Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Labour Weekend at Mapua


We've had an fabulous weekend relaxing with friends, old & new, at the Mapua Leisure Park. Mapua is located about halfway between Nelson & Motueka and the holiday park sits on a large sprawling site at the tip of the peninsula between Ruby Bay and Rabbit Island.

The entrance into Waimea Inlet and Rabbit Island remind us a lot of Matakana Island and Tauranga's inner harbour. And in fact the coast road from Richmond through to Motueka also reminds us of the drive from Tauranga to Katikati, with all the little inlets and tidal estuaries along the way.

The Mapua Wharf, with it's restaurants, cafes and gift shops, is a prominent feature just inside the inlet entrance. A passenger ferry carries people the short distance from the wharf to Rabbit Island, where there are many walking and biking tracks. 

I posted this photo on Facebook over the weekend & labeled it- Papa Bear, Mama Bear & wee Baby Bear. As you can see there are some pretty big fifth-wheelers on the road. Our 5th-wheeler is 9mtrs, Amanda & Pauls' (on the right) is 10mtrs and Katrina & Bernies' is 11mtrs. 

Happy hour- David, Amanda, Paul, Bernie & Katrina. The weather was perfect all weekend although the sun dropped behind the trees a little earlier than we would have liked. There's still a spring chill in the air once that sun goes. 

Katrina & Bernie are due to hit the road full-time next January and they can't wait. In the meantime they head away most weekends with their gorgeous dog family in tow; Boo, Oakley and Paddy the Irish Water Spaniel. You can see in the photo of the rigs above, they have a large dog enclosure that contains the dogs and allows them access to the rig and underneath for shade when they're at home.

Once we'd settled in I had a wander around the park, stopping to say hello to Joey the resident Cockatoo, who had called me over for a 'Scratch, Scratch'. He sticks his head through a gap and bends it right down and nearly back in if you hit the right spot. One of his wings also lift up and down in reaction to the right scratch, a bit life a dog's leg when you hit a nerve while rubbing their belly.

Joey's aviary overlooks a very busy intersection in the campground and I can hear him talking and squawking as people come and go. He calls to me whenever I visit the laundry- I sidle around the corner hoping he won't spot me and then I feel guilty if I don't go and say hello. Yesterday he grabbed my camera strap in his claw and wouldn't let go, he is very cheeky but I do feel a little sad for him. 

There are a number of semi-permanent residents in camp but Garry has got to take the cake with the most 'awesome-est' mobile home of them all. I couldn't believe my eyes when I walked past and had to go back for a second look and say hello to the very charming and slightly eccentric gentleman who was pottering about outside. 

Garry gave me the grand tour, inside and out and showed me many of his bits and bobs and where and how everything fitted together when he did take it out on the road. It's been a work in progress for the last 8 years but very soon he'll be shifting down the road. He loves his outdoor kitchen he told me; I'm sure he has enough burners and elements to cook a feast for the whole campground. The old equipment hanging from the walls reminded me of the stalls at the markets with implements and tools for sale from yesteryear.

Garry has a vege garden on the roof, you can just see a few things sprouting above the roof line. He climbs up through the hatch to water and pick the veges. I love the kids gumboots under each chair leg to stop them disappearing into the ground. On the other side of the truck he showed me his mobile workshop; a vice and grinder on their own frames which pulled out from a gap behind the cab. 

Garry has a neighbour just down the way, who lives in this tiny quirky cottage that looks like it might have once been on the back of a housetruck.

A wander around Mapua Leisure Park reveals many nooks and crannies, interesting buildings, a range of cabin and motel units, open kitchens and even a cafe on the waterfront. The swimming pool and sauna complex were closed for maintenance  but the tennis and volleyball courts were open and being used over the long weekend. During the months of February & March, the park is a 'Clothes Optional'  campground but there are strict rules about where you can and can't walk stark-naked.

