Real-time: and once again I find I have too many photos to share so this'll be a two parter on our first beach stop.
We had one important stop before we pulled out of Napier, a visit to the dump station to empty our tanks. This dump station on Marine Parade must have one of the best outlooks in New Zealand; down the Parade and out over Hawke Bay. It's a typical sunny & hot Hawkes Bay day and we're hoping it'll follow us down the coast.
We head south, through Clive, skirt around Havelock and off down Middle Road. It's not long before I shout 'Stop!' (that familiar cry when we're on another little adventure), as I spy a cute church at the back of a paddock down by the Tukituki River. This is on the property of Camp David, a Christian Outdoor Education Centre and the church has been moved there, but I have no idea where from.
Once past the lifestyle blocks, Middle Road narrows and then twists and turns through rolling green Hawkes Bay farmland; the paddocks full of cute spring lambs. No dairy conversions out here.
We take a left turn at the end of the road and head down a hill to see a country hotel ahead of us and three pairs of eyes watching as we approach.
This is the Patangata Tavern and it's a busy country pub as it turns out, it's very popular with weekend day-trippers, bikers and bus tours and there are a group of seniors from Hastings having lunch today. We pull over for a break (and so I can take photos) and before we know it we're surrounded by three friendly chaps asking about the 5th-wheeler and our lifestyle.
By all accounts, the Patangata Pub was also a very popular hotel many, many years ago too. Two of my uncles worked on Kapiti Farm Station out near the beach we're heading to and this was their weekend 'local'- even though it was 23kms away.
It was also the pub that my parents visited when they were 'courting', Dad driving his Model A truck out from Hastings to the farm to see the family and then, when the Model A became unreliable, bringing his soon-to-be-bride out in his 1940 Ford Prefect.
There's a 'family story' of Mum driving off in Dad's car while he and his mate were relieving themselves on the side of the Patangata Road. She then wound the window up on his friend's head when he jumped on the running board to reach in and turn the key off. She laughed so much she forgot to put the handbrake on and the car ran off the road and into a culvert. They had to wait half an hour for another vehicle to come by and rescue them. And he still married her!
This will not be the first unusual 'courtesy car' we're going to see on our beach hop.
The South Island isn't the only one with long single lane bridges either- here's the Patangata Bridge over the Tukituki River. Although most of it crosses over a bare dirt paddock which is obviously a flood plain on those rare occasions when the Tuki floods.
Further on and we take a slight detour when I see another church across a paddock. We pull up outside the Elsthorpe Hall and for the second time that day we're approached by a small group of men keen to look at the van. They've volunteer firemen and have been out on a call, they couldn't locate the fire and have just returned the fire truck to it's garage. I leave them yarning to David while...
...I shoot next door to, well, shoot Elsthorpe's St Stephens Anglican Church...
...and a whole bunch of spring daffodils in the garden across the road.
We carry on and it's not long before we reach our destination and the first beach we're visiting on our way south; Kairakau Beach.
We drive through the settlement to the north end of the beach where there's a lovely grassed area available for CSC (certified self-contained) vehicles to stay. This is Central HB District Council land that's looked after by the Kairakau Residents Association and a donation is asked for if you stay. The only problem is the iron maiden is right back at the beginning of the beach road and is often missed by visitors.
We can't believe our luck at how fabulous the site is, right on the beach and no one else around! There are signs asking that you park at right angles to the beach which is fair enough in the summer when it would be busy, but I'm sure we'll be fine parked parallel so we can take in the view while sitting in our slide-out.
The only problem we see is, like Ward Beach, in Marlborough, the beach is backed by a row of very tall cliffs and very soon the sun will disappear behind them. Never mind, the wind is chilly and we'll be inside by late afternoon anyway.
It's not long before we hear a quad bike approaching and we have the pleasure of meeting another very friendly chap (who said South Islanders were the friendly bunch, Hawkes Bay is doing pretty darn well today). Graham introduces himself as one of only seven permanent residents and invites us to move down to the campground if we're wanting the late afternoon sun- it's on the corner of the estuary and beach by the buildings in the photo below. The beach campground (also run by the residents association) doesn't open until the end of the month but we're quite welcome to shift down there if we'd like.
We decide to stay put, we like overlooking the beach and we've also just about finished setting up and about to unhitch. But it was lovely to have been offered the choice. Graham stays for a cup of tea and we sit outside having a chat while he fills us in on a lot of the history around Kairakau.
There's a prominent feature just off the beach at Kairakau; four rocks that provide a degree of shelter to the open beach. Graham tells us they have names, probably given to them by locals a long time ago; from left to right- Three Bears, Racing Car, Punch & Judy, and Long Rock (which is out of picture, to the right here). I can see the slight resemblance to the first two but Punch & Judy? Not so much. Graham says that's because Punch fell off!
And there's Long Rock out the back.
I climbed up the hill behind- not to the top which would have killed me- just enough to get a birdseye view of 'Out There' and the beach. And look at that, the complete beach and virtually the whole settlement to ourselves. It never fails to amaze us at how often we find we're staying in stunning locations and have the place totally to ourselves.
As the sun sets later in the day we decide that Kairakau Beach is a good first stop to get us back in the mode of travelling and exploring. And we once again decide that we really do live in an amazing country.
To be continued....Kairakau Beach; Part 2