Saturday 24 November 2018

Footbridges and Fine Sands- Part 2

Continued on from Part 1

I did the next road trip by myself, David had had enough of winding roads and sandy beaches. I wanted to visit the Pataua footbridge, this one is a lot shorter across the water than the Whananaki bridge but the distance by road to the opposite side is much longer at 50kms compared with 13kms.

It was once again a 20km long winding narrow road out to the coast to visit Pataua North and I had a bit of a laugh when I pulled into the boat ramp carpark; a lovely new ramp and carpark too.

A white Ford Ranger pulled in right alongside me; I had seen it following me in the mirror for much of the way, catching up and then dropping away and disappearing out of sight. I kept thinking, when it caught me up, that I must pull over and let it pass but then it would drop away again. And there were very few places to pull over too.

It turned out to be my niece & her boyfriend, they'd decided to take the dog for a run at the beach, a beach they hadn't visited in years. I must have lit a spark when I told her mother earlier in the day where I was going. They headed off to the beach but I decided to check out the bridge first.

The holiday settlement of Pataua North is located on a golden sand beach of Ngunguru Bay while Pataua South is across the footbridge on the edge of the sheltered waters of the Pataua River & estuary. Pataua South can be reached by road via the Whangarei Heads but the footbridge gives residents and holiday makers access to the best of both worlds. 

On the south side of the estuary outlet into the bay is the cone shaped Pataua Island known locally as Pataua Mountain, only it's not really a mountain or an island just a small hill which was once a Maori pa site.

I walked across the bridge, through the small reserve and along the edge of the estuary past a few of the holiday homes...

...including this one with these stunning metal sculptures in the front garden...

...and then back to the bridge...

...where I crossed back over...

...stopping to watch a kayaker battled the out going tide and a windy chop as he paddled his way under the bridge and back to the boat ramp.

I should have headed over to the beach to see my niece but the cacophony of  screeches, squawks and other bird chatter coming from a flock of Red Billed Gulls/Tarapunga grabbed my attention. 

Three rocks, right alongside the new boat ramp were covered in nesting, resting, fighting and copulating gulls! 

I wonder if the locals knew these rocks were a rookery for gulls when they planned the ramp, which was now also a resting spot for gulls and covered in poop.

I spent ages watching the goings on, checking for eggs and chicks and locating some of the odd places that birds had decided to nest.

Some had been relegated to the stalls, teetering on the side of the rock, just above the tide and fighting to retain their nest material....not only from falling over the edge but from being stolen by other birds.

This gull had the right idea, hidden away from all the fighting and activity. I even saw one bird drop into the middle of the astelia where I'm sure there were more nests.

It took me awhile to locate some chicks, it seemed that most of the nests still held eggs. It was a hot day and this gull stood over the chicks keeping them in the shade but letting the light breeze cool them down.

The parent then climbed off and fed a thin liquid to both chicks, they looked to have only recently hatched, the egg shells were pushed over the nest edge and still largely intact (don't forget to click on the photos to enlarge them).

I finally managed to pull myself away from the life & times of Gull City and drove around to the beach to find my niece loading the dog into the ute and about to head home, oops! 

The beach was deserted except for a family surfing near the mouth of the estuary. 

I walked around the point and back into the estuary and followed a sailor as he tacked back and forward up the estuary... 

...and then walked back through the holiday houses to the ute, spotting this letterbox on the way. A new take on the old microwave letterbox!

Wednesday 21 November 2018

Footbridges and Fine Sands- Part 1


While in Whangarei we drove a loop out to and up the coast exploring all the little bays and beaches along the way. It was a good 20kms of narrow winding road before we caught a glimpse of the sea and our first stop was at a lookout. A misnomer if ever there was one because the trees were blocking most of the view. There was nothing for it but to carefully climb the steel ladder up onto the tiny platform of a crows nest where the view was slightly better; here looking south towards Whangarei Heads. An older couple who stopped behind us had no way of seeing the view and drove off very disappointed.

The Tutukaka Marina was the next port of call, and a very quite place that was, not a soul in sight nor a boat on the move. The last time we were here we came in from the sea to refuel. 

Next came the first jewel in the crown of the golden sand beaches heading up the Northland coast; Matapouri Bay...

...where, being school holidays, there were several families enjoying the beach and swimming. I had wanted to walk around to the 'famous' Mermaid Pool, out on the reef behind the headland but the tides were wrong and I wasn't too sure how long I had. Next time maybe...

We carried on up the coast stopping beside a picnic table at Sandy Bay for lunch just as the sun disappeared behind the clouds and a chilly wind forced us to wrap up. A surf school kept us entertained while we ate our lunch.

We headed inland from Sandy Bay, the road winding uphill and very narrow in places until we reached the Whananaki South Road where we turned right and headed down and back out towards the coast. I was thrilled to catch sight of a seventy or so endangered Pateke/Brown Teal resting on the edge of a tidal stream as we neared the Whananaki Estuary. Pateke are restricted to several Northland & Coromandel sites where predator control is active.

