Saturday, 17 March 2018

Mokau Landing- Lake Waikaremoana, East Coast


We left Lake Tutira Friday morning heading north up the East Coast towards our next stop. It's been a very long time since I've travelled SH2 north of Tutira, when I was younger it was the route to our family summer holidays at Mahia and I also used to visit a farm (and the Waikare Pub) at Putorino with friends whose family lived nearby. 

I was keen to see the familiar settlements along the way; Putorino, Kotemaori and Raupunga but most of all I was looking forward to seeing the Mohaka Viaduct again. And there it was as we rounded a corner; just as I remember it, one massive, slightly rickety looking viaduct spanning the mighty Mohaka River far below. 

With no lookout to stop at, it was a matter of grabbing a few photos as we approached the viaduct, went under it, then as we crossed the river and one last one just before we disappeared over the top on the other side. 

Once the 4th highest viaduct in the world and still the highest in Australasia, the 95 metre, NZ Heritage Grade 1 listed viaduct, was opened in 1937 and was in regular use until the Napier to Gisborne rail line was mothballed in 2012. Though, just in the last month or so, KiwiRail and the Labour Government have announced that towards the end of the year, logging trains will recommence using the line on weekends from Wairoa to Napier. That's going to give a few people who live along the line a bit of a fright as they once again get used to looking out for trains.

We stopped in Wairoa for a few supplies and then headed off to our next destination, keen to get there before the weather turned on us (it had been a dull grey day so far) and the weekend campers arrived. 

We were headed to the remote Mokau Landing DOC camp on the shores of Lake Waikaremoana, 77kms inland and deep inside Te Urewera National Park. We were holding out hope that the tarseal would last most of the way but it came as no surprise when it ran out with still 39kms to travel. 

Ignore the time to travel, there was a glitch in the system this day.
And now we wished it was raining, just a light sprinkle to deaden the dust! There were several short random sections of seal here and there though; some past farm homesteads for obviously reasons but others for no apparent reason. 

Much of the gravel road was deeply corrugated and I felt sorry for David as he cursed and mumbled under his breath. He'd spent the last few weeks polishing, painting underneath and cleaning the rig. By the time we arrived at the camp a thick layer of dust coated it  from top to bottom. 

There was no time to stop for photos at the top of the climb above the Tuai Power Station and Lake Whakamarino or looking down the other side to Lake Waikaremoana. I was hoping that I'd be able to return to Tuai at a more leisurely pace sometime during our stay.

Mum has a cousin, who with his family, lived at Tuai for many years. He was a local Maori elder/Kaumātua and a water taxi skipper for trampers on the lake's Great Walk. He was killed tragically in an quad bike accident a few years ago. During our stay I did manage to speak to several people who knew Noel well. Unfortunately I didn't get back to Tuai, the road and the weather kept us at Mokau.

Sign? What Sign?
It's 12kms from the Waikaremoana campground to the DOC camp at Mokau Landing. The road is even narrower and windier than we've already experienced. With very few places to pull over and many blind corners we were lucky to not have met anyone coming the other way.

This is State Highway 38 from Wairoa to Murupara and beyond. It finishes at Rainbow Mountain in the Rotorua District, a 200km long winding road, much of it gravel through a very remote and beautiful part of New Zealand. It's called the Te Urewera Rainbow Route and is touted to tourists as a stunning scenic drive. And it is. But I bet the tourists that drive it are very pleased when they reach the other end. You only want to do this road once in your lifetime. We have driven it- there and back- a very long time ago in our regular car. We have no intentions of repeating the exercise!

Finally we reach the turn off down into the Mokau Landing Camp. We're half way down the track before we realise that this is even narrower than the road. I got out to check around the blind corner, to make sure no one was heading up and when I looked back I could see David was suddenly more concerned with getting around the corner. There's no turning back now.

I needn't have worried about how busy the camp might have been over the weekend which was one of the reasons we left Tutira on Friday. Mokau is a large site with several areas to park- beside the Mokau Inlet and stream, at the back of the reserve, on the lake front or round the corner in a bush clearing tucked into another bay (a lovely spot but with no views of the lake). We set up right on the lake front and not far from the boat ramp.

