Saturday, 31 March 2018

Mahia Peninsula- A Trip Down Memory Lane; Part 1


I think I'll give up trying to catch-up. I just about got there a couple of weeks ago and then, well everything turned to custard (if custard is the right term for travelling and exploring) and now I'm back where I was, half a dozen blogs behind again. So just pretend we've just left Mahia and you have no idea where the heck we are at the moment (Te Araroa, East Cape if you're wondering).

I've been looking forward to visiting Mahia for a very long time. Mahia Peninsula forms the top curve of Hawke Bay and is a popular holiday playground for many that live in Hawkes Bay. Mahia was our family's regular summer holiday destination when I was a child. 

Nothing signifies Mahia Beach and carefree summer holidays to me more than the white-cliffed headland of Mokotahi which dominates the eastern side of Blue Bay and is right beside Mahia Beach.

We were very lucky and extremely grateful to be able to park on the front lawn of a bach that belongs to some very good friends. 'Stay as long as you like' they said, 'plug into the power, use the washing machine' they said. So we did and it was heaven for a whole 10 days. 

We arrived in the rain storm that sent us packing from Lake Waikaremoana and as you can see David, with limited visibility, did a magnificent job of backing the rig over the wonky wooden bridge and angling it so the slide-out had room. And that is where we stayed for the duration. 

A wary Scared Kingfisher/Kotare fished in the creek in front of the van each day
We had a good view of Mokotahi except for the poles and wires of civilization. I did head to the beach a few times to catch the sunset but as per Murphy's Law, they weren't the nights for great displays!

Although this fisherman provided me with the perfect subject one evening.

One of the first places I was keen to check out, was the bach our family used to stay in. It was a great surprise to find that it, along with the bunkhouse, was still standing and looking very well looked after.

Here she is circa 1976, that's my brother & sister on the left, a friend, and my aunty and uncle (who are our ages and holidayed with us often) on the right.

Back then there was just scrub and dunes behind and to the side of the bach. Now there are large holiday homes on either side and a whole lot of homes behind. 

Once the weather cleared I made a pilgrimage to a few more familiar places- an exposed and driftwood strewn Taylors Bay which is on the ocean side of Mokotahi. 

A deserted Mahia Beach, the old (and I'd say now historic) red shed bach named Mokotahi which sits on the front row across the road from the boat ramp and beach, and Mahia Beach Store which has had a bad face lift at some stage. 

Mokotahi on a blue sky day- as kids we would climb to the top at least once during the holidays. There's now a public track to the top but I decided Mokotahi must had grown since my youth. It wasn't the going up that worried me, it was the coming down and the agony I'd put my poor kness and toes through.

I have another special connection with Mokotahi. A very friendly bottle-nosed dolphin is named after the headland. Moko, a young dolphin arrived in Blue Bay and made friends and swam with the many humans who came to visit him. He was named Moko by the locals and he stayed nearby for 2-3 years until 2009 when he followed a fishing boat north to Gisborne and then after a few months north again, following another trawler, around East Cape and onto Ohope & Whakatane.

Moko bringing me a gift of seaweed
I became involved with Moko after he arrived in Whakatane, I travelled over from Tauranga several times to visit and swam with him during the months he was there. He again followed a fishing boat to Tauranga where I saw him for one last time before he met his untimely death.

I documented my meetings with Moko and his farewell memorial on a blog 'My Mate Moko'. I have Moko to thank for my 'Two Go Tiki Touring' blog; it's when I started blogging. Click the link above if you'd like to read Moko's blog- don't worry it's (sadly) not too long. Click on February in the right column to start at the beginning and make sure you listen to the songs and speeches in the last entry which is the memorial; they'll break your heart and make you laugh at the same time.

Swimming with Moko
Well that's enough of that, it still makes me sad thinking of poor Moko- gone from the sea but not from our hearts.

