Saturday, 23 September 2017

Civic Duty


When you live on the road full-time you never know where you're going to find yourself when the three yearly call to civic duty goes out. The top of the South Island obviously has an appeal to us at this time of the year, we were in Nelson the last time we voted. Today finds us casting our 'Special Votes' in the charming little seaside settlement of Pakawau in Golden Bay.

We once again had to reach into the far recesses of our memories to recall our last known physical address. Four years after selling up and moving out of Tauranga, we still need our old address for the electoral roll. Now, let's see if any of these faceless candidates rings a bell....

Thursday, 21 September 2017

A Visit to Harwoods Hole


Do this lot look like intrepid explorers? Hmmm....thought not. But they do look bright and chirpy don't they. This enthusiast crew of Kaiteriteri Camp locals is about to head off to find Harwoods Hole, the deepest vertical shaft in New Zealand. Well, find isn't quite right either because it has already been found. What we're about to do is the 45 minute walk to see the Hole (6km/90min return).

Back L to R- Craig, Sarah(sitting) Geoff, Brian(not looking!), David
Front- Sheryll & Roseanne
Harwoods Hole is located at the top of the Takaka Hill in the Pikikirunga Range, 11kms inland from the main road along a narrow, corrugated, gravel road. It's part of the Abel Tasman National Park and while it's a long way up behind, as the crow flies, it's not too far from Kaiteriteri.

About half way along the ridge we stop to check out a very interesting area at Canaan Downs where there are several large open clearings surrounded by beautiful mature trees and bush.

The Stage
The eight day long Luminate Festival is held here every two years, an 'earth friendly festival of music, culture, inspiration & transformation' according to the article in that link (check it out for photos). It's hard to believe that over 4000 people converge on this area to set up camp,  party, dance, participate in workshops and get spiritual.

We had a wander around checking out the interesting facilities- I bet the Pizza oven gets a workout during the festival. Some of us tried the outdoor bath out for size, stood in the middle of the standing stone circle and waited for miracles to happen and gave the carvings a kiss or two. We were all impressed with the bank of composting loos; clean, non-smelling and still doing their job six months after the last festival.

I was fascinated with the urine-catcher, a metal strip, a bit like a piece of guttering, strategically placed at the front of the loos; they even mentioned to sit up straight so the stream was directed better! Remember to click on the photo to read more.

Let it all hang free- outdoor showers. I suspect when they're set up they would be inside toilet tents or something similar, there are children on site after all and I'm guessing there'd still be many who would want a bit of privacy. 

And more fancy loos...including a 'Pee Loo Standing'? Isn't that a Urinal? I didn't take a look to check.

You can actually camp at Canaan Downs at any time of the year. As long as you're prepared to drive the road in and the ground isn't covered in snow! We'd happily take the 5th-wheeler in although there'd be a few tight corners and you wouldn't want to meet anyone coming the other way. We thought it would be a great place to hold a rally. That would sort the wheat from the chaff!

We carried on to the end of the road, to the DOC Canaan Downs Campsite and Harwoods Hole trailhead. There are plenty of warning signs at the beginning of the track, along with a two page instruction and information sheet available for cavers thinking of heading down the hole.

We set off a good pace, the track is very easy to begin with, flat and wide with lovely dappled sun shining in...

We passed a couple of small water filled kettle holes where it was hard to see where the water reflections ended and the bush and moss begun.

The track got a little gnarly towards the end with plenty of small boulders and rocks to clamber over and around. Careful attention was needed to avoid the small gaps between them, they could easily trap boots or twist ankles.

Finally we reach a junction in the track, we decide to take the Gorge Creek Viewpoint track first....although it's not a track, it's a route (as it says under the name). Which means it isn't marked and you must find your own way straight up the side of a steep rock covered bank. 

Luckily people have been before us and there's a sort of track to follow although 300 metres still feels like 600 by the time we reach the 'viewpoint'. 'Viewpoint', that's DOC speak for 'it's not a lookout with steps, a platform and barriers'.  No, it's an open space with a bunch of weird looking rocks at the top of a cliff... 

...where, if you manage to clamber over them to the far side, you'll find that you have a magnificent view down to Gorge Creek and across to the the main highway in the Takaka valley over in Golden Bay. 

