Saturday, 10 February 2018

Nine Weeks in Napier- Part 2; Two Camps


Continued on from Part 1

To help stave off cabin fever from being parked in suburbia for so long, we headed off on two short breaks away with extended family in their motorhomes. 

Adding a beach we missed on our 'Beach Hop South'  trip in late 2016, we headed to Ocean Beach just south of Hastings on Boxing Day for a few days. The road down to the beachside settlement is steep and narrow, but, unlike it was when I regularly visited the beach during my teens, it is now sealed.

We set up camp in a large paddock courtesy of a local landowner. The wind was up and the weather forecast not too hot but hey, who needs sunny weather when you can rest, relax, laugh and enjoy the company of like-minded camping buddies who just happen to be family.  My two aunties, Pam & Joy (mum's sisters) and their husbands, Gerald & Kevin, are of similar age to me. Pam & Joy are more like sisters and when time and travel allow, we camp together. One occasion that stands out was a very memorable camp on the banks of the Tukituki River a few years ago.

The old surf lifesaving tower brings back a few memories too; I think I might have even been on that deck a few times in my youth! And not by invite either. 'Nough said.

The weather closed in not long after we arrived, it's hard to believe but there were over 600 people on the beach just the day before- Christmas Day was a cracker in the Bay. 

The cold and gusty southerly kept all but the most hardly away from the holiday hotspot.

Cute wee Meg (belonging to Pam & Gerald) was all kitted out for the wet weather. It was fun to have a energetic bundle of energy camping with us; sometimes I do miss not having a pet.

Though Meg wasn't too pleased to be shut inside our van when she spotted her Dad moving the motorhome. I think she really thought they were leaving without her, she shot out the door like greased lightening when I opened it.

This unusual camper with the pop up luton was staying near us too. A great idea for those that might get a little claustrophobic (and hot) sleeping in the roof space.

On the way home from the beach we stopped for a brief look at the 'infamous' Craggy Range walking track on Te Mata Peak. The track was very popular over the holiday period with dozens of people taking the opportunity of walking it before it is returned to its natural state....even though it was not open to the public and on private land.

Originally I was against the track and not just from the iwi perspective (they really should have been consulted- that was very bad of Hastings District Council). Te Mata Peak is an iconic landmark (also an Outstanding Natural Feature) and a very familiar sight to many people. The 2.4km track is a massive scar on an otherwise natural cliff face. 

Personally I wouldn't like to see trees and plants planted along it's edges as had been suggested- then there'd just be green zigzags up the hill- it would need similar grasses planted to soften the lines. The dry grass and exposed rock face is Te Mata Peak, that's a HB summer right there. Now having seen the track though, I am in two minds. I'm sure it would age in time and not be so noticeable. But would people respect the track? Already the corners were worn where people have cut them off, and then there are those 4WD marks up the side...but, will it be returned to it's natural state? Watch this space.

Click on the photo to see how many people were walking the track.
Our second break (and second visit) was to the DOC Camp at Kuripapango, 70kms up the Napier-Taihape Road at the foot of the 'Gentle Annie' a long and winding, slow haul up and over the Kaweka Ranges. 

We arrived a day earlier than the others and initially set up in the same place as we had done on our previous visit (see link above). But it was not to be. Sometimes things just don't flow as they should and after at least 30 minutes of maneuvering, changing and adding to the blocks to get the van level on the uneven ground, and then finally unhitching and setting up camp, we were invaded by thousands upon thousands of tiny native bees. 

Our new camp site under the kanuka but with not so many bees
The air was black with them, the ground even blacker. It sounded like heavy rain on the van as they pummeled the walls and roof. Not only had we parked across a flight path we had backed over a major hatch. They were emerging out of the ground by their hundreds and milling around in a great swirl near the front of our van. Much to David's disgust, it was time to move.

And the reason there were so many? If you look at the photos above you can see great dusky white swathes of kanuka, flowering across the mountain side and right through camp. Kanuka looks similar but is a totally different plant to the famous Manuka (tea-tree). Kanuka is endemic to New Zealand and doesn't produce the highly sought after Manuka honey.

These native bees are a solitary bee (even though the mass together), they don't have hives but dig nest holes in the ground where they take the pollen for their larvae to feed on. As we found out, a nesting area can be riddled with holes giving the impression of a colony and we had one right under the nose of the van. And yes, they do sting- a tiny needle prick that swells and itches. They don't bother you like honey bees but if caught between a rock and hard place (my foot and a croc and then a crooked elbow) they will sting.

Native bee with pollen on it's legs collecting from Kanuka flowers
The others arrived the next day to find that we'd parked where they usually do too! There were still plenty of bees but nowhere near as many as we'd encountered at the other site. We also had fun watching them dig and disappear into the nearby dirt. In the morning tiny piles of dry dirt indicated where they'd left their nests for the day.

The Kuripapango camp is also known as The Oxbow. An oxbow is where a river forms a loop around a land mass and here at Kuripapango the Ngaruroro River forms the loop around the campsite. Unfortunately the land the camp sits on is about 100 metres above the river and it’s a steep walk down to the river bed. 

It was a typical hot humid Hawkes Bay day when we arrived and after all our fluffing around setting up camp I was keen to head down to the river for a swim to cool off. But boy was the water cold, ice cold, it felt like it was straight off the snow. And no matter how many times I ducked under, it didn't warm up but at least it was refreshing.

David checking for trout
When the family arrived, including two of Pam & Geralds' grandchildren- Zara & Hunter, who often go camping and fishing with them- they also found the water too cold to swim in for long. Instead we headed upstream for a walk and for the kids to practice their fishing skills (legs and ankles covered to ward off the an influx of mossies). We saw plenty of trout but the fishers in the family only managed a couple of small fry that either got off or were released.

Zara finds the perfect seat to wait the trout out
Later Zara made pikelets for us on the BBQ while Hunter acted as waiter, handing them around with cream and raspberry jam. I think they have been watching too many cooking shows- we had to score them! Of course it was 10/10.

The weather Gods were against us once again and the next day dawned cold and misty. 

The weather didn't stop us from heading off to do some exploring. This is us driving through the cloud that had settled over the range. We squashed into the vehicles and set off to the end of nearby Lawrence Road to check out a swing bridge.

We stopped at Blowhard Bush (we've walked the track on a better day) on the way and walked into the Troglodyte Cave (means cave dweller, Kevin) to show the kids, and to look for wetas! 

Then we headed to the end of the road  where a long swingbridge crosses another well known Hawkes Bay river, the Tutaekuri. Those that wanted to, crossed back and forth over the bridge. We had no intention of doing the 3 hour tramp from here to another road end at Puketitiri, although I've added it to my 'must do' list (it's probably about 100km by road). There are also a number of tramping tracks that take you to several huts in the ranges. 

Remember to click on the photos to enlarge and view the slide show.

To be continued...


  1. Absolutely Amazing writing and photographs Shellie. I stumbled on your blog through Trip Advisor about three weeks ago whilst researching for a trip to the Catlins. I have now read every blog form the start to now!! Thanks for showing so much of our wonderful country. Most of us just don't get to see some of these amazing places in the limited time we have for exploring. Have thoroughly enjoyed reading about your adventures and look forward to more. Anna, Waimauku

    1. Many thanks for your kind comments Anna, and well done you in reading every blog post! That would have taken you a fair while and a few cups of coffee/glasses of wine. Pleased you enjoyed seeing NZ through my camera lens.

  2. Great pics Shellie as usual, even our little Susuki in the rain is a good one.

    1. Thanks Pam, another adventure to file away in the 'great memories' bank.


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