Taupo Bay, Northland

Taupo Bay lies just north of the entrance to the Whangaroa Harbour, and has a picturesque, gently curved horseshoe-shaped white sandy beach, that arcs around for almost one and a half kilometres.

We left Auckland bright and early at 5.30am, to tackle the long four-hour drive to Taupo Bay. It was still dark when we left home and there was very little traffic on the road (one of the many perks of leaving early). After a quick stop at McDonalds, along the way, to grab some breakfast and much needed coffee, we continued our drive North. We had to add on a 10 minute detour through Kerikeri, to go and collect the keys to the bach from the owner and then return them there on the way home. It wasn’t too far out of the way, and we were able to see what this quaint little town looked like.

Sunrise from the lounge in Taupo Bay

Upon arriving at the bach in Taupo Bay, we were surprised by the location. The photos that were posted on the holiday houses advert really didn’t do this place any justice. It is in such a beautiful spot and is so close to the water! It truly is the ideal surfing or kayaking holiday home.

We did have a few minor hiccups with our stay, but this wasn’t the owners fault. We’ve stayed in many baches over the years, and a certain amount of dirt (grass, seasand, dust, etc.) is expected, especially when you’re packing up to leave and accidentally track in something by mistake. Linen is not provided, and nor is a cleaning service, so guests are asked to please take their own sheets and towels, and to please clean up after themselves before they leave. Cleaning supplies are provided and we found a vacuum cleaner in the passage cupboard. Unfortunately, whoever had stayed in the bach before us, hadn’t had the decency to clean up at all before they left.

We walked into the bach to find crumbs on the kitchen counters, old food on the carpet in the lounge, dirty used coffee mugs in the kitchen cupboard, and when I went to go put our sheets on the bed and make it up for the night, I found popcorn husks spread all over the mattress protector. It looked like someone had had a fine time eating their popcorn in bed, and that they’d just slept on top of the mattress protector, under the duvet, without bothering to use any linen. Most disgusting of all were the toenail clippings all over the floor in the main bedroom. Clearly, they hadn’t vacuumed or cleaned. It’s really not the kind of thing you expect to come across, as its not only disgusting, but shows that these people had absolutely no respect for the house they were renting, the owner, or the people coming in after them. Needless to say, the following night we found a dirty bowl in the kitchen cupboard coated with oily salty popcorn husks; remains of their last snack. They hadn’t washed that out either and had just dumped it back in the kitchen cupboard.

IMG_8784

Other than having to clean up after some inconsiderate people, our time in Taupo Bay was really pleasant. We woke up to a beautiful sunrise each morning, went for walks along the wide sandy beach when the tide was out (at high tide, there’s not much beach left), I sat on the deck in the sun while hubby went surfing, and we drove to Mangonui to buy dinner one night.

If you’re looking for really great fish ‘n chips while staying in Taupo Bay, drive 20 minutes to Mangonui and get takeaways (or sit down and eat there) from Fresh ‘n Tasty on the Mangonui Waterfront. The fish was perfectly cooked with a crispy batter and the chips were done to perfection; crispy and golden on the outside and soft and fluffy on the inside. Definitely the best fish ‘n chips we’ve had in New Zealand in the last 4 years!

IMG_8793

IMG_8794

There’s isn’t anywhere to buy groceries or essentials in Taupo Bay, so if you need (or forget) anything, it’s a 20 minute drive to Mangonui to the little Four Square store on the waterfront.

We were told that there was a shop with a limited range of essentials, a 5 minutes walk away at the holiday park, but it’s currently under renovation and is closed. I’d forgotten to pack coffee (shock, horror! The one essential we can’t do without!) and we managed to thankfully get some from them, even though the shop is just a shell. They’re hoping to have it up and running for the 2017/2018 summer season.
IMG_8808

Other than the minor inconvenience of having to clean up someone else’s mess, these few days away were very peaceful, relaxing and quite, and we’d definitely consider going up there again.

IMG_8816IMG_8817

Rotorua Natural Hot Springs

Rotorua is a town near Lake Rotorua and is renowned for its geothermal activity and Maori culture and you know when you’ve reached Rotorua as the air in the town smells very sulphurous.

