Monday 2 October 2017

Pakawau- The Home of the Shag


Yes, finally I am catching up. But it's been a double-edged sword.  It's not because I have been diligently working away at it (even though I have), it's because we have had so much rain that I've been able to fill in many days doing blogs and photos. Which also means we haven't been exploring as much as we usually would so I don't have too many blogs to catch up on.

We've spent the last three weeks at the beautiful beachside settlement of Pakawau in Golden Bay, at the top of the South Island; Pa= home, kawau= shag. Hence the 'home of the shag' in the title. Not that we've seen many shags (cormorants for my overseas readers), the village should be renamed Patōrea; home of the Oystercatchers, there are hundreds of them!

From Kaiteriteri we headed over the infamous Takaka Hill, winding our way all the way up and then zig-zagging all the way down into Golden Bay. It reminded me of the blog I did the last time we visited Golden Bay and the local tourist slogan- 'It's just a hill, get over it'. 

Just past Takaka we drove down a side road to have lunch at the historic Waitapu Wharf (1863) which was once a bustling commercial and passenger terminus for Golden Bay but now a deserted, slightly battered jetty and home to a few yachts and fishing boats. It was one of our least salubrious lunch stops (spot 'Out There' down there?).

The rain started just as we left the wharf and it hasn't really stopped since- well that's not quite right, but it's rained more than it's shined that's for sure. We were headed to the end of the road, on the far side of Golden Bay just below Farewell Spit,  to the Wharariki Holiday Park. We had a slight delay while we waited for a mob of recently shorn sheep to be returned to their paddock.

We spent about 5 weeks in Golden Bay a couple of years ago, staying mostly at Collingwood and Pohara. This time I wanted to stay near Wharariki Beach's Archway Islands so I could attempt to shoot the islands at sunrise and/or sunset.

Unfortunately after travelling down the narrow 8km gravel road in the pouring rain and driving into the camp, we found the few sites we would have fitted in were boggy and waterlogged.  After chatting with the caretaker, we decided it was probably best to head to another camp. With no turning bay I had to guide David out backwards, no mean feat with the rain now torrential and two excitable horses charging about, thundering up and down banks through the camp. They stopped galloping about to watch us as we left- perhaps they thought we were their horse float come to rescue them from the weather!

We headed back up the road; we had a CAP (cost apply parking) in mind, the Old School Cafe at Pakawau. We'd had a look at it on the way past on our last visit and I'd also heard lots of positive reports, including how great the cafe/restaurant food was.

With signs asking that we respect the lawn and keep driving to a minimum, and with the rain still torrential, we pulled carefully onto the grass in the corner...

...and that is where we stayed, fully hitched for the next 3 nights (max. stay allowed) while the heavens dumped bucket load after bucket load on us. These photos were taken on the last day... 

...just before we crossed over the road to the Pakawau Beach Camp, which is where we have been parked up for just over two weeks. We've had the camp to ourselves many nights and on others, there's just been one or two other vans in.

We've had the most amazing time overlooking this beautiful golden sand beach...

...watching the tides come and go and the weather chop and change just as regularly.

I love to park where there's an open view and where I can watch the world go by from the window...

...from locals walking their dogs, a seal pup arriving for a rest...

...gannets, terns and gulls sweeping back and forward along the breakers, diving for small fish in the shallow waters just outside the window... the local trotter being exercised at low tide.

Pakawau Beach Camp is one of the old school, classic kiwi campgrounds; a bit rough around the edges with basic facilities (there is no dump station) but still perfectly adequate and with the most welcoming and friendly owners. We decided we could have left Kaiteriteri earlier and stayed here for some of the winter (they have weekly winter rates until Labour weekend)- we'll know for next time.

I've had a great time photographing the local birds on the beach and in camp. The air has been filled with bird song from dawn until dusk; the resident tuis are feeding (and courting) in the flowering trees and plants that surround the camp.

I've also managed to capture quite a number of sunrises...

...they're a small consolation for the wet weather than invariably sweeps in not long after the brilliant colours bleach out of the sky.

And of course we made good use of the Old School Cafe- well why wouldn't we, it was just across the road. I can report that the cafe has a great atmosphere and the food is indeed excellent- in order of enjoyment (no, not all on the same day); Seafood Chowder (lunch), Whitebait Fritters (dinner), Blue Cod & Chips (take-away) & Asian Pork Belly (dinner- last day, no food left in the cupboard. Well that's what I told David anyway).


  1. A wondrous spot, so handy to other wondrous spots! It was close to here I saw my first Bellbird.

    1. Funny that, I only saw two bellbirds the whole time, I heard them often but they stayed hidden. Probably because the tuis were taking over chasing anything in feathers away.

  2. So that's where you've been spending your time!
    Right now we are here in Hokkaido chasing autumn colours. We couldn't have been luckier withvthe weather and things we got to see. I didn't come with a wish list but I think now I can easily tick off most people's standard wish list for Hokkaido. The koyo in various places seem to have adjusted their peak time to suit our itinerary; the wild animals like fox, antler deer even bear simply pop up from no where to the roadside to let us have a good look effortlessly; and guess what's the biggest bonus? I had my first snowfall after seeing rainbow on the top of Mt Kurodake! That's also the first snow of Hokkaido (probably whole Japan too). I felt as if I've hit the lottery first prize :). I'll never forget that morning's romantic and exciting walk in woods with falling snow flakes...

    1. Hokkaido sounds awesome and a photographers dream, I hope you haven't lost your first love though, New Zealand is calling :) Glad you got to experience your first snow fall, it's magical isn't it.

  3. We spent too short a time over there in Feb 2016 revisiting old haunts for me.
    In the 70s, regularly drove a truck (no power or power steering) from Motueka Wharf to Waitapu Wharf and return, quite often 2 trips a day and once 3 trips - that was a loooong day.

    1. Woah, 3 times certainly would be a long day, you'd have known the Takaka Hill like the back of your hand after all that. One of the joys of living on the road is that it allows us to make return visits to areas so we can fill in the gaps of places we haven't seen or revisit places that we enjoyed. We can also do it at a slower pace. You'll have to return another time and put aside a bit more time to re-explore.

  4. Glad you enjoyed your stay with us. Lovely photos.

    1. Thanks Gaye, pleased you liked the photos. We'll look forward to the next time we stay with you. And wouldn't you know it, it's been raining some more over here at Totaranui! Roll on summer!


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