There was one other couple and their caravan when we arrived and we had 3 or 4 others come in over the weekend and then we were on our own again for the rest of the week with the caravan couple (hi Chris & Bernard!) and one or two tourist campers in each night. Folk who just couldn't go any further after driving the Rainbow Road me thinks! So far we've seen none of the overcrowded camps in the North Island that many people have complained about. But then again, we tend to visit the more remote places or ones off the usual beaten track. We'll see how we go the further north we head.

Photos clockwise- Mokau Landing DOC Camp, Wairoa Anglers Lodge at the rear of the camp, lake front view, sunset at Lake Waikaremoana and a friendly White-faced heron/Matuku Moana who sunbathed each evening on a nearby clump of dirt.

The Panekire Bluffs are a prominent feature of Lake Waikaremoana and can be seen from many different vantage points around the lake. The Lake Waikaremoana Great Walk starts off to the left of the bluffs at Onepoto and passes along the ridgeline on the very first day of the 3-4 day walk. 

David had the Takacat up and ready to go not long after we arrived and contrary to a few comments from other fisherman about the fishing being hard, managed to catch four trout on two outings. Usually a catch & release fisherman, it was time to bring one home for dinner. In fact he bought two home in the end because I had a new recipe I wanted to try out. We smoked the other one. 

I went on a couple of exploratory trips with David in between his fishing... to see a waterfall he'd found. He'd seen it in good light as the sun went down but by the time we arrived back, the sun had disappeared. And bobbing about in a little rubber dinghy is not conducive to getting a slow-mo shot of the water falling, but still, it was a lovely setting.

There was another reason we headed out in the boat several times with no particular place to visit; we had no cellphone or internet reception at the camp but if we motored out into the bay we managed to pick up a Vodafone signal. Normally having no reception wouldn't be a problem, we enjoy the break, but with two family birthdays during the week we were able to give them a call and wish them Happy Birthday while bobbing about on the water! (the red cord David is holding is the quick-cut line to the outboard).

On one trip we pulled onto this tiny beach to have lunch. David found quite a large abandoned camp site in the bush behind- grass flattened, neatly stacked woodpile, fire pit and a few missing trees; obviously a family has holidayed there over summer.

I thought I might like to walk a section of the last part of the Great Walk while David went fishing, but in the end I decided that part of the track wasn't too interesting though he did drop me off to check out the Whanganui Hut. Many of the Great Walk walkers get picked up by the water taxi near the hut and don't walk the last section to the road (you can see the road cutting around the bluff in the third photo below). 

I spoke to several walkers who had just arrived and I talked to a hunter who had returned to the hut with his catch; sadly an older fawn. He was a little embarrassed as he'd been after it's mother but instead shot the youngster when it stuck it's head out instead of the mother. The walkers were horrified that some one had been shooting nearby. He assured them that it was at least 500mtrs from the track as required by his permit but still, I'm not so sure I'd have felt safe with somebody shooting nearby. We're told that the Mokau camp is very busy during the 'roar' (April/May); can you imagine that! Not a good time to go camping if you don't like hunting.

Mokau Falls- this beautiful cascade of water is at the head of the Mokau Inlet, and feeds the lake via a short stream beside the camp. There's a viewing area back up on the road,  you can see the road bridge which passes over the stream on the other side of the inlet, in the photo.

The Mokau Inlet has a unique feature, there are in fact two waterfalls entering the inlet, the Tauwhare Falls are on the opposite side to the Mokau Falls and can only just be seen through the dense bush (not helped by the fact that the sun doesn't shine in there either). I couldn't see them but I could certainly hear them from the Mokau lookout. I had to drive over to the bridge to catch sight of them. That's the edge of the Mokau Falls at the bottom of the photo, a very cool edge for a waterfall. I wonder how many people have climbed down there and peered over the edge. 

Once I had finished taking photos of the waterfalls, I drove up to the top of the road hoping to get a view through the bush overlooking the campsite. This was my first stop; you can't see the camp, that's off to the right but it's overlooking the bay and the other finger of lake where we explored and where the hut is located. We didn't stop for lunch at the beach you can see, ours was not far around the next point.

