Tuesday, 24 April 2018

Beach Hop North- Only in Tolaga Bay


Just a short 20kms from Losiels Beach and we arrived at our next camp site; Tolaga Bay also known by it's Maori name Uawa. Uawa is also the name of the very wide river that flows down from the ranges behind and splits the bay in two as it flows into the sea.

The driftwood sign sits on the dunes overlooking the beach (I had to prop up one arm of the U for my photo shoot)...

...which is just across the road from the freedom camping area. And what a great site this one is. There are several large mown bays along the road with plenty of space, along with another area up by the toilet block behind where we're parked. The front bays have post and rail surrounds, the ones along the road behind me have small hedge rows and trees.  

Like many once thriving and prosperous towns around the East Coast, Tolaga Bay township has seen better days. Though there's one building that really stands out as you drive along the main street (which is also the main highway north). The historic Tolaga Inn is huge and certainly makes a statement sitting on it's prime site corner. The inn was built in 1930 after the original 1880s hotel was destroyed in a fire.

Designed by the French-Canadian architect Sholto Smith, the inn is a classic example of the Tudor House design he became famous for. Tolaga Inn is one of just 100 buildings Smith designed for New Zealand (he lived here for 16 years) and one of only two commercial buildings he designed in this style. Many of his designs were done for wealthy Aucklanders back in the 1930s and several Remuera & Epsom homes are still standing (and still occupied by wealthy Aucklanders!) 

There aren't too many streets to explore in Tolaga Bay but while seeking out the two local churches to photograph, we came across this delightful sight just off the main street.

Only in Tolaga Bay #1 - two little piglets taking themselves for a walk

Only in Tolaga Bay #2 - a mobile tattoo parlour parked in the main street.

But of course there really is only one thing that comes to mind for many when you mention Tolaga Bay- the Tolaga Bay Wharf. 

Due to the isolation and rugged countryside along the East Coast, the only way for many years to get product and produce (farm & forestry) in and out of  the towns, was through coastal shipping. 

Tolaga Bay is shallow so a very long wharf had to be built, at 600m it was in fact the longest wharf in New Zealand for many years. It's since been overtaken by Bluff's Tiwai Point wharf  which is 1500m long. The Tolaga Bay wharf was built in the 1920s and the last cargo ship called by in 1967. 

Since then the wharf had deteriorated quite considerably until a trust was set up and funds raised to restore it. The wharf is now one of the major tourist attractions along the coast. I took these photos on our last visit back in 2011, the concrete rails have now been restored You can see the repairs in some of the photos further down.

We were running late to get to Gisborne on that last trip (after spending too much time at East Cape) and I was disappointed I wasn't going to be able to photograph the wharf in daylight. We arrived just as the sun was setting but what a thrill to find that the white cliffs behind the wharf were this beautiful golden colour. It was a brief moment in time, the sun was gone within minutes of our arrival.

I visited the wharf several times during our latest stay, hoping to catch the different moods and to capture a repeat sunset performance but unfortunately it was a different time of the year and the sun wasn't so intense. I still managed some great shots though, and that's what it's all about; not trying to replicate old memories just capturing new ones instead!

Only in Tolaga Bay #3 - When the local yobbos photo-bomb your wharf shot...

Just as I was lining up the wharf- it's quite hard to get the full length in on my usual lens so I had just changed to my wide angle lens- this Subaru wagon containing two young ladies raced down onto the sand and did a perfect doughnut right there in front of me.

I went to have a chat with them and found out they were waiting for these two who were collecting mussels off the pilings. It wasn't the warmest weather, in fact the wind was very cold and the guys came back shivering and shaking with just a few dozen. They offered me a few (which I declined because they actually didn't have that many), and they told me they were off to cook them on the BBQ.

While I was waiting for the sun to go down I walked to the end of the wharf...

...where a handful of people were fishing. I talked to an old Maori lady who told me she'd been there since 7am this morning. Seven am! It was now about 6:30pm, very cold and windy and with a rain storm approaching from across the ocean. She told me she'd probably stay another hour or so. Now that's dedication, and she hadn't had much luck either. She told me she usually caught snapper, the odd John Dory, an occasional kingfish and one day a crayfish! 

