Backpacking Pensioners travel blog

At the North Taranaki Bight

At the North Taranaki Bight

At the North Taranaki Bight

Look at what I caught

Mount Damper Falls

From the Mount Damper Falls Lookout

Route to the Three Sisters

Campsite evening view from the van

Sylvia’s comments

We awoke today to the news that another two bodies had been found late last night, six young people and their teacher had lost their lives on an adventure holiday at the Sir Edmond Hillary Adventure Centre. Yesterday had been the worst weather related disaster in NZ since the Wahinii disaster just over 40 years ago. In very bad weather the almost new ferry travelling from Lyttelton to Wellington was pushed onto Barrett’s Reef just outside Wellington Harbour. The disabled ship later broke free of the reef and drifted into the harbour and sank, causing the loss of 58 lives. Only a few weeks ago NZ marked the 40th anniversary of this disaster.

The rain had stopped and the skies were looking brighter so we decided to continue on our way. Still not having seen any thing of Mt Taranaki, is it really there? Staying on SH3 we drove to Inglewood and then turned north till we came to a sign directing us to the Whitecliffs Walkway. We turned off down this road and made for a beach area where we had a walk on the beach. There were a father and small child busy fishing and later on whilst we were sitting at the café the little boy was pleased to show me the rather large Snapper he had caught (presumably with a little help from dad). It was interesting to see the fish as it came from the sea, we usually see it with batter around it, sorry all you vegetarian’s out there. The walkway was not on our agenda as it is a 7 hour one way walk, so having had our break we travelled on to Ahititi where we saw another sign directing us off the main road, this time to Mt Dampier Falls. Our guide book informed us that this was the longest water fall in the North Island with an 85m drop, and with all the recent rain we thought this might be worth the trip.

The road we were now travelling on was a minor road and took us through some nice farming country, but eventually our road turned off on to an unsealed road that wound up passed a large cliff face. Here the road narrowed and we found some large rocks to negotiate around from a recent land slip, as we could not travel fast we had fingers, toes and anything else we could think of crossed that no more would come down. Having safely passed that area we came to a sealed road, this can only mean one thing, we are going up hill. We have found in the past whilst driving on unsealed roads that if there is difficult parts to manoeuvre they usually seal the road. Up and up we seemed to go twisting around bends hoping nothing was coming the other way, once at the top we were soon at the start of the waterfall walk. Before setting off we had some lunch, late as usual, and then donned walking boots for what we thought was a 40 minute walk. Either the sign was wrong or we are getting fitter as we made it in 25 mins. Going back we may not be as fast as that is uphill. The waterfall looked good with the substantial amount of water pouring over the horseshoe papa bluff, we could hear another waterfall behind us but there was no access to this. So after a stop to take photos of the area we returned back to the van to make the return trip back through the landslip area to SH3. As you can see by the writing of this blog we made it unscathed.

Our next stop was at the Three Sisters viewing point. This is NZ’s version of the Twelve Apostle’s in Australia. The Three Sisters are large rock formation standing off the coast, but now there are only two left, the waves destroying one. To reach them you need to take a 40 minute walk around the headland which is only possible at low tide. When we arrived the tide was on the way in so after chatting to some other disappointed people we continued on our way. As we headed up the hill I was able to turn around and crane my neck far enough to get a quick glimpse of them before we turned a corner and they disappeared.

It was now getting late so having checked our campsite book we saw there was only two possible places to stop, one was at the next town of Mokau on a proper camp site, the other was by the river at Awikino Gorge, Bush Camping. The later sounded lovely but the warning was not to camp here after heavy rain and mindful of the recent tragedies we chose Mokau. This site was right on a volcanic beach with the large surf pounding in, so I suppose it will do. Today is Jeff’s birthday so we celebrated with a large gin and tonic before dinner.

Mokau is a small fishing village sitting on the border of Taraniki district and the King Country, the next area we will be visiting. Our guide book says that the river mouth here provides some of the best whitebait in the North Island. We crossed over the river on our way to the campsite but as it is out of season there are no whitebait fisher people about today. If you are not sure what whitebait is look at Jeff’s comic poem at the end of the Karamea write up.

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