 I stopped a few more times and finally managed to get a clear line of sight down to the camp.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Hawke's Bay's Most Spectacular Waterfall


Oh look! We're back where we started. Lake Tutira DOC Camp.

Well actually, we're not quite where we were last time. After our kerfuffle with the TV signal, we parked further forward away from the leaf coverage and now had a clear line direct to whichever satellite up there spends its life circling the earth keeping us roving travellers happy. Not that we needed TV in the end because we had visitors arrive for happy hour and stay on for dinner, and then we left Lake Tutira the next morning! 

My close girlfriend from high school and her partner live very near to Lake Tutira and they came over for a catch up; we had a great night, too many laughs and some of us a few too many wines- at least they didn't have far to go to get home. They were actually calling in on the night we headed back to Napier and passed us in the pouring rain, as they were heading home from Napier and we were heading south. 

We stayed on in Napier at NZMCA Ericksen Park for two nights after the ute was repaired, having another 'final' dinner, our third, with Mum & Dad before leaving the next morning. We headed back to Lake Tutira because we wanted to do one particular walk, one I've been wanting to do for as long as I can remember. A walk to the highest waterfall in Hawkes Bay. We had been going to do it the other day but instead headed to the south end of the Boundary Stream Sanctuary to find the Kaka. 

Shine Falls is at the northern end of Boundary Stream, a tough 6hr tramp end to end or 25km by road. Direct from Lake Tutira it's 20kms, the last 12kms are gravel, as we wind our way through high country Hawkes Bay.

The 4km, 1.5hr return walk starts at a stile near the DOC carpark and lunch shelter.

The first 500 metres or so cross through private farmland...

...where we pass huge limestone bluffs and narrow gullies. 

The track narrows and we follow it through a small section of Kanuka bush and the odd towering forest tree where I find these mushrooms.

Eventually we  reach the boundary of the reserve...

...and cross back into Boundary Stream.

We follow the track along the edge of a deep gully and far below we can hear the sound of rushing water, it actually sounds like a raging river but when we finally see the source of the sound, I think it must have been amplified a hundred times up the narrow walls or there's few more streams joining the main flow. 

Just before we reach the waterfall the tramping track to the other end of the reserve branches off, crossing the stream on this modern version of the swingbridge. I hope this is one off, I'd hate to see New Zealand's iconic swingbridges being replaced with these industrial looking bridges- entirely functional but with no character at all.

Just a little bit further on we catch sight of the top of the falls.

It's not long before we reach a small clearing where a couple of young tourists are having lunch at a picnic table near the base of the falls.

We move past them and up a small mound to find ourselves looking up at the tallest waterfall in Hawkes Bay, the spectacular Shine Falls. They certainly are impressive, especially how the water flows through a small gap at the top and then fans out over the rock face.  

Shine Falls drops 58 meters into a reasonably shallow pool (where many eels live I'm told). To give you some perspective, can you see David standing in the bottom right corner below?

And in this one, another visitor decides to go for a swim in the pool, he's much closer and the falls dwarf him. He chickened out though, I don't blame him, the water was ice cold (or perhaps he saw one of the eels).

We had a chat with the couple having lunch (who'd both gone for a swim and were drying their underwear on the nearby bushes) and then, as two more groups of people arrived, we headed back down the track...

...across the farmland to the carpark and back to Lake Tutira in time to have a short relax in the deck chairs before our guests arrived for happy hour. It's always great to have a 'reward' at the end of a walk. Whether it's a hut, a lookout, lake or a waterfall, it's nice to have a target to encourage you to walk the distance- Shine Falls more than met my expectations, I'd highly recommend a visit.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Napier to Lake Tutira Return

Catch-up, we're back in the land of the living after a couple of weeks visiting two Hawkes Bay lakes, one of them twice! 

After 11 weeks and a whole summer in the Bay it was finally time to say a reluctant farewell to Mum & Dad. Although it was tempered quite a bit due to the fact that they were going to visit us at our next camp over the weekend and we'd see them again in July when we returned for a significant birthday and anniversary.