Those unusual rocks might look nice and smooth and relatively easy to walk over but believe me, they are far from it. These are very sharp edged and uneven karst limestone rock formations with deep and narrow slots separating the sections at irregular intervals. Slip a foot or leg down a gap and you'd be in big trouble. 

With the agility of a goat, Geoff makes it to the far side...

...while some of us were still trying to crawl and slither our way to the edge. Woah! It's scary stuff looking over the edge.

The best way to peer over the edge was to get down on your belly and pull yourself forward.

I decided I'd probably not get back up and knowing my luck (second name Calamity Jane), I'd somehow topple over or worse, drop my camera!

Craig, Sarah and David checking out the view...

 ...and then we had to do all the clambering again in reverse, this time on our hands and backsides downhill. What are you smiling at Craig? You'll be in big trouble now.

Back down at the junction we meet up with Roseanne and Brian who'd carried on to the Hole. They'd been to the lookout before, so didn't put themselves through that little exercise again. We headed off to the Hole, the marble rocks getting bigger and mud getting deeper.

At 183 metres Harwoods Hole is the deepest vertical shaft in New Zealand. A dry sinkhole, the hole drops to an underground river that emerges and flows into Gorge Creek (the valley in the photos from the 'viewpoint'). Henry Harwood (1844-1927) discovered the hole, though it remained untouched until 1958, when cavers were winched down. After a complete exploration in 1959, Harwoods Hole became the deepest explored cave in New Zealand, a record that stood for many years.

Harwoods Hole connects to the Starlight Cave system which eventually exits above Gorge Creek in the side of the hill,  the whole cave system is over 357m in depth. After abseiling down the hole, making their way through the Starlight Cave system, cavers then have to make the strenuous climb back up the hill to the carpark. There have been many rescues and a few deaths over the years,(including a curious walker who got too close to the edge), Harwoods Hole is for experienced cavers only and the complete trip takes a minimum of 9 hours.

A plaque on a rock just before Harwoods Hole- click to enlarge

Finally we reach the end of the track, ahead of us are some very huge jagged boulders and somewhere over the back of them is Harwoods Hole. The entrance is a 50 metre round hole.

We send the advance troops in to find a route....   
"Arr...I think that's the wrong way Sheryll, darling" says Geoff

They regroup and disappear out of sight. I can't go any further with my camera so I leave it on a rock and then slip and slide my way over towards them (phone camera safely installed in my zip-up pocket) 

There's a handkerchief sized piece of flat dirt between boulders near the edge, or what seems to be the edge. You actually can't see down the hole, it disappears underneath the rocky outcrop somewhere. Geoff squeezes through a slot in the rocks to another point further towards the hole but reports that, while he can see the vertical walls opposite, he can't see down it either.  

The rest of us stay on the safe side of the tunnel. I lean on a rock and stretch my arm and phone out as far as I can to take this shot. And that is as much of Harwoods Hole as we're going to see. 

Here are a couple of photos (which obviously, I didn't take) of Harwoods Hole. Looking at the overhead photo, I think we made it to the end of the rocks at the bottom right.

Monday, 18 September 2017

Sea, Sun, Sand, Six Weeks


We've just spent the last six weeks 'wintering' over at a South Pacific tropical island paradise. Well... that's not quite right. This stunning beach is in the South Pacific and it is on an island (the South Island) and it is paradise but it's most definitely not tropical! 

It's hard to believe that this is a winter scene from New Zealand isn't it?  This is Kaiteriteri, a small seaside resort in the Tasman region at the top of the South Island. 

Kaiteriteri is just a short winding road from Motueka, just under an hour from Nelson and just a few golden sand bays from the stunning Abel Tasman National Park.

For some it will also be hard to believe that this is the same Kaiteriteri that they visit over the summer months. 

In summer Kaiteriteri heaves with activity; the campground holds over 2000 people and this perfect little crescent of golden sand is wall to wall people; people sunbathing, swimming, walking, boating, fishing or just relaxing and enjoying their summer holidays. 

We've stayed at Kaiteriteri before, back in 2014 for four weeks, and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. And as we'd done most of the walks in the area, including part of the Abel Tasman Great Walk and visited many of the attractions we were looking forward to just relaxing in the warm winter sun and recharging our batteries.

Back in 2014, we had a front row seat to the ever changing scenery, and very few neighbours- in fact some nights we were the only ones there. 

2014, Kaiteriteri
The Kaiteriteri Camp did have a cheaper rate for long term stays but most vans were heading to the Bethany Camp at the back of the estuary, where the rates were cheaper still.

