Thursday, 13 January 2022

The inevitability of Tongaporutu

Prior to travelling up to Taranaki, I had looked at buying a new bike seat given my bum was still sore from my fall in Hanmer Springs and bike riding was hurting my coccyx. David and I had done a ride from home down to the expressway and along the cycle/walking path alongside it to Paraparaumu. The ride was lovely but I was clear something needed to change before I'd be comfortable biking longer distances several days in a row, as would be required if we plan to do the Otago Rail Trail.

I'd looked online and found several alternatives that looked extremely comfortable, but how could I tell without trying them? So I detached my seat post and seat from my bike and headed for the bike store in Paraparaumu. I tried a couple of seats there (the young guy attached them to a small bike for me - I did tell him I wouldn't be offended if he fitted them to a kid's bike ...). One was a slight improvement on mine but not enough of an improvement to spend $80 on, the other was the most uncomfortable thing I have ever sat on in my life! However, the young guy adjusted my own bike seat so that it was tilted backwards. Success!! Comfort!! No bouncing on the coccyx!! No need to buy a new seat!!

So on New Year's Day I did a 12km circular bike ride with Jim, Judy, and their friends Lesley and Peter who were staying with them. My bum still got a bit sore, but that was numbness of the buttocks, rather than pain in the coccyx, so I was well pleased. And it disappeared when we stopped for photography ...

Just after we crossed SH3 and headed inland on the small country road, this was the view across the fields. Magic!

A hapless road race biker was on a training ride and I asked him to get a photo of all of us. Well, that's what old people can do, isn't it? L-R: me, Peter, Jim, Judy, Lesley. David and Callum had stayed home.


They of course did a much longer route to Bertram's Bridge, but I knew my limits, so I was pointed in the right direction to complete the circuit and rejoin the Ohanga Road back out to cross over SH3 and back to their place.

The view from Jim and Judy's deck - no wonder they don't want to move!

We spent the next three days at Waitara Holiday Park with the family - as their powered sites were booked we stayed in the triangle and checked out the new solar panels and lithium battery. David was in heaven - new gadgets to boffin... And the sun was shining very brightly and hotly (is that a word?) so the battery was very happy at 100% most of the time.

Moored up in the triangle. Dee tells me they can get 3 campers in there but we used it all. Although we could have budged up if they needed more space.



This is the graffiti art that Cam and Kurt did at the skatepark across from the camp. The M is the logo of the Dodge Ram that Muzz and Dee own.

I am a bit obsessed with that maunga...

One morning, before it got too hot, we walked into Waitara to do a bit of grocery shopping - we walked along the new walkway. It is a lovely walk alongside the river.

It was so hot I even had a swim in their pool with Dee - well, more of a float around to be fair. The polystyrene noodles are so good for that, so since we have been home I have bought a couple for us.

And Shona came for lunch on one day, and brought her brother John for cheese scones the next day. I have known them since I was a teenager when I used to go out with one of their older brother, Pari. Lots of reminiscing and catching up. 

On our way out to Tongaporutu, we stopped at Onaero and repeated the New Year's Day bike ride with Jim and Judy so that David could enjoy it too.

Then on to Tongaporutu with a quick stop at Urenui to get teabags (I had run out and did not put them on the list for our shopping foray/walk - no teabags would be an absolute disaster) and diesel (I hadn't realised how low the tank was, and Urenui is the last fuel stop before Awakino). 

We were lucky enough to get a spot on the riverbank overlooking the river and the river mouth. David's words: we need to stay here at least 3 nights. And there was no disagreement from me.

It would be fair to say I am a bit obsessed with this view - the river mouth at Tongaporutu. It is particularly beautiful at high tide, but is so special to me.


This is the coffee/ice cream/takeaway place at the beach - very very popular and good food.

Mel didn't get to share the vege burger and fries ... Oops, bed's not made, sorry!

The site, which is a freedom camping spot, was quite full but was still peaceful. And hot! The major benefits of parking on the riverbank are the view and a breeze off the water. However where we were parked there was little grass or soil, and the ground has been packed with small rocks, so we could not put out our awning as the pins would not penetrate the ground ... So we turned side on to the riverbank and out went the awning. We were a bit uncomfortable about it as it looked like we were taking up more than our fair share of space. However, we we still between the two motorhomes that were there as we arrived, and there certainly wasn't space for another in the gap. 

At Joan and James' place I saw this pot on their deck - Joan was given it by the people who bought our bach. Dee and I had given it to our kids at Dad's funeral, because he always wore jeans shorts. Joan loves it because her dad always wore them too. Dee and I are pleased it has a good home that we can visit...

We took the bikes down to James and Joan's place, next to our old bach. We left them there with them so that they weren't a temptation for anyone with nefarious intent. Apart from getting from the camping area to the baches on the other side of the main road, there was nowhere safe to ride really.  I did used to ride from the bach to Ahititi along SH3 when I was a teenager, and before that I used to ride to the local dairy farm to buy a billy of milk at 6.30 on a Saturday morning. I wouldn't ride that road now - traffic is too fast and there is much more of it. And my courage is a much smaller commodity and my sense of mortality is much bigger ...

