As I have mentioned in previous posts about this part of the coastline, it’s much further than the crow flies to get from beach to beach and so it was again with another 65-kilometre drive to get from Herbertville to Akitio which are actually less than 20kms apart. There is a lot of forestry in this area, with the logging trucks causing a considerable amount of damage to the road surface between Wimbledon and the turn off at Weber. It was so bad that in one place someone had spray-painted across the road TDC (Tararua district council) fix this bl…y road now !! I can understand their frustration, especially if I was driving it regularly.
Road conditions aside, we arrived in Akitio safe and sound crossing the one-lane bridge that leads into this little settlement. On each side of the river, there is an original homestead with the river probably the boundary between what would have been another 2 massive sheep stations. It’s something that really makes this coastline different from other parts of New Zealand we have visited.
Of course, wherever you have sheep, you also need the sheds to shear them with this magnificent pair of sheds just past the main house as you drive into the village. There may now no longer be 70 million sheep in New Zealand, but there are obviously still quite a lot in this part of the country.
Although there are plenty of places to park the motorhome along the side of the road freedom camping in this little village is prohibited with the only campsite at the official campground further along the road.
The camping ground is located towards the far end of the village with the office also serving as a small general store and local takeaway. We don’t usually stay in places like this but since this is the only option in town we checked in. @$12 per person without power or $15 with we chose the no power option not because of the cost we just don’t need electricity.
As you can see from the signage above the place is also for sale. Sadly for the lady running the camp, her partner passed away just before Christmas last year. Although she loves the place, it’s just to hard on her own, so she made the decision to sell.
The campground proper is a collection of permanent caravans and sheds that are paying a ground lease of $2500 per year each with every available space taken. These little areas are sold from time to time with prices above $50K not unusual. The grassed area where we are parked is leased from the council, and the land is not part of the sale although the lease can continue.
I think they have their pricing model wrong because the non powered sites, hence the cheapest are the closest to the beach, but we aren’t complaining. The area for motorhomes is also slightly lumpy in places, but we scored one of the few flat areas. A real bonus as we don’t have chocks for our motorhome, the twin rear axles make it somewhat tricky, so we just haven’t bothered getting any.
Like all the beaches we have visited down the coast there is something different about this one that the previous ones we have visited. This is also the first beach we have encountered with warnings about the strong rips and advice against swimming here. I wasn’t sure if that was just at the end of the beach where the river flows out to sea or all along the shore.
But then looking at the beach in front of the motor camp at low tide I am not sure you would want to go swimming given the rocks underfoot.
It was such a gorgeous day we decided to get the bikes out and explore the area. Riding first along the road back towards the entrance to the village. Passing several points of interest, such as the house that had burnt down, which believe it or not was right next door to the local volunteer fire brigade. Sarah managed to find a couple of fig trees which had some ripe fruit. Delicious!
Once we had ridden along the beach, we headed back and up the hill behind the camp which turned out to be a very steep climb, so thankful for E-Bikes, but the views at the top made it worthwhile. We had also ridden up the hill to see if it was sealed and if it was suitable for the motorhome. Meeting Brian coming the other way in his motorhome along the road who said that the road was gravel for 10 or so km’s and not in the best condition meaning we would probably leave the camp the same way we arrived.
As I have mentioned in previous posts we have been following Annelise, Gary, Hans and Mia together with other members of a safari from the NZMCA Taupo along this coast meeting up at various different places. That night the group asked us to join them at happy hour with all of us getting a feed from the takeaway/camp office. The meals were a ridiculous size with our order of 3 pieces of fish turning out to be 5 pieces when unwrapped. They also produced some of the largest hamburgers I have even seen with a knife and fork the best way to consume one.
Meeting other members of the NZMCA on the road can be a bit of a lottery some like this group could not make you feel any more welcome while others seem to treat you like they have stepped on something rather unpleasant. It was a fun evening, and we really enjoyed your company, thanks for making us part of the group for the night!
The following morning with Annelise and her group heading away early, the camp felt quite lonely. We debated spending another night but decided in the end to continue the journey. We had only gone 6, or 7 km’s when we started to hear whoop, whoop, whoop coming from under the motorhome, thinking that we probably had our first flat tyre I pulled over and had a look, but all of the wheels were fine. I then ran my hand around the tyres in case something had stuck to the casing, nothing there either.
So back in the van and underway again only to have the noise appear again. This time we pulled over on a large flat area away from the road for another inspection. After a closer look at the wheels and I noticed that one of the wheel studs/bolts was missing from the left front wheel. (In the Ducato the bolt also serves as the stud going from the outside in) Not only had we lost a bolt, but all the others on this wheel were also loose enough to be undone with your fingers. We were miles from anywhere so the prospect of having the wheel fall off left us both very shaken and wondering how long we would have had to wait for help as well as the cost of a tow to get it repaired.
Thinking that the wheel stud had probably only just recently dropped out, we walked back down the road searching without success then got the bikes out of the rear to search a more significant area, again without success. So after talking with a friend of mine who is a mechanic we jacked up the front wheel to firstly push it back into place, then retighten all the remaining bolts. We then took a bolt from the right centre rear wheel using that to replace the missing one. I then lowered the jack and tightened all the bolts again.
So the journey continued minus one wheel stud along a road that has no idea what a straight line looks like. I was so nervous that we stopped every so often so that I could get out with the wheel brace and ensure all the nuts remained tight. One of the places we stopped was Pongaroa a tiny village with a fantastic dump station and freshwater onsite absolutely perfect in the middle of nowhere.
It’s 130kms to Masterton along a very narrow back road called Route 52. With all the trees starting to lose their leaves, it’s a beautiful route that I would have enjoyed all the more had I not been so nervous. Expecting one of the wheels to go rolling past me or flying off into a ditch. Thankfully however we arrived at Bridgestone in Masterton without incident.
Of course, Murphy’s law prevailed with nobody having or selling a spare stud in town. Even if we had driven to Wellington, the Fiat dealer would need to order the part from Auckland. The good news for us was the assurance from Bridgestone that 4 studs in the rear was more than sufficient to get us home and we could deal with the issue then. This all came about because we had new front tyres fitted around 1500kms ago and the wheel had obviously not been adequately tightened once installed. Thankfully we escaped without any serious incident to us or the motorhome, but it could have been so much worse. Imagine the wheel falling off at 100kph!
To view the places we have visited click here to see them on Google maps. You can click the links to read the blog about that area.
To view the Ratings, we have done for places we have stayed click here