Joy in her Happy Place
Our first stop isn't too far north of Napier, just 40kms up State Highway 2. We'd arranged to have a final hurrah weekend with our Hawkes Bay family camping buddies, Joy & Kevin (they've been camping, along with Pam & Gerald, at Lake Tutira for over 40 years, Joy calls it her special place).

It was great news for us when Pam & Gerald were also able to join us. They were intending to head off on their own holiday but a change of plan meant they were still in the Bay.

Lake Tutira looked stunning on a typically calm, hot and sunny HB day.

The lake has had many issues with water quality and algal blooms over the years but we all had to admit that it was looking the best its ever done with lovely clear water, happy birds and no dead fish, gunge and muck along the shoreline. The Regional Council has been working hard to sort the ongoing problems out. Because of a unusual quirk the inlet and outlet to the lake are virtually side by side at the north end, so the lake doesn't flush as a lake would normally do.

Here are a couple of photos from a visit to the lake a few years ago; it looks absolutely stunning in autumn too.

We all arrived within the hour, circled the wagons and set about relaxing. The only problem was in an effort to give us all some shade; it was a scorcher of an afternoon, we managed to commit the cardinal sin of failing to check the TV reception! 

Because we were going to be staying longer we parked up first. Actually, I did check it and David did inch forward and back trying to get a direct line but the outer edge of the leafy trees just kept getting in the way. In the end we decided we didn't need TV over the weekend and we'd move once the others had left on Sunday.  David had other ideas though, and after some of us went for a walk, we returned to find David had moved 'Out There' further into the shade but now with a direct line of reception. No need to move now....hmm, famous last words!

Family friends arrived for happy hour and a BBQ late Friday afternoon but before we could imbibe Joy and Kevin route-marched us off on a bush walk. Thank God they weren't about to make us head up to Table Mountain trig.  Instead we did a nice easy loop through a bush gully, past the bottom of the trig track which went straight up, and back along a small ridge overlooking the lake (although I'm not so sure Heather thought it was easy- that's her taking a breather on the sign post!).

When I looked out early the next morning a thick cover of fog blanketed the lake and campsite; it was cold and miserable so I headed back to bed. The next time I looked out, I just about fell over myself trying to get something decent on and grab my camera to catch the mist in the sun rays. It was gone in a flash.

There's also another good short walk around the edge of the much smaller Lake Waikopiro which is right beside Lake Tutira. Lake Waikopiro has also had water issues over the years but within the last year an air curtain has been installed to help aerate the lake. 

And it seems to be working, like Lake Tutira the water was also clean and clear. So clear we could see plenty of huge carp lazing in the shallows. We all thought they were trout to begin with, we were quite a way from and looking down on them. Both of the fish photos below are zoomed in. It wasn't until we saw the photos up close that we could see the large scales and wide flat heads of the carp. As a pest eating the oxygen weed and small trout, they'll have to go eventually too.

You can see the 'curtain' of air bubbles in the top right photo. 

How do you like my 'curtain of bees'?! They were there all day, I guess the queen was in there somewhere.

Sunday morning also dawned with a thick layer of fog over the lake. This time I got up and dressed and made my way down to the lake edge just as it started to lift. No show without Punch; I was trying for a still reflective shot of the raupo (swamp reed) but the swans followed me along, disturbing the water as they came.

My peaceful early morning was shattered when I heard a whole lot of yelling coming from the thick mist. This lady in her kayak appeared out of the gloom shouting to her partner in a nearby bus to take a photo. The mist lifted before he managed to get it together. 

The lakes and reserve are a wildlife refuge and there are a good number of birds to be seen including a large flock of turkeys on the farmland behind the camp. A family with 4 chicks spent much of their day away from the flock and down near the lake. Both adult birds looked like females (the large gobbler who I assume would be the father was with the flock, often standing guard on a rock overlooking them grazing). I'm now wondering if one of these adults is a older daughter or sister of the other adult. I can find no information on whether a caregiver helps the mother with the chicks away from the flock.

