Saturday, 16 November 2013

Wind Farm & the Wairarapa

We didn’t leave last night’s spot by the Manawatu River until early afternoon, we woke to a rather cold & bleak day after yesterday’s brilliant blue sky and warm sun. The cloud hung low on the range above us and the drizzle came and went in fits & starts.  We took our time in getting ready as we knew we only had about 60kms to travel today. David went for another fish until the drizzle became persistent & we were a little worried we might not get good traction in the long grass pulling away from the river bank so we headed off just after lunch, lunch being the time of the day not the meal we should have eaten. As it was we didn’t have any lunch today, we kept saying we’d stop at the next rest area but it didn’t happen & before we knew it, it was late afternoon and then we were thinking about where we were going to stop for the night. Once again we had a couple of places in mind and once again they turned to custard.  

But before we headed south on SH2 we took a small detour up to the top of the Saddle Road, an alternative route over the range to Ashurst & Palmerston North, to visit the Te Apiti Wind Farm lookout. From our camp site down by the river we were overlooked by 3 turbines a little further up the valley & just the blades of another one right above us at the river.

What an impressive sight they were as we wound our way up the Saddle and once at the lookout it was quite a surreal getting out of the ute beneath one of the huge monolithic turbines and hearing the deep “whoop, whoop” of the blades going round. And as if to prove the point that they are in the right spot, a bitterly cold & ferocious wind was whipping across the ridge. All around us marching across the rolling hills were dozens of turbines. 

Meridians’s 55 Te Apiti turbines are on this side of the gorge and cover 12 square kms with another 134 turbines belonging to Trustpower stretching off into the distance southwards, those cover a staggering 700 hectares of land.  The turbines are 70 metres high and each of their 3 blades is 35 metres in length. It was a pity that we didn’t have a nice sunny day & blue sky to view them but we’re fast learning you have to take each day as it comes and make the most of it as we never know when we’ll be back this way.

Further south & well on the way to our next overnight stop there was one stop we had to do for the obligatory photo,  the "World Famous in New Zealand" Tui Brewery at Mangatainoka.

And it wasn't, we drove straight on by.
Blink & you'll miss it. Eketahuna that is. From the far reaches of my memory I recall this was a standing joke that as children we told each other even though my family would have only passed through the tiny country settlement once or twice during our childhood.

And here we are in Eketahuna where we are staying for the next two nights, in a quiet grassy & tree lined District Council campground down by the river. $6 per person per night unpowered, find yourself a site & the manager will be around in due course, he lives off-site. We’ve tucked ourselves into a small grassy alcove with tall trees cocooning us on three sides and a winding mown track through the bush behind that leads down to a rough path along the river bank.

We seem to have the habit of picking secluded spots under or near trees and forgetting that we need a clear view north if we're wanting the satellite dish to pick up TV for us. We decided we could do without it tonight and will move the van around the corner tomorrow.

The bird song is amazing & tonight David took his head torch out looking for birds & found instead, just 10 metres or so down the track, a large possum with her joey riding on her back. Next time I will have to take my camera with me as they did look in spectacular condition and stayed still in the light for quite some time. What a pity they are such pests. 

We are here because our “Bible”, the NZMCA travel directory which as members we have access to, has put us crook once again. The directory lists over 6000 overnight camp sites (& dump stations) up & down the length & breadth of New Zealand and we had selected a couple to check out near Mt Bruce Wildlife Centre, which we are going to be visiting on Sunday. And in fact one of the sites was at Mt Bruce itself but as I soon found out, when I called ahead, the directory wasn’t correct. There definitely was no staying in their back yard! The lady I spoke to suggested we could stay in the ANZAC Bridge reserve just up the road but when we got there we found that it was just a small pull off area behind the trees & with no room for a rather large fifth-wheeler!

 The ANZAC Bridge was built in 1922 by a local resident Alfred Falkner as a memorial to the local people who served in WW1, and also because there was a real need for a bridge at this spot, as fording the Makakahi River could be dangerous after rain. In 1956 a new bridge was built but thanks to local appeals the Anzac Bridge was preserved as a memorial and it's where ANZAC services for the district are held here every April 25th, ANZAC Day.  

There was also another place listed with coordinates about 10kms from Mt Bruce and towards the coast. We thought as we were nearby we might as well check that out so off we drove through narrow country roads until we turned into a metal road with the final destination a couple hundred metres along & what looked like a nice grassy patch inside a small fenced pine plantation. 

Hmmm…..the gate was securely locked and although it didn’t look like part of a farm there was no way in and no way for us to turn around so we continued on until we found a gateway & did a U turn (so manoeuvrable is this fifth wheeler) and decided we’d had enough of traipsing all over the countryside and headed back up the road to Eketahuna & the campground we’re now parked at!

Although we arrived here to be confronted by a few dozen teens in and around the ablution block & out playing ball on the grass along with a few caravans & tents dotted down the far end of the camp. While checking out the rates in the kitchen one of them informed David that they were here to celebrate two birthdays. Oh-oh…a noisy night ahead. When the manager arrived later to collect the fees he informed us that he was staying in one of the cabins to keep an eye on them & that they had been here a couple of years ago celebrating the same birthdays and had been very well behaved. In fact we hardly heard them. That was until a thundering haka rung out at some stage late into the night followed by the loudest firework display I have ever heard. This morning is was all quiet on the Western Front when we left for the wildlife centre at 10am and they were gone by the time we got back later in the afternoon.

The remains of an old swingbridge just behind our campsite

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