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.