December we have the whole place to ourselves until evening when a few tourist vans arrive for the night.

A little further on from our camp site the road ends at a small boat ramp into Waikato Bay.

Disappointingly for us, and in the way we do it, it's a little bit too far to tow the Takacat inflatable, so we reluctantly make the decision that there'll be no fishing for us here.

Waikato Bay, Karikari Peninsula, Far North
The decision is actually made easier by the fact that there is a rahui (fishing & seafood collection ban) on until March 2020 to allow fish & seafood stocks to recover from being overfished. The rahui covers most of Waikato Bay & all of Maitai Bay. While David could head out and fish up and down the coastline on either side of the bays he's not that comfortable going so far out and especially in rougher seas away from the sheltered bays.

Located between the bays and up on a rise, these two pou (carved wooden poles) were unveiled  to mark the start of the rahui. The pou represent Kahutianui and her husband Te Parata, tupuna (ancestor) of Te Whanau Moana and Te Rorohuri. The other side of the pou, facing the water, represent Hinemoana and Tangaroa, the female and male atua (gods or spirits) of the sea. 

With plenty of camping bays and shelter belts of trees around each bay, the bird life was prolific. I watched a cock pheasant strut around our bay and in and out of the trees for much of the day. Then when I heard a commotion and saw a flurry of action as he chased another cock around and around the grass before disappearing into the next bay, I carefully crept up on them to see that they were having a stand-off...

...before once again engaging in a full out war on each other! They weren't in any hurry to call it quits either chasing each other through the trees and into another bay before disappearing down a bank, each one still keen to get the upper hand. The photos are in order as they happened, left to right. 

I later saw the object of their affections and the cause of the fight sneaking past the van; female pheasants are very, very shy, and while they may come across as drab in comparison to their male counterpart, in my opinion their markings are superb. 

I did see my male pheasant the next day limping past the van, but still on the warpath.

A pukeko family also spent much of their day pulling grass clumps out of the nearby soft ground and stripping off the tender shoots. 

What a lovely sleek juvenile this one is, he (or she) was very wary of me as I stalked them along the bush line. 

'Mum, help Mum, she's after me!!'
And by now you're probably saying to yourselves 'So where is Maitai Bay?"
Well, this is beautiful, stunning Maitai Bay...

Of course I had to leave the best for last...

Maitai Bay is a perfectly shaped horseshoe bay with turquoise water and bordered by a golden sand beach.

A sheltered bay for safe swimming, rock pools for snorkeling, a large campground with new amenity blocks, bush walks, a handy boat ramp, blue skies and hot weather; I can see why families make the long trip to the Far North for their summer holidays. 

I can imagine the beach would be very busy over the holidays but for now there are just a handful of people enjoying the early summer sunshine. I took this photo with my wide angle lens to capture the whole bay in the one shot. 

 And this one is a panoramic capture of the bay; four photos stitched together.

Sunday, 17 March 2019

Mahinepua Peninsula Walkway- Northland


The Mahinepua Peninsula Walkway track leaves the beach at the north end of Mahinepua Bay. I'd highly recommend this walk if you are in the area visiting or camping. It is one of the most stunning short walks I've done, with fabulous views over a spectacular and dramatic coastline.

The 3km (one way) DOC walking track weaves it's way along the narrow spine of the peninsula to a trig point at the far end. There is access to a number of small coves during the first half of the walk, ideal places to stop for a quick swim or a picnic lunch.

The walk starts innocuously enough, through a small pine plantation and alongside private property. I thought it was very kind of DOC to send in the lawnmower and weed-eater workers a day ahead of my walk, the track was in pristine condition.

The track proper starts on the seaward side and then climbs a little way winding around a small bluff back to the bay side of the peninsula and through a stand of large overhanging Pohutukawa trees...

...before breaking out into the open where there are magnificent views back to the campsite and beach at Mahinepua.

Outer Mahinepua Bay and the Cavalli Islands are ahead as the track...

...drops down to one of  the sheltered coves. From here I can also see the track winding it's way around the next hill....

...and up a steep stairway in the distance which is where I spot a person ahead of me disappearing over the top (click photo to enlarge)

Down in the cove the flax bushes are in flower and a few tui are flying about fighting each other for the nectar. I love early summer when the tall plump flower spikes are shooting skywards from the middle of the bushes. Blue waters, golden sand and flowering flax must be one of New Zealand's most iconic sights.

There was a tui on this bush but he departed before I could capture him so you've got the flower spike instead!

The view back towards camp gets even better from the top of the next climb; that's the cove below now from the other side.

Once the track reaches the stairway, which is on the ocean side of the peninsula...

...the views are spectacular looking north along a rugged coast, the cliffs drop into the deep emerald green sea with swirling white water rising and falling around the many small reefs and rock stacks dotted along the shoreline.

The higher you climb the better the view back to camp gets...

And towards the top of the stairs you can also see up the coast towards Whangaroa Bay & Harbour; the large island is Stephenson Island/Mahinepua Island which is just off Tauranga Bay.

There's a beautiful stand of Mamaku (Black Tree Fern) with their feathery lime green fronds spread wide through the regenerating bush on the inside of the peninsula...

...just before another short sharp climb to the top where the scrub has been tortured into shape by the prevailing winds racing up the cliffs from the sea below.

And from the top, the highest point on the walk, there are now magnificent views along the coastline looking north.

Towards the end of the track there's a short loop option which I take.

It adds more interest to the 'there & back' track and only another 5 minutes to the complete walk. I'm still pretty chuffed that DOC have been in to do the track as it would have been tough walking in the long grass with all the seed heads and black pollen floating about.

There are more reefs and rock stacks below and also sudden drop-offs from edge of the track, care would need to be taken if you had children with you.

It's not long before the end of the track and the final destination comes into view; Pakuru Point & Omiru Trig which is up on the top right beside the red dirt (wait, have I walked to Aussie?) 

I took the left hand track at the fork which proved to be the better option as it was mostly downhill until it joined up with the main track again where there's a very conveniently placed seat. From here you can also see the two islands that sit just off the tip of the peninsula; Motuekaiti & Motueka (Flat Island)

Then it was just a short uphill section to the trig station...

... and from there I could see back along the peninsula, the side track I'd taken in clear view.

Just ahead of the trig, a sign warned of dangers ahead. Of course me being me (inquisitive &/or nosy), I wanted to know what the danger was and what was on the otherside of those dozens of other people by the look of all the footprints in the red dust.

I squeeze through the bush, scratching my arm on a broken branch in the process (punishment) and come to an abrupt halt. Ahead of me are the two islands and the last thin spine of the peninsula which looks to be slippery red rock layered in dust and with steep sides. This area would be treacherous in the wet. Though today, if I was younger and my balance better (and I had someone with me),  I'd probably attempt to walk along there but then again that is why I have a very good zoom lens...

I don't have to do the hard (or scary) yards, I just zoom in on the point. And then spot that Motuekaiti Island had some large Phoenix Palms and Norfolk Pines (both non-natives) growing near a sheltered bay.

I would say that there was once a colonial homestead/holiday home in this quite sheltered bay and the palms were planted in the gardens.

I had lunch back at the seat and then headed for home, passing the only two people I saw on the track (other than the guy disappearing over the top earlier).

The following photos may look similar to some of the earlier ones but I'm now shooting with my wide angle lens so the views are even more spectacular as they take in a much wider vista, they are also a slightly different colour due to the lens I'm using and the tone is shoots. 

And finally back overlooking the camp and sheltered waters of Mahinepua Bay. It was a fabulous walk and well worth doing if you are able to, if not than you've walked it vicariously with me!