The road finished at an overgrown gravel turnaround and I'm sure David wondered why on earth we were here.

At 395 metres this is the longest footbridge in the Southern Hemisphere; we're on the south side of the bridge and it's 13kms of narrow gravel road to the north side. 

The bridge is also part of the Te Araroa Trail, we keep criss-crossing the trail as we move north.

Of course I have to walk the bridge there and back just to say I've done it so I leave David bird-watching. This is looking south back towards David. The house on the left belongs to one of the 'famous in New Zealand' Peters families; Whananaki South is Winston Peters childhood home, he and his 10 siblings were bought up on a farm in the district and still have homes and baches in the settlement.

Not far now as I approach Whananaki North and cross over the river, it would have been good to have seen the estuary at high tide with water covering all the mudflats.

Looking back to the south...

...and down-stream, across to the beach side settlement of Whananaki South...

...which I took from the high point on the bridge. A young mother and her son followed me over, he told me Mum was showing him where she grew up and how she had to walk to school over the bridge each day. He was more keen on going to the beach for a swim.

The bridge in it's entirety....well nearly, I've missed the north end.

Just a short way back up the road we took a side road out to the Whananaki Recreation Reserve where there's another beautiful white sand beach.

Here's a great tip for the campers amongst my readers; freedom camping is allowed in the DOC run reserve for self contained vehicles...

...and the best bit is that the site doesn't appear on any camping apps! So you're likely to have the place to yourself. Out of the high season of course, I suspect that this would be a traditional family camping spot for the locals over the summer holidays.

We had afternoon tea sitting on the tailgate in the warm sun and then spent half an hour retracing our steps and re-driving the last few kilometres when I realised my lens cap was missing. It wasn't until after about the sixth stop and search, including the mudflats in front of the Whananaki South baches, that I found it. In my pocket! I'm sure I double checked that before the call went out.

We headed off back to the main highway and home to complete the loop.

Here are the two churches I added to my collection; this one was way back at the beginning of the trip, just out of Whangarei; the Pehiaweri Maori Church near Glenbervie...

...and this one, the Holy Name of Mary Church in Hikurangi; I love the shadow the Phoenix palm fronds cast across the front of it.

To be continued... Part 2

Sunday 11 November 2018

Whangarei to Russell & Back

We're about to head off into the wilds of the coastal Far North so I'm thinking that internet reception may be a little intermittent over the next few weeks....though probably just as intermittent as my blog posts have been lately. So if you don't see me for awhile you'll know I'm out there making memories....and shooting photos for you! 

After leaving the DOC camp at Uretiti it was just a short trip up the road to Whangarei where my sister, Gaelyn and family live; not too far from the beautiful Whangarei Falls.

The last time we visited, back in 2013, we were able to park the rig in their driveway but it's not just the trees that have grown, the kids have too and there are now extra vehicles in the drive.

'No worries', my sister said, 'there's plenty of space at their 'do-up' just down the road' (which had been 'done-up' and was for sale).  'I'm sure you'll be able to pull off the narrow road' she said 'get through the gate and up the slope without dragging your bum, and before a passing car doing 70kph comes around the bend and collects you!'. Not too mention the overhanging trees and the sodden ground.....and the approaching storm.

We do choose some difficult sites but David did a grand job getting into this one. No lawns were harmed while turning the rig either....well hardly any lawn. Not only was it a challenge to get backed in between the garage & the house without damaging any corners, there was a torrential rain and thunderstorm raging overhead while we were doing it! 

Luckily 'Out There' fitted perfectly onto the only flat section of concrete there was, although the front legs had to be extended quite a way. And for only the 2nd time in 6 years I was able to walk under the nose without ducking. For the first couple of nights I had visions of us careening off down the slope, busting through the fence, clearing the road and landing in the river! 

It turned out to be the perfect place for us though; we had our own space, it was just a short walk to the family and it was lovely to have a large garden to enjoy along with the amazing bird life and dawn chorus, not to mention the constant cluck, cluck, clucking of the neighbours chooks as they laid their daily eggs. We could have very nearly got sucked into the suburban bricks & mortar lifestyle again....I did say 'very nearly'    

Gae and David (her husband is also David) and a group of their friends head to Russell for the weekend every year to attend the Paihia Wine & Food Festival. We joined them for brunch on the Sunday, leaving Whangarei early in the morning and travelling 65km to Opua to catch the car ferry across to Russell. Fog lay thick over the Hikurangi Swamp and through the valleys for much of the way.

We still made good time and only had a few minutes wait for the next ferry once we reached Opua.

We know Opua very well, it was like visiting an old friend. Back in another life we rented a berth at the Opua Marina and used it as a base for summer after we motored our launch up from Tauranga. We spent the summer exploring the Bay of Islands and further north, usually anchoring overnight in a quiet bay somewhere and only returning to the marina when bad weather was imminent or we needed marine supplies.

