Success is getting what you want; happiness is liking what you get

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Goodbye to Gita

The day after the storm we certainly have several reasons to be thankful.  Waking up to a lovely, calm, sunny day is one of them. And hunkering down here in Marchwood Park camp we felt we got off rather lightly.  There was surface flooding, which has drained away, and the strong winds buffeting the van made me feel quite uneasy.  But the wind died down by bed time so we had a restful night.  Where we are at present, we certainly escaped the worst of the weather.

You may remember we (luckily) made the return journey from Golden Bay over the Takaka Hill in Monday.  Just look at it now – badly damaged and closed with 16 slips.

One of the many slips on the Takaka Hill

Helicopter footage shows the Takaka Hill road cluttered with mud, debris and fallen trees. The highway was closed at 4pm on Tuesday as the weather worsened. The damage, currently being cleared by contractors, will take several days to get through. Food supplies for Golden Bay's 5000 locals and 1000 stranded tourists will be delivered by sea tomorrow. Medical supplies have been delivered to Golden Bay Health Centre, with help from Civil Defence.

Our planned day trip to Kaiteriteri Beach was put on hold today because of road closures, so we went to check out the wharf instead, finding several things of interest.  There was the rusting wreck of the Janie Seddon on Motueka's foreshore. Built in 1901 in Paisley, Scotland for the Government as a submarine mining vessel, the Janie Seddon spent most of her career on Wellington Harbour.  In 1947, the Janie Seddon was sold for use as a trawler to Talley’s Fisheries Ltd, but vessels of this size weren’t permitted to operate in the fish-rich coastal waters of Tasman Bay. Her use was changed to that of a coal bunker.  Her working life came to a sad end, laid up at the wharf in 1950, beached in 1955, stripped of everything useful and hulked on the beach at Motueka. 

Al that remains of the Janie Seddon

Everyone knows of Farewell Spit at the top of the South Island – but most, like us, are probably unaware that Motueka has it’s very own sandspit.  The Raumanuka and Motueka Sandspit is an internationally recognized sanctuary where thousands of shorebirds roost, feed and breed.  This sandspit is very flat compared to it’s bigger cousin further north, so does not photograph well from the shore.


Motueka Sandspit

And then there was another hidden treasure down on the wharf -  the Talley’s Outlet Shop.  Recommended by campers we had been chatting to further north, we didn't know anything about this shop.  We purchased fresh fish for our dinner, and some frozen  prawns – would have liked to buy more goodies but our freezer space is limited in the caravan.

Talley’s Outlet Shop

There was one more place to visit – Brown Acre Villas – a Lifestyle Village similar to the one we live in and developed by the same developer.  We had a look around, met the President of the Body Corp, and swapped notes about our respective villages.   


On the way back to camp we stopped at a street sign which has a family connection.  Green Lane was named after an English  relation of mine who jumped ship at Motueka.   Once the ship had set sail he was free to start a new life in the colonies and did quite well for himself in business, married and had quite a large number of children.   


Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Hunkered down in Motueka, waiting for Gita

After three nights staying at Old School Café  Pakawau it  was goodbye to the lovely Golden Bay area.  We packed up the van on Monday and started on our way.  With the threat of (downgraded) Cyclone Gita arriving soon bringing bad weather, we wanted to move away from the sea.

Goodbye to beautiful Golden Bay

The weather report warned of Gita bringing all sorts of events, including slips and slides, so we thought it would be wise to get up and over the Takaka Hill Road before the storm hit.  Mind you, these things are sometimes unpredictable, and the cyclone could well have changed course in the next day or two, but it is better to be safe than sorry.


We are staying in Marchwood Park CAP in Motueka for the next three nights.  With a power site at $20 a night we should be comfy if the weather does turn to custard.  This is quite a large camp with good facilities, toilets, rubbish disposal, water, hot showers at $1 each, and a laundry.


Monday was warm and sunny, the laundry was drying nicely on the clothesline, and it was very pleasant sitting under the shade of the awning.  The peace and quiet was shattered when a large noisy helicopter touched down at the air field next door.  It seemed to be an Air force helicopter, and a group of people exited to go into one of the buildings.  A crowd of us stood and watched, wondering what was going on.  We never did find out.  It must be a top secret military mission, we decided, with the details not to be disclosed to the bunch of campers over the fence.

An Air force helicopter came calling

Then it was a hive of activity in the late afternoon with campers taking their awnings down so that the predicated high winds doesn’t rip them to shreds.  The heavy  rain arrived on Tuesday morning, keeping most people tucked up inside their vans, with puddles soon developing everywhere.  We decided to put  our sun awning back up to give us some protection from the rain over the door, keeping a wary eye out for the predicted strong winds  – then it would be dropped in an instance.

