After five terrific days at the new NZMCA camp in Motueka it was time to move on for both ourselves as well as our neighbours and friends Adrian and Sally who were headed to the NZMCA camp at Port Tarakohe. Sarah and I had always planned on going to Totaranui so each of us was to set off in the same direction but with a different destination in mind.
We have been on the road now for just over three months meaning I was overdue for a blood test. Having left the form back at home in Auckland I managed to get our son who still lives at home, minding the place, to email me the form. Then I went into the blood test centre in Motueka and the lady was able to print out the form from my forwarded email and then do the test. She then told me the results would be at Auckland Hospital that afternoon. The wonders of modern technology. It’s also great to know I didn’t have to go back to Auckland just for a blood test.
Needing to stock up on a few things before heading to Totaranui we headed to the local Countdown store. At this point I suggested to Sarah that since it was her birthday we should stop at least one night at the NZMCA camp at Port Tarakohe so that we could have a birthday dinner with Sally and Adrian joining us. Sarah agreed to this so I phoned Adrian to sort this out only to discover they were in the same shop.
Knowing that the Takaka Hill was open but with traffic lights operating I never bothered to check the road conditions with NZTA only to discover when we arrived at the hill that there had been a fresh slip that morning with traffic stationary in both directions whilst they cleared it.
A couple of motorists couldn’t be bothered waiting and did U turns but that’s much to hard for us in the 9 metre motorhome so we sat and waited. Thankfully only about 20 or so minutes before we got underway. After Cyclone Fila the road for a short distance is an absolute mess with landslips everywhere and the road reduced to one lane in a number of places. The road repairs run for around 1.5 to 2 kms then it’s traffic as normal with the slow grind up the hill.
It seems a little strange after visiting so many new places to be going back almost to the start of the trip but Port Tarakohe is a very pretty place to stay. To make it even better not long after we had arrived I got talking to the skipper of the Barge that moves the rocks to Transmission Gully with him telling me that they wouldn’t be loading till Thursday due to problems at the quarry. Great news as they usually start loading around 6am and it’s very loud.
With us set up but no sign of Adrian and Sally yet we decided to have a bit of a fish from the end of the breakwater. Sarah wanted to get a fish for her birthday unfortunately the fish had other ideas and although Sarah got heaps of bites it resulted in a very small blue cod that was returned to fight another day.
With no fish caught it was Thai chicken for dinner that night with the four of us celebrating Sarah’s birthday with the odd glass or two of wine or in Adrian’s case a mixture of cider and beer. Apparently it’s a very English thing. After dinner it was time for a quick round of Cards Against Humanity which if you haven’t played can be very entertaining especially if you’ve had a glass or three. Adrian was crowned winner on the night as Sarah’s birthday drew to a close.
Waking up the next morning we decided that it would be us that had the last laugh not the fish and we would be eating snapper for dinner that night. With rod’s at the ready we set off back to the end of the breakwater to set about catching dinner. Not long after we stated fishing a school of Kawhai swam past but just out range of my casting ability so no luck there.
Shortly after that we were joined by Zac, Sally and Adrian who within minutes of getting his line in the water had a dog fish on the end of it. Since neither us wanted that back it went with us thinking that the fishing was underway. Sarah then proceeded to catch another couple of small cod (back they went too) And I caught a dog fish. Thing’s where not going as planned until Adrian landed a gurnard this however was it and as our bait ran low Sarah and I went back to the motorhome a little sad but pleased to have had the chance to get out there and enjoy the day.
Sunday morning it was time for an early morning stroll around the Pohara Yacht Club were a number of people waited to jump into a couple of Waka that they were learning to race. The pep talk that morning was all about what to do in rough conditions with the instructor telling them all they would be practicing capsizing today. Later on when we saw them on return all of the paddlers looked rather wet. Rather them than me in May.
A bit later on it was out with the bikes for a bit of an explore of Pohara which was quite a short trip as it’s really quite a small place. But it was good to get up the hill behind the village to get a great view. There are a huge amount of properties for sale here with quite a wide variety on offer from the traditional bach through to quite modern homes. It was also a good chance whilst we had the bikes to pick up some more bait for another go later that day.
The signs should have been there over the first two days but optimists such as us never learn to give up we just keep the bait stores in business continuing to buy bait that seems to be solely designed to feed the fish but not catch them. Although Sarah did manage to catch one of the local stingrays and a number of the local rocks.
Sunday night the Yacht Club has meal night with seating for 40 people you would think that at this time of the year it would be fairly empty but no the place was packed with not a spare seat in the house. Just as well we had booked earlier with Sally and Adrian joining us, but what we had forgotten to do was order the Roast Pork for those that wanted it with them having run out by the time we tried to order at 6.30 so all of us had fish and chips to say the plate was piled up would be something of an understatement it was huge. None of us had room for desert.
The meal was $20 per person and out of the 5 motorhomes in the campground 4 of the couples ate there that night. It’s great to see the support from the members for the Yacht Club or maybe it was just a great feed for a good price.