Only in Tolaga Bay #4 - this fisherman had the right idea, have a little snooze while you're waiting for the big one. 

I raced back along the wharf to the beach when I spotted the sun moving towards the horizon (the sun sets very quick when you're doing a 600m dash!) but there were only subtle colours this evening. 

And I have to add a note here- just for those that are keeping track of my 'trips' - I fell off a driftwood pile in my scramble to get down to the sand and scraped my shin badly.  I managed to hobble off like nothing had happened after spotting several people watching. And it's still giving me grief!

Even though I missed a spectacular sunset I did manage a very moody sunrise the next morning... 

....grabbing a few shots before heavy rain arrived and we hunkered down inside for the day.

In keeping with the our special national day of remembrance tomorrow- ANZAC Day, April 25th- here's my last photo from Tolaga Bay.  Lest we forget. 

Friday, 20 April 2018

Passion to Pocket Money


A small interruption before I carry on with the East Coast blogs; I have a very important announcement to make.

I'd like to introduce you to my new website- named, what else but 'Shellie Evans Photography'. This is a new venture for me and a natural progression from my 'enthusiastic amateur' photographer status. It's time for my passion to make me some pocket money.

You may recall me saying earlier in the year, that I was a little distracted with another project. Well this was what it was, it's taken a little longer than expected to get it up and running. Not because of the website workings; I had a talented man do most of that, it was more to do with me often being out of internet range, busy exploring, busy enjoying summer, busy with family, busy writing blogs and processing photos, busy, busy, busy! 

And now I'm even busier as I have over five years of photos to sort through (don't worry they won't all be appearing on the site, just the best will be showcased). I'll be adding photos to the website regularly but it is taking a little longer than it should to sort through as I'm getting distracted reminiscing on all the wonderful places we've visited over the years. And then wanting to revisit them to take a better photo!

I know you thought that talented man I mentioned above must be David but no, I've had another talented man in my life these last few months. I'd like to say a big thankyou to Lionel Taylor for all his hard work behind the scenes in setting up my website platform. Lionel, with his wife Ronnie, work together in their business Cypher- The Design Business, and they go a long way back with us, having set up several of our previous business websites over the years. I also have to mention that Ronnie might just about be my blog's #2 fan (behind Dad), she has followed along on our journey since day one! Thanks guys for all your support.

So there you have it, I'm a little nervous and unlike the others, not totally convinced my photos will sell, but I guess nothing ventured, nothing gained. Wish me luck.

And in case you missed the link above here it is again.

Shellie Evans Photography Website- https://shellieevans.photoshelter.com/index/all

You can also like my 'Shellie Evans Photography Facebook Page' if you'd like to follow along and see daily photos, and please feel free to share- https://www.facebook.com/shellieevansphotography/

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Beach Hop North- A Whale & Losiels Beach, East Coast


I figured because I've done a 'Beach Hop South' series; when we stopped at all the beaches down the east coast south of Napier, I might as well call these next few blogs around the East Coast, the 'Beach Hop North' series.

Whangara Bay, East Coast
Gisborne District Council  is one of the more enlightened councils around New Zealand when it comes to freedom camping in their district. Rather than ban camping at their many lovely beaches, they have a permit system that allows camping at eight beaches (and one inland river site) for a small fee over the summer period (day-light saving months). 

There are basically 2 conditions; the maximum stay at any of the sites is 3 nights and whether in a tent or a vehicle, you must have a chemical toilet available to use. You do not need to be CSC (certified self contained) but must be self-contained. Most of the camps sites have a temporary cassette dump station available along with a public toilet. They also allow freedom camping (at no cost) at some of these beaches, but not all, over winter.

There are 3 different permits available, and a number of rubbish bags are supplied with each permit. These can be left for collection below the sign board on each site. We chose the $31 permit, $3.10 per night is a pretty good price to pay to be able to stay at some stunning camp sites, as we were soon to find out.