Some of these photos were taken on the return crossing later in the day (hence the cloud change). Here's some useless information for you, can you see the boat garage in the bottom left photo? That's Okaito Point and the 'mansion' that the garage belongs to was built using drug money by Terry Clark of  'Mr Asia' fame (or infamy as the case may be). Apparently a hatch door inside a wardrobe in the house led to an escape passage under the house that exited near the water and would have been ideal for a quick getaway by boat.

It was just a short drive to Russell from the ferry and it didn't take us long to locate the house the group had rented for the weekend; there aren't too many houses along the waterfront in this lovely tiny sheltered bay (except when a westerly is blowing). The views were fabulous, the Russell wharf framed by pohutukawas in one direction...

and Paihia across the water in another.

Amongst the boats anchored out in front of us was this cute little boat who we nicknamed 'Little Toot' until we managed to see her name  'Little Effort'.

After a leisurely champagne brunch I left the others relaxing on the deck while I wandered along the waterfront.

For a usually very busy little tourist town, the beach and bay were uncharacteristically deserted...

Russell was one of New Zealand's first European settlements and the original street plan and names from 1843 are still in place today. The town also features some of New Zealand’s oldest and most significant historic buildings. Russell/Kororareka was developed initially as a shore station for shipping (click the photos to enlarge). 

The Old Customs House 1870
I love the warning at the end!
As the European population grew, with a mixture of deserting seamen, runaway convicts, and grog sellers, as well as settlers and traders, the township gained a reputation as a lawless and rowdy port and the unflattering nickname “Hell Hole of the Pacific”. 

After New Zealand became a colony in 1840 all hotels selling alcohol had to have liquor licences and the very first license was granted to the owner of the Duke of Marlborough Hotel. This very popular hotel is the fourth on the site.

The Duke of Marlborough
The tranquil morning was about to disappear...

... as numerous fast and slow passenger ferries and tour boats began arriving at the wharf. And from the wharf I could see why; a cruise liner was in town, it's passengers being ferried in tenders across to Paihia where those that wanted to, caught ferries across to Russell.

The Russell Four Square building (built in the 1880s) is a Historic Places Category 2 building (Category 2 stands for a significant place). It is the only surviving 19th Century trading store still fulfilling it's original purpose on the Russell waterfront. The exterior of the building is corrugated iron and forms the main bracing for the building. If the corrugated iron were removed, the building would fall down. 

The Gables (1847) is one of the oldest buildings in Russell, and is also a listed Historic Places Trust building. Over the years it has been a bordello, bakery, shop, Salvation Army boys’ home and even a hiding place for sailors who had jumped ship. Now it looks to be a great restaurant.

The pièce de résistance (IMHO) is at the far end of the street; Pompallier Mission. Built in 1842, the building originally housed a printery where Church texts were translated from Latin to te reo Maori. Today the printery stands as New Zealand's oldest industrial building as well as the oldest of rammed-earth construction.

It was great to revisit Russell and have a some time to explore. Our previous visits were to the wharf on the boat, and back then there was no time for exploring. While David held fort at the casual berth fending off dozens of holiday makers arriving on their boats for the same purpose, I'd race down the gangway to the 4Square where I'd grab supplies left, right and centre, hoping I didn't miss anything important (like wine) and being careful not to grab too much as I wouldn't be able to man-handle them back down the crowded wharf and back onto the boat by myself. It was not an enjoyable experience I can tell you. 

On our way home we stopped for fuel in Kawakawa, home of the world famous Hundertwasser toilets. It's just about impossible to photograph them without anybody in the frame, especially when you only have a few minutes...

...and need to go yourself! This is one toilet where it's not unusual to take your camera in with you and take photos!

This colourful public toilet was designed by Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser. He first visited NZ in the 1970s for an exhibition of his work and then decided to make the country his second home, living not far from Kawakawa. In 1998 with the help of the community he transformed the town’s public toilets into a work of art, and the rest, as they say, is history!

There are a couple of buildings opposite the toilets that have their own take on Hundertwasser design.

With a cruise ship in nearby Paihia and smaller tours visiting the town, the Bay of Islands Vintage Railway had trains running between Kawakawa and Taumarere, they do also run most weekends throughout the year.

I was also able to bag a number of churches in Russell and on the way home; 

Top left, clockwise- 
Christ Church (1835), Russell- the oldest existing church in NZ, there are musket ball holes in the wetherboards left from the 1845 Battle of Kororareka.
Former Methodist Church (circa 1917), Russell 
Historic Kaurihohore Church (1861)- branch of the Waipu Church & the oldest Presbyterian Church in Northland.
St Michaels and All Angels Church, Towai, built in 1914 & relocated to present site in 2009
Kaurihohore cemetery
St Andrews Church, Taumarere- erected in Paihia in 1874 and barged to this site in 1926