The geothermal activity in Rotorua means there is no lack of thermal pools. The natural hot springs merge with cold rivers or streams, creating clouds of steam and making areas of the river or stream the ideal temperature to swim or bathe in.

As we were only overnighting in Rotorua (on our way from Gisborne to Auckland), we only had one afternoon to explore and we had chosen to go to the Buried Village of Te Wairoa yesterday and the Polynesian Spa afterwards, before heading out for a late dinner at Che Chorizo, so we didn’t have time to visit Te Puia and see the Pōhutu Geyser, although we did drive past Te Puia and got to see the top of the steam plume when our GPS decided to take us in the totally wrong direction while we were trying to get to the Buried Village!

Geyser at Te Puia

The steam plume from Pōhutu Geyser at Te Puia

Pōhutu (‘poor-hoo-too’) means ‘constant splashing’ in Māori and this geyser is the largest active geyser in the southern hemisphere, erupting once or twice every hour, sometimes reaching heights of 30 metres (100 feet).

On our way to Te Wairoa, I did see a road that looked like it had access to a public reserve and possibly looked out over Te Puia. We went to have a look before leaving for Auckland and it does look out over the reserve that Te Puia is situated in. Right along the edge of the reserve, near the road was a stream that was fenced off with warning signs saying “Do not enter” and “Danger, hot water”, as a hot spring enters the stream at a large, natural pool and the water in this pool was actually bubbling. I’m not sure if the bubbles were just natural gasses being released (the whole area had a strong stench of sulphur) or if it was a combination of gasses and really hot water! Further down, along the banks of the stream were cracks in the earth where steam was escaping and even bubbling mud pools!

Steam from the natural hot spring

Steam from the natural hot spring

Steam rising off the natural hot spring

Bubbling mud pit (and charred tree branch)

Bubbling mud pool and a charred tree branch

If you plan on visiting Rotorua, don’t get caught like we did and end up with too many activities to choose from and not enough time to fit it all in. Do some research, decide on what you really want to see and plan a route, so that you can get as much sightseeing done during your visit as possible.

 

map-rotorua-to-auckland

If you don’t want to spend money visiting the hot pools at a Spa or tourist destination, I discovered once we had gotten back to Auckland that there are quite a few free natural hot pools in Rotorua. Visit these websites for more info:

http://www.newzealand.com/in/article/3-free-natural-hot-pools-in-rotorua/
http://www.backpackerguide.nz/5-free-natural-hot-pools-in-rotorua/

Buried Village of Te Wairoa

map-rotorua

We overnighted in Rotorua on our way back to Auckland from Gisborne and decided to go see the The Buried Village before relaxing in the natural hot springs at the Polynesian Spa.

map-buried-village

The Buried Village (Te Wairoa) is located close to the shore of Lake Tarawera, 14 kilometres southeast of Rotorua. On 10 June 1886, Mount Tarawera erupted violently and unexpectedly, the village was destroyed by the eruption, becoming one of New Zealand’s greatest natural disasters. The Buried Village is open to the public and recovered relics as well as the devastating story of Te Wairoa are on display in the museum, along with the history and timeline of the eruption.

img_8582

After wondering through the museum and seeing how the Tarawera eruption drastically changed the land and lives of the people of Te Wairoa, we entered the grounds to explore the archeological site and see the excavated ruins.

The depth of the volcanic mud

This shows how deep the mud was!

Although the archeological site is now green and peaceful, the site still reveals the devastation from the eruption. Excavations into the volcanic mud show just how deep the mud was and signboards along the way give insight as to what the ruins used to be, as well as stories of the people who once lived there.