There are some lovely displays of sun daisies around the park-

The bird life is also prolific, with dozens of tui feeding on the hundreds of flowering trees. Two or three kingfisher drive me crazy every day with their continuous and monotonous call and I've heard a couple of shinning cuckoos but have failed to spot them. Quail creep about in the bushes and make a dash for it when they get to open ground.

A family of swallows live above the ironing bench in the laundry; it looks like their nest was destroyed a few times before the caretakers gave up. Now two hungry faces peer over the edge and the parents dive-bomb you every time you enter. They fledged yesterday and were trapped against the windows in the laundry, they couldn't find the door so I gave them a helping hand. This morning they were back in the nest!

Another quirky customer....

And a few random captures around camp as people relaxed in the sunshine over the holiday weekend.

We visited the Saturday market (a smaller version of the Napier market, Mum) at Motueka but missed the big event up the valley at the annual Ngatimoti School festival fundraiser which was a shame.

Instead we tiki-toured our way home along the coast road. This is the shipwreck of the Janie Seddon, she was built in 1901 and was credited with firing the first shots of WWII, a warning shot across the bow of the liner City of Delhi. In 1947 she was sold as a fishing trawler but replaced by diesel powered ships which were more efficient than her coal powered engine. Eventually she was sold for scrap but the steel was so hard the company had difficulty trying to cut her up so she was eventually towed to the foreshore and beached there in 1955. And there she still lays, now a much visited historic rusting hulk and monument to shipping in the area.

There was one place I wanted to visit while we were here in Mapua and I wasn't sure whether or not I'd be successful in, a) finding the pond & b) finding the ducks in question as they are notoriously secretive and can disappear for weeks at a time. I found the pond (it's on private property) and I couldn't believe my luck when not only were the ducks in residence they were resting on a bank not far from my entry point.

They soon took off though, but I still managed to get a few reasonable shots. These are Australian Wood Ducks and like my other two favourite exotic duck species, the Plumed Whistling Ducks in Napier & the beautiful male Mandarin Duck at Lake Rotoiti, Nelson Lakes, they are a rare vagrant visitor to New Zealand and only found on this one pond. 

Originally there was just a pair of Wood Ducks but last season they bred and produced 5 ducklings. It's not sure how many survived but from this photo at least 3 of them (others might be nesting at the moment). I'm now lucky enough to have seen all 3 vagrant duck species. I'm going back to see if I can get a little closer later in the week.

And one final photo of another happy hour with a few more friends; all fifth-wheel owners. It was like we held our own rally!

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Beach Hop South- Mataikone & Riversdale

Catch-up, this might be the last blog for a few days. Labour Weekend (a long weekend for Kiwis) is fast approaching and I think I'll take a few days off from my screen to relax and enjoy the early summer sunshine. 

As you've probably gathered from the previous Castlepoint blogs our sunny days in camp didn't last long. Two days of spring sunshine without the hint of a breeze and then dark storm clouds rolled in from the east.

For a few hours they stayed at sea and then headed north...

...before returning down the coast; with heavy rain and the wind whipping up the waves...

...and blowing bucket loads of sea foam and seaweed on shore.

The locals weren't impressed...

And nor were we...

It was cold, blustery and wet, there was nothing for it but to sit it out.

A gift for the locals came riding in on the waves...

A breakfast bar for birds- thousands of tiny goose barnacles smothered the log which would have been bobbing about in the ocean for a long while. Not quite above the tide line, the birds squabbled for the best position, landing and alighting as each wave swept over the top of it.  

After three days of stormy weather and cabin fever about to set in, we decided on a drive to blow the cobwebs away. And no, we did not stop at the local pub, the well known Whakataki Hotel which is back down the road about 5kms, just before the road hits the coast. The hotel is also CAP (costs apply parking) for NZMCA members, it used to be free parking until the usual happened, the minority spoilt it for the majority and abused the facilities. So now everyone pays.  

