Thursday, 4 September 2014

Collingwood For Capital

We are now deep in the heart of whitebaiting country, we’ve moved onto Collingwood and are parked up at the Collingwood Camping Ground, overlooking the huge Ruataniwha Inlet with the Aorere River flowing past just below our front door step. That’s when it’s high tide. When it’s low, the vast expanse of water becomes a vast expanse of mud, sand & wood. That's up at the river bridge (bottom right) and at high tide the water is right up to the bank and over a metre deep.

The tide range here is once again huge, a massive amount of water is shifted with each tide. The rock wall along side us has had some recent work due to extra high tides and the wave action undermining the rocks so it is a little dusty; we need some rain to dampen it all down.

The Collingwood Camping Ground is the classic old style rustic Kiwi camping ground, a little rough around the edges but with a heart of gold. Bill & Shelley are very welcoming and nothing is too much trouble, the people staying here are friendly (well most are, some are a little obsessed with fishing) and they’re from all walks of life.

The day after we arrived one of the guys that is doing work on the tennis courts (which are being expanded & resurfaced at the moment) approached David. They walked back to the van & I thought he must have been interested in the 5th-Wheeler but David called to me to come and meet Mike whose wife was a regular follower of my blog! They live in Nelson and when we arrived the day before, Mike thought the van looked familiar. So thankyou Mike for saying hello and a big thankyou Mikes’s wife for following my blog, it’s nice to know that I’m not talking to myself!

Actually I know I’m not talking to myself because I do get plenty of comments posted & emails and I have recently passed 50,000 views. And I can’t put them all down to my Dad, even if he likes to dissect each post word by word! So it’s a big thankyou to all my regular readers too, I’m pleased you are enjoying following along on our journey with us.

In the last few days the camping ground has been filling up fast, most of the new arrivals are regulars and will be settled in here until the end of the whitebaiting season. They give the new season a couple of weeks to settle in before arriving and now they’re hoping for the big runs.

We’ve already said goodbye to one set of neighbours who came to fish over the weekend (above) and their place has now been taken by Pam & Gerald (we won’t forget their names- I have family from HB with the same names). They have been coming to Collingwood Camping Ground & the same site for the past 17 years and will be here until the end of October. We actually had to move sideways by about 2 metres after the other caravan left because there’s also another regular and his bus due in the next day or two, he’ll squeeze in on the other side of us. We are also the odd ones out in camp, the only ones that aren't here to fish.

The campground is a hive of activity just before the tide turns as the fishers prepare to head out. Most have small dinghies that are towed (or pushed) by quad bikes. They launch them at the boat ramp just outside the gate and head off towards islands at the mouth of the river where they’ll then be occupied for the next few hours as the tide pushes the white bait in and up the river and streams in the area. Down at the bridge are the fishers that don’t have boats, the gravel parking area is full of cars and motorhomes and people jostle for their spots along the river banks.

Some try their luck on the point, just up from our van, but it’s hard going there as the sand is very soft and swallows your boots in no time at all. Scoop, scoop, drag it in and check, scoop, scoop, drag it in….. These guys were the only ones out yesterday, the rest were grumbling & mumbling around camp. An easterly has been blowing for the last 2 days and the saying is “East is least, west is best”. 

And remember this photo from my White Gold#2 blog? This couple were freedom camping further up the coast, we stopped to check out a large flock of spoonbills and David walked out to say hello to them. They were fishing in amongst the reeds at the outlet of a tiny stream.

Just like herding cats! They try to scare the whitebait into the mouth of the net.

Great, that’ll be enough for at least……. half a fritter! The funny thing was that neither ate whitebait. They just like to freeze the bejesus out of themselves in the great outdoors for fun!

At least there was a chair for one of them should they tire.

Collingwood is a quiet one horse town (I should have grabbed the shot as the horse rode through) Just a main street with a couple of cafes, a small supermarket, a pub, a hairdresser, the Farewell Spit tour company, and a tiny museum amongst others. The Post Office building (c1902) is the largest and stands very grandly near the end of the street near the campground.

This inner estuary area above and below is virtually drained at low tide.

This is the view out over the Ruataniwha Inlet with the river in the centre. You can see why the guys with the boats have a jump on the bridge fishers. They scoop their nets from the low lying islands at the entrance to the river. The very prominent & unusual looking Mt Burnett is back right, at it’s base is NZ’s only dolomite quarry (dolomite is a type of limestone). David says the range looks like a reclining woman, if it does she's got a protruding belly button & a big belly! (maybe she's pregnant).

The above photo was taken from a road up behind the town, when we were looking for the indicated “Lookout”. We thought the lookout would be out over the bay but in fact after walking and then driving on a couple of wild goose chases, we finally realised the lookout was at the end of a track behind the historic cemetery and looked out over the farmed Aorere Valley in the total opposite direction (with the view nearly taken by the flax bushes in front, this was taken standing on the seat)

In 1857 a half a world away in England, a plan was drawn up for a town to be called Collingwood, named after Lord Admiral Collingwood who was Nelson’s 2nd in command at the Battle of Trafalgar. Collingwood took control after Nelson was killed. It was to be built further up the valley over the farmland that we can see from the lookout. It was proposed that Collingwood would become the nation’s capital as it was centrally located with a growing gold field nearby that would provide wealth & people to populate the district. But the gold field faded and the miners moved on to richer fields. Other areas went on to claim the capital status.

We spent an enjoyable hour scouting about the cemetery, reading the headstones and matching the identified graves with the list of people buried there (can you have an enjoyable time in a cemetery?) The cemetery was in use between 1857-1895, many of the deaths were children, as was the case back then. Quite a few others had drowned crossing the Aorere River including the magistrate, and the police sergeant.......I wonder if they were whitebaiting.


  1. Hi Shellie and David,

    Great to see your pics of our fine country! Lovely. I came across your whitebaiting photos looking for reference material for a painting (I'm an artist) and love the one with you both in the grasses. If it's okay, I'd like to work that into a painting which would be part of an exhibition in February. After I'd looked at it a while, it very much reminded me of a painting by a famous artist Puvis De Chavannes from the late 19th Century, 'The poor fisherman'. Link at the bottom of this message...

    Anyway, I hope this finds you both well, and I hope you're still tiki touring NZ.

    Bryce Brown
    Bay of Plenty, NZ.[]1881%20puvis%20de%20chavannes,%20le%20pauvre%20p%C3%AAcheur%20the%20poor%20fisherman.jpg

    1. Hi Bryce, I'm glad you like my photos. Thankyou for seeking permission to paint one of my photos. This is fine as long as the painting is not on-sold (as a painting or as prints). If you do wish to sell your painting/prints then there is a charge. You can email me on the blog contact form and I can let you know costs etc. I'd also send you a high-res photo file. Thanks for asking, best regards Shellie


Thanks for taking the time to comment, it's much appreciated.