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Entries about beaches

Paparoa National Park

Friday 30th October 2015

sunny 16 °C

Today was our first day full day in Punakaiki and the Paparoa National Park and our intention was to stay nearby and explore some of the countryside on our doorstep. We drove northwards a short distance up the coast initially stopping at the Irimahuwhero Lookout. There were great views of the coast in either direction. Looking back southwards also gave a good indication of the local geology, particularly the unusual rock strata. We got chatting to a bus driving who was taking passengers from Nelson down to Franz Josef and he kindly offered to take a our photograph.

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We carried on driving in the same direction until we arrived at at the great named Woodpecker Bay. We parked up here and had a look at the beach. Like some of the bays we had seen in the North island this one was also littered with lumber.

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The ocean seemed quite wild and even if it was warm enough it wouldn't have invited me to go in for a swim. From there we wallked over the road and crossed the old and somewhat dilapidated Fox River Bridge. This had signs saying that it was unsafe and that you progressed at your own risk. It looked safe enough to us and as there were only two of us walking on it we were sure we would be fine. Once we got to the other side we walked through a cave that came out a short distance down the river bank.

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I didn't much like it inside even though it was more like a short tunnel, and it was very wet and drippy. We made our way back across the bridge and started walking down the Fox River Track. It was quite wet and muddy in places and a few short up and down stretches but was still pretty easy walking. As we wanted to do other things later in the day we only walked for about half an hour along the track. We stopped once the path got near to the river and scrambled through a bit of undergrowth to get on the the stony river beach.

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It was lovely and peaceful and I loved the tropical vegetation including many tree ferns on the opposite bank. We stayed there for a while before retracing our steps back along the footpath to the car.

We wanted to go and have another look at the blowholes and other features at the Pancake Rocks. The main blowhole was throwing out a lot of water, sometimes it was more of a mist and other times more like a fountain with clearly discernible droplets of water. Because it was quite a sunny day most spurts ended up with a lovely rainbow across the hole. We found it fascinating and stood watching it for ages. It was quite wet standing there and a bit of a challenge taking photographs whilst trying to keep our cameras reasonably dry.

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All the other features were pretty dramatic as well. There was a channel that had huge waves rushing in and this fed into a small steamy blowhole called the chimney. On the other side of the access bridge there was an archway under which huge waves would race into an enclosed bay and crash into the cliff wall opposite. This pool fed into a larger blowhole which didn't spout much more than a slight mist but it did make a sudden booming noise every time water was pushed through. Further round the cliffs the waves were rolling in a crashing on the open cliffs. It was an amazing place and a real reminder of the power of the ocean. Some of the pathways looked pretty precarious and almost certainly will eventually collapse. Once we had finished looking at the spectacle and taking photographs we made our way back to our temporary home from where we had a very late lunch. We spent the rest of the afternoon inside and we finished the evening with a meal cooked by Nigel and then we watched a bit of television.

Posted by Gill's Travels 18:38 Archived in New Zealand Tagged beaches rivers rain_forest new_zealand paparoa Comments (0)

A Day in the Abel Tasman

Friday 23rd October 2015

rain 15 °C

Today has been our only real venture into the Abel Tasman National Park. Much of the the area is only accessible by boat with most of the walking tracks running along near the coast. We had booked to go with Sea Shuttle who run boat trips, dropping people off and picking them up from the numerous bays along the lower eastern shore. The excursion we were going on would take us up as far as Totaranui which is the most northerly point in the National Park that they are allowed to go. It would then turn back on the return leg and pick up and drop us and others off on the return leg. We left the cottage at about 8:15am in order to make the short drive to Kaiteriteri for a 9am departure. After checking in we just had time to grab a quick take away coffee before we needed to board for the 9am departure. The boat probably had sixty or seventy people on board and so the lower deck was pretty full. Intriguingly there was a woman with a couple of children and a large covered bird cage with a cockatiel or similar in it. She eventually got off at one of the bays and walked entourage in the direction of one of the beach houses.