We did a nostalgia walk back along the riverbank which has now been formed into a walkway - it used to be a jumble of reeds, people's sections that exuded into the queen's chain, places to leave the dinghies and kayaks ... And we stopped to say hello to Lee and Gordon. They gave David a fillet of freshly caught snapper and invited us to use their kayaks the next day. 

So David has added fresh snapper to his favourite fish list (panfried with butter, lemon and parsley) - eaten outside the motorhome on the riverbank. Bliss for him!

This kind of mist usually presages a very fine hot day - but for a while it looks gloomy.

These two guys were trying to find the channel to get out across the bar early to fish - however they messed up and had to retrace their route. I think they went out a bit later when there was a bit more water in the river.


Kayaking was lovely but no photos because we didn't take our phones - we went upriver on the last hour of the incoming tide, so almost no paddling. I think we probably went about 2kms upriver. Lee had lent us a couple of old towels which came in very handy for draping over our legs as it was extremely hot! I had put my one in the back of the kayak and hadn't realised there were holes in that section so my towel was drenched. A very good thing as it kept me cool! And an extra good thing about not taking the phone was that I would have unthinkingly put it in that compartment - certain disaster averted...

I paddled all the way back - I think the tide was on the turn when we started back, but as we were well upstream there was still flow against us for a bit and when it started to flow with us it wasn't particularly strong. David told me later he had tried to catch me up and overtake me, but no luck. All that rowing and paddling from childhood has clearly stood me in good stead.

Lee and Gordon came down for nachos (Nadia Lim's Zingy Nachos with Marilyn modifications, of course ...) later that afternoon and brought another piece of fish for David - happiness. 


All the bits ready for deconstructed nachos. The tomato/onion/bean mixture was in the frying pan, nacho chips were in a bowl. Yummy!

We considered going around the front beach at low tide but it was still too hot in the evening. Instead I made a veg curry for lunch the next day.

Magnificent, peaceful, calming.

So on our last morning, we got up early and had the front beach to ourselves - we shared it only with the birds: oyster catchers on shore and terns on one of the Three Sisters. 

And we are on our way...

We walked well over the spit that bounded the river at the moment - it will probably be different even this few days later. That's 2 of the 3 sisters and the large rock in the foreground is Patangata Island which was a look out to check from raiding iwi from north or south.

The only other footprints on the beach - oyster catchers.

See what I mean? I am obsessed with that mountain/maunga. And with this beach which constantly changes. And see the terns?


The petrified wood has been uncovered in recent times - it is the first time we have seen it here - it shows how much the land has been impacted by the pounding of the sea and storms.


Me and my mountain and my favourite beach.

The nearest rock is a new sister, carved out of the cliff by the sea - lots of land lost over recent years.

All of this has been formed in the last few years too.

Not sure what I was pointing out to David but clearly he wasn't attending to my words ...

Well, sometimes you do just have to find out how deep the pool is - up to my thighs, and my shorts got wet ...


As we were returning a father and daughter appeared and kindly took photos of us. 

The strata in the rocks as we walked back

And in one part of the cliff - I am always fascinated by how the land has built up, slid away, and continued to build up. On this coast it is shown in sharp relief.

Then it was time to make our way home. So down we drove to pick up the bikes from Joan and James, and also take the opportunity to catch up with Stephen Corkill, who gave us three large snapper fillets he had vacuum packed and frozen. Such kindness. 

We called in to Waitara at the camp to replace a gas bottle, and have hugs with the team, then we had lunch with Rein (our veg curry, his rice and salad - all from his garden). Rather than driving all the way home, we stopped at a place we have passed the sign to countless times but never noticed - Koitiata, which is on the coast 8kms out from Turakina. A small old camping ground that was quite lovely. 

This notice made us smile ...

Sunset at Koitiata - the west coast of the North Island is spectacular - just like the South Island's West Coast.


Anonymous said...

Beautiful photos of the deserted peaceful beach/sunset, grrreat that you had it all to yourselves to go exploring.
It must be a good feeling to be in your second childhood.
You lifted my spirits today whilst perusing your blog, thank you.
Ann and Keith xx

Marilyn, nb Waka Huia said...

Thank you, Ann - our whole family is closely connected to Tongaporutu. One thing my dad had a great sense of achievement of was within 7 years of arriving in NZ with £50, as well as buying a very modest house, he and mum had bought a section and built a bach at a place he just loved so passionately. We were so lucky to have it and you can tell it is imprinted on me ...
I am delighted to have lifted your spirits, Ann. Perhaps you should make some world famous cheese scones to cheer you even more - look up Ministry of Food Cheese Scones and get baking!
Sending hugs to you both, Mxx

Lisa said...

Hi Marilyn,
My saddle has a hole in it.., a ladies gap/space plus I wear two pairs of cycling shorts (David calls them padded knickers).
Pacing is needed by me at the beginning of the cycling season!

Lisa xx

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