Sunday 29 April 2018

Beach Hop North- Kaiaua & Anaura Bays


The weather still hadn't settled after a wet and windy day at Tolaga Bay but we decided to head off anyway, it was just a 10km hop, skip & jump to our next camp at Kaiaua Bay, another freedom camping site that is on the Gisborne District Council permit.

Kaiaua Bay, East Coast
The road into the bay was once again a narrow winding country road; although this one really was narrow in a couple of places where wash-outs had taken out the roadside. I've only just noticed the width of our lane in this photo!

A gravel road runs along the front of the bay with a narrow grassy strip separating it from the beach. A long section of the strip is available for camping although much of it is uneven. 

Pam & Gerald (relatives we'd been with in Gisborne) were heading here when they left Gisborne but had reported back that they'd only stayed one night due to the weather; they had been wind and sand blasted and the motorhome had rocked and rolled all night. It is a very exposed site sitting up on the sand bank above the crashing waves. It was still raining on and off , blowing a gale and quite bleak outdoors so we decided we'd head on too. 

The next camp in our sights was just another 21kms further on and it's NOT on the Gisborne District Council camping permit. There are two campsites at beautiful Anaura Bay, one a commercial campground and the other a DOC camp. 

As with the other secluded bays we've visited, the road in is relatively short, 6-8kms, narrow and winding. Anaura has a short sharp climb to the top of the hill before a winding descent down into the bay. We stopped so I could take a photo at the top of the climb but the day was still overcast and we also stopped on the way out, so I had a sunny day shot for the blog.

The ground underfoot at the DOC camp site was very boggy with a few muddy tracks where people had attempted to drive and a lot of surface water laying across the large site; it was still raining off and on. Gumboots on, we squelched our way through the grass looking for a relatively dry area to park.

One of the tracks led through a gate out onto the sand bank beside a small lagoon. I checked out the signs at the gate and with nothing mentioned about not being allowed to camp out there, I beckoned David to drive on through. 

It was the perfect spot to park; high and dry with good drainage through the sand, and with great views over the lagoon and out to sea.

After we'd set up camp (you can just see the rig through the trees below) David went for a walk and came back in a fluster. 'Didn't you see the 'No Camping sign?' he asked me. I swear I didn't, I told him about the dog and tsunami signs but.......can you see it?

We made an executive decision and decided to stay put. Which is not like us; although we moan and grumble about some restrictions we come across in our travels, we usually conform to the norm (I say usually but there have been a few times we've bucked the system, though those stories are for another day). 

We decided we couldn't be seen from the camp and we'd already watched a couple of campervans arrive and leave after deciding not to drive in through the muddy entrance. So we justified it in our minds that we'd likely be the only ones in the camp for the night, and hey, we just couldn't pull ourselves away from the view! 

It was not till much later (after the rain had stopped) that I had a wander around camp and back to the entrance where it also mentioned not to camp on the otherside of the fence. Oops....we lived dangerously for a night.

Anaura Bay was deserted, we saw just a couple of people walking along the beach later in the day and that was it, we had the place to ourselves. There are groups of  homes and holiday baches dotted along the road including a cluster in the corner of a small headland just up from the campground.

Where there also looks to have been/still is a farm homestead in behind an overgrown mass of huge trees and thick bamboo bordering the dunes, where hidden in amongst the greenery, I spotted an abandoned tree hut.

A strange thing happened on our doormat just before sunset; hundreds of tiny NZ mud snails came out of the long grass spreading themselves out across the mat and all over our Crocs. Once it was dark, they were gone.

Clearing skies and a rainbow short on colour were the last signs of rain just as the sun went down.

I was up early the next morning to catch another one of those magnificent East Coast sunrises...

...and it didn't disappoint. This time reflected in the lagoon as well, the sky and water were a blaze of fiery reds and oranges.

Even for me, the queen of sunrise shots, this one was nothing short of spectacular.

The oranges and reds were soon replaced with beautiful yellows as the golden globe poked it's head above the horizon...

...and behind me, as the dawn became day the pink hues of sunrise slowly disappeared...

...along with the lingering cloud to reveal a perfect blue sky day; one that was sure to bring people out and about. It was time to remove ourselves from our gorgeous but illicit little camp site.

We stopped near the commercial camp (which is in the old school grounds) on our way out of the bay to check the marker stone that commemorates the bicentenary of  British explorer James Cook making landfall in Anaura Bay on 21 October 1769.  