Rainy Tuesday morning

After lunch the rain was so heavy, noisily beating down on the caravan roof.  The puddles started to join up into a rather large lake outside our van, across the roadway, and across the camping area to the side of us.  Several smaller, older vans, built lower to the ground, became surrounded with water and were towed to slightly higher sites.  The drain by our site couldn’t cope with the amount of water coming down, we will need gumboots to walk through al that water!   Luckily the strong winds had not yet made an appearance, but we are still keeping a careful watch. And listening carefully to the weather updates each hour on the news.



And then, at 5.00pm the winds arrived.  Quick as a flash, our awning and window eyebrow on the front of the van were taken down.  Sudden gusts kept shaking the van, and I for one was certainly worried what the night would hold.  We cooked and ate the evening meal, watched the TV news, and all the time the strong winds kept buffeting the van.  Eventually as the evening drew on, the wind started to die down a bit, perhaps Gita is moving on?

What a day it’s been.  Ex-Cyclone Gita has caused chaos across central New Zealand – roads closed, flights grounded and a state of emergency has been declared in Christchurch, Buller, Westland, Selwyn, Tasman, Taranaki, and Grey District.  And the Takaka Hill Road road we drove over yesterday, was closed just after 4pm due to fallen trees across the highway, with slips and flooding at the turnoff to Kaiteriteri.

Let’s hope for a much better day tomorrow.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

The Old School Café, and a Trip to the West Coast

Our current camp site is delightful.  The school closed in 1983 and the current owners have been running the business for 10 years with the CAP (charges apply parking) being a later venture.

The old school

We decided to have a treat and dined out in the restaurant on Saturday evening.  The owner recommended we make a booking, and it was just as well we had done so – the place was full to bursting.  Looking around the restaurant, we reckoned that there would have been about 50 customers, not bad for a business in Pakawau, which really is in the middle of nowhere.



What to have – that was the question.  It was blue cod for him, cooked in a tasty crispy batter, and pork belly with an Asian sauce for her, both declared delicious.


Saturday evening dinner at the Old School Café and Restaurant

Sunday morning dawned clear, hot and sunny, once again.  A picnic lunch was quickly prepared and packed in the car, and we were off in the 4WD again.  There were still several unsealed roads which invited exploration, and we set off to check out the Whanganui Inlet.  Believe it or not, our trip from Pakawau to the Paturau River Mouth (about 30km) took us from the East Coast of New Zealand across to the West Coast.  Or in other words, from the South Pacific Ocean to the Tasman Sea.


Our trip along Dry Road took us along the edge of the inlet, up into the native bush, down to water level again, across  bridges and causeways, back to the bush, down to another causeway, repeated time and again.  We never quite knew what was going to come charging around a blind corner on the very narrow, windy, unsealed road - a car, a camper, or maybe a crazed tourist who had forgotten what side of the road to drive on.  The tide was turning, and the water was rushing back quite forcibly under the bridges.

Whanganui Inlet, and one of the many causeways

There’s the opening to the sea

The inlet was huge, and seemed to go on and on forever.   We wondered what we were letting ourselves in for when we passed a sign reading “The Last Frontier”.  What will we find past this point, we wondered?


Then we stopped at a very dilapidated wharf.  No wonder what angle you look at it, this wharf has seen better days.  But it must still be used, very carefully, we imagine, as there was a boat trailer parked close by.

Past it’s use-by date, it seems

Reaching the Paturau River Mouth we drove on to the shingly beach, which is a Freedom Camping area with several vans parked up.  We ate our picnic lunch watching the waves crash on the beach. 

Waves on the beach

Even tiny, out of the way paces like this have a lot of history.  Whalers, sealers and explorers visited the area in the 1840s.  Gold was discovered in 1862 and alluvial miners flocked to the surrounding hills.  By 1900 the whole district was opened up, with flax mills and sawmills starting up, and the development of farms bringing an influx of settlers.  And we stopped to read the two plaques from the New Zealand Historic Places Trust that we saw on the beach.  One read “Between here and the hillside was the site of Prouse and Saunders Flaxmill 1904-1911”   The second plaque read “This was the site of the Paturau Hall built 1936 on land given by Jack and Edwin Richards who with their father took up land here in 1899”.

NZ Historic Places Trust Plaques

Then we retraced our journey, up and down through the bush, and back over the multitude of causeways.

Crossing yet another causeway

Then we turned down another unsealed side road to find Kaihoka Lake.  But first we had to drive carefully past these ferocious beasts on the road.


Kaihoka Lake,  what a pretty sight it looked.

Goodness knows how cold the water was, but we saw an older lady in having a swim.  And a couple of kayakers were paddling around the lake a little further out.


