Ahipora to Okaihau and Ota Point North Island 25 to 27 July 2008
21 Aug 2008
We awoke to a nice day parked along side the beach in what was really a lay by. The local houses were high above us on the hill so we were not upsetting anybody. Our friend Rosemary had a tennis match booked back home and when we open our curtain there she was gone; and we never heard her leaving. After another walk along the beach whilst looking northwards up 90 mile beach, (I suppose we are on 90 and a bit mile beach), we were on our travels again. This morning we need to visit the Kaitaia Post Office and pay some money to the American Government.
Our appointment at the American Consulate in Auckland is on 31 July and we have to take with us a Post Office receipt showing we have paid $170 and 30 cents each, the administration costs for the application for an American visa; about £133 in total. After enquiring at the post office desk, and the girl finding out the system for accepting the payment, we returned to our van to get our passports. At the car park we observed a man in big wellies with a large jacket and big pockets looking round suspiciously by the far side of the van. I made sure he knew I had a good look at him, and after pretending to look around before smoking a cigarette, he left the car park. We moved the van to a prominent position with the door facing the main road and pavement.
The Lonely Planet Book states that possessions in vehicles which are parked at Kaitaia, even if the possessions are locked in the boot, are presumed to no longer be wanted. We should have read the book first. Anyway, with our van parked in good view of all who past by we concluded our business at the Post Office and left town, travelling on the west coast road rather than SH1. This lesser road took us along valleys and up, into and through the hills on a lovely journey. Along the way we saw many young calves, wild turkeys and one pheasant. There are lots of pheasants in Scotland but here they seem to be rare. After 44 miles we forked right continuing south with views of Hokianga Harbour on our way to the ferry at Rangiora.
It was 1.15 pm and 45 minutes before the next ferry to Rawena for our onward journey, so time for lunch at another spot with good views. Whilst driving through Rawena we thought it was a nice small town, however there was no time to look around as we are travelling to the ‘Wairere Boulders’ Nature Park.
The brochure for the Wairere Boulders informs we will view “World-unique boulder formation; world-unique rock surface called ‘fluting’; have a safe adventurous stroll, (I’ve heard that one before), amongst native plants, untamed waters and lush subtropical rainforest whilst crossing stunning bridges in this howling wilderness”. After 25 miles travel, the last 9 of these was on uneven gravel/mud roads, we arrived at 3.30pm in the back of beyond and met the owners Rita and Felix Schadd. After receiving our maps and advice for exploring the upward sloping river valley path, we set off for the Boulders.
Geology: The information sheet informed, ‘Wairere Boulders is the only known basalt boulder valley world wide which is composed of such an enormous number of huge rocks in the middle of clay country. The rocks, which were once positioned 880 feet above the valley floor, are between 2.6 and 2.8 million years old. The erosion of the rock surface, (called flooting, lapiez or solution pits), is extremely uncommon for basalt rock. Some fluting is 11 inch wide and 40 inch deep.
The valley was once covered by the giant Kauri trees whose adult branches are all at the top. The leaves are acidic and it is believed the rain accumulating acid as it dripped through the Kauri tree canopy caused the unusual fluting of the rocks. William Webster, one of Hokianga’s first white settlers, erected the first water driven timber mill in New Zealand on the Wairere River flat.
Sturdy boots were recommended so suitably clad we set off on what proved to be a very interesting walk. The narrow path took us above the tumbling river, through ‘the dragons cave’ and interesting country side. After clambering through clefts amongst the boulders and between trees whilst walking up hill, (so that is what an adventurous stroll is like), we met Felix doing some path repairs. After a brief conversation we continued to the top of the path and the log built lookout with views back down and over the valley; Felix joined us and we had a much longer conversation.
Felix Schadd informed that he and his wife bought the run down farming property and decided to give up their employment for 6 months to chill out and do some work on their purchase; and never went back to their employment. After 4 years they discovered the ‘Wairere Boulders’ and through embarking on personal research along with expert advice, learned of the facts and history of the boulders. At the time New Zealand Law put the onus on the property holder for any injury to persons on their land, whether they should be their or not. Felix and Rita kept quiet about their find. Recent changes in the law have allowed them to open up the property to public view.
The paths, bridges, and lookout deck have been built by Felix, who in his former working role was an ‘Engineer and surveyor’, and a lot of hard work has been done to enable the public to view this area. We spent a fascinating time and the exercise must have been good for us. It would be easy to spend several hours on a nice day here as long as you took a picnic with you. It was now 5.15 pm. We could have camped for the night on the hard earth car park but elected to drive to the near by town of Horeke, where according to our book, camping for one night is allowed in the ‘wide’ area by the jetty.
As we drove into the town I observed a small jetty with 5 car parking spaces by the post office, and continued on. Soon we were leaving the town and Sylvia informed me the park area was on the approach to the town. We were still driving on a gravel road but decided to continue onwards and stay the night in the Puketi Forest on the Omahuta Reserve where we had stayed on 23 July. As night fell we seemed to journey on forever and avoiding the potholes was becoming more difficult. Eventually, after climbing over another hill we came to the town of Okaihau; this wasn’t part of the plan.
Never mind, our motorhome manual informs one night parking is permissible at the Two Punga Reserve; turn down the side of the Takeaway/Tea Room. I missed the Tea Room but whilst doing a U Turn at the end of the block, there was a sign for Two Punga Reserve so in we went. It was now dark and tempers were a little frayed. We took a walk down the side of the Tee Room and beside a housing estate to prove to Sylvia we were parked where we should be.
The weather tonight and tomorrow is forecast for intense storms and we were glad to be in a sheltered place. We have no bread or fresh orange juice for breakfast but the shop is only about 150 yards away so we will be alright in the morning.
After a night of torrential rain and high winds buffeting the van, despite our sheltered camp, we awoke to more torrential winds and storm warnings on the TV. In the absence of a volunteer to run the 150 yards to the shop, we opted for porridge for breakfast before setting off for the safe haven of Rosemary’s home at Ota Point.
Although Okaihau is by SH 1, the most direct route was across country to Kerikeri and then north along SH 10 to Whangaroa and Ota Point. To minimise the problems of the high winds we kept the speed down to between 30 and 38 miles per hour, (50 to 60 K). We past a lot of tree damage, roadside water and tumbling overflowing streams during the 42 mile journey. As we descended the long hill to Kaeo, seven miles short of our destination, we could see the valley was flooded; fortunately the road and buildings were built on slightly higher ground. High tide at 2 pm would afford some relief to the area.
It is always a pleasure to see Rosemary and non more so than today when we arrived at 12.30 pm. Power lines were down but were restored during the afternoon after 5 hours without electricity. This was good as a nice meal was planned for tonight followed by the match on TV between the All Blacks and the Wallabies, played in Australia. The NZ coach was not popular after loosing in the quarter finals of the World Cup but kept his job. The young pretender who didn’t get the All Blacks job is now the coach for the Wallabies. Before tonight’s game, we booked tickets on the internet for next Saturdays clash in Auckland, deciding to stay on after our Thursday appointment at the American Consulate.
It was interesting watching Rosemary and her neighbour and close friend Glenys getting passionately patriotic during the match, and a shame that Australia gave a beating to the All Blacks.
Sunday was another bad weather day and a very restful day for us. The evening meal was a roast with home made Yorkshire Puddings; a recipe from heaven.
For in depth information about geology, history, construction of structures, plants, animals, pests and tales visit the website: www.wairereboulders.co.nz