Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Lottin Point & Another Wharf- East Coast


We'd heard about Lottin Point a few times but hadn't managed to visit it on our last (one and only) road trip around the coast. Then, the road across the top from Waihau Bay to Hicks Bay, seemed to go on forever winding it's way through native bush and pine forest interspersed with sparsely populated farmland. And to be honest, we were in a hurry, we'd stayed in Waihau Bay and had to be in Gisborne the next night and visit East Cape and all the settlements down the coast along the way. Ha! Those were the days- 3 days off, lets race around the East Coast, that'll be a relaxing trip. Not. 

Now that we were based in Te Araroa for a few days we could take a leisurely tiki tour to check out Lottin Point. The road climbs sharply over Haupara Point at the end of the bay, we stopped at a break in the bush (it's actually a landslide under repair) to take a photo looking back along the magnificent coast to Te Araroa tucked under the cliffs at the far end.

...and then it's over the top and another stop at a lookout for a view out over Hicks Bay. We'll call into Hicks Bay on the way home. When we do day trips we find it best to head to the furthermost point first and then explore on the way home otherwise we either run out of time, the weather changes or we get tired and can't be bothered driving any further. 

It's 30kms to the Lottin Point turn-off at Potaka and another 5kms down a very narrow winding road and part gravel track to a bay at the bottom of the hill. We're not surprised when we see a familiar caravan ahead of us, it's Lyn & Sean from Greymouth. 

They'd been parked behind us at Moreporks Nest for the last few days and we'd said our goodbyes earlier in the day. They thought they might head to Lottin Point but were unsure. Looks like they have decided to go for it.

It's a surprise to see a Lottin Point motel sign and then the motel itself half-way down the hill. This is a long way from civilization but wow, what a spot to come to if you're looking for solitude or perhaps to go fishing or diving. There's a helicopter pad at the front of the lawn so I expect a few guests arrive that way. 

Once we get to the bottom of the hill  the road passes through farmland heading towards a little bay tucked into the elbow formed by Lottin Point.

Not far from the last drop down into the bay we have to stop to open a gate. I'm excited to see a small herd of water buffalo in the paddock beside the gate.  I say a friendly hello to the bull who has wandered over to see what I am doing and I reach back into the ute to get my camera. Just as I take this photo he decides he doesn't like me and bellows and jumps at me. 

I have never moved so fast in all my life, the trouble is David had pulled the ute in close (so the caravan could pass) and I couldn't get around the end of it because of a ditch. Thank God for the electric wire along the top of the fence because like many things on the Coast, the fence is pretty flimsy, he stops just short of the wire. And actually, I have moved as fast, when a large monkey baring a mouth full of very sharp teeth tried to climb in my car window in Langkawi- I ended up sitting on David's lap and the gear stick and he couldn't drive away! 

Lyn & Sean carry on through the gate but they wait for us to pass them again before they attempt the last stretch down to the bay. It's a very narrow gravel track through some large trees with overhanging branches and there's also been a wash-out. It would be touch and go for us to get the rig down here.

The finger of land that is Lottin Point reaches out into the Pacific Ocean, the track ends at a tiny rocky bay tucked into the bottom of the point. The water is a deep emerald green, crystal clear and sparkles in the sun. Great swathes of kelp attached to the rocks sweep back and forward in the tide, this would be the perfect place to fish, dive and kayak or just have a swim in the calm waters. A local lady is collecting seaweed for her garden.

Huge gnarly old pohutukawa trees line the shoreline, many with large clumps of the epiphyte Astelia (also know as Perching lily, Kahakaha, or Widow Maker) growing in their branches. Don't you love the 'Widow Maker' name, imagine the damage a clump of that would do hitting you on the scone! It's pleasing to see that one monster tree that has lost it's footing and been blown over, has many new shoots along it's truck and branches. But it's also sad to think of what Myrtle Rust may do to these beauties in the future. 

There's not much space to set up camp as much of it is uneven or deep gravel and there's also a small ford to cross to get to one area. There's a strip of grass along the back of the beach and a grassy area set back off the water behind the pohtukawa. A fisherman has left his vehicle on the only flat spot in one area, a house truck is behind the trees and Sean & Lynn find the last flat area in the middle.