CostNights - rubbish bags issued
$16 up to 2 nights - 1 rubbish bag
$31 over 2 nights up to 10 nights - 5 rubbish bags
$66 over 10 nights up to 28 nights - 14 rubbish bags
We decided not to stay at the first two beaches- Turihaua & Pouawa- as they were just 16kms and 18kms north of Gisborne city and while the beaches were lovely, the camping areas are long narrow strips alongside the road. These beaches are very popular with Gisborne locals over the summer holiday period and are usually wall to wall canvas and campervans. 

Before we arrived at our first night's camp we took a short detour to check out a special place; Whangara Bay (see the first photo). I've wanted to visit this little settlement of Whangara for a very long time. We missed it the last time we travelled down the coast in our regular car 7 years ago, it was getting late and we had to be in Gisborne before dark. I wasn't going to miss it this time, even though we had the 5th-wheeler on the back. The road in was very narrow and we got some strange stares as we passed a few houses on the way in.

Can you spot it? Sitting on the roof?

How about now? This is the home of the whale rider and the carving, atop the Whangara Marae, holds a very special place in the hearts of local Maori. The Whangara people believe their presence in the bay dates back a thousand years or more to a single ancestor, Paikea, who escaped death when his canoe capsized by riding to shore on the back of a whale.

The iconic 2003 New Zealand film The Whale Rider, staring 'Academy Award Best Actress' nominated Keisha Castle-Hughes was based on the Maori myth and filmed here in the bay. Unfortunately due to the influx of tourists after 'The Whale Rider' became famous, access to the village now requires the permission of the local iwi.

Luckily we were able to turn the rig around near the entrance to the village and stop on our way back out, near the top of the road into the bay and still see the carving on the Marae roof and also the church (see first photo) which I can add to my Country Church collection.

Just as we were about to pull away we spotted another fifth-wheeler heading towards us. What are the odds of that? Not one vehicle had passed us on the road, I bet the locals did a double take when they spotted these guys after seeing us half an hour earlier. 

They stopped to say hello (as you do when you come across another 5th-wheeler), they were looking for a beach to have lunch at. We told them about the turnaround further down the road and that there wasn't any access to the beach and left them to it as we pulled out and headed back to the main road.

The next destination was going to be our camp for the night, we'd been warned that the 6km road into Waihau Bay/Loisels Beach was narrow, winding and had very few places to pass any oncoming traffic (and in fact it was just a vehicle width only for the last 3kms or so).

With a little bit of trepidation we carefully drove round the blind corners, along a cliff edge with a massive drop-off, down through the tiny seaside settlement to the end of the road. Luckily we didn't meet another vehicle because one of us would certainly have had fun backing up.

And in case you're wondering, there are two Waihau Bays around the East Coast; this one is just above Gisborne and the other more well know bay is on the other side, just below Cape Runaway, in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.

Loisels Beach is just 42km from Gisborne but with very few campers on the road at this time of the year (late March) it felt like we were hundreds of miles from civilization arriving at a beautiful deserted beach. 

Although there were still half a dozen shuttered up caravans parked up after the summer break (which must have been a good one going by the flag pole!). 

With the Easter holiday break due in a couple of weeks I'm guessing camp regulars (who must have a special deal, as it's a 3 night maximum stay) have left their caravans here to use over the long weekend.

David backed 'Out There' onto a reasonably flat area near the entrance to the reserve so we could make the most of this fabulous view along the beach. 

and with this view out the back kitchen window, I was more than happy...

How to make your fifth-wheeler look huge- park it up on a rise higher than the ute.

Later in the afternoon while we were walking along the beach, we were overtaken by the only other person we saw on the beach while we were there. He was an American, staying in one of the holiday homes above the reserve. He told us he was having a fabulous time and couldn't get over how beautiful the bay was and how he had the beach to himself most of the time.

He was heading to the north end of the bay, we only walked a little of the way, climbing to the top of a hill overlooking the beach further along...

