Published: November 11th 2007November 11th 2007
Last night was very cold. According to the forecast, it dropped to just 6C. Within the confines of the mobile bed it certainly felt that cold but, snugged up under my duvet, I really didn’t notice and slept soundly until about half seven. By that time, the sun was up, the tide was on its way out and the sky was blue. It was also significantly warmer than the overnight low.
The day ahead was to be my last on the road. It was to be a day of stark contrasts, from the stunningly beautiful scenery to the just beautiful; from the clear blue sky to the sudden downpour which stopped as quickly as it started; from the 60 miles of smooth tarmac to the 100 miles of gravel! It was also to be a day of eating what was left in the van for tonight I need to ensure it’s fully fed and watered.
Having eaten a breakfast of strong coffee (got to get rid of the beans), 5 toasts (there’s a loaf to eat), a bowl of cereal (just one then there’s enough for tomorrow) and a banana (4 left; that’ll be sandwiches tomorrow) I took some
The other side of the sign said "No, behind you"
photos of the campsite (well, beach) and returned to the main road, heading north to the Raglan Coast. Any sensible person would have followed the main road the whole way, even though it does veer inland a considerable distance, but as I was not in a hurry, I decided to take the most direct route, following an almost northerly direction throughout and sticking closely to the coast. The first 50km were on SH3 and were a real pleasure to follow. Once I’d got to Awakino, it was time to veer onto the side roads, heading through the King Country via The Pretty Way
When I first bought my map of New Zealand, I thought it only showed the major roads as there were so few roads printed. Now I realise that all the roads are
shown and it’s just that there are so few roads! Fortunately, my map also gives some of the road names, so I had no qualms about turning onto the side road. What I hadn’t bargained for was the fact that these side roads eventually turned into gravel tracks - something the automatic engine of my wheely bed was not designed to handle. Kicking it
into manual transmission was a great improvement and after a time, was great fun!
After about 70km on the gravel tracks, I arrived at my first stop of the day, the Marakopa Falls. The river at this point plummets some 100 feet in a magnificent ribbon of water, a cacophony of sound and a lot of spray. Continuing north, I arrived at the tiny town of Te Anga and headed straight into a herd of cattle. I first came across the technique for passing them a few weeks ago in Northland; pointing the van at the hind legs of the cow in front, I edged my way through the herd. Unfortunately, the cows had other ideas and all congregated on my side of the road. So pulling to the left, I tried again as did the cows. I was eventually saved by the cow-dog which gallantly herded them all into the correct field, leaving me to continue towards my lunch stop - Te Waitere.
This tiny hamlet is perched on the edge of Kawhia Harbour and, really, the only thing that one can say about the hamlet is that you can see dolphins and it’s a great spot
to park on the grass verge and cook lunch (two boiled eggs, 4 shortbread biscuits, 2 cups of tea and a few crisps). Having parked up, I spent an hour watching the birds (feathered) swimming, the birds (bikinied) swimming and the yachtsman readying his yacht. I was disappointed when after all the effort of getting it launched, he started the outboard and sailed away without raising the sails!
Continuing round the harbour, my next stop was to be Kawhia and the hot springs. Whenever I’ve come to a beach, the tide has always been out, except at Hot Water Beach when it was in (you can only reach the hot springs at low tide). I wonder what will happen here? Kawhia is another small hamlet in which the population of 600 swells to 4000 in summer. The village is very important for the Maori in that it is here that a waka from Hawaiki landed in 1350. The harbour was so beautiful (and still is) that the Tainui waka was tied to a pohutukawa tree and the settlement was created. The tree still stands and is now tapu. Interestingly, the waka has been buried with stones marking the prow and stern. All very interesting, and despite this, I continued heading for the hot water springs. Arriving at the car park, I climbed the black sand dune (that’s a dune of black sand), reached the top and stared down at the high tide. Another failure, although I’m told it’s too hot to walk on the sand in bare feet.
Back to the van and on to the next stop. After further rallying in a 2.5 tonne vehicle, I arrived at another waterfall. The Bridal Veil Falls cascade down some 170 feet in a single stream, spreading out as it hits the water at the bottom. In fact, it looks a little like a bridal veil. Curious really. The walk to the falls is through spectacular native bush although the climb down to the base of the waterfall is through spectacular man-made wooden steps (and back up again!)
Finally, it was off to the night stop. Raglan is a holiday destination and I confess it’s the first time I’ve seen a sign advertising “gorgeous jumbo burgers”. The town is pleasant enough but I’ve seen nothing of the internationally renowned surfing beaches although the small town does have a plethora of bars, the most I’ve seen anywhere outside of Auckland and Wellington. The river however, has banks of black sand and is full of families. But, for tonight, this is home.
Tomorrow I start the last day of my trip, which is really just a return to Auckland. Over the past 3 weeks, I’ve driven 2200 miles, taken 1500 photos, seen 7,438,200 sheep, driven on almost deserted roads, visited stunningly beautiful settings, met some great people and even eaten a bagel (it was that or nothing!). However, I never did find “Slow Vehicle Bay”, although I saw lots of signs. My journey back to the UK will be rather tortuous, taking in Brisbane, Singapore and Dubai. However, the next trip is only days away, with a weekend away in the Isle of Man. I hope that’s warm and sunny, with blue skies, clear seas and no cars!
Distance travelled: 266km / 166 miles