Wednesday, 28 September 2016

Beach Hop South- Te Paerahi Beach (aka Porangahau Beach)


We left Taniwha Daffodils and headed back towards Waipukurau, turning off just before town to join up with Porangahau Road, the road that's going to take us to our next beach destination; Te Paerahi Beach (aka Porangahau Beach). I warned David that we'd be needing to stop somewhere along the road at a very important place. I wasn't too sure when that would be though as my map book didn't show the place name. 

So it was a lovely surprise when 'Wanstead' popped up in front of me on Mr TomTom, and then to see the church (above) appear around the next corner. This is the Wanstead Presbyterian Church and I have no idea if I've ever visited it before but of course I took photos of it for my files.

The reason I have no idea if I have visited the church before is because I lived in Wanstead, a very long time ago. In fact I always say I was born in Wanstead but that's not quite right, I was born in Hastings and not long after, Dad got a job shepherding on the McNutt family farm on Porangahau Road at Wanstead, and Mum, Dad and baby Shellie shifted south.  And it's only after uploading this photo (which I've seen a thousand times) I suddenly see the turkeys in a new light! All will be revealed in the next post.

Shellie at Wanstead 17 months
After taking the church photos we also stopped at the historic (former) Wanstead Hotel which is now a private residence. I wonder if Dad used to visit the hotel after work. Or perhaps he was too busy and with a new family had to save his pennies. I'll have to ask him.

Pleased to have seen something of Wanstead we carry on towards the coast. It's not long before we're slowing down as we approach the Porangahau River bridge at the entrance to the small bustling metropolis of Porangahau, where the dairy lists it's goods by their Maori names (that's a first for me)... 

...and the Duke of Edinburgh Hotel has got to be one of the biggest country pubs I've ever seen! I bet this place can tell a few stories and it looks like it's another grand old building with an uncertain future. I love the tractor in the carpark too, on his way home and he's stopped in for a beer (or iced tea).

We pass through town and out the other side, we still have 8kms to travel before we reach the beach. The moody sky we had at the daffodils is still around and makes the perfect backdrop to Porangahau's St Michael & All Angels Anglican Church.

A sign points us to the freedom camping area when we arrive at the beach. What a great spot, out on the grass or under the pines, there's plenty of space and choices. I wish more beaches had places like this- there are toilets if required (clean and tidy) and fresh water available too! And it's free, although you can leave a donation which I'm sure would be greatly appreciated. 

Holiday homes and baches line the road behind us and there are a number of permanent residents in the settlement including a few fishermen.

We have the camping area to ourselves and we settle in against the fence that separates us from the day parking area. 

A sandy track crosses the dunes to the beach in front of us. A passing quad bike rider photo bombs my shot as I head down to the beach.

Te Paerahi beach has a rugged, remote feel about it and it's wild and windy when we arrive. I'm hoping the sun will make an appearance in the morning and I can explore it further.

It took two days but finally the sun came out and so did the people. It was warm with a sea fog rolling in. At first I thought it was sea spray but there was no wind and it moved about across the beach, really pea soup in places, thin and wispy elsewhere and disappearing altogether occasionally. I walked to the rocks at the far end of the beach where I found a couple of surfcasters fishing and catching kawhai.

I'm not so sure I'd take my flash car down onto the wet sand like this couple did, I suspect they were townies- possibly new immigrants- and they wanted to try out driving on the beach like the sign said they could. Round and round, up and down they drove. I hope they washed it down when they got home.

I decided to walk north along the beach right the way to the top of the spit, where the Porangahau River enters the sea. I'd seen a variety of  beach vehicles heading that way over the past few days and thought they might be fishing. The sea fog made it difficult to see where I was heading, but it was low tide and the sand was firm down by the water making it easier to walk. The outline of a tractor came into view through the mist. 

A resident fisherman had a private sandy track through the dunes from his house, all he had to do was back the tractor down to the water and launch his boat. We'd heard him struggling to get the boat through the surf earlier in the day, at first we thought it was quad bikes revving and doing donuts on the beach but it was the boat as the guy fought to get clear of the waves. This tractor looks to have had a hard life.

I followed tyre marks and footsteps along the sand. And kept thinking, everytime the fog lifted a little,  that I could see quad bikes and people fishing off a bank way ahead of me. The shapes eventually turned out to be lumps of driftwood and I never did see anyone. I have no idea where everyone disappeared to.

I eventually found the river when I saw a gap in the trees, I walked across a vast amount of sand towards the water. I thought I might follow the edge of the river up to it's mouth and find those mysterious people. 

But all I found was the river disappearing into the sand. This is the mouth of the river and at low tide it ends at the high tide mark. What a disappointment that was. I gave up, perhaps there's a lagoon of some sort further on but I wasn't going looking. I turned around and headed for home.

I thought I might have seen a few seabirds along the beach or perhaps a few waders near the river but all I came across was this pair of Variable Oystercatchers who didn't look at all surprised when I appeared out of the mist beside them. 

After a long walk back and just as I was looking for the track that led up to our van, I heard a bike approaching. I'm not so sure I like it when you can't see what's happening around you. I didn't see their movement until they were well passed me. Needless to say I think I'll give sea fog a miss the next time I come across it.

A few motorhomers had lunch on the foreshore reserve or went for a beach walk but none came to stay in the camp. We did a day trip over to Blackhead Beach (more on that in another post) and in the end stayed 3 nights and had a lovely relaxing time. Porangahau is another beach we'd happily return to. 

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