We had a slow trip out to the main road after coming up behind this chap as he tootled back to his farm totally oblivious to the us crawling along behind him. No matter, we're travelling in East Coast time now.  This is what we love about travelling the back roads, you never know what you're going to see next. 

Tuesday 24 April 2018

Beach Hop North- Only in Tolaga Bay


Just a short 20kms from Losiels Beach and we arrived at our next camp site; Tolaga Bay also known by it's Maori name Uawa. Uawa is also the name of the very wide river that flows down from the ranges behind and splits the bay in two as it flows into the sea.

The driftwood sign sits on the dunes overlooking the beach (I had to prop up one arm of the U for my photo shoot)...

...which is just across the road from the freedom camping area. And what a great site this one is. There are several large mown bays along the road with plenty of space, along with another area up by the toilet block behind where we're parked. The front bays have post and rail surrounds, the ones along the road behind me have small hedge rows and trees.  

Like many once thriving and prosperous towns around the East Coast, Tolaga Bay township has seen better days. Though there's one building that really stands out as you drive along the main street (which is also the main highway north). The historic Tolaga Inn is huge and certainly makes a statement sitting on it's prime site corner. The inn was built in 1930 after the original 1880s hotel was destroyed in a fire.

Designed by the French-Canadian architect Sholto Smith, the inn is a classic example of the Tudor House design he became famous for. Tolaga Inn is one of just 100 buildings Smith designed for New Zealand (he lived here for 16 years) and one of only two commercial buildings he designed in this style. Many of his designs were done for wealthy Aucklanders back in the 1930s and several Remuera & Epsom homes are still standing (and still occupied by wealthy Aucklanders!) 

There aren't too many streets to explore in Tolaga Bay but while seeking out the two local churches to photograph, we came across this delightful sight just off the main street.

Only in Tolaga Bay #1 - two little piglets taking themselves for a walk

Only in Tolaga Bay #2 - a mobile tattoo parlour parked in the main street.

But of course there really is only one thing that comes to mind for many when you mention Tolaga Bay- the Tolaga Bay Wharf. 

Due to the isolation and rugged countryside along the East Coast, the only way for many years to get product and produce (farm & forestry) in and out of  the towns, was through coastal shipping. 

Tolaga Bay is shallow so a very long wharf had to be built, at 600m it was in fact the longest wharf in New Zealand for many years. It's since been overtaken by Bluff's Tiwai Point wharf  which is 1500m long. The Tolaga Bay wharf was built in the 1920s and the last cargo ship called by in 1967. 

Since then the wharf had deteriorated quite considerably until a trust was set up and funds raised to restore it. The wharf is now one of the major tourist attractions along the coast. I took these photos on our last visit back in 2011, the concrete rails have now been restored You can see the repairs in some of the photos further down.

We were running late to get to Gisborne on that last trip (after spending too much time at East Cape) and I was disappointed I wasn't going to be able to photograph the wharf in daylight. We arrived just as the sun was setting but what a thrill to find that the white cliffs behind the wharf were this beautiful golden colour. It was a brief moment in time, the sun was gone within minutes of our arrival.

I visited the wharf several times during our latest stay, hoping to catch the different moods and to capture a repeat sunset performance but unfortunately it was a different time of the year and the sun wasn't so intense. I still managed some great shots though, and that's what it's all about; not trying to replicate old memories just capturing new ones instead!

Only in Tolaga Bay #3 - When the local yobbos photo-bomb your wharf shot...

Just as I was lining up the wharf- it's quite hard to get the full length in on my usual lens so I had just changed to my wide angle lens- this Subaru wagon containing two young ladies raced down onto the sand and did a perfect doughnut right there in front of me.

I went to have a chat with them and found out they were waiting for these two who were collecting mussels off the pilings. It wasn't the warmest weather, in fact the wind was very cold and the guys came back shivering and shaking with just a few dozen. They offered me a few (which I declined because they actually didn't have that many), and they told me they were off to cook them on the BBQ.

While I was waiting for the sun to go down I walked to the end of the wharf...

...where a handful of people were fishing. I talked to an old Maori lady who told me she'd been there since 7am this morning. Seven am! It was now about 6:30pm, very cold and windy and with a rain storm approaching from across the ocean. She told me she'd probably stay another hour or so. Now that's dedication, and she hadn't had much luck either. She told me she usually caught snapper, the odd John Dory, an occasional kingfish and one day a crayfish! 

Only in Tolaga Bay #4 - this fisherman had the right idea, have a little snooze while you're waiting for the big one. 