Given that the weather wasn't that good everyone initially sat on the lower deck but as we got underway we went up on deck so that've could get a better view. It was windy and a bit chilly but it was still good to see the coast, and perhaps a little unusually it was easier to hear the commentary from our really informative guide from there. One of the most famous features on the coast is Split Apple Rock which we reached about 5 or 10 minutes after leaving Kaiteriteri.

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Our captain gave us plenty of time to look at and photograph the rock formation before we continued on to Marahua, where the coastal road ends. When we arrived at Apple Tree Bay a few people got off intending to do their walk in the morning, but we stayed on in order to enjoy the full cruise. A large family also got off, carrying loads of supplies with them, and headed to the one lonely house on the bay. They were clearly heading there for a few days holiday, perhaps intending to take advantage of the long Labour Day public holiday weekend. More people got off at the sweeping Anchorage Beach. This has a large hut at one end for people spending several days walking in the Abel Tasman, and some interesting rock formations at the other which we were able to explore later in the day. All of the beaches up that part of the coast have lovely yellowy, orangey Sahara coloured sand that comes from the iron oxide in the rocks. Once eroded into sand it turns this colour when it comes into contact with the sea. Whilst continuing north we pulled up by one of the islands in order to see some fur seals and then continued along the coast passing the unfortunately named Sandfly Bay and Mosquito Bay. Shortly after we saw two further rock formations; the Tonga Arches and Cottage Loaf Rock

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before arriving at the Awaroa Inlet. At Totaranui Beach, the furthest point on our journey, we picked up a large group of school children on a week long trip from Nelson. There was one lad who came and chatted to us for a bit. I noticed that he was one of those children that got teased, and probably bullied. Whilst most of the other children were wearing trainers or expensive shoes, he just had on a pair of basic plimsoles. I find it sad to ponder what it is might be like to grow up on the fringes of your peer group and what the longer lasting legacy might be.

By this time we were sitting inside the boat and the weather had clouded over even more and was a little colder so were happier for some shelter. The guide Mark came and chatted to us for a while and asked about our trip and we were then dropped off in Apple Tree Bay with instructions as to the way to walk and exactly where we would be picked up. It was strange to be left on the beach and see the boat reversing out and then disappearing out of sight round the next headland.

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The footpath we needed to take was clearly marked and we started to climb up the hill giving us good views of the bay as we looked back. After about half an hour we reached Stillwell Bay, and as it was lunchtime by then, we took the short side track down to the beach where we sat and ate our picnic.

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There was time to have a little explore before we made our way back up the steep path to rejoin the main footpath and then we continued to climb slowly up the hillside. There were a number of narrow bridges we had to cross, and past some small waterfalls. The national park is full of native plants including large numbers of tree ferns with their unfurling new fronds or koru.

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There were also some lovely examples of lichen growing on the ground. Near to our destination point of Anchorage there was a side path leading to a lookout. By this time it was raining quite steadily and so the visibility was poor. We had a bit of a view south to the bays we had already walked past, although it was quite misty.

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The ground near the lookout was made up of a lovely palate of cream and ochre and it gave a good indication of why the sand on the nearby beaches are the colour they are. Whilst we were at the lookout we got chatting to a New York couple who had come out to New Zealand for a three week holiday. I think they were a little envious of our extended trip.

From this point the path started to descend quite steeply affording views, albeit hazy ones, towards Torrent Bay.

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Although it was quite hard on the knees (and my slightly week ankle) having such a steep descent did explain why the suggested walking route was from south to north. It wasn't long before we reached Anchorage Bay and as we still had the best part of an hour to spare we walked up to the hut and made use of their loos and then walked to the other end of the bay to look at the interesting rock formations

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and I took off my walking sandals and went barefoot but given the coldness of the water had no desire to get anything other than my feet wet. The boat arrived on schedule and picked up a number of walkers and we then made the half hour boat journey back to a rather damp and miserable Kaiteriteri. We took the opportunity to go and have a cup of coffee in the cafe by the beach before returning to the cottage. A lovely day was finished off with a nice supper cooked by Nigel and the most amazing sunset of deep reds and purples giving us hope of a nice day tomorrow.