It was another great day sightseeing, going to places we had never been before.  Tomorrow we had planned to move to Motueka, but the weather warnings are out that the remnants of Cyclone Gita are set to hit the top of the South Island around Tuesday.  So perhaps we will need to think of a Plan B, just in case. 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

To the end of the Unsealed Road

Heading north on Friday we left busy Takaka behind and arrived at Collingwood – this  town is an ecotourism destination due to its proximity to Kahurangi National Park and Farewell Spit Nature Reserve.  Originally named Gibbstown,  the settlement was later renamed Collingwood after Admiral Cuthbert Collingwood, Lord Nelson's second-in-command at the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805.  Gold was discovered in 1856 and the town's population surged, and it was suggested that Collingwood should become New Zealand's capital. But a more central location was preferred for the capital and the recommendation was for Wellington.


Although fires have raced through the town several times in the early years, Collingwood has retained some interesting old buildings.  The original  Post and Telegraph Office was a very grand building in it’s time, although postal business is now done through the general store.  And the old Court House is now a thriving café, filled with customers sitting outside under the shady umbrellas while they sipped their lattes.  Collingwood is much smaller and without the frenetic pace we found at Takaka.


It was another 10kms up the road to get to our destination, the Old School Café and Bar at Pakawau, another POP which had been recommended to us.


The POP has a nice grassed area and was fairly full when we arrived, and Robin expertly backed the caravan into a space.  Several more vans arrived in the afternoon, so things were rather cozy.  A group of campers were collected from the gate to go on a Farewell Spit Tour in the afternoon.  We did this tour quite some years ago, and booked the tour while staying in Nelson – if we had thought about it we should have camped a lot closer.  The alarm was set for 4.00am, and off we set in the car, driving for miles in the dark, over the rather nasty Takaka Hill, all the way up to Collingwood.  The timing of the trip depends on the tide, so that was why we had to set out so early. 


After settling in, and having lunch, we set off to find the famous historic Langford Store at Bainham.   The store has been in the same family four generations, since it opened in 1928.  EB Langford was the initial proprietor, followed by his grand-daughter Lorna who ran the store and post office for 63 years.  Lorna retired in May of 2008, handing over the reins to Sukhita Langford, who hopes to do both the community and family proud by continuing the traditions that her great grandfather instilled more than 80 years ago.  Sadly, we couldn’t enter the shop, and sample a delicious afternoon tea which the shop is famous for.  The shop is closed on Fridays (why Friday, we wondered?) so all we could do was take a photo and peep through the windows.

The historic Langford’s Store

A little further up the road was Salisbury Falls – to get there we had a short trek over the paddock, climbing two stiles, then down a rocky path.  There was a family frolicking in the river, having a great time on yet another very hot summer’s day.

Salisbury Falls

On Saturday morning  there was a general exodus from the camp, and we were the only ones left behind.  But never mind, we were going out and about again, and there were sure to be some more neighbours when we returned.  The day was overcast and windy, but still rather warm and muggy.

All alone at the Old School Café

We decided to travel north, as far as the road would take us.  The sealed road finished at Puponga and we decided to turn left and travel along the unsealed road to Cape Farewell, passing by Old Man Rock on the way.  It certainly was an impressive rock!

Old Man Rock

The Cape Farewell car park was quite busy, and we trudged up the hill to the lookout point.  And joined the other tourists all looking over the rail at the  rather impressive sight in front of us.

Cape Farewell

The sea was surging in endless waves and over the rocks.  We looked down to the seals far below.  Some were sunning them selves on the rocks.  And another group were gently bobbing about in the waves, they didn’t seem to be feeding, just enjoying themselves and having fun. 


Seals having fun

We’re having fun too

Back to the cross road we went, and turned onto the other unsealed road, which took us to the Farewell Spit Information Centre and Café.  We ordered a coffee and date scone and sat on the balcony looking over the spit.  There were large black birds bobbing about off shore, and surprisingly, they turned out to be black swans.  We were surprised to find them in the sea, thinking they were fresh water birds, but according to our bird book, it mentioned that they were found in the tidal waters, including those  east of Farewell Spit.



Farewell Spit has been a bird sanctuary since the 1930s and provides a home for over 90 bird species. Bar tailed godwits, knots, curlews, whimbrels and turnstones fly around 12,000 kilometres every northern hemisphere autumn to spend the summer here in the south. The spit also has a gannet colony.  To guide passing ships, Farewell Spit's first lighthouse was built in 1869. In the early years the lighthouse site had no vegetation and windblown sand was an ongoing problem for the keepers. Then one clever keeper organised for small loads of soil to be delivered with the mail. He planted a windbreak of macrocarpa pines which are still there to this day. The pines protect the station from the shifting sands and provide a daylight landmark for passing ships.

Views of the sandy spit from the café balcony

We are so pleased that we have driven to the end of the road north on the South Island.  Rutted and rough it may have been, but the 4WD coped well.  With our sightseeing trip over for the day, we drove back to the camp for some late afternoon R&R – and we were no longer alone, several vans had arrived while we were out.