Backpacking Pensioners travel blog

Mangonui Harbour in Doubtless Bay

Historic Mangonui Hotel

Looking at Butler Point from Mangonui

Looking South West from Cape Reinga Car Park

Spirits Bay looking towards our camp

Sylvia’s Comments

We contacted the windscreen company and arranged that we take the van back to them at the beginning of next week. This week we are going off on a camping trip, with Rosemary, to Spirits Bay and Maitai Bay. We said good-bye to Rosemary, who was heading off for her tennis match and drove north on SH 10 to Mangonui, a small township situated on Doubtless Bay. We parked our van and had a walk around this lovely little town. It was this bay that was once a bustling whaling and trading port and from where we were parked we could look across to Butlers Point. This is the site of the whaling museum and historic homestead we had visited on the 28th July 2008.

The town has a heritage walk taking you past some of the lovely old buildings, but today we were just content to walk along the front and around the wharf area. Many of the old buildings such as the court house and trading store have been converted into craft shops, or waterfront café’s. The small wharf still has commercial fishing boats offloading their fish and individual fishermen trying their hand with a line. But it is not all of the above that brings the visitor to Mangonui. Mangonui is the home to the world famous fish and chip shop. Here all the tourist buses, cars and motorhomes, as well as many locals come to ‘dine over the water’. This is a treat we will return to Mangonui for at a later date.

We had to do our shopping and continue our journey. We had also wanted to book our trip up to Cape Reianga with a local firm that Rosemary had recommended. After a phone call to them from the lady in the tourist office we learnt that they would not operate any trips with less than ten people, and as no one else had enquired it was unlikely they would run a trip on Friday. The lady in the tourist office did recommend another local company and we took the information away with us to ponder.

Shortly after leaving the town we came across a picnic area and pulled in to make lunch. As we crossed the road the fridge door swung open and the cauliflower we had bought fell out and deposited small bits all over the floor. The new milk bottle also fell out and the top broke, so we only needed the cheese to have fallen out also and we would have had cauliflower cheese swishing around our van floor. Once we pulled up a big clean up job was required. After that we had some lunch before continuing our journey. SH 10 follows the shore of Doubtless Bay and we passed many small communities sitting along side the waters edge. Coopers Beach at 1 ½ mile long has a safe swimming beach, Cable Bay with its pinkish sand, unique to this beach, is popular with surf casting.

At the small township of Awanui we joined SH 1 and made the short detour to Kaitaia to visit the bank and empty the grey water tank and our toilet, ready for our four days of bush camping. The drive from Kaitaia to the top of the Aupouri Peninsula is 73 miles by road, with the last 11 miles being on unsealed road. We had decided to drive straight up to Cape Reinga and then do the sightseeing bits on our return journey. The drive up the peninsula was nice, passing through different types of scenery. At the bottom end the farms were mainly dairy on the lush green paddocks. As the terrain turned to more hilly country and moor land type grazing we were seeing beef and sheep stations.

The last petrol station, shop and campsite on the peninsula is at Waitiki Landing, and is the northernmost accommodation in NZ, (apart from two DOC camps), and it is here that the sealed road ends and the gravel road begins. It seems strange to think that the major road in NZ, SH 1, that travels the full length of the country, has a gravel surface. This will not be for much longer as a sealed road is being built from Cape Reinga down to Waitiki Landing and is due to open next year.

Cape Reinga is the most northerly point of NZ that the public can access, the most northerly point being at North Cape, on the east coast. This area is private land and there is no public access. Standing at the windswept point is Cape Reinga Lighthouse, which looks out over the coming together of the Tasman and Pacific Sea. This area known to the Maori people as Te Rerenga-Wairua has great spiritual significance for them. Traditionally, the soul of the departed travelled north to Te Rerenga-Wairua, where it slid down the roots of a lone Pohutukawa tree and hid in a cave for three days, (it takes three days for the funeral to take place). After the third day the spirit travels under water to the King Islands (these can be seen from Cape Reinga on a clear day) where the spirit climbs to the top of the highest hill. After one last look at Aotearoa (New Zealand) the spirit returns to the Hawaiki to join the ancestral spirits. Hawaiki in Maori is simultaneously the name for the underworld and the ancestral home. The 800 year old Pohutukawa tree, whose roots hide the entrance to the mythical Maori underworld, can be seen from the lighthouse.

As we neared Cape Reinga we passed the heavy machinery used to build the road and negotiated around others. A temporary car park is in place but we did not think we would get our van up the hill to it, so parked at the bottom and walked the short distance to have a look at the views. There is a lot of building work going on and we later learnt that a new visitors and interpretive centre is being built to give the public an awareness of the significance of the area. From the car park, we were told it was a 30 minute each way walk to the light house and did not feel we had enough time to do this walk today, so we gave it a miss. We will be returning at the end of the week on the bus trip and will do it then.

We drove back down to Waitiki Landing and then took the gravel road to Spirits Bay and the Kapowairua camp site at the eastern end of the bay. We were surprised to find we had arrived before Rosemary, so it was our job to find a suitable spot to camp. It was not a difficult job as we just drove to the end of the road and parked very close to the beach. We stayed on the road as most of the grass sites were soggy from all the recent rain. We boiled up a kettle of hot water and gave our floor a good wash after the spilt milk. It seemed strange to be doing such menial tasks in such a nice place but it needed to be done. We were just about to set off for a walk along the beach when Rosemary arrived. Being here brought back many happy memories of past visits with Stan, both on their boat and in the motorhome, so we left Rosemary to reflect on these happy times and went to the beach. It was a wonderful experience to walk along this deserted beach, with the very big waves rolling in, and to be surrounded by such stunning scenery.

Rosemary joined us a short while later and we enjoyed the last of the daylight together. Then it was back to our van for happy hour and dinner. Rosemary has looked after us so well at her home it was nice to be able to cook for her. After our meal we watched some of the Olympics and then got the cards out. Once again I was not a popular person, I wonder why?

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