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Posted by Gill's Travels 02:58 Archived in New Zealand Tagged beaches sea new_zealand abel_tasman Comments (0)

A Tour Round the Coromandel

Sunday 4th October 2015

semi-overcast 17 °C

We only really had one day in the Coromandel so I wanted to make the most of it. We had seen a leaflet for a boat tour that departed from Hahei beach which was about half an hour up the coast from where we were staying. Our hosts kindly rang up and booked this for us and all we needed to do was leave just after 9am in order to arrive the required 15 minutes before departure. The boat was a Rigid Inflatable Boat or RIB (according to Nigel) capable of seating ten passengers although there were only eight on our trip. Once the boat was launched, we had our life jackets on and shoes off, we waded into the rather cold water up to our knees to climb aboard.

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We starting off going north to have a look at Cathedral Cave before we were taken into deeper water and then through our first sea cave. We then went up close to some dramatic sail shaped rocks at one end of Moteuka Island.

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We went in several more sea caves and had some great views of the coastline

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but probably the most dramatic point of the trip was going inside a blowhole cave that has a huge gaping whole with trees growing round the rim. Sadly it wasn't long before the hour long boat trip was over. We spent a little bit of time exploring the beach whilst our sandy feet dried off and then went for a coffee by the harbour.

We hadn't decided definitely what we were going to do next, but I was keen to see a bit more of the Coromandel and so we headed towards the town intending to catch the 2pm train at Driving Creek which is just north of the town. The railway is the lifetime work of one man; engineer and potter Barry Brickell who spent about 32 years building the railway. Initially this was just to move clay from the pit where it was dug to his studio, but he carried on laying track and building locomotives. It was opened to the public in the main to generate an income and keep the bank manager happy. In order to gain height on the hillside there are two spirals, several narrow tunnels and a number of reversing points.

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Much of the line is decorated with bits of pottery and there is evidence of the man's humour everywhere, including the naming of the observation tower at the top as the Eyefull Tower. It was a great ride through the forest, very good views from the top

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and lots of information about the flora and the replanting that has taken place including a large number of Kauri trees. It was also really interesting hearing about this eccentric man. When we got back down to the bottom station we had a look in the shop and it was nice to be able to buy some pottery from the guy who drove our train.

We now needed to start making our way back to Tauria. We stopped at a couple of viewpoints including one at Kuaotunu beach. The weather had become very stormy and the light over the sea was magical. Some fishermen were trying to get a small boat launched and I didn't envy them going out in that weather.

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We had also been advised to have a look at a place called Lonely Beach which had a headland/ lookout above at a place called Shakespeare Cliffs.

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We had started walking to the beach but carried on up, walking rather than taking the easier option of driving. Our final spot for the day was a visit to Hot Water Beach. This is a popular tourist attraction in the area for the short period of time (an hour either side of low tide) when geothermal hot water bubbles up out of the sand. Most people either bring a spade in order to dig a pool which then fills with the warm water, or they hire one from a nearby cafe. We arrived quite late, although still within the recommended two hour window, and it wasn't long before sunset. This meant that there were already quite a lot of people that had dug pools in the short area of beach that has this phenomena present, so we were able to make use of one that someone else had dug. I had forgotten to bring a change of clothes so I just sat on the edge of a pool but with my feet in the water.

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It was great fun having a battle trying to keep the incoming tide out of the pools. We had to be careful though as the water was hot enough to burn yourself if you are not careful (it can be as hot as 64 °C). We stayed there until dusk and then drove back to Tairua and brought a portion of fish and chips that we shared sitting in the car parked near the harbour. We both agreed that it had been a very busy and a bit of a hectic day but a very enjoyable one.