We leave them to set up camp and drive down to the end of the bay to have lunch, they join us for a coffee afterwards and then we say our farewells once again. Easter is fast approaching and they think they'll stay put for the long weekend- wise people.

We head back up the road; here's another photo showing you the track through the trees and a little of the washout just in case you're thinking you might visit in your motorhome. Sorry, it's not quite in focus, I was holding on as we bumped our way up the track.

The water buffalo had moved on and had been replaced by a number of piglets of various sizes who were wandering about or sunning themselves along the side of the road. They weren't in a hurry to move either.

At the top of the road I took one last photo and it was then that I spotted another herd of buffalo...

...lazing about and wallowing in a water hole. Many of the cows had calves with them. 

We headed back towards Hicks Bay, on the way up I had noticed a sign on a gate 'Nipple Hill Farm', and thought that's a rather odd name to call your farm. There must be a story behind it. Well there is and here it is, Nipple Hill, which can be seen very clearly when you're heading east.

We turned off into Hicks Bay where it's interesting to see the signpost as we pass the school. Kura is short for Kura Kaupapa which is a Maori language immersion school. I'm sure there are a few around the country (and especially on the East Coast) but this is the first one I've been alerted to by the signpost.

At the end of the bay are the old freezing works ruins; one of the reason there's another old historic wharf here on the East Coast.

The road- or track because surely it can't be called a road- into the historic Hicks Bay Wharf hasn't improved one iota from our last visit here 7 years ago. It might not have improved but it certainly is no worse, it's still mostly mud and large water filled pot holes.

Access to the top of the rickety wharf is blocked off but you can wander around underneath it at low tide.

The rocky platform provides an ideal place to fish from too, can you see the guy up under the wharf near the edge.

But it's the nearby rocks that are obviously the best place to fish from, these locals told me they've been here for much of the day and they have a sack of fish. One of the guys tells me to select a fish or two from the bag, I don't know why, but I politely decline. They then show me the large kingie and huge sting-ray that are chasing their bait back and forward along the edge of the rocks.

We leave them fishing, one of them pulling in another kahawai, as we bump our way back over the track and head for home. Done for another day.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

The Kaka & The Minister


When the Minister for Conservation, Eugenie Sage recently made a pre-budget announcement that an extra $81.3 million would be spent on pest eradication, she announced it standing between two large banners. I'm tickled pink to say that one of the photos used was mine; a cheeky kaka feeding on our native flax/harakeke flowers.

As many of you know, I regularly supply photos to DOC (Department of Conservation) for use as they see fit. It's my 'volunteer without gumboots' contribution to conservation in New Zealand- that link is to a past blog with some of my photos from the DOC website.  If you click the DOC link above it you'll see the kaka photo is also on their front page at the moment.

I can just see my 'name in lights' here under the heading! My DOC contact sent me these photos yesterday.

And in case you're wondering, the other banner photo is of a NZ Bush Robin (and I can't read the photographers name).

Thursday, 17 May 2018

A Lighthouse & A Big Tree- East Cape; Part 2


Continuing on from Part 1

Once we moved the gathering of horses on from the entrance to the lighthouse walk, it was head down bum up as we set off at a steady pace... climb the 800 steps to East Cape Lighthouse. Someone has helpfully carved our progress into the steps; '150' (Really? Feels more like 250), 'There's 301 to go' (I've lost count by now and also read it as, I've done 301 steps and still have 500 to go. Bloody hell!) and finally '800, you did it! (thankyou kind person for your encouragement!). We pass fellow RVers, Angelique, Ken & Louell on their way down- they're staying at Moreporks Nest as well. David plods on, one foot after the other, steady as she goes...

...until we finally arrive at the top. The lighthouse is a popular attraction, many tourists make the pilgrimage to the top to be one of the first in the world to see the new day's sun rise over the eastern horizon.

The East Coast Lighthouse- 14 metres high, 154 metres from sea level and fully automated in 1985.

The views from the top are magnificent; looking south along the coast towards Gisborne...