We turn off just before the pub, we're heading up the coast a short distance, to the settlement of Mataikona. The road is narrow and winding as it passes over a bluff but opens up once it reaches sea level again. We pass through a few small settlements, this one is called Sandy Bay. No prizes for guessing why.

And look, I found my ideal woolshed! With a cottage attached to the end of it. 

Further along the road we stop to check out some very fascinating rock formations. The Mataikona Rocks are a hidden geological gem; the spiky rows are the result of sandstone being compressed by the weight of the Pacific Ocean, then bent and buckled by colliding tectonic plates.

They are usually hidden by the sea so if you're wanting to see them, time your visit for low tide. The tide is on the way in when we stopped and by the time we returned back down the road, they were gone. I wanted to come back at low tide to walk out to the end and explore the rock pools but unfortunately the weather didn't settle until our last day. 

We very rarely come across traffic on these back country dead-end roads but today's vehicles are an unusual assortment; a fellow RVer freedom camping- he'd have been buffeted about overnight, a loaded logging truck, we moved off the road to let him past and I'm glad we didn't meet him on the bluff. And a police ute, which passed us twice, once while we were parked in the middle of the road! 

Just past Mataikona the road turns inland and follows the Mataikona River for a short distance before it becomes a 4WD track that comes out somewhere around Tinui. The river is also the province boundary line between Manawatu-Wanganui to the north and Wellington to the south.

We turn around just past the Paua Pad...

There are quite a number of  baches and make-do shacks sheltering in a pine plantation that runs alongside the road. I've been told that fishing and diving are very bountiful along this stretch of the coast.

On our way back to the main road we stop one last time, at the bluff, so I could take a photo looking down towards Castlepoint with Castle Rock towering above at the rear.

We then headed back inland to Tinui and down to Riversdale, 50 kms to the south of Castlepoint. At one stage we were going to take the 5th-wheeler down there and stay for a few days but with the weather not playing ball we decided to just do a day trip there. It rained on and off all the way...

...and it was cold and so blustery when we arrived, it was a quick run to the top of the sand dune to grab a shot and say 'been there, done that'. I don't even think David took a look. We found a sheltered spot at the end of the road to have lunch and then cursed the weather because we couldn't do an interesting walk along the beach, through the dunes and back along a stream. Well, we could have but it would have been no fun. 

Of course I couldn't leave without taking the obligatory church photo- Riversdale's St Josephs Church.

On the way home we stopped at the Tinui Cemetery where the Tinui Anzac Walkway begins. It's a steep climb to the top of Tinui Taipo (Mt. Maunsell) where the elusive ANZAC Memorial Cross is located (you'll recall I couldn't see it from the village). 

The walkway is through native bush plantings and  private farmland and is only open from Nov 1st to April 25th each year (which I think is just as well as I didn't really feel like a steep hike to the top). I'd seen a small pine enclosed in a cage near the information shelter when we were passing earlier and before realizing the significance of the walkway, I thought it might have been a wilding pine with an explanation as to why they are such a pest. Imagine my surprise to see that it was a very special Lone Pine! 

Back home and the barnacle bar is still providing food for the locals, this time a pair of Variable Oystercatchers, one with unusual striped underpants. Their antics reminded me of those slippery logs you  have to run across without falling off into the swimming pool. The tide spun it around and over as the birds ran up and down balancing carefully so as not to have to jump off.

They were late to the party though, most of the barnacles were gone. After seeing off the gulls they set about cleaning up the left-overs, sticking their bills down every nook and cranny prying out tasty morsels until the log was bare.

Mr & Mrs Red-billed Gull were not impressed.

Finally, after five days of cold, rain, wind and salt spray the sun came out....and David had to clean the van again! There's a lighthouse across there, somewhere.

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Pelorus Bridge, Marlborough


Sometimes things happen for a reason. Three days ago we were already to leave Blenheim; chores and shopping done, friends caught up with, diesel tank full, fresh water tank full, rubbish disposed of. Just the black tank to empty on the way out of town. All good, until the lever came off the gate valve in David's hand as he was back-flushing the tank. Oh shite! Literally.