Waihau Bay- looking south...
...and north.
...before slowly wandering back to base along the incoming tide line; you can see the van parked up middle right, the holiday settlement behind the reserve and if you look carefully (click to open the photo up), the road into the bay cutting around the edge of the bluff on the left.

When we'd arrived we'd decided against driving to the other end of the reserve to check out the camping spots past the caravans because of the thick sand along the rough track. Which was probably just as well. Early the next morning, around 6am, I woke up to a whole lot of revving and garbled shouting. Other than one other couple in a late model caravan, we'd been the only ones in the reserve when I went for a wander before going to bed around 10pm the night before. 

When I looked out in the pre-dawn gloom, I could see two small sleeper vans stuck in a deep sandy pot-hole in the middle of the track, with about 4 or 5 dark shapes pushing and rocking the vehicles. After much effort (and noise), they managed to free one of the cars and then used it to tow the other car out. They all piled back in and roared off out of the reserve. I'd say it was pretty good karma. 

Now wide awake, I waited for the sunrise. Though this isn't just any sunrise, this is sunrise on the East Coast of New Zealand; pretty much the first place in the world to see the new day's sun. And it didn't disappoint.

It never fails to amaze me how often the sun rises on a reasonably clear sky and then the clouds roll in not long afterwards. These photos were taken 30 minutes apart.

Of course it also never fails to amaze me how often a certain someone wakes up, looks out, and says; 'What an awful day, where's the sun?'

Thursday, 12 April 2018

A Water Slide & A Waterfall- Gisborne


From Mahia we headed north to Gisborne, the city of rivers; named for the Waimata and the Taruheru rivers which join to form the Turanganui River right in the heart of the city. The downtown area is in the middle left of this photo, fronting the Turanganui. From the city centre, the Turanganui flows just 900 metres before it enters Poverty Bay; it's totally tidal and is reputed to be the shortest river in the Southern Hemisphere.

The Oneroa Cycle Way & Boardwalk along Waikanae Beach looks very similar to Napier's Marine Parade, complete with Norfolk Pines but I'd have to say the lovely sandy beach looks a lot more inviting than the shingle beach along the Parade.

Our lovely semi-rural camp for the next 3 nights was a CAP (NZMCA costs apply park) just north of the city. We were the first in for the night but on arriving back after doing a few chores and stocking up on supplies we were pleased to see that a certain motorhome and a cute wee dog had arrived! This is what happens when you're back in the North Island, you keep bumping into rellies! 

Pam & Gerald were about to embark on a trip around the East Coast, the last time we saw them was at Tutira, since then they'd been back to home in Napier for a couple of weeks, off around the Coromandel, across to Mangakino, back home again and now they were off around the Coast. 

It's a bit like the hare and the tortoise, while they've been gallivanting here, there and everywhere, we've been slowly plodding along, leaving Tutira for Lake Waikaremoana, then onto Mahia and now to Gisborne. We had a great catch-up and a few good laughs before they left us in their dust again. I think they were home again before we'd even rounded the Cape.

Sponge Bay (I keep wanting to type Sponge Bob), a popular swimming beach and surf spot is just a short stroll from camp at the end of the road...

...but it's the access to the better break near Tuamotu Island on the other side of the lookout at Sponge Bay that is more popular for experienced surfers (Tuamotu; tua= other side or beyond, motu= island).

Before we left Gisborne there was one place I wanted to visit; David wasn't feeling too well and wasn't too keen to drive the 100km round trip on the day we'd planned to go so I headed off by myself. I wanted to visit the Rere Rockslide which is now a very popular attraction thanks to social media and the AA '101 Things to Do' list.

From the carpark the Wharekopae River looks innocuous enough. It's not until you walk to the edge to see where the water disappears that you see the rock slide; a 60 metre long slab of rock descending at a 30 degree angle into a deep murky green pool below (the colour not too dissimilar to cow poop). The rocks over time have been smoothed by the swiftly running water and are also covered in slippery lichen making it into one giant natural slide. 

I say smooth but I can see three horizontal fissures streaking across the rock face which I'm sure would add a little drama to the slippery slope, not to mention the odd lump and ragged edge.