...east towards East Island (imagine living on that tiny rock as the lighthouse keepers family did in the early days)...

...and west over farmland, with the lighthouse carpark and old buildings in the centre bottom of the shot.

The cloud formation provides some great leading lines for my photos.

We were disappointed to see how rundown the reserve around the lighthouse had become since our visit in 2011. The information panels that once told about the wildlife and East Island had been smashed along with a nearby seat. Rubbish had also been thrown in the bush and over the edge. Idle hands while people wait for the sunrise perhaps?

We headed back down to the carpark, passing a several groups of people coming up the stairs. At the bottom, a large group of Chinese tourists are talking excitedly to some of the horses who are standing by the track. A couple of the children are holding handfuls of grass and they ask me if they are allowed to feed the horses. I show the children how to hold their hands flat to feed them and left them having their photos taken. I also warn them not to go behind or try to touch the foals. I bet they decided that feeding the horses was the best experience that day!

We head back to Te Araroa, stopping to have a late lunch over looking the sea. There are a number of old derelict houses along the coast road, the one on the right doesn't looked to have changed at all in the 7 years since our last visit.

Just to prove that the signs are there for a reason...

...and that cattle, like the horses in the previous blog post, like to cool off on the sand too.

Back in Te Araroa we check out Te Waha-o-Rerekohu, New Zealand's oldest and largest pohutukawa tree which stands in the corner of the local school grounds. Te Ara, The Encyclopedia of NZ says the tree is thought to be around 600 years old but the sign says 350yo so who's right is anyone's guess. Still, it's a pretty impressive tree, its more than 21 meters tall and 40 meters in diameter at its widest point (click on the photo to read the sign)

This should give you some perspective, it's a massive tree!

The day wouldn't be complete without another horse encounter; we come across this little fellow just down the road from Moreporks Nest, he was happily wandering down the middle of the road but when he spotted us coming he made a break for it and trotted off down a driveway.

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Moreporks & Horses- East Cape; Part 1


We left Waipiro Bay and rather than back-track to Te Puia Springs we took the loop road back to the main road. It was only about 8kms but it was narrow, potholed and dusty. David very nearly turned around after 2-3kms but I convinced him we only had a short distance to cover before we were back on the highway.

We called into Ruatoria for lunch and supplies and then continued on, stopping in Tikitiki to take photos of another beautiful historic church. St Mary's Anglican Church is well known due to the beautiful Maori carvings and panelling inside but unfortunately the church has been closed to the public for many years so I'm unable to show you the interior. 

St Mary’s was completed in 1926 as a memorial to the local Ngati Porou soldiers who fought and died in the First World War. Standing high on the hill behind the church is the cenotaph.

There are Te Araroa signs all the way up the coast so I had to post at least one on here. Those that have been following my blog for awhile will know that I've posted many Te Araroa signs from the South Island's remote and sometimes snowed in interior in the past.  Of course those signs are for Te Araroa, New Zealand's Trail or the Long Pathway- the roughly 3000km walking trail from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South.

This sign post is for the real McCoy- Te Araroa, the East Coast village. It's a pity that the trail doesn't pass through here, it would add a whole lot of money to the local economy but also a whole heap of kilometres to the trail.

Tikitiki is another tiny East Coast settlement with just a few houses and a number of long empty commercial buildings. It says a lot for the area that the only businesses that look to have survived are the RSA (with post boxes) and a barber's shop! Although that looks to have shut down too.  

Our next stop is at Moreports Nest in Te Araroa. This will be our home base for the next few days. We've finally reached the top of the East Coast and the most eastern settlement in New Zealand.

Moreporks Nest is a hidden gem and well worth an extended stay. They offer backpacker accommodation inside the homestead, tent sites on the front lawn and a large parking area at the entrance for self-contained RVs at $15 a night per van. And it lives up to its name; Moreporks gently  (or otherwise) 'more...pork' you to sleep from the pines up behind the campsite every night.

The 130 year old colonial home was originally situated in Gisborne, where it was once occupied by nuns and operated as a school. It was shifted to Te Araroa in 1985 and is slowly being restored to its former glory. A section of the top storey was removed when it arrived and is now one of the whanau's homes down the road.