Posted by Gill's Travels 02:17 Archived in New Zealand Tagged beaches trains ocean new_zealand coromandel Comments (0)

West Coast to East

Saturday 3rd October 2015

storm 16 °C

We were greeted this morning by Robert appearing on the veranda with a couple of huge and very delicious date and orange scones for our breakfast, despite the fact that food wasn't included in our package. When we had eaten and packed up, we went to check out we had quite a long chat with him about the area, our respective lives and about photography (there were lots of his photographs around our apartment). Despite waking up to rain I felt thoroughly cheery and had really enjoyed our short stay in Swanson. As we hadn't had a chance to explore the area we decided to make the 15 minute drive to the nearest beach. Having done some research I knew that Bethells Beach was mainly covered in black volcanic sand which gave it a dramatic and atmospheric look in pictures. The weather remained a bit rough and although the rain had halted temporarily it was extremely blustery once we got onto the beach. We had to walk a short distance along the black sand beside the river before we reached the beach proper. There is a a springlike feel to New Zealand now, with many wild flowers starting to come into bloom. This area was no exception with wild yellow lupins growing on the edge of the dunes.

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At the entrance to the bay there is a lifeguard lookout tower, slightly faded and battered as it tries to hold its own against the elements.

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There was a large group of lifeguards obviously on some sort of training exercise. The sea looked cold, rough and uninviting. It was a stark reminder that being a lifeguard isn't all Baywatch and sunning yourself and I have total admiration for people who put their lives at risk in this way. Both Nigel and I started to explore the beach walking to the left towards where Robert had told us there were some caves. It was still very windy and in the end Nigel sat part way along the beach whilst I walked to the far end. The scenery was stunning and I took quite a few photographs but in the end I wasn't able to get to the cave as the tide was already in too far.

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I then made my way back to meet Nigel and together we went to have a look at the other end of the beach where the river flowed into the sea. The lifeguards where still out in the water and were working with dinghies and sea scooters. Over by the river there where a number of people walking their dogs and there was one group that had a really large group of animals and looked as though they were either professional dog walkers or breeders. We also saw a couple of people on horse back and it really struck me what a beautiful spot it was to go riding.

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After about an hour or so on the beach we had got very windswept and also a little chilly. We were also mindful that we had quite a long drive ahead of us so we made our way back to the car.

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The journey was pretty uneventful and for the first half or so we were driving around the outskirts of Auckland. Once we had negotiated the city traffic with the help of the sat-nav we were then on the straight roads across the northern inland part of the country. By this time we were getting quite hungry and places to stop were few and far between. Nigel saw a very uninspiring place called the Pink Pig Cafe and after a bit of deliberation and hesitation on my part, we went in.

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Nigel had a pie which was sitting warm in the food cabinet and I ordered a bacon sandwich. The coffees took about 15 minutes to arrive and my food longer. It was the most uninspiring bacon sandwich I had ever had. Any relationship to the pig that gave the cafe its name was tenuous. It amused me that other customers seemed to come and go in an amazingly short space of time. The only thing I could say about the place was that it was an experience. Looking later on trip advisor it seemed to divide the crowds with two positive and two of the most negative reviews I have ever seen including one that said "Greasy spoon stuff. Out-dated. Zero character or ambience. Grubby, empty, cheap. And by that I mean it looks as though the owner doesn't give a toss." What more can one say! Interestingly a few miles down the road we saw another place called the Bugger Cafe which had the strap line "Laugh a Little". Outside it had a rather staged tractor crashed into the restaurant sign. Later in our new bed and breakfast they all just laughed when we said where we had eaten. Apparently the second restaurants which is decorated with photographs of those bugger moments when only that expletive will do, is actually quite an entertaining place to go. As Nigel so eloquently put it, perhaps our 'bugger' moment of the day was eating at the first cafe and not the second!

As we neared the Coromandel Peninsular the scenery became more dramatic with some unusually shaped hills and and valleys filled with either forest or pastoral land.

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We found our accommodation fairly easily and were greeted by the owner Colin who showed us round. The house is in a stunning position over looking both the estuary and the sea and also has a pool (which sadly at this time of year was too cold to swim in).

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We settled in and relaxed for a while and then met up with our hosts and the other guests for a glass of wine and some entrees at about 6pm. Our hosts had very kindly booked us a table at one of the few restaurants open that night and so we went there for a very nice evening meal. The day had started and finished really well and the bit in the middle was pretty entertaining, and you can't ask for much more than that.

