East Cape

Day four of the road trip and our first stop is Tolaga Bay.

It’s day four and we’re on the road again! I waved good-bye to our oasis at Makorori beach and we headed over the hill and around East Cape to Whanarua Bay.

Google says it’s only three and twenty I told John. We’ve got stacks of time. No need to rush.

Road trip, Day four: Makorori to Whanarua Bay

Road trip, Day four: Makorori to Whanarua Bay

Is that right, you’ll be muttering at your screen, remembering, no doubt, what we’re like. So I’ll tell you, right here and right now, we arrived at Whanarua Bay before dark, just. It took us nine hours.

The problem wasn’t the car. Oh, no, it was’t that! Those troubles were well and truly left behind, with our mechanic, in Napier. The problem, my friends and fellow travellers, was the wealth of places to explore. Those less generously disposed might sigh and comment : those two, they’re so distractible. And I wouldn’t argue the point, neither would John. We have confessed to this failing before.

Travellers, especially those who value the journey, will understand. Particularly when faced with sites and sights like this:

Looking South across Tolaga Bay. Running parallel to the cliffs is Tolaga Bay Wharf.

Looking South across Tolaga Bay. Running parallel to the cliffs is Tolaga Bay Wharf.

This was my third visit to Tolaga Bay  and it still fascinates me. It’s isolated, remote, sparsely populated. Not that long ago, okay maybe one hundred years ago, the only access was by boat. (If you click on the link you’ll see some wonderful aerial shots of the wharf.)

At 600 metres the wharf, which runs parallel to the cliffs in my photo, is the longest in New Zealand. It was built in the late 1920s.

You might remember that I’m not a fan of anything that involves standing above moving water. But, after all those adventures in Laos earlier in the year, adventures which required me to cross rivers via bamboo bridges, this would be a piece of cake. And anyway, as you can see, there’s nothing rickety about it.

Tolaga Bay Wharf disappearing into the Ocean

Tolaga Bay Wharf disappearing into the Ocean. Note those dark clouds.

Back in the 1990s it looked as if the Pacific was going to claim the wharf for her own. The problem is the water and the corrosive powers of salt. Forces so strong, according to our host of the previous three nights, that the concrete explodes. Explodes!

The information panels near the beach tell the story of the effort and determination of the locals to raise enough funds, over one million dollars, for the restoration of the wharf. That’s a lot of money for a town of less than 800 people to find. But they did it!

Pou, safeguarding the wharf

Pou, safeguarding the wharf

The carved Pou represents the Tipuna (ancestors) of the local Uawa people, who were strong, determined, and courageous. A lot like those responsible for the fundraising, I guess.

I studied the information material. I read it from beginning to end. Nothing there about exploding concrete. I examined the structure – no signs of explosions, not that I could see. I strode out on to the wharf.

Tolaga Bay Wharf

Tolaga Bay Wharf

I took photos, lots and lots of them.

The ocean pounds at this beach, I thought, noting the drift wood all along the foreshore. Lucky it’s pretty calm today, I thought, happily ignoring those clouds and the merest spit of rain.

The beach at Tolaga Bay from the wharf

The beach at Tolaga Bay from the wharf

I walked on. Following John. I felt rather smug as I took the shot below. I’d almost made it to the end of the wharf. I was more than half a kilometre out into the Pacific.

Almost at the end of the wharf

Almost at the end of the wharf

I would, I imagined, sit on that seat right at the end of the wharf with John. I’d get some close-ups of it for Jude’s photo challenge. John and I would admire the yacht at anchor and tell each other fanciful tales about where it had sailed from and who might be on it. I would argue the case for Dean Barker. (Dean was the skipper of Team New Zealand, our ill-fated America’s Cup challengers.) John would suggest some wizened traveller who has spent his or her life sailing the high seas alone.

Nevertheless, I’d stick with Dean. I’d say he was taking some much needed R & R after the Team New Zealand debacle. Yes, it’ll definitely be Dean. If I spot him, I’ll give him a wave and the thumbs up. He’ll know I’m with him all the way. And there, on a bench seat, at the end of the Tolaga Bay Wharf, I would claim, at last, my place amongst this great nation of sea farers. Me and Dean Barker, two intrepid types. And John, too, of course!

As I took the shot, as the shutter clicked closed there was a roar, and a gust of wind smacked me in the back. Forget exploding concrete. This was wind exploding! In to me. I stumbled, almost losing my footing. Doubled over, and digging my feet into the concrete surface, I called out to John. I can tell you with the authority of experience, that not only is it difficult to shout over the top of the wind, it’s impossible to shout at full volume while bent in half.

