Monday, 15 April 2013

We Nearly Came Unstuck

With the first heavy rain forecast in the whole four & a bit weeks that we’ve been away, we couldn’t quite decide if we'd stay put at the Top 10 campground at Hot Water Beach or headed out into the wilderness again. Broken Hill, a DOC (Dept. of Conservation) campground was the next place I had tentatively marked on our route, 47kms further south & getting that little bit closer to home.

Did we need power to keep us topped up? Who knew when the sun would shine again to top us  up via the solar panels. Did we want the internet to keep us occupied (yes; that would be me!) Would we be better staying here in the Top10 high & dry & safe from any weather related problems even though the wind gusts were starting to move the van about a bit. We weighed up the pros & cons of moving on and decided we might as well be tucked up in the wilderness facing the rain than here in the camp, either way we’d be stuck inside.
In between passing showers we packed up the van, hitched up, emptied our tanks once again, set TomTom for Broken Hill & hit the road. The turn off was off the Hikawai-Kopu road and by the time we got there it was raining quite heavy on & off.

There was a large ford to cross at the beginning, the stream still just a trickle & then the road turned to a track, it was 8kms to the end and the track slowly got narrower and we crossed another couple of fords.
We were both starting to get a little worried, we’d always said we’d unhitch & check out any unknown roads if we felt uncomfortable about the chance we might get stuck with no turn  around areas at the end of dead end roads. But we kept seeing signs that we were heading in the right direction. Mostly signs saying “Private Property” “Keep Out” “No Hunting”, these would indicate the landowners in this area were fed up with the public accessing their properties from this road which would mean a lot of people heading up this road to the DOC land.
Along the way farm animals looked up & stared at us rumbling by, some were even startled; like they hadn’t seen anything like this down here before. And then we saw a farmer on a tractor coming down the side of a hill, I said to David  'He must be thinking “Those guys are keen” as the rain squalls continued to pass through.

And then we were at the end of the road but no sign of a DOC camp. I could see a sign board a bit further on so got out with the umbrella & had a look. Yes it said “Broken Hill”, yes it indicated many of the walks to be had in and amongst this old gold mining area, but no, it didn’t say anything about a DOC campground. “Oh wait, look there it was” At the other end of the park, 17kms away and accessed from a totally different road! Physically different but not that different; one was called Puketui Road & the other was Puketui Valley Road! Never trust your TomTom……well in fact that’s not quite right, always check your husband had entered the right information. But to give him his dues, it did say Broken Hill, it did say Puketui and it did say(somewhere) that it was hard to find.

Thankfully at the end of the road were some stock yards & a barn so there was a reasonable area to turn around in and thank God for the manoeuvrability of the fifth-wheeler. We felt a bit of a fool driving back down the road, the animals still standing there staring at us, at least the farmer had disappeared. I’m thinking he just said to himself “bloody JAFAS”.

So back we went retracing our steps until we found the right road to turn into, it followed alongside the Tairua River & wasn’t too bad width wise until towards the end when it narrowed down, especially where there had been some major slip areas which had obviously wiped out the road into the river below & been repaired.

At the end of the road was the DOC camp, & what a beauty it was too. 
I'm not too sure who was going to enforce the liquor ban...
A large tiered site set amongst mature native bush on the banks of the river. There are dozens of sites to choose from, lovely grassed areas in amongst the bush or under trees.
There was no warden on this site, it’s self check-in , you drop your fee in the “iron maiden” and find yourself a spot. We have a DOC pass so no need for us to pay, just fill in our details.
There was one other motorhome parked near the entrance , two cars arrived later in the day (& stayed overnight) & the motorhome left before dark & that was it. Just us & the wilderness. Oh & the rain. It rained solidly all night, It didn’t let up one iota & in fact got heavier & heavier. There was quite a bit of wind too but we were quite sheltered below the tree line. I love the sound of rain on the roof & on the van it was very loud. But I can seriously say that by daybreak it had certainly lost it's appeal.
This is the first lot of heavy rain we’d had since we’ve been on the road. We’ve had a couple of overnight rainfalls & one day of drizzle & that’s been it. The Coromandel is calling out for rain, as is the rest of NZ, the drought has taken a heavy toll so we can’t really begrudge the fact that it is now pelting down with rain. I was hoping to do some of the walks in the area & David had his eye on doing some trout fishing in one of the few trout rivers in the Coromandel. No such luck.

We’d already discussed the process of collecting water especially when we’re freedom camping, so much clean water falls from the sky in a downpour like this that it makes sense to try & collect some of it. It pours off the corners of the van & the awning & we're going to sort out some sort of collection system for it before our next trip away. In the meantime McGivor set about adapting a few bits & pieces & managed to fill the containers dozens of times over. He couldn’t keep up with them, he’d turn his back & the other one would be fill. We didn’t have a funnel but a Sprite bottle came in handy. The benefit of this was one long hot shower this morning! No rationing today!
Last night before darkness overtook us, David found a Morepork (NZ owl) roosting in a tree nearby, we were able to get right up close to him but unfortunately it took me awhile to sort out my camera settings and by then he’d moved on. It was a thrill to see him though & hopefully David might find him again tonight.

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