I raced back along the wharf to the beach when I spotted the sun moving towards the horizon (the sun sets very quick when you're doing a 600m dash!) but there were only subtle colours this evening. 

And I have to add a note here- just for those that are keeping track of my 'trips' - I fell off a driftwood pile in my scramble to get down to the sand and scraped my shin badly.  I managed to hobble off like nothing had happened after spotting several people watching. And it's still giving me grief!

Even though I missed a spectacular sunset I did manage a very moody sunrise the next morning... 

....grabbing a few shots before heavy rain arrived and we hunkered down inside for the day.

In keeping with the our special national day of remembrance tomorrow- ANZAC Day, April 25th- here's my last photo from Tolaga Bay.  Lest we forget. 

Friday 20 April 2018

Passion to Pocket Money


A small interruption before I carry on with the East Coast blogs; I have a very important announcement to make.

I'd like to introduce you to my new website- named, what else but 'Shellie Evans Photography'. This is a new venture for me and a natural progression from my 'enthusiastic amateur' photographer status. It's time for my passion to make me some pocket money.

You may recall me saying earlier in the year, that I was a little distracted with another project. Well this was what it was, it's taken a little longer than expected to get it up and running. Not because of the website workings; I had a talented man do most of that, it was more to do with me often being out of internet range, busy exploring, busy enjoying summer, busy with family, busy writing blogs and processing photos, busy, busy, busy! 

And now I'm even busier as I have over five years of photos to sort through (don't worry they won't all be appearing on the site, just the best will be showcased). I'll be adding photos to the website regularly but it is taking a little longer than it should to sort through as I'm getting distracted reminiscing on all the wonderful places we've visited over the years. And then wanting to revisit them to take a better photo!

I know you thought that talented man I mentioned above must be David but no, I've had another talented man in my life these last few months. I'd like to say a big thankyou to Lionel Taylor for all his hard work behind the scenes in setting up my website platform. Lionel, with his wife Ronnie, work together in their business Cypher- The Design Business, and they go a long way back with us, having set up several of our previous business websites over the years. I also have to mention that Ronnie might just about be my blog's #2 fan (behind Dad), she has followed along on our journey since day one! Thanks guys for all your support.

So there you have it, I'm a little nervous and unlike the others, not totally convinced my photos will sell, but I guess nothing ventured, nothing gained. Wish me luck.

And in case you missed the link above here it is again.

Shellie Evans Photography Website-

You can also like my 'Shellie Evans Photography Facebook Page' if you'd like to follow along and see daily photos, and please feel free to share-

Wednesday 18 April 2018

Beach Hop North- A Whale & Loisels Beach, East Coast


I figured because I've done a 'Beach Hop South' series; when we stopped at all the beaches down the east coast south of Napier, I might as well call these next few blogs around the East Coast, the 'Beach Hop North' series.

Whangara Bay, East Coast
Gisborne District Council  is one of the more enlightened councils around New Zealand when it comes to freedom camping in their district. Rather than ban camping at their many lovely beaches, they have a permit system that allows camping at eight beaches (and one inland river site) for a small fee over the summer period (day-light saving months). 

There are basically 2 conditions; the maximum stay at any of the sites is 3 nights and whether in a tent or a vehicle, you must have a chemical toilet available to use. You do not need to be CSC (certified self contained) but must be self-contained. Most of the camps sites have a temporary cassette dump station available along with a public toilet. They also allow freedom camping (at no cost) at some of these beaches, but not all, over winter.

There are 3 different permits available, and a number of rubbish bags are supplied with each permit. These can be left for collection below the sign board on each site. We chose the $31 permit, $3.10 per night is a pretty good price to pay to be able to stay at some stunning camp sites, as we were soon to find out.

CostNights - rubbish bags issued
$16 up to 2 nights - 1 rubbish bag
$31 over 2 nights up to 10 nights - 5 rubbish bags
$66 over 10 nights up to 28 nights - 14 rubbish bags
We decided not to stay at the first two beaches- Turihaua & Pouawa- as they were just 16kms and 18kms north of Gisborne city and while the beaches were lovely, the camping areas are long narrow strips alongside the road. These beaches are very popular with Gisborne locals over the summer holiday period and are usually wall to wall canvas and campervans. 

Before we arrived at our first night's camp we took a short detour to check out a special place; Whangara Bay (see the first photo). I've wanted to visit this little settlement of Whangara for a very long time. We missed it the last time we travelled down the coast in our regular car 7 years ago, it was getting late and we had to be in Gisborne before dark. I wasn't going to miss it this time, even though we had the 5th-wheeler on the back. The road in was very narrow and we got some strange stares as we passed a few houses on the way in.