Can you see two terrified girls waiting at the top?
As the warning sign says you need to be happy with your ability to ride the slide. It's fast and furious and you'll need to swim to the side once you reach the 4 metre deep pool at the bottom. A person has drowned here recently when they went to save a non-swimmer, and I'd say there would also be a fair amount of injuries as people tumble off their 'magic carpets' scraping the rock on the way down.

You can ride the slide with just your body (if you're one tough nut and don't mind getting knocked about a bit) but it's better to have a barrier between you and the rocks; a boogie board, inflatable mattress, yoga mat, inner tube, anything is better than nothing. People do leave behind various floating devices for others to use, there was a small collection wedged under a willow branch at the top of the slide. But don't count on it. 

There were two young female tourists waiting at the top of the slide when I arrived. They had been there awhile (according to two other ladies watching and waiting) and were trying to convince each other to go. I managed to walk to the bottom and position myself on the otherside of the pond before they plucked up enough courage to push off. 

Another tourist couple arrived soon after and the girlfriend went down on a boogie board with a go-pro camera in her mouth (they played 'paper, scissors, rock' to see who went first- some hero her boyfriend turned out to be! Big wuss!!). They then commandeered the blow-up mattress from under the willow tree and used it to slide down together numerous times....

...up-ending most times as they reached the pool.

Here a short video (amateur alert!) I took of the two groups on the slide-

I could have sat there for the rest of the day watching as more and more people arrived to try their luck. I loved seeing the apprehension on their faces as they looked over the lip or sat on the edge willing themselves to push off. And then watching the smiles and hearing the laughter as they climbed back up the slope after the first run and not hesitating on their next slides. But it was time to head for home as I had another couple of places to check out.

Just 4-5kms back down the road are the picturesque Rere Falls. I'd passed them on the way up but wanted to get to the slide before the sun disappeared off the rock face.

At five metres the Rere Falls aren't very high but they make up for that with their width. They're 20 metres wide and make for an impressive sight and sound as you pull into the carpark. It's also possible to walk behind the cascading water although the rock surface is very slippery (you might just find you have your own Rere rock slide if you're not too careful).

I decided to have a bit of  practice using my ND filter (neutral density) to capture the motion blur of the water which makes it silky smooth. The filter reduces the amount of light passing through the camera sensor without changing the colour of the scene. 

If my filter is wound out to it's maximum, it's pitch black to look through, this allows for a longer exposure in bright conditions without over-exposing the shot (but you do need to set the camera and composition for the scene before attaching the filter otherwise you can't see a thing). The shot below was exposed for 5 seconds, that's 5 seconds of continuous water flow coming over the falls. The photos aren't quite there but I was happy with the practice.

Settings- ISO100, f/22, 5sec
I'd have stopped at  the Eastwoodhill Arboretum, which is just a few more kilometres further down the road, had autumn arrived. But as I drove past I could see the mass of trees were still lovely and green. We have visited the arboretum on a previous visit to Gisborne, we missed autumn then too, it was in the middle of winter! Still it was a lovely walk up hill, down dale and around all the ponds.

Taken July 2011
We did get to see some cute lambs too (how my photography has advanced from those days)

Once I arrived back in the city I headed up Kaiti Hill to the lookout with views out over Poverty Bay and across to the white cliffs of Young Nicks Head.

There are several lookouts on the road to the top, I stopped at the others on the way down; this one overlooks Gisborne Port; I was surprise at how small the port actually is (compared with Tauranga & Napier, both of which I'd taken photos of recently) although going by the logging trucks we've passed on the road and the pile of logs at the port, it's obviously a very busy port.

There's also a statue of Captain James Cook in the reserve...well it was meant to be James Cook- click the photo to read the details.

And right beside the statue is a pohutukawa tree which was planted by Princess Diana, although the cynic in me wonders why a plaque was only put there after her death. And why she planted a tree beside a statue that isn't of James Cook. 

I stopped at one last pull in area, climbed a few steps to take a pano of Gisborne city before returning to camp (click photo to view in detail).