My next stop was where the Blue Bay Holiday Park used to be located at Opoutama, the family stayed here a couple of times in the cabins. The holiday park was set in amongst a big plantation of pine trees; the trees have now gone and the area has been partially developed and subdivided off. The sites have only recently been re-sold after the initial developer went belly-up. There's now also a freedom camping area down on the waterfront.

Tucked into the corner of Blue Bay is a rail bridge that crosses a small stream; I remember we used to swim and play in the stream under the bridge when we were little.

I headed south over the hill to Waikokopu Wharf, stopping on the main road where there used to be an old house (a railway house I think), just north of another rail over-bridge and just before the turnoff to the wharf. The house is long gone, just a farm gate and a gravel entrance now, but it's where we stayed on some of our very first visits to Mahia- I remember sleeping in the old cast iron bath when we had too many visitors; lots of blankets to pad the bottom and keep the cold out no doubt. 

That's my grandfather (Dad's dad) setting up a fishing line at the back of the house. I would say this was in the mid 1960s. You can see the same small peak to the left in both the top photo and the old one.

Sadly Waikokopu Wharf is no longer either, it's now just a pile of rocks. Local fishermen used to unload their crayfish catches here, I'm sure we'd often get a few crays from them too.

We used to fish off the wharf regulary; here we are (circa 1967) with our daily catch- that's my two brothers, me in the middle and my sister on the right. 

And here a few years later (1976); my aunty, our dog Susie and my brother.

I couldn't get over how many goats there were around the peninsula, and lots of billy goats too; all over the hills, paddocks, along the roads and old rail lines, everywhere you looked there were goats munching on grass. 

They didn't hang about though, taking off as soon as I stopped to take a photo. 

'Come back, I only want to take your photo!'
Mahanga, 8kms north of Opoutama, and north of the peninsula is another sleepy beachside settlement and one we stayed at a few times too. I wasn't able to locate 'our' bach although there were only a couple of short cul-de-sacs to check out. Either it has been added to or moved off altogether. 

The beach also didn't seem that familiar although the many shells scattered over it did, they tended to gather in the top corner of the beach. We used to collect them to take them home for the garden, especially the small NZ Wheel Shell which looks like it's still gathered to decorate gardens. We also used to walk to Happy Jack's Boat Harbour, which is just around the rocks from Mahanga Beach, in there the shells were a foot deep right across the tiny cove's beach. 

I'm sure we used to walk there over the land as well as around the rocks, I recall a friendly old Maori lady that used to live there. I thought we might be able to find a track to the harbour but it's all private land and fenced off now- Happy Jacks provides a good surf break and I suspect over the years the locals have got fed up with the intrusion. Happy Jacks Road is now flooded by a stream; it looks to have been like that for a few years. We came in from the other end but still had no luck.

To be continued... Part 2


  1. Powerfull memories Shellie, I had no knowledge of Moko, maybe because I was out of the country for 6 months in 2010. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful story and memories.
    I took the Kaikoura Whale Watch tour a few weeks ago and we had a large pod of Dusky dolphins surfing the bow wave, they are indeed magical animals and your appreciation, love and sense of connection came through loud and clear.
    Once again hats off to YOU!

    1. Glad you enjoyed both the Mahia post and the Moko Blog Jimu and thanks for your lovely word. Moko was one of a kind and I was very privileged to have been able to spend some time with an amazing dolphin.

  2. Thanks for the photos lovely going down memory lane. I was wondering if you have any photos of the old Blue Bay Motor camp 1970's era. Jan McKillen previous owner

    1. Hi Jan, I had a look back through my history photos & unfortunately, no I don't have any of the Blue Bay Camp which is a shame. I suspect Mum didn't take too many in the early days of our visits & any Mahia ones we do have were taken by us kids with our own Kodak cameras. Pleased you enjoyed the trip down memory lane.


Thank you for taking the time to leave a message, I love reading them! All comments are personally moderated by me and I will post and answer them as soon as possible, Shellie