North Island meanderings…September/October 2015

We didn’t linger long in the Kapiti area and near the end of September we went back over the Rimutakas to the Wairarapa to start a trip up the East Coast to Napier and Gisborne and then around the East Cape.

Spend a couple of nights at Featherston and another night at Mt Holdsworth DOC Camp. Did a couple of walks there before moving on.

Holdsworth walk

From Masterton we headed off on lesser known roads via Alfredton, Herbertville, Porangahau and Kairakau Beach (nice Freedom spot there overlooking the sea).

On arrival at Hastings we checked in at the Te Awanga Van Park near Clifton and stopped a couple of nights to catch up on laundry again. We then did a quick dash back to Feilding for a couple of nights to attend a family funeral.

Afterwards we drove back to Hastings to resume our journey. We always make good use of Anzac Park near Norsewood when we travel this way.

After Napier we spent a night at Lake Tutira and were amazed that the lake water level was so high – the road to the camp has obviously been under water recently too.

Lake Tutira 2
Lake Tutira
Dinner anyone?

On to Wairoa – there are about 5 Freedom spots around the town. We settled on Pilot Hill and had a couple of nights there. A funny thing happened there – after heading into town to do some shopping we arrived back at ‘our’ spot and observed a couple of local girls unloading a large bag out of the boot of their car. They proceeded to empty it on the ground and we realised it was a pile of ‘severed’ lambs tails, which they proceeded to cook up on a makeshift fire on the beach. Needless to say they were pretty odious to our noses…we moved the motorhome further away to escape the stench and the flies. They did offer to share with us…needless to say we politely declined!! Hmmm must be an acquired taste for sure.

Onward towards Mahia Peninsular and spent a night quiet night at Opoutama Beach on the way in. Another nice spot.

Opoutama Beach Camp
Opoutama Beach Camp
Beach walk late afternoon

Next morning we did a drive along the Peninsular as far as we could drive, to have a look and remind ourselves of our last visit here.

Along Mahia Peninsular

Arrived Gisborne on 14th October – again we freedom camped but well along the foreshore overlooking Waikanae Beach. It was not official but no-one bothered us and we were not the only ones around. It wasn’t long after the horrific floods they’d experienced and it was evident by the huge logs and flotsam along what is usually a beautiful clean sandy beach. Drove up to the local Lookout to take in the views.

Memorial to Captain Cook’s visit (statue is not of Captain Cook himself though)

If you are in need of a lovely long hot shower – the Council have a public shower block right in town – $2 for 10 mins. Bliss just to stand under a steady stream of water and not worry about running our tank dry.

First stop after Gisborne was Makorori Beach overlooking the sea – lovely spot but if noisy logging trucks bother you – best to wear earplugs to bed. They rumbled back and forth all night.

Spend a night at Tolaga Bay – it’s a council summer camping area but some people in a motorhome from Gisborne advised us that the season hasn’t quite started so is not being ‘policed’ at the moment. We risked it – no problems. Did the ‘obligatory’ walk along the historic wharf.

Tolaga Bay Wharf
Unstable looking cliffs
Tolaga Bay

Information about the camping season also led us to staying at another summer camp at Tokomaru Bay as well.

At Tikitiki we went exploring down a gravel road towards the ocean and arrived at the Waiapu River mouth area. Absolutely no-one around so parked up for the night and amused ourselves by watching the local rabbits cavorting and playing. You have to be careful of soft sandy patches though – as a couple of ‘tourists’ found out next morning. Driving out they got their car stuck and we ended up towing them out. They were very relieved. Our good deed for the week!

East Cape coast
East Coast view

Passed through Te Araroa and decided not to head out to East Cape. Quite a long way there and back and we have seen the lighthouse there on previous trips. Spent a night at Hicks Bay….frustrating because no Spark cellphone coverage around the top and western side of the Cape – Vodafone must have done a deal with the locals as they had their towers around the towns…but that was no use to us…darn! Will have to wait for an Internet fix.

Around the Cape we detoured to Lottin Point – drive in was pretty narrow and a bit ‘hairy’ in spots for our truck but we survived. Though it was a close shave at the beach when the local magpies launched an aerial attack on us – quick find a stick to wave above our heads!!

End of the road near Lottin Point
Lottin Point
Lottin Point

Spent a night at a Freedom Camp area a few kms north of Te Kaha – we did pass a few other nice places on the way as well but we’re making a bit of a ‘bee line’ to Opotiki at this stage.

Sunset near Te Kaha
Sunset near Te Kaha

Stopped at Omaio to look at the nice beach and right opposite was an impressive carved entrance gateway to the local Marae.  