The whare of the Tohunga, Tuhoto Ariki

The whare of the Tohunga, Tuhoto Ariki

img_8585

Te Wairoa Village was a Māori and European settlement founded in 1848 by the Christian missionary Reverend Seymour Mills Spencer as a “model Maori village”, however Te Wairoa survived for fewer than 40 years before it, and the nearby Pink and White Terraces were obliterated by the eruption of Mt Tarawera.

pink-white-terraces

Pink & White Terraces

“Considered to be the eighth wonder of the world, tourists came from all over the world to view the geological treasures called the Pink and White Terraces. The Pink Terraces were known by Maori as Otukapuarangi (“fountain of the clouded sky”), and the White Terraces or Te Tararata (“the tattood Rock”). Separated by 800 metres, the Terraces were a layered formation of silica acid and sodium chloride, created over a long period of time.” (from http://www.buriedvillage.co.nz)

“On the 10th June 1886, the violent and unexpected volcanic eruption of Mount Tarawera shook the peaceful village of Te Wairoa for more than four terrifying hours. Rocks, ash and mud bombarded the village and ended more than 150 lives and many livelihoods, as well as destroying the eighth wonder of the world, the Pink and White Terraces, and buried the staging post for travellers to the terraces, Te Wairoa Village, under two meters of thick volcanic material. In the gloom of the day the wreckage of the hotels and houses, and the burial of 8,000 square kilometres of countryside brought awe and dismay to survivors and rescuers.” (taken from the information brochure “Buried Village of Te Wairoa”)

img_8588

The remains of the Baker's Oven and a water tank

Ruins of the Baker’s Oven and a water tank

The hotel

Ruins of the Hotel

The hotel's wine cellar

The Hotel’s Cellar

img_8592

To end our visit at Te Wairoa, we took the Waterfall Trail and descended down some really steep stairs to the base of the 30 metre Wairere Falls. There is so much more to the story of this Buried Village than what I have written above and there was far too much information for me to try and memorise. It’s definitely a must see if you’re in Rotorua.

img_8594img_8595Walkway at the base of the waterfall

img_8599

The bumpy ridge is from a lava flow

The Okareka Rhyolite Lava Flows

Layers of rock from different lava flows

Layers in the rock from different lava flows

The three volcanoes that erupted

Mount Tarawera – the three volcanoes that erupted

To read more about the Pink and White Terraces and watch a short documentary video clip on the eruption and the search for the terraces after the eruption, click on this link: www.stuff.co.nz

Mahia & Moko the Dolphin

map-mahia

A day-trip to Mahia saw us looking for waves at the local surf spots. Unfortunately, conditions weren’t good but we did get to do a bit of sightseeing and take a few photos.

Surf spot in Mahia

“The Spit”

img_8553

The Spit is one of Mahia’s classic breaks that produces left and right breaks from a massive reef spit that protrudes out into the ocean.

img_8559

Boat Harbour is another break that we went to check and this one sits over a really shallow reef. The waves were small today but we did get to see the anchor of the S.S. Tasmania.

S.S. Tasmania plaque in MahiaS.S. Tasmania anchor

After checking a few more surf spots to see if anything was worthwhile, we went for a very windy walk along Mahia beach, before our drive back to Gisborne.

img_8561img_8562

At one end of the beach we spotted a cauldron in a garden and went to investigate. The cauldron must be from back in the days when whaling was still a business and the cauldron must have been used to melt the whale fat.

img_8565img_8566

We then saw a memorial on the grass next to the cauldron, this was for Moko the Dolphin.

 

Now, Moko the dolphin is another famous New Zealand dolphin (just like Opo the Dolphin, who’s memorial we saw in Opononi in 2014) and this is Moko’s story:

“A bottlenose dolphin arrived off the Mokotahi Headland at Mahia Beach on 9th April 2007. He was named Moko after the Mokotahi Headland that he swam below.

It was established from an early stage that he was a rare solo dolphin.

Over a period of two and a half years, Moko found fame for his trusting, playful nature and delightful sense of humour as he entertained locals and thousands of visitors alike from every corner of the globe.

On 2nd September 2009, Moko strayed from Mahia to Gisborne, a distance of around 80 kilometres.

After a few months, Moko followed a fishing boat from Gisborne around East Cape arriving in Whakatane late January 2010. Five months later, he teamed up with the same fishing boat and followed it to Tauranga.

This lovable dolphin’s life came to a tragic end when he was found washed up on Matakana Island, Tauranga Harbour on 7th July 2010. The cause of his death will never be known.

After a funeral service in Whakatane, Moko was laid to rest on Matakana Island.

Moko made the Time Magazine’s Top Ten list for the world’s most heroic animals in 2011. He has been recognised for preventing a Pygmy Sperm Whale and her calf from beaching themselves at Mahia on 10th March 2008 and led them to the open ocean.”

