Friday, 12 September 2014

Anatori - The End of the Road ; Part 1

Remember the three long Golden Bay roads I mentioned in a previous post?. Well, we've explored the two up the Cobb & Aorere Valleys and now we’re about to do the final one which also happens to be the longest one at 44kms. It’s also the most westerly road in South Island and probably the least travelled as there is nothing at the end of it other than a small settlement with a handful of houses. And even though we will follow the road down the west coast of the South Island, it’s still part of Golden Bay with no way through to the actual West Coast province.

It’s going to be a 116km round trip from Collingwood for us & mostly on a gravel road plus we’ll add another 20 kms to the total by taking a side road to check out the Kaihoka Lakes.

There are two small lakes in the Kaihoka Scenic Reserve and they are tucked in behind some dramatic coastal hills and bluffs, we can hear the rumble of the surf coming to us over some dunes at the top of the second lake.

A special feature of the lakes are the massed nikau palms which give the 10 minute walk between the lakes a tropical feel. The nikau also confirm we’re on the west coast now, where they are always a prominent feature.

The raft (below) was well made using mussel floats and was tethered just around a corner near the entrance to the walk, maybe the local kids use it or DOC to get to the other side of the lake. We've seen a lot of lost mussel floats on our travels; there’s a mussel farm out in the bay just north of Collingwood and they must break free on a regular basis. For some it’s finders keepers, others call the company who pay $10 for each recovered buoy.

We decide to drive to the end of Kaihoka Lakes Road as it’s skirts around the top western side of one of the largest estuaries in New Zealand, the Westhaven Estuary (Whanganui Inlet). Below is just a tiny section near Pecks Point, we’ll be following the road around the the edge of the estuary on the far side when we get back to the Anatori road.

The gravel road winds in and around the exposed mudflats for 6 of so kilometres, which, as I’ve said before, always feels like double the distance. There’s nothing much more than a farm at the end of the lakes road and they obviously get a few vehicles arriving at their farm gate as they've made a little turning bay with a helpful sign.

We head back to the Anatori road and start the journey south. It’s not long before this sign makes an appearance. Bloody hell, that’s a long way to wind!

Thankfully it’s actually an interesting winding road as it follows the estuary shoreline all the way, cutting across the many estuary ‘fingers’ over embankments and small bridges, where the mudflats reach far up into the hills and where rivers & streams enter. It comes as no surprise to see that the name of this road is Dry Road. Clouds of dust swirl behind us and I know David will be thinking about how much will be finding it’s way into the back.

This is looking across towards the Kaihoka Lakes Road, the farm gate was at about the low point in the hills, centre right.

There are a few isolated houses tucked up in the bush overlooking the estuary along the way and then, once again, we pass through a part of the Kahurangi National Park (kahu= hawk, rangi= God of the sky). At various spots we see three white herons (kotuku) feeding but they’re too far away to get any decent shots. We also pass the end of the Kaituna Track, that’s the track that started beside the Naked Possum Cafe in the Aorere Valley.

Finally I see the ocean's entrance to the estuary and we stop so I can get a shot. The NZ Post rural mail lady in her bright red car comes flying around the corner not long after and pulls to a stop to tell me it looks even better when the tide is in. Unfortunately by the time we return the sun is low and the tide has come and gone.

Up in the bush, high on the ridgeline, on the peninsula at the left side of the entrance is an exclusive luxury lodge, Westhaven Retreat. I only knew about it as the huge roof was catching the sun as we travelled past. I looked it up when we got back; a two night luxurious package in peak season; drive in, helicopter out will only set you back $4,770, and that is a discounted rate!

The estuary covers a total of 2648 hectares; 536 hectares at the southern end are a marine reserve with the remainder a Wildlife Management Reserve with limited access. The estuary is one of the least modified estuaries in New Zealand and a very important food source for wading birds and breeding ground for many fish species.

The old Mangarakau Wharf is within the marine reserve at the top end of the estuary.

We finally break free of the estuary & the winding road but not before meeting a fully laden stock truck & trailer on a tight bend in the bush. Thankfully we don’t have the 5th-wheeler on the back otherwise that would have been fun and games.

We follow alongside the Paturau River heading for the coast and passing the now familiar whitebaiters along the river banks; one in a small motorhome and two on their quad bikes. We cross over the bridge and take the indicated private road to the beach to have some lunch.

As you can see we were enjoying another fabulous sunny & mild day and it did really feel like summer as we sat on our chairs eating lunch, watching the world go by. This is a freedom camping area provided by the landowner but you must follow the rules, especially #3! A straight talking farmer with a sense of humour.

Originally we were going to bring the 5th-wheeler down to here for a few days but as it's turned out we've used Collingwood as our base and explored from there. It would be a great spot in the summer although exposed to the rough west coast weather.

Another two whitebaiters were near the river mouth, a couple, one on either side of the river (hedging their bets) with their friendly pooch patiently waiting.

To be continued....Part 2

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