With our three night allowance at the camp used up it was time to move on to our original intended destination the DOC camp at Totaranui. We decided that we would leave earlyish and actually ended up following another motorhome out of the gate in the same direction. Turns out they were heading to the same place and since it’s a very narrow winding gravel road for the last 10kms we where in no hurry to overtake them thinking they could clear the way for us, which they did although we only encountered 2 vehicles coming the other way.
This camp is absolutely massive, I believe it’s the biggest DOC camp in NZ and had we come in January we would have had to book or no space would have been available. Today however the camp is a fairly lonely sight with maybe 10 different lots of campers spread around this massive camp with around 20 camping areas and some 300 plus available spots.
This is the only DOC camp we have encountered that has a dump station but we discovered that members of the NZMCA using their DOC pass cannot use it under any circumstances. This is because the cost of bringing a septic tanker this far is very high and DOC only want to make it available to those paying full camping fees. Which means that you can use it if you pay $13 per night per person. Maybe they should introduce a surcharge that you can pay if you want over and above the pass to empty your tanks if required.
When you arrive at Totaranui you drive down what used to be the grand drive to the house with a road of Plane and Macrocarpa trees but all of the Macrocarpa trees have since been felled leaving just the row of Plane trees, still it would have been impressive in it’s day.
The office is manned 365 days of the year with all sorts of information about the local area and the numerous walks around the park. In the height of summer they have up to 7 office staff dealing with camper and tramper enquiries. As well as similar number manning the outside jobs, toilet, rubbish etc.
Although this camp runs a self registration system in winter there are plenty of unofficial camp managers (Weka’s) patrolling the camp and I noticed that here they also have a number of assistant camp mangers, with more Pukeko’s than I have seen at any other camp. Both sets of birds seemed to get on quite well together making sure everything was clean and tidy in the camp.
All of the camping areas are set back from the beach on the other side of a parking area and the road so it’s impossible to be beachfront as we have been at some other camps. we did however park as close as we could to get a sneak view of the golden sands. After a bite to eat we decided to set off on part of the coastal trail that runs through the camp.
Noting on the sign board that it was 6.7 kms to the hut at Awaroa and a 2 hour 15 minute walk we set off thinking that was well within our ability. It always seems that the start of these walks have nice wide, well formed, flat paths that lull you into this false sense of security thinking that this will be a doddle. Time to distance though should be a warning of impending hills during this walk.
According to the sign pointing to the lookout at Skinners Point we had walked in about 750 metres when the track took a sharp uphill turn which continued on zig zagging it’s way up the hill for what seemed like forever but in reality was probably only another 500 or so metres. The good news is that once you get to the top it’s all down hill from here, until you want to come back of course.
We did wonder why the path appeared to head so far uphill with the reason revealed to us when on the beach below and we spotted the huge slips that had wiped out the old track meaning that there is no other way to get round to the next bay especially at high tide. As you can see we also encountered a couple of obstacles on the way.
Once down the hill the track follows the coast along the beach, a deserted paradise of golden sands under foot, blue water to our left and native bush to the right. It’s worth walking over the hill just to get to this beach although I would imagine in summer that it would be full of holiday makers either staying at the camp or arriving by boat from other parts of the park.
Reaching the end of the beach you are required to use the natural steps provided by the granite rocks to continue on. My immediate thoughts, where are the health and safety Nazi’s when you need them, where are the safety rails etc. Just joking but I would not have wanted to slip.
It’s another short inland walk to the next bay where there is also camping for those wanting something more remote. Although how you are meant to get the motorhome here was a bit of a mystery that remains unsolved. Yet again it appears that all camping is well set back from the beach with the tent sites hidden well in the bush.
Of course if you want to do the walk properly you READ the instructions FIRST, yes again I need to put my hand up as the guilty party, not realising that access to the hut is only available 2 hours either side of low tide across a very large tidal estuary. So 6 kms into the walk it was over unless we wanted to wait another 3 hours for the waters to recede far enough for us to cross, which obviously we didn’t so it was back to the motorhome.
After reading that the sun rose directly over the water with great viewing from the beach I was up early the following morning to capture a few shots of the sun breaking the water. Although it was slightly obscured by clouds it was still a fantastic sight. Well worth the early morning.
We briefly considered the walk to the hut in the other direction as the task for the day but in the end settled with just a sort of lazy day which involved exploring this massive camp, watching the water taxi’s go in and out arriving from Kaiteriteri with trampers who were going to do all or part of the trail.
We even dipping our toes into the water although we had enough sanity to prevent us going swimming. Instead admiring the couple of tourists foolish enough to brave the water.
At Totaranui you can have an open fire, provided it’s in one of the open pit’s that dot each camping area. That night a couple of the tourist’s took advantage of this with their own fires. There is very little driftwood in this area it’s all been burnt by other tourists so if you are coming here and plan on having a fire, someone suggested that you stop at the beaches on the way to collect firewood that way it’s much easier when you get here.
The trip back out the following day we had to lead our own way without a guide this time. Even though we encountered 5 or 6 vehicles coming the other way they always seemed to be in a spot where passing was easy. I would still hate to do this with all the summer traffic. We did also see a ute on the back of a tow truck that appeared to have been dragged out of the bush after maybe running off the road. A very scary thought.
From here it’s back to Farewell Spit but thats the next blog.