The above information about Moko was taken from the memorial plaque at Mahia Beach.

Mahia Beach

Maria Beach from the lookout point

Mahia from viewing point

Mahia

The entrance to the harbour / bay

Entrance to the bay

The coastal road

The coastal road

Awesome view from a viewing spot on the way back to Gisborne

The view from a lookout halfway between Mahia & Gisborne

Cook’s Cove

map-cooks-cove

The drive to where Cooks Cove walkway parking lot from Makorori Beach Bach took about half an hour (distance of 41.9 kms).  The walkway is named after English sailor and explorer, Captain James Cook. He visited the area in 1769 as part of his circumnavigation of New Zealand.

img_8527

The walking track starts at a parking lot in a small paddock just before you get to Tolaga Bay Wharf and then it climbs through light bush and across open grassland, along a farm track to the first viewing point just below the cliff tops, looking out over Tolaga Bay.

The view of Tolaga Bay along Cook's Cove Walkway

Tolaga Bay

Grassy farmland

About 25 minutes after leaving the car park, you’ll reach a decked lookout point (120 metres above sea level) that gives a view out over the sea and the first glimpse of Cooks Cove. The cove consists of a sheltered inlet with the weather-beaten Mitre Rocks standing to the left of the entrance and Pourewa Island rising up on the right. There is also an isolated surf break down near hole-in-the-wall but it is quite a walk to get there.

img_8531The surf break

The view of Cooks Cove (inlet in the middle)

The view of Cooks Cove (inlet in the middle)

img_2076

The view of Tolaga Bay Wharf from the top of the cliff

The information board at the viewing point reads: “The Endeavour arrives in Cooks Cove, October 1769. After making the first European landfall at Turanganui-a-Kiwa (Poverty Bay), James Cook and the crew of the Endeavour visited Anaura Bay then anchored at Uawa and went ashore at a cove known as Opoutama (Cooks Cove) north of Turanganui-a-Kiwa.

The crew were warmly received by the tangata whenua. They traded with local kiwi Te Aitanga-a-Hauiti who taught them a range of practices such as the use of manuka branches as brooms.

Cook’s crew explored the area, collected wood, “sellery” and scurvy grass, samples of new plants and freshwater. Cook observed and recorded the complexity of the culture and diversity of the landscape.

After six days the Endeavour weighed anchor and left Cooks Cove to circumnavigate New Zealand.”

Walking to Cooks Cove

The stepped and sloped track winds down the hill through bush before passing a small pond and entering the coastal flats of the cove. The walk is quite steep in places and you do need to be wearing good, comfortable walking shoes. Once you are down in the grassy flats, there is a marker pointing the way to the hole-in-the-wall (Te Kotere-o-te-Whenua) and Cooks Cove. Right next to the marker is a large picture frame that borders the hole-in-the-wall perfectly and makes a wonderful photo opportunity.

img_8536Hole-in-the-Wall

A plaque at the base of this frame reads: “Joseph Banks, Botanist, Endeavour 1769: “In pursuing a valley bounded on each side by steep hills we saw also an extraordinary natural curiosity… a most noble arch or Cavern through the face of the rock leading directly to the sea. It was certainly the most magnificent surprise I have ever met with, so much is pure nature superior to art in these cases.”

Hole-in-the-Wall

Tolaga Wharf jutting out into the sea

If you look closely, you can see Tolaga Bay Wharf jutting out into the sea

The surf break at Hole-in-the-Wall

After exploring the hole-in-the-wall, we walked across the flats to look at Cooks Cove and read the information boards that are posted there, before beginning the steep climb back up the ridge.

Info board at Cooks CoveBack of info board at Cooks CoveCooks Cove

The viewing point is on top of the cliff ... a long climb up!

The lookout point is on top of the ridge, where the point is … a long climb back up!