Other birds in the set are, from top left- Black Swan, Pied Stilt and a Kereru/NZ Wood Pigeon feeding on the seeds of a native Cabbage tree.

I was excited to locate several very shy Dabchicks/NZ Grebe/Weweia on both lakes. This photo is zoomed in and heavily cropped, they disappeared underwater as soon as they spotted me or any movement.

A family of Black Swans kept me entertained in camp; after swimming and feeding in the lake for most of the morning they would slowly graze their way up the grass bank, across the track and through the gates into our camping 'paddock'. They'd gradually make their way haphazardly, but in a loose group- Dad was keen to sort anyone out who got to close- to the back of the paddock feeding and resting as they went. But come 7pm and just before the light failed, Dad, Mum and five nearly grown signets would march in single file all the way back to the lake.

Every night we were there. You could set your clock by them. 

Mum & Dad arrived for lunch on Sunday and once again, before we could eat, Joy marched us off on a walk; this time a little shorter and an easier walk for our older guests. A small promontory juts out into the lake not far from camp, Oporae Pa is an old Maori pa and you can see why it was chosen; surrounded on 3 sides by water, a natural defense and with 360 degree views, they could easily spot approaching strangers. There was also a moat on the 4th side and a bridge for access.

The view from the pa site back to camp, our vans are hidden in the trees to the right of the vehicles (remember to click on the photos to enlarge).

We said our final farewells to everyone as they all left for their homes back in Napier late on Sunday afternoon. We shout out the family saying 'Thank God they've gone!!' as each one leaves camp although it doesn't quite have the jovial ring about it this time.

We've had such a ball with our motorhoming families this visit; camping at Oceanbeach, Kuripapango, happy hours at Art Deco, regular family gatherings and lunches and one last camp here at Lake Tutira. We will miss the familiar company and easy going lifestyle that comes with camping with family. But I'm sure it won't be long before we meet up again, especially now that we're in the North Island for awhile.

In fact David has to head back into Napier for the day on Tuesday morning, a CV joint failed on the ute sometime over the weekend and he's made an appointment at Ford to have it fixed. I'll stay back at Lake Tutira with the 5th-wheeler. Luckily, it's happened now and not somewhere remote up the coast.

On Monday David and I headed into the hills behind Lake Tutira, to Boundary Stream, a Mainland Island bird sanctuary (an area protected from pests and predators). We've visited Boundary Stream a few times, once coming in from Glenfalls and the Mohaka River at the other end of the road.

Napier's Scinde Island (Bluff Hill) can just be seen way off on the horizon.
We hadn't intended to visit the sanctuary this time, just visit the other end of the reserve to check out the highest waterfall in Hawkes Bay, Shine Falls. But Pam & Gerald had been up to the reserve the day before and been ambushed by the recently released kaka (native parrot). Pam got some good photos so I thought we might see them up close too. 

Unfortunately we only saw one bird and it was up in the trees. We did the short loop walk, hoping they might have returned to the feed station by the time we got back. But the only movement I saw was under the feed platform; a cheeky wee mouse scuttling around (bottom left photo). We did see all the regular native birds though, including a North Island Bush Robin (top right) and also a few dozen Red Admiral butterflies feeding on honeydew produced by the beech tree scale. Several wasps were also feeding on the dew and harassing the butterflies.

On the way back to camp we stopped at the Lake Opouhai kiwi creche. The small lake and surrounding bush reserve has a predator proof fence around it. Kiwi chicks are released here until they reach a certain weight and can fend for themselves against a predator when released into the outside world.

Back at camp the weather took a turn for the worse, the wind picked up and heavy rain began to fall. Suddenly we were all on our lonesome and the camp looked utterly miserable. And now with serious rain fade on our TV signal it looked like it was going to be a long night without the internet and TV.

We made the hasty decision to hitch up and head back to Napier. That way David could also get to Ford early without having to drive the 40kms from the lake. So through torrential rain and heavy traffic we wound our way back up and over the hills, back to Napier.

And that was how 'Out There' found herself back here at the Ericksen Road NZMCA Park! Will Napier ever let us go...