Tuesday 3 April 2018

Mahia Peninsula- A Trip Down Memory Lane; Part 2


Continuing on from Part 1

There was one more very important part of Mahia I was looking forward to exploring; the coast road out along the north side of the peninsula. The road passes through the small settlement of Mahia (we called it 'Mahia proper') and on along the rocky shoreline, before hopefully, being able to drive along the beach to 'The Cactus'. 'The Cactus' is a large group of Agave americana just like the ones below and was, and still is, a well known landmark along the beach.

Agave americana- a very familiar sight along the peninsula
This was where our family spent many happy hours; we'd load the trusty Holden up and head off  fishing, setting craypots, picnicking, sunbathing, swimming, and best of all, exploring the hundreds of rock pools that formed along the papa rock reefs as the tide went out.

That's me with a zinc nose wearing the horrible green toweling hat! (Circa 1975-6)
My childhood memory of the road was long, winding and dusty, and then there were the miles and miles of beach to drive along. As I've now discovered, it isn't actually that far; it must have been the trip home that has played on my memory. That long drive back after a day out baking in the hot sun, covered in salt and sand and when you're tired and hungry and you just want to get home. And you're squashed into the car with your siblings who are just as ratty. Yes, it was a long road.

I'm sure there was an old wonky bridge that crossed the small Whangawehi Harbour

...now there's a better one, but still one way.

We round a final bluff and across the water I can see a few houses where the road ends and the drive along the beach starts. The road splits in two just a little further on; the main road carrying on into the interior of the peninsula where there are several large farm stations. 

The stations are still there but nowadays the road also leads to Rocket Lab's launching pad at the far end of the peninsula, 20kms of gravel road away. There is no way to visit RocketLab (unless you have business there) and in fact you can only see the launch pad from the lookout at Black Beach/Reef, way back near Nuhaka on the main road into Mahia.

We turned onto the side road that used to lead to the beach and bump and splash our way through the large pot-holes on a well worn track. Sadly after a kilometre or so our way is blocked by a locked gate. Access is only along the beach at low tide and I guess by walking or on a quad bike as it's still a rocky coastline here. I don't know the ins and outs or the history but I guess the landowners just got fed up with being taken advantage of. 

I did have a lovey chat with 'little sister', an elderly Maori lady who was letting her lawnmower man out the gate. She told me 'big sister', who lived up the drive, had the key to the gate and she kept it close (even though she also had a key in her hot little hand). 

And that 'big brother' who lived even further along, was in trouble because he'd given the key to some nephews who had passed it onto others. She also gave me the rundown of all the local happenings and family squabbles along with some of the politics regarding letting Rocket Lab set up on their family land. She told me of the 'big suits' that came from town to see them and she wasn't happy even though they were whanau. I would have learnt the whole history of Mahia had I stayed much longer, I had trouble getting away from her, I must have said a dozen farewells!

A nearby house- abandoned
We drove back along the road a little way and found a spot to have lunch; near Aurora Point, right above the papa rock platforms that were now fully exposed at low tide.

The day was very warm with a misty haze over the land and sea caused by the ice crystal laden halo around the sun. 

After lunch I wandered out onto the platform where these amazing 'crazy paving' rock structures have formed and been worn by the tide and wave movement. Each ridge had a different pattern.

Looking back towards David and the ute. 'Little sister', also told me the land behind, where the caravan sits, was sold to a well known wealthy businessman for a few million dollars.

After lunch we headed home, stopping a few more times to check out the unusual rock formations.

A few days later I drove out along the peninsula again, stopping to take more photos now that the sky was blue. This is looking west just before Mahia (proper).

A shallow covering of water washes in over the papa platform as the tide comes in near Mahia.

Here are a few more photos from my road trip. Many of the old baches have now been replaced with flasher holiday homes and there are also more permanent residents along the road now.

At least there are some people pleased with Rocket Lab's arrival in this sleepy part of the New Zealand. 

On my way home I stopped in at one last place we used to visit at low tide, Oraka Beach, where there is now a freedom camping area.

We used to dig for pipis in the estuary here, and it's also where my youngest brother nearly drowned when he was a toddler. I don't remember the incident myself but from what Mum & Dad used to tell us, he was there one moment, gone the next. He was playing in the shallows and fell over disappearing under the murky water. They had trouble locating him and it was a few scary seconds before one of them found him by feel and pulled him clear, spluttering and choking. 

We come across so many old abandoned caravans on our travels, not to mention vehicles and boats; here's another one I saw on the main peninsula road. It's such a shame they're left to be swallowed up by their surroundings when I'm sure there'd be people out there that would love to give them a new lease of life.

All good things must come to an end and eventually it came time to hitch up and head off again on our adventures. Not least because our wheels were slowly disappearing into the soft ground. Who said it never rains in the Bay? 

And for the first time in a very long time we had to do the suburban thing; buy a couple of refuse stickers to put on our rubbish bags and leave them at the gate! Luckily to be collected on the day we left, otherwise I'm sure Kevin & Susan would have found them ripped open by the local dogs and the remains floating in the creek the next time they came to stay. Thanks again guys, we thoroughly enjoyed our own little  'holiday' at Mahia Beach.

Next stop Gisborne, but not before a quick photo of the historic Nuhaka Store, now looking a little worse for wear but still serving the locals and passing traffic. Mum would shop here when we were on holiday, we'd also stop for icecreams on our way back to Mahia Beach...

...after a swim at the Morere Hot Springs...

...which certainly looked a lot different to the days when we visited. Well the entrance does anyway. The pools, or what I saw of them still looked familiar.

In my late teens when I visited Mahia with friends, we used to have a hot swim and then while away an afternoon (or two) with a drink & snacks in the Garden Bar at the Morere Hotel. It's where I was introduced to 'Fluffy Ducks' & 'Black Russians', crazy cocktails from the late '70s. Sadly the pub is no longer, it burnt down in a spectacular blaze in 1992 and all that's left of that memory is an overgrown gravel patch.


  1. Your recollections of the years spent at Mahia covers a lot of ground. It,s a pity you could not get to the boat harbor at Happy Jack,s Landing, you may have found another sealed bottle (with note) as you did all those years ago.I am sure your readers would like to know were it came from and any other information you have on your find. Mr Brown.

    1. Ha! I guess you've blown your cover Mr Brown :) I'd forgotten all about the bottle but now that you mention it, I do recall something although not enough information to write about. You'll have to fill in the details.
      I do recall Happy Jacks is where I got my fear of deep water, angry waves and turbulent water. After following Shane climbing up a goat track to a ridge above a cove somewhere near there, and not being able to get back down.

  2. Wow..that sun halo shot....how did you do that?
    Cool bananas

    1. Hi Jimu, well, I pointed my camera up to the sun and then I hit the shutter button and nek minnit .... :)
      I actually stopped it down a huge amount so not much light gets in (closed the aperture to very small f/25).


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