So it was back to the racecourse, explain our situation and get approval to stay a little longer (it's 4 nights maximum there and we'd already stayed our quota). Then a quick call to get a new gate valve sent overnight. And strict instructions from the 'Boss' not use the loo- luckily there are toilets at the racecourse, even if they're a wee (literally) way away. The valve arrived the next morning thankfully, and after some careful contemplation, David did a magnificent job of removing the old and replacing the new and we were good to go once again this morning.

Because David was feeling a little weary after all the clambering over and under the van doing the repair work, we decided not to travel as far as we originally intended to. Which is how we found ourselves on an awesome site beside the Pelorus River at Pelorus Bridge. Which is west of Blenheim on SH6, not far past Havelock and just before the Rai Valley, on the way to Nelson. We've passed through here often and it's always been on the 'must stop and stay' list but until today we haven't. It's time to start crossing some things off that list.

But first we had to weave our way down the track to the DOC camping ground...

...being very careful to not take out any of the trees along the way.

At the end of the track the camp opened up, with sites all around the boundary of Kahikatea Flat.

We turned right just before DOC amenity building- which reminds me of the Anchorage Bay DOC Hut on the Able Tasman track.

Pelorus Bridge is one of the more well serviced DOC campgrounds and the cost reflect this; $18 pp per night. 

We had to maneuver around a few more trees once we reached the river side...

...and continued along the track...

 ...until we reached the end and found another RV in the prime spot! Oh well, never mind, second best would be OK. But, as luck would have it, these lovely people were only here for lunch so we stayed hitched, had our lunch, relaxed a little and then...

...moved into the prime spot after they left. Perfect! This will do just fine for a couple of days, there are a few walks in the area and I'm sure David will do a bit of fishing too.

And what a way to finish off the day, local Green-lipped mussels and Marlborough Salmon for dinner. We stopped in Havelock on the way through and I knew from the last time we stayed in the village that the small 4 Square shop sells live mussels. I can never get over how cheap mussels are, anywhere in NZ. This lot, around 3 dozen, cost $10. Better than the 70 bucks it cost us for lunch at Mussel Boys in Havelock awhile ago. And we had left-overs so I passed them onto the visitors in two rental campervans that arrived later in the afternoon. Their smiles said it all.

Before I sign off, I had to post a few more photos that won't find their way onto another blog-

This awesome looking machine overtook us on our way to Pelorus Bridge and we found it in the carpark out by the cafe.

Everytime we stop at the Blenheim Racecourse we find ourselves a new spot, there are quite a number of different areas to stay. This time we were right on the fenceline and every morning (early) and evening we'd hear the rumble of hooves as a few dozen harness horses passed by and a thunder of drumming hooves when they raced the last circuit. They were being exercised either by sulky, like here, or attached to a frame on the back of a vehicle being driven around the course. This was taken from our door. Life on the road is never boring.

While visiting a friend in Waikawa (Picton) we went for a walk around the marina. We couldn't believe our eyes when we spotted a Quantum Catamaran in one of the berths. This was not just one of many Quantum boats we built and sold, this was once our very own Quantum, our demo boat that took us all around the Bay of Plenty, Coromandel, Hauraki Gulf, Northland and the Bay of Islands exploring. A boat we spent many happy hours on and the boat that sowed the seed for our wanderlust ways.

The last time we saw it, it was based in Opua, way up north, now it has Wellington as it's home town and it's still looking like new. Made us feel a little bit nostalgic.

And one last photo (from my cellphone) of a favourite dog from our travels, we met Blue, along with his parents, a couple of years ago at Kenepuru Head. Sadly John has passed on but we had lunch and spent a lovely afternoon with Jan and Blue reminiscing about old times and discussing the future. And you're still a gorgeous boy, Bluey.

Back to the beach blogs soon!