Posted by Gill's Travels 10:07 Archived in New Zealand Tagged beaches sea new_zealand coromandel Comments (0)

The Ancient Kauri Tree

Thursday 1st September 2015

sunny 17 °C

We had nowhere pressing to go today so we decided to have a relaxing morning at the lodge, catching up with bookings, emails and this blog. We had considered going out on the bikes provided for guests, unfortunately when I took a closer look they where mountain bikes with a cross bar and even with the seat lowered there was no way I was going to be able to ride them. Nigel would also have found them a bit tricky as well, now that his hip is playing him up a bit. In the end we decided to drive up through the Kauri forest and go to the Waipoua Forest Visitor Centre that we had seen yesterday. It wasn't a great distance once we had got from the lodge onto the main coast road. Initially we were driving through farmland and pine forests. We had noticed that when logging takes place in New Zealand it seems to happen on a massive scale so that a whole hillside will be stripped of trees. This leaves a massive scar on the landscape before it is either replanted or some vegetation grows back.

As we drove further north the road became steeper and more winding as we entered into the beginnings of the kauri forest. We saw a sign for a lookout and so Nigel turned off so we could have a look. The track was gravel and quite steep but we were hopeful that it wouldn't be very far. In the end it was probably about a kilometre until we reached a clearing with what was more like an old fire lookout, now open to the public. Once we went up the steps on out on the balcony we had good views over the forest.

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We then made our way back down the track and drove the remainder of the distance towards the Visitor Centre. This was also down a narrow gravel track and it seemed that we were destined to have to drive down them at least some of the time. When we arrived at the centre we were hoping to have some lunch, but they were about to close, I think because it had been quiet all morning. We were still served coffee and a panini which we were able to eat outside on the picnic tables. Once we had finished we went for a short walk so that we could look at the Waipoua river.

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It was ironic that having closed the visitor centre there seemed to be a constant stream of people driving up in their cars, however that wasn't really our problem. Ruby had mentioned another bit of Kauri forest further south at Trounson Park so we decided to take a look there. The most direct route was via a dirt track called Donnelly's Crossing but we had been advised the day before that this was was a difficult bit of road so instead we approached the park from the other direction. The forest was really special with dozens if magnificent kauri trees including some that seemed to have fused together in twos and in one place four together. They were quite hot on bio-security and so you were encouraged to disinfect your footwear on entering and leaving the forest. There were also lots of stretches of boardwalk in order to protect the delicate Kauri roots. There were a couple of places where trees were either diseased, had fallen or been blown down and it was interesting seeing how other plant matter quickly started to take over the rotting wood.

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Once we had finished our walk and returned to the car we decided to drive further south, past where we were staying and go to a place called Baylys Beach. This is part of Ripiro Beach which at 66 miles is longer than Ninety Mile Beach. When we arrived we could see that most people had parked on the beach, so Nigel bravely followed suit.

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We went for a short walk along the sand. I was keen to look at some of the rocks that were further up so I carried on, looking out for the vehicles that were being driven along the sand. It turned out on closer observation that there were some rocks but also a large number of tree stumps (probably ancient kauri stumps and lignite).

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There was also a large natural semi submerged pool on the beach. It is a lovely place and I could have easily spent loads of time there. I was just starting to walk back to meet Nigel when I became aware of a car driving in the sand in my direction. I didn't take much notice at first as I had seen quite a lot of cars going back and forth, but then I recognised our hire car. I was surprised to see Nigel driving up the beach, but it saved me walking to meet him.

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We both felt like we were ready to go back to our accommodation and we happy to just have a snack when we got back. As we were relaxing later in the evening Ruby popped by and I said that I had checked our paperwork and that we were definitely meant to get breakfast. As she didn't really have any food for us, and we did, she said she would give us some money off our bill when we checked out tomorrow.

Posted by Gill's Travels 02:14 Archived in New Zealand Tagged beaches trees ocean new_zealand kauri Comments (0)

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