Can you spot it? Sitting on the roof?

How about now? This is the home of the whale rider and the carving, atop the Whangara Marae, holds a very special place in the hearts of local Maori. The Whangara people believe their presence in the bay dates back a thousand years or more to a single ancestor, Paikea, who escaped death when his canoe capsized by riding to shore on the back of a whale.

The iconic 2003 New Zealand film The Whale Rider, staring 'Academy Award Best Actress' nominated Keisha Castle-Hughes was based on the Maori myth and filmed here in the bay. Unfortunately due to the influx of tourists after 'The Whale Rider' became famous, access to the village now requires the permission of the local iwi.

Luckily we were able to turn the rig around near the entrance to the village and stop on our way back out, near the top of the road into the bay and still see the carving on the Marae roof and also the church (see first photo) which I can add to my Country Church collection.

Just as we were about to pull away we spotted another fifth-wheeler heading towards us. What are the odds of that? Not one vehicle had passed us on the road, I bet the locals did a double take when they spotted these guys after seeing us half an hour earlier. 

They stopped to say hello (as you do when you come across another 5th-wheeler), they were looking for a beach to have lunch at. We told them about the turnaround further down the road and that there wasn't any access to the beach and left them to it as we pulled out and headed back to the main road.

The next destination was going to be our camp for the night, we'd been warned that the 6km road into Waihau Bay/Loisels Beach was narrow, winding and had very few places to pass any oncoming traffic (and in fact it was just a vehicle width only for the last 3kms or so).

With a little bit of trepidation we carefully drove round the blind corners, along a cliff edge with a massive drop-off, down through the tiny seaside settlement to the end of the road. Luckily we didn't meet another vehicle because one of us would certainly have had fun backing up.

And in case you're wondering, there are two Waihau Bays around the East Coast; this one is just above Gisborne and the other more well know bay is on the other side, just below Cape Runaway, in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.

Loisels Beach is just 42km from Gisborne but with very few campers on the road at this time of the year (late March) it felt like we were hundreds of miles from civilization arriving at a beautiful deserted beach. 

Although there were still half a dozen shuttered up caravans parked up after the summer break (which must have been a good one going by the flag pole!). 

With the Easter holiday break due in a couple of weeks I'm guessing camp regulars (who must have a special deal, as it's a 3 night maximum stay) have left their caravans here to use over the long weekend.

David backed 'Out There' onto a reasonably flat area near the entrance to the reserve so we could make the most of this fabulous view along the beach. 

and with this view out the back kitchen window, I was more than happy...

How to make your fifth-wheeler look huge- park it up on a rise higher than the ute.

Later in the afternoon while we were walking along the beach, we were overtaken by the only other person we saw on the beach while we were there. He was an American, staying in one of the holiday homes above the reserve. He told us he was having a fabulous time and couldn't get over how beautiful the bay was and how he had the beach to himself most of the time.

He was heading to the north end of the bay, we only walked a little of the way, climbing to the top of a hill overlooking the beach further along...

Waihau Bay- looking south...
...and north.
...before slowly wandering back to base along the incoming tide line; you can see the van parked up middle right, the holiday settlement behind the reserve and if you look carefully (click to open the photo up), the road into the bay cutting around the edge of the bluff on the left.

When we'd arrived we'd decided against driving to the other end of the reserve to check out the camping spots past the caravans because of the thick sand along the rough track. Which was probably just as well. Early the next morning, around 6am, I woke up to a whole lot of revving and garbled shouting. Other than one other couple in a late model caravan, we'd been the only ones in the reserve when I went for a wander before going to bed around 10pm the night before. 

When I looked out in the pre-dawn gloom, I could see two small sleeper vans stuck in a deep sandy pot-hole in the middle of the track, with about 4 or 5 dark shapes pushing and rocking the vehicles. After much effort (and noise), they managed to free one of the cars and then used it to tow the other car out. They all piled back in and roared off out of the reserve. I'd say it was pretty good karma. 

Now wide awake, I waited for the sunrise. Though this isn't just any sunrise, this is sunrise on the East Coast of New Zealand; pretty much the first place in the world to see the new day's sun. And it didn't disappoint.

It never fails to amaze me how often the sun rises on a reasonably clear sky and then the clouds roll in not long afterwards. These photos were taken 30 minutes apart.

Of course it also never fails to amaze me how often a certain someone wakes up, looks out, and says; 'What an awful day, where's the sun?'