Additional information: The track is closed each year for the lambing season from 1 August until the start of Labour Weekend (late October). The walkway may not be used to gain fishing access to Pourewa Island or to fishing grounds (fishing equipment and firearms are prohibited). No camping, lighting of fires or are allowed on the walkway. Mountain biking is not permitted. No dogs allowed. There is no drinkable water on the walk; you need to bring your own. (from www.doc.govt.nz)

Hole-in-the-Wall along Cook’s Cove walkway, photo taken from the base of the Tatarahake Cliffs

Whangara & The Whale Rider

map-whangaraWhangara is a small community located between Gisborne and Tolaga Bay. We stopped here on our way back from Tolaga Bay to see if we could get down the to beach and have a look at the surf break, but there is only one road in and out of the community and it’s Private Access Only, with a permit being required to reach the beach.

Whangara

Whangara

Whangara features prominently in the early history of the Ngāti Porou iwi and the community gained international notoriety as the location and setting for the New Zealand film “The Whale Rider” (based on the novel by Witi Ihimaera). There is even a Whale Rider figure on top of the local marae.

Whangara

The Whale Rider on top of the marae

“In a small New Zealand coastal village, Maori claim descent from Paikea, the Whale Rider. In every generation for over 1,000 years, a male heir born to the Chief succeeds to the title. The time is now. The Chief’s eldest son, Porourangi, fathers twins – a boy and a girl. But the boy and his mother die in childbirth. The surviving girl is named Pai. Grief-stricken, her father leaves her to be raised by her grandparents. Koro, (the Chief) refuses to acknowledge Pai as the inheritor of the tradition and claims she is of no use to him. But her grandmother, Flowers, sees more than a broken line, she sees a child in desperate need of love. And Koro learns to love the child. When Pai’s father, Porourangi, now a feted international artist, returns home after twelve years, Koro hopes everything is resolved and Porourangi will accept destiny and become his successor. But Porourangi has no intention of becoming Chief. He has moved away from his people both physically and emotionally. After a bitter argument with Koro he leaves, suggesting to Pai that she come with him. She starts the journey but quickly returns, claiming her grandfather needs her. Koro is blinded by prejudice and even Flowers cannot convince him that Pai is the natural heir. The old Chief is convinced that the tribe’s misfortunes began at Pai’s birth and calls for his people to bring their 12 year old boys to him for training. He is certain that through a gruelling process of teaching the ancient chants, tribal lore and warrior techniques, the future leader of their tribe will be revealed to him. Meanwhile, deep within the ocean, a massive herd of whales is responding, drawn towards Pai and their twin destinies. When the whales become stranded on the beach, Koro is sure this signals an apocalyptic end to his tribe. Until one person prepares to make the ultimate sacrifice to save the people. The Whale Rider.” (from www.whaleriderthemovie.co.nz)

I saw the movie “The Whale Rider” many years ago but I’m yet to get my hands on a copy of the book, which I’m still keen to read as movies are often different to the actual books they’re based on.

Tolaga Bay

img_8415

map-gisb-to-tolaga-bay

The long wharf

The longest wharf in the Southern Hemisphere

It takes about half an hour to walk to the end of the historic wharf at Tolaga Bay and back again. Built in 1929 and measuring in at 660 metres, this is the longest wharf in the Southern Hemisphere and it was commercially functional until 1968. To read more about the history of Tolaga Bay Wharf, click on this link:  nzhistory.govt.nz

Tolaga Bay Wharf

On our second visit to Tolaga Bay, a few days later, we saw a traditional waka sheltering from the strong Southerly wind that was blowing. The waka had tried to get to Gisborne but the wind was too strong, so they sheltered in Tolaga Bay and waited for the wind to die down before continuing on their journey.

A waka sheltering from the Southerly

After chatting to one of the crew, we discovered that the waka was making its way from the Tāmaki Herenga Waka Festival in Auckland to the Te Herenga Waka Festival in Napier and that this particular waka had been built in  2009.

We grabbed a quick coffee from the Curbside Cafe, a mobile truck that serves coffee and a limited hot food menu from the parking lot at Tolaga Bay, before heading further down the road to see the beach at the base of the Tatarahake Cliffs.

The cliffs at Tolaga BayTatarahake CliffsThe beach at Tolaga Bay, taken from the end of the wharfimg_8422

The Tatarahake Cliffs are at the northern end of Tolaga Bay and, if you feel up to a steep walk (which we didn’t do), there is a lookout at the top of the cliffs.

War memorialBeach at the base of Tatarahake Cliffs