There's a great communal kitchen and BBQ area at the back of the main house and laundry, toilets & showers available too. It's also one of the very few places around the coast where you can fill up with water; and lovely spring water at that. Most people are on tank supply and water is a valuable commodity for the locals. 

I do feel very sad for Moreporks Nest though, they are about to loose a fair bit of their trade. This is not good for any East Coast business where it is a daily struggle to survive. And the reason? There is a new NZMCA Park about to open just half a kilometre down the road, the digger was parked up ready to attack the paddock a few days after we left.

Te Araroa village is not very big and I know that having the NZMCA Park in town is going to bring a lot of other business to the settlement but sadly it's also going to take some away from Moreporks Nest. I hope people will still support Moreporks, it's a lovely place with charming hosts.

Site of the new Te Araroa NZMCA Park
Of course our first day of exploring was out to East Cape and the lighthouse. We first visited the lighthouse back in 2011 when we did a quick three day loop in our car from Tauranga up the Eastern Bay of Plenty, round the Cape and down to Gisborne, then back home through the Waioeka Gorge. David recalls the number of steps involved and is reluctant to commit to climbing them again. He comes along for the ride anyway, all 22kms and much of it gravel.

It's a beautiful sunny, calm autumn day but you can see from the hillside how ferocious the wind blows out here along the Cape road. The last time I saw bush sculptured like this was in South Westland on the West Coast near Haast. 

I get excited when, just as the road leaves the coast for a short distance to cross a river, I think I spy some horses on the beach. We turn around and head back and sure enough, there are horses resting on the sand near the water line. Two of them are cooling off by actually laying on the wet sand, did you spot them? 

The East Coast is well known for it's free-running horses, they're not actually wild horses although some appear to be wild by nature. They belong to local families and have either broken free from their paddocks (where fencing is not the best) or have been set free to roam at will and caught again when they're needed for breeding or riding. 

I took this photo a couple of days later when I headed back to the beach to see if I could find the horses again. This time there were a few extras in the group.

This photo was also taken on that second trip, as you can see the weather was turning but it made for a great moody shot.

About 6kms from the Cape we stopped to check out a very 'rustic' campground with one of the best views in the country.

East Coast Campground is really just a random, half finished building in a paddock with very few facilities. I'm sure the vision was there at the beginning- the Gisborne District mayor even opened it back in 2005- but it seems to have petered out over time. 

Now all it really is, is just a stunning place to park up for a night or two (self contained of course). I love the directions to the honesty box; arrows on the door frame leading in from outside up the edge and over to a slot in the wall!

We're nearly to the end of the road and ahead of us I can see East/Whangaokeno Island which sits just 2kms off  the Cape. The lighthouse and keepers house used to be on this island (a very lonely place for a family) but was shifted back to the mainland in 1922 because of access problems, earthquakes and landslips.

Around the next corner we can see the lighthouse high atop Otiki Hill, the sign ahead warns of cattle, perhaps that should have been horses.

Though these horses are all behind the flimsy fences that hold them all in the one large paddock...

...that contains all the old lighthouse keepers buildings.

There are horses galore of all different ages from new born foals, yearlings and mares (many seeming to be in foal too). 

A couple of the mares had two youngsters of different ages following along. I counted over 48 horses in total! They all seem to have come from a similar bloodline; a paddock full of chestnuts, palominos, creams and champagne horses. I didn't see a stallion amongst them although there must be one very near! I didn't look too hard though. 

I spoke to one of our hosts back at Moreporks later, asking her what happens to all the horses on the Coast. She told me that East Coast horses are actually highly sort after when they have horse sales because they breed them tough and they have a lot of stamina. I'd have to agree with that!

I could have stayed and watched the horses for ages, especially this little cutie; she kept close as Mum gently rocked back and forward near a pole. It wasn't until Mum stepped away that I realised she'd been scratching her bum on a broken clothes line pole! Don't you dig the foal's little punk-rocker mane tuft.

There was no point in delaying the obvious though, the time had come to tackle those steps, all 800 of them. And surprise, surprise, David decided he might as well climb them too, as I knew he would.

To be continued...