John didn’t turn around. There was no instant connection, no ESP that told him his dearly beloved was in trouble. He stood there, believe it or not (I couldn’t at the time), oblivious to the squall that had me crouched against the wind, trying to prevent myself from being blown over the railings and into the water. Okay, okay, maybe my imagination is a little on the vivid side.

I tried to turn back towards the beach. The wind roared around me, whipping my coat, tearing at my hand bag, threatening to steal my camera from my hands.

I wish I’d been able to take a photo looking towards the shore, five hundred and fifty long, long metres away.

Forget my new imagined bessie mate, Dean. Forget bravery. Forget “intrepid” – silly notion that it is. The wind had blown away all such ideas and returned me to my real self: a grey haired, vertically challenged, old lady who thought she might have to crawl, yes, crawl! off that wharf.

Eventually, John glanced back wondering, no doubt, where I was.

With him as a wind break I was able to stand upright and, dignity partially in tact, I walked back to land. I wish I could claim that I could return the favour and that I too acted as a wind break for him. But the truth is I’m much too short for that.

By the time I was on the beach again the squall had passed, the wind had dropped and the sun was out. The light was just right.

Sun's out now

Sun’s out, now.

As I took these last photos it was difficult to believe I’d almost been blown off my feet.

All's calm, now

All’s calm, now

Sadly, I never did find out who was on the yacht. Maybe it was Dean, or maybe it wasn’t. According to the news he’s teamed up with the Japanese.

What about you? Tell me, when have you been caught out by the weather?

40 replies »

  1. Pauline just got out the scrap book of photoes of that trip.
    No digital camera back then 1992. yes there is so much to see.
    Just the drift wood on the beaches ate up time.
    Thanks for reminding us of the wonders of that area.


  2. Beautiful photos and I am realizing that I am going to universally love your bridge stories! I think you now have a mathematical formula for your driving touring – multiply the Google travel time by three and you know how long it will take you!

    The only real weather story I have is needing to use the toilet while sitting in a car waiting out a blizzard in the mountains at about 7,000 feet – well, you gotta do what you gotta do. After that, “going” in the wild was a cinch. 😉


    • “Going” in the wild also sounds rather chilly, Elizabeth! And I would have said an unlikely experience around here except this morning we woke to snow fall. Unheard of!! I was so shocked it took me about five minutes to grab a photo. By then there were only a few flakes drifting down – nothing like a blizzard but still remarkable for my part of the world.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Really enjoyed your travels! I love your description of the bridge episode. 😊 I can appreciate the husband as a windbreak very well, as my husband did the same for me on a cycling tour in France. We were riding what was termed undulating countryside when the wind hit us and nearly blew me off my bike. My generous husband then rode the rest of the way as my personal windbreak!! Looking forward to more of your travels.


  4. Great photos and love the description of the mighty wind experience. You write wonderfully. Fun, interesting post. New Zealand is so amazing. It’s a thrill for me to travel with you, since not much chance of my getting there. (I’m short and gray and use a walker.) But I am going to the south of France in the fall hopefully. Thanks for your delightful posts.


  5. Oh, dear, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry reading this. Alright then, I confess to a bit of a snigger. You know you really don’t have to go to all these lengths in order to find me a bench, even one 600 metres from the beach! Now I have one question for you: what is the difference between a wharf and a pier? You see to me this is a pier jutting out into the ocean. A wharf I think of as just being alongside a harbour. And I quite agree with you that the journey is as much a part of the trip as the arrival. Slow travel is good 🙂


    • That’s a very good question, Jude. According to my New Zealand Oxford Dictionary a pier is used as a promenade and often has entertainment arcades. When it was built the Tolaga Bay wharf was all about work and no promenading – although that has changed since it became a tourist attraction.
      I’m pleased to know I raised a snigger! Hopefully, next time finding a bench will be a tad easier.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Bringing back lovely memories of when we were did the same trip in reverse in 1992. The wharf was not safe to walk on back then so good to see the locals have raised all the money needed for the repairs. Oh dear Jill I’m pleased you did not lose your camera, but I had to chuckle at the vision of the wind tearing at your handbag and swirling your coat around. Lovely descriptive words. I can understand it taking so long to go such a short way, it is an amazingly scenic part of NZ.


  7. These are beautiful photos. Thanks for sharing them and for making all those stops. Good to see another valuable things that husbands can contribute – wind barrier.


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