Monday, 12 March 2018

Napier to Lake Tutira Return

Catch-up, we're back in the land of the living after a couple of weeks visiting two Hawkes Bay lakes, one of them twice! 

After 11 weeks and a whole summer in the Bay it was finally time to say a reluctant farewell to Mum & Dad. Although it was tempered quite a bit due to the fact that they were going to visit us at our next camp over the weekend and we'd see them again in July when we returned for a significant birthday and anniversary.

Joy in her Happy Place
Our first stop isn't too far north of Napier, just 40kms up State Highway 2. We'd arranged to have a final hurrah weekend with our Hawkes Bay family camping buddies, Joy & Kevin (they've been camping, along with Pam & Gerald, at Lake Tutira for over 40 years, Joy calls it her special place).

It was great news for us when Pam & Gerald were also able to join us. They were intending to head off on their own holiday but a change of plan meant they were still in the Bay.

Lake Tutira looked stunning on a typically calm, hot and sunny HB day.

The lake has had many issues with water quality and algal blooms over the years but we all had to admit that it was looking the best its ever done with lovely clear water, happy birds and no dead fish, gunge and muck along the shoreline. The Regional Council has been working hard to sort the ongoing problems out. Because of a unusual quirk the inlet and outlet to the lake are virtually side by side at the north end, so the lake doesn't flush as a lake would normally do.

Here are a couple of photos from a visit to the lake a few years ago; it looks absolutely stunning in autumn too.

We all arrived within the hour, circled the wagons and set about relaxing. The only problem was in an effort to give us all some shade; it was a scorcher of an afternoon, we managed to commit the cardinal sin of failing to check the TV reception! 

Because we were going to be staying longer we parked up first. Actually, I did check it and David did inch forward and back trying to get a direct line but the outer edge of the leafy trees just kept getting in the way. In the end we decided we didn't need TV over the weekend and we'd move once the others had left on Sunday.  David had other ideas though, and after some of us went for a walk, we returned to find David had moved 'Out There' further into the shade but now with a direct line of reception. No need to move now....hmm, famous last words!

Family friends arrived for happy hour and a BBQ late Friday afternoon but before we could imbibe Joy and Kevin route-marched us off on a bush walk. Thank God they weren't about to make us head up to Table Mountain trig.  Instead we did a nice easy loop through a bush gully, past the bottom of the trig track which went straight up, and back along a small ridge overlooking the lake (although I'm not so sure Heather thought it was easy- that's her taking a breather on the sign post!).

When I looked out early the next morning a thick cover of fog blanketed the lake and campsite; it was cold and miserable so I headed back to bed. The next time I looked out, I just about fell over myself trying to get something decent on and grab my camera to catch the mist in the sun rays. It was gone in a flash.

There's also another good short walk around the edge of the much smaller Lake Waikopiro which is right beside Lake Tutira. Lake Waikopiro has also had water issues over the years but within the last year an air curtain has been installed to help aerate the lake. 

And it seems to be working, like Lake Tutira the water was also clean and clear. So clear we could see plenty of huge carp lazing in the shallows. We all thought they were trout to begin with, we were quite a way from and looking down on them. Both of the fish photos below are zoomed in. It wasn't until we saw the photos up close that we could see the large scales and wide flat heads of the carp. As a pest eating the oxygen weed and small trout, they'll have to go eventually too.

You can see the 'curtain' of air bubbles in the top right photo. 

How do you like my 'curtain of bees'?! They were there all day, I guess the queen was in there somewhere.

Sunday morning also dawned with a thick layer of fog over the lake. This time I got up and dressed and made my way down to the lake edge just as it started to lift. No show without Punch; I was trying for a still reflective shot of the raupo (swamp reed) but the swans followed me along, disturbing the water as they came.

My peaceful early morning was shattered when I heard a whole lot of yelling coming from the thick mist. This lady in her kayak appeared out of the gloom shouting to her partner in a nearby bus to take a photo. The mist lifted before he managed to get it together. 

The lakes and reserve are a wildlife refuge and there are a good number of birds to be seen including a large flock of turkeys on the farmland behind the camp. A family with 4 chicks spent much of their day away from the flock and down near the lake. Both adult birds looked like females (the large gobbler who I assume would be the father was with the flock, often standing guard on a rock overlooking them grazing). I'm now wondering if one of these adults is a older daughter or sister of the other adult. I can find no information on whether a caregiver helps the mother with the chicks away from the flock.

Other birds in the set are, from top left- Black Swan, Pied Stilt and a Kereru/NZ Wood Pigeon feeding on the seeds of a native Cabbage tree.