Things were changing though, a new office building with caretaker accommodation above was in the process of being built and a new shop and holiday accommodation block across the driveway were in the wings. Now all completed, it was a big surprise when we came around the corner to see this huge building on the beachfront. Huge for little old Kaiteri, that is. 

And with the new changes, came new parking restrictions- no long term vans on the front two rows, these were kept for casual visitors. Which is fair enough, but it would have been nice to have had the front row again. Although that probably wouldn't have happened because with the new changes came new cheaper winter rates and many more vans wintering over in the front camp. 

We were happy enough though, we found ourselves a quiet spot in the sun towards the middle of the camp and settled in. 

It still took a couple of weeks for the itchy feet to settle though and we paid week by week...just in case we got the sudden urge to get out of there. This wasn't helped by the weather and while most of the photos show lovely blue sky that's because I made sure to take them on sunny blue sky days only.

I was listening to a farming programme the other week and they were reporting on the weather for the Nelson/Tasman area during the month of August. Apparently it had rained on 28 of the 31 days and we arrived on the 2nd! It is hard to believe though, but then again it often rained during the night while the day was fine. From all accounts it's been a bad winter in many places.

We weren't the only ones who were fed up with the constant rain- this little guy with his waterlogged tail feathers sat on our post to dry out numerous times. He's also sit under the van with his friends waiting for the rain to stop.

We thoroughly enjoyed watching the abundant bird life at Kaiteriteri, a flock of over 35 California Quail roamed through the camp on a regular basis, calling and chuffing to each other as they sprinted through the grass and across the roads.

California Quail- Male (L), Female(R) 
They are such characters to watch, one pair in particular became very friendly. I enticed birds over to the van by throwing out wild bird seed- sparrows, chaffinches, greenfinches, goldfinches came to feed. Some of the quail came too, just a few during the first few days and then more and more. My pair would come running as soon as I called to them (chook-chook-chook) and once the sparrows and finches had finished all the good seed, they'd search out seed left behind and then move in closer for a secret handful or two. Early in the morning I'd hear them chatting to each other under the van.

We put a metal spike in the tree just outside our dining window and I added citrus halves to it for the Silvereyes/Tauhou. It was lovely to watch them at such close quarters- of course they couldn't see us through the dark tint. Mr Jack Sparrow thinks he's missing out on something here. Sparrows can't hover or hang upside down like silvereyes so the orange is relatively safe from them facing this way.

Kereru/NZ Wood Pigeons were regular visitors to the camp, bumbling, flapping and balancing their way through trees on the thinest of branches looking for the freshest of leaf bud. This one makes a raid on the new leaves of a kowhai sapling.

Tui sung, cackled and squawked as they raced back and forward through the camp chasing each other out of the flowering cherry trees. 

Some found an even sweeter source of nectar; tiny droplets of honeydew which are excreted by the beech scale insect and found on the blackened trunks of the beech trees (it looks very similar to sooty mould). Honeydew plays a vital role in the food supply for a range of native bird and insect species. The honeydew droplets have a high sugar content and are an important energy source for birds over winter. This tui is balancing with his tail while sucking up the tiny droplets.

And last but not least, the Western Weka, a number of them live the bush surrounding the camp, we'd hear them calling often but I only spotted them a few times out in the open. They'd come out from the bush checking for grubs in the leaf litter along the edge. We also heard Morepork/Ruru, our native owl, calling to each other every night and all through the night. And we were lucky enough to see a NZ Falcon/Karearea several times.

But sadly I missed the most elusive and secretive bird of all; the Banded Rail. A pair live in the salt plants on the edge of the estuary just beside the boat trailer park. I visited the area dozens of times; sunrise, sunset,  low tide, high tide, half tide, wet weather, sunny weather, walking, stalking and in the ute through the window, all with no luck. 

But I did see Mother Duck and her nine ducklings...

In the end we had a lovely six weeks at Kaiteriteri, as each week rolled around we'd comment that we'd be off at the end of the following week. Then that week would arrive and we'd stay another until finally, it really was time to move on. We made new friends and caught up with old ones, we had a lot of laughs and a few dinners at the pub. We caught up on chores and computer work and we relaxed and enjoyed our own company. We didn't leave the camp much at all but we did do a couple of very interesting walks; blogs on those to follow.