On our travels around New Zealand and those of us lucky enough to travel overseas, we all come across a spot that for various reasons, becomes your favourite spot. So it is for Puriri Bay in Northland for Sarah and I. There are all sorts of reasons that this could be one of those magic spots and quite a few of them presented themselves on this visit.
After our trip around Taranaki on the EBOP Safari, we both felt like going somewhere to do some fishing and general relaxing. We even went as far as taking the bikes out of the back of the van, knowing that there aren’t any decent places for a bike ride. This gives more space in the back for the inflatable boat, our trusty Zodiac.
This year there are again new camp managers looking after the site Nicci, Kit and their children who rather than being motorhomers actually live locally and are building a couple of transportable sheds onsite as accommodation for themselves. Over the 18 years we have been coming here we have met a variety of camp managers. Some lasting just a year others becoming almost part of the furniture with 5-year stints. So it will be interesting to see how this couple adapt to the challenges.
Already new innovations are afoot with compost bins appearing around the campsite. Sadly within 24 hours of them appearing general rubbish was also appearing inside the bins. So some decent signage is probably required to sort out what goes in and what stays out.
One innovation from last year that was being built when we visited and is now finished is this rather strange shelter. Supposedly designed to provide shelter for backpackers and campers to use during inclement weather it looks to be nothing much more than a blot on the landscape that serves no real practical purpose. There is no signage on the building to state what it’s meant to be and it has no running water or kitchen sinks the benches are miles from the table and mounted to the wall so really why have it!
Almost everyone who camps here at this time of the year takes the Southern end of the campground as the sites are flatter, but recently we have developed a liking for the North end of the camp choosing it again this time. With the sun out, it was time to brave the awning. Since losing an awning backwards over the old motorhome here many years ago, we have always been conscious of the need to have the awning adequately secured. With the awning on our Dethleffs 6.5 metres long and 3 metres wide, it presents a vast sail that we have always been worried will take off if not secured properly.
When we visited the Hamilton Motorhome Show Graham and Irene parked next to us in their Detleffs, and we noticed the straps they had holding down their awning. Turns out these are specialist Thule straps specially designed to fit the awning legs. Rather than adopt the one per leg that Graham had we decided to get two per leg for additional stability at around $50 per set we had resolved that there are an excellent investment especially when the wind picked up not long after erecting the awning.
When we have arrived at this time of the year in the past, there is always an area of the campground next to the stream that’s fenced off. That’s to protect the Oystercatchers from being bothered while nesting. On our arrival this year Nicci informed us that although the area was roped off, she thought the eggs might be sterile as it had been a few weeks and no sign of life. Later that day while wandering the beach we spotted the chicks, I think they hatched especially for us.
Of course, signs of new life are everywhere at this time of the year with this duck protecting 12 newborn ducklings. I am sad to say that by the time we left the camp a few days later this had been whittled down to 5 ducklings remaining with the local Pukeko’s very active in their search and destroy missions. Eventually, this mother duck took to the sea with her ducklings swimming off to find a safer place, I guess.
One the major reasons that this is our favourite place is when you can catch fish like this from our Zodiac without having to head miles out to sea, in fact, this 46cm Snapper was boated maybe 500 metres from shore. A delicious meal of marinated fish that night. Sadly the fishing for the week was hard with almost every other Snapper under the legal limit. We did catch a very lovely Trevally and a 50cm Kowahi, but it was hard work and somewhat disappointing.
One of the strange things while we sat on the boat fishing. Was the number of bees flying past us with a couple taking time to have a breather settling on either the boat or Sarah for a short period before flying off again. The camp managers told us that they have more than doubled the hives in Admirals Bay the next bay over from the camp so that probably explains all the bees. Although you cannot really see it in these photos, the flax bushes were absolutely humming with bees as well.
There are always those who seem to catch more fish than the rest of us, and so it was for Ken who along with his wife Sandra and friends Ester and Malcolm (named left to right) who have been coming here for almost as long as we have. Every morning at dawn, you could hear Ken’s boat heading out followed not long afterwards by Malcolm. Fishing is such a fickle thing with Ken having more consistent success than Malcolm.
Ken and Sandra have recently changed their motorhome of 17 years for a Jayco caravan (shown behind). They are a little challenged by the technology that’s in the caravan, with everything going digital compared to the old push-button motorhome. They will I am sure get used to it. It certainly looked beautiful and spacious inside. The only thing I wonder about these is that with the lounge in the front how are you meant to tow it into place to get sea views. Maybe that’s where the motorised movers come into play, or as Ken has done make an adaption on the back of the caravan so it can be pushed into place.
There was lots to see on the water while we waited for the fish to bite. This trip there are more blue penguins in the water than we have ever seen before. We went to try and rescue one that appeared in some distress when a fin appeared in the water behind it, causing a miraculous recovery from the penguin. While we couldn’t be 100% certain that was a shark, there was no doubt later in the day when a small Mako swam past the boat probably not much more than 3 or 4 feet long still enough to ensure our feet stayed inside the boat after that.
Fishing for us was also somewhat inconsistent, probably because we weren’t up at the crack of dawn being rather more casual about the whole exercise. Strangely enough, Sarah and I enjoy the fishing part far more than the eating part, but when things like this storm front decide to sweep through it’s time to head back to the motorhome for safety.
There are so many terrific sunsets here at Puriri Bay with the sun setting behind the hills on the other side of the harbour providing a spectacular backdrop and multiple photo opportunities. On this night the added bonus was the full moon rising over the hills behind the motorhome at the same time as the setting sun bathed the motorhome in its golden rays. Just another special moment in my favourite place.
Sadly the fishing got a little harder with Sarah managing to catch this rather interesting bit of seaweed, Well I had to take a photo of something. But all of that was forgotten when I looked over my shoulder and spotted a pod of Orca. Cruising the shoreline hunting some of the multiple stingrays that live in this harbour. It’s always hard to get a decent video when using your mobile phone, but I managed to capture these two videos.
You can see from the videos that we were really close to the action and actually had a couple of them swim underneath the Zodiac. I have seen Dolphins in the harbour multiple times, but these Orca were something special and something that will live in my memory forever. There were maybe 15 Orca in total led by two large bull males that would have been 5 or 6 metres long quite a sight to see.
While we were out on the water making these videos, we heard the sound of a drone above us. When we returned to our motorhome after this incredible experience, we discovered that the drone belonged to Florian and Fan who hail from France. They have been travelling New Zealand since May in their Nissan Caravan.
Florian gave me two videos that they shot on their drone and the one above features two calves with their mothers some really terrific footage and well worth viewing. Florian has his own Facebook page dedicated to his photography, and you can view some of his photos here. This footage, along with the other video Florian took were sent to the Orca research team here in NZ.
It’s hard to think of anything worthy of writing about after the experience with the Orca. However, the night before we departed, we were treated to another of those spectacular sunsets that this bay is so famous for. So over the last thousand or so words, you have read some of the reasons why Puriri Bay is my favourite place, and I encourage you to visit.
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