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.
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:
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
As I took these last photos it was difficult to believe I’d almost been blown off my feet.
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?
Categories: Off The Beaten Track in Aotearoa