I was excited to locate several very shy Dabchicks/NZ Grebe/Weweia on both lakes. This photo is zoomed in and heavily cropped, they disappeared underwater as soon as they spotted me or any movement.

A family of Black Swans kept me entertained in camp; after swimming and feeding in the lake for most of the morning they would slowly graze their way up the grass bank, across the track and through the gates into our camping 'paddock'. They'd gradually make their way haphazardly, but in a loose group- Dad was keen to sort anyone out who got to close- to the back of the paddock feeding and resting as they went. But come 7pm and just before the light failed, Dad, Mum and five nearly grown signets would march in single file all the way back to the lake.

Every night we were there. You could set your clock by them. 

Mum & Dad arrived for lunch on Sunday and once again, before we could eat, Joy marched us off on a walk; this time a little shorter and an easier walk for our older guests. A small promontory juts out into the lake not far from camp, Oporae Pa is an old Maori pa and you can see why it was chosen; surrounded on 3 sides by water, a natural defense and with 360 degree views, they could easily spot approaching strangers. There was also a moat on the 4th side and a bridge for access.

The view from the pa site back to camp, our vans are hidden in the trees to the right of the vehicles (remember to click on the photos to enlarge).

We said our final farewells to everyone as they all left for their homes back in Napier late on Sunday afternoon. We shout out the family saying 'Thank God they've gone!!' as each one leaves camp although it doesn't quite have the jovial ring about it this time.

We've had such a ball with our motorhoming families this visit; camping at Oceanbeach, Kuripapango, happy hours at Art Deco, regular family gatherings and lunches and one last camp here at Lake Tutira. We will miss the familiar company and easy going lifestyle that comes with camping with family. But I'm sure it won't be long before we meet up again, especially now that we're in the North Island for awhile.

In fact David has to head back into Napier for the day on Tuesday morning, a CV joint failed on the ute sometime over the weekend and he's made an appointment at Ford to have it fixed. I'll stay back at Lake Tutira with the 5th-wheeler. Luckily, it's happened now and not somewhere remote up the coast.

On Monday David and I headed into the hills behind Lake Tutira, to Boundary Stream, a Mainland Island bird sanctuary (an area protected from pests and predators). We've visited Boundary Stream a few times, once coming in from Glenfalls and the Mohaka River at the other end of the road.

Napier's Scinde Island (Bluff Hill) can just be seen way off on the horizon.
We hadn't intended to visit the sanctuary this time, just visit the other end of the reserve to check out the highest waterfall in Hawkes Bay, Shine Falls. But Pam & Gerald had been up to the reserve the day before and been ambushed by the recently released kaka (native parrot). Pam got some good photos so I thought we might see them up close too. 

Unfortunately we only saw one bird and it was up in the trees. We did the short loop walk, hoping they might have returned to the feed station by the time we got back. But the only movement I saw was under the feed platform; a cheeky wee mouse scuttling around (bottom left photo). We did see all the regular native birds though, including a North Island Bush Robin (top right) and also a few dozen Red Admiral butterflies feeding on honeydew produced by the beech tree scale. Several wasps were also feeding on the dew and harassing the butterflies.

On the way back to camp we stopped at the Lake Opouhai kiwi creche. The small lake and surrounding bush reserve has a predator proof fence around it. Kiwi chicks are released here until they reach a certain weight and can fend for themselves against a predator when released into the outside world.

Back at camp the weather took a turn for the worse, the wind picked up and heavy rain began to fall. Suddenly we were all on our lonesome and the camp looked utterly miserable. And now with serious rain fade on our TV signal it looked like it was going to be a long night without the internet and TV.

We made the hasty decision to hitch up and head back to Napier. That way David could also get to Ford early without having to drive the 40kms from the lake. So through torrential rain and heavy traffic we wound our way back up and over the hills, back to Napier.

And that was how 'Out There' found herself back here at the Ericksen Road NZMCA Park! Will Napier ever let us go...


  1. We were there Tuesday 6th March only a lunch stop. The bees were on the sign post then. A girl had gone missing, her tent etc was still there. Someone got the police out looking for her as hadn't been seen since Monday. She was found in she got there???? At least she was safe

    1. Yes, I read about the missing lady and wondered the same, I guess she must have hitched. Pleased she was located though but I wonder why she decided to abandon her camp site. There's neither rhyme nor reason for some people's decisions. Interesting that the bees were still there! My photo was taken on the 1st March.

  2. Stunning photos, thanks for sharing a place I've never been to but keen to visit now. :-)

    1. Thanks Wendy, glad you enjoyed the blog and photos.


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