Omaio Bay

Arriving at Opotiki we booked into the town Caravan Park there – again to catch up on laundry.  The wind picked up and I was fighting a battle to peg it on the clothes line – our trousers were streaming out in the wind like windsocks! Reckon it all dried in an hour! Walking around the town next day we chanced upon a florist shop selling local organic asparagus – only $2 for a massive bunch and it was the best we have ever tasted…yumm.

Checked out Ohiwa Beach and Harbour on our way to Whakatane then turned off to Ohope and spent a night at Ohope Beach then moved to spend a couple nights at the end of the spit near the Golf Club. There is a marked ‘correct’ area to park for 5 campers – we got a spot and sat at watched various other rigs arriving during the day and parking in the other areas along the shore. ‘Nec minute’ along came a Ranger and he gave them all ‘warning’ notices – “but we were here earlier before some of the motorhomes in the correct sites” they cried. “Well you should have parked there then” was the Rangers reply. There were about 12 vans by nightfall but the Ranger didn’t come back to check. We heard that the owner of the nearby Top 10 Caravan Park comes down at night to count the vans – so no doubt he lets the local council know of his findings!

Went for a long walk across the spit by the Estuary inlet then up the beach past the Caravan Park then back over the spit again to follow a track along the Estuary shoreline back to our camp.  The sea was full of jellyfish and heaps were also washed up dead on the beach.  

Looking towards Estuary outlet

Wild flowers near the camp

We had family to visit in Whakatane and stopped there for a few days.  Drove to the river mouth one day for a look.  The tide was rushing out.

Whakatane River mouth
Girl on the rock

On leaving there, we moved westward to Tauranga. I wanted to see an exhibition in their Arts Festival – the Exxopolis – made of coloured PVC tunnels and illuminated by natural light to act like a kaleidescope.  It was quite interesting and something I will never see again.

Exxopolis 1

Exxopolis 3

Exxopolis 2

Exxopolis 4

Exxopolis 5

Afterwards we headed to Ngongataha and stayed the night at the NZMCA Park there.

Next day we did a backtrack across the top of Lake Rotorua to head for Kawerau. Our intention to go and see the Tarawera Falls a place neither of us have never been to. Bought our $5 permit from the Info Centre and headed off down the forestry road. It was a good gravel road and all very well signposted.

Was a shortish walk to view the falls from the eastern end – we were not disappointed – it was quite unusual to see the falls spurting out of the cliffside. The river exits Lake Tarawera on a higher level then disappears underground and reappears through the cliff.

Tarawera Falls 3

Tarawera Falls 2

Tarawera Falls 1
Tarawera Falls

There is a path from there all the way to the DOC Camp on the shores of Lake Tarawera – it would be a nice walk if you had the time. We drove in to the DOC Camp back along the road and spent a nice quiet night there with only two other vans to keep us company. The place is apparently crowded out in summer. Spotted some nice big trout hovering in the outlet waters, bet they disappear in summer.

Lake Tarawera Outlet
Lake Tarawera Outlet
Jetty at DOC camp

Drove out next day and ended up back at the NZMCA park in Ngongataha. Handy to walk to town for our fish’n’chips fix, being a Friday night. Thence headed to Lake Rerewhakaaitu – another DOC camp right on the lakeshore. We were up early next morning to see the All Blacks take out the World Cup – woohoo!

Blue Lake Rotorua
Blue Lake Rotorua
Driving on water
Driving on water

Lake Tarawera
Lake Tarawera

We were now on the way ‘home’ to Waikanae – a few nights around Lake Taupo and another at Vinegar Hill near Hunterville. Then down the back road to Feilding to visit family again and stayed in our usual spot at Timona Park by the river for a couple of nights.

33 Mountains from Stormy Point Lookout
Mountains from Stormy Point Lookout

First week of November we drove to Wellington for our last appointment there and back to Waikanae for my last dentist visit. That’s it….we are now free to plan our cross-over to the South Island….another woohoo!!!

Headed to Levin to collect our bicycles and stowed them on the back of the truck and picked up our summer clothes and a few other bits and pieces. Also dropped off a few things that we find we can live without.

Sun setting over Kapiti Island from Otaki Beach

Booked our passage on the Straightsman for Weds 25th November. Currently we are at Paremata and will move on tomorrow for Wellington – will probably join the hoards at Evans Bay for a couple of nights. So this will bring to an end our current North Island meanderings and at last I have my blogs up to date…it’s been a bit of a mission!


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