Wairere Boulders and on to Opononi

Wednesday 12 August dawned calm and cool – only 10 degrees outside for a start. We wouldn’t have been able to remember to the last day we had calm, but it must have been a while. It was clear with clouds threatening. The only sounds were again from the birds; lots of pukekos, the awful sounding herons, and hens wandering around. Felix had promised a local truck driver that he’d be OK to turn in their carpark – the valley road is not conducive to turning anything much. So we had to shift before we went for the walk. We parked Suzi up by their “cottage”, an old house that Rita said was build in 1845 or thereabouts. There was a William Webster who lived there while removing as much of the Kauri forest as he could. He used a saw powered by the stream/river. A drizzly sort of rain descended for a while, but by the time we were ready for the walk that had stopped. The walk is a self-guided one up and down the valley, with lots of explanations along the way. They have build lots of bridges and steps and boardwalk sections; making the most of a small property made up mostly of huge boulders. Their website is www.wairereboulders.co.nz and the place is called Wairere Boulders Nature Park. There is a charge of $10 per adult.

We set off at 10am, and read all the info boards and studied all the trees; hoping to improve our tree-identification skills. It is strange to see Nikau palms in amongst the forest. We took our time, and probably two and a half hours to complete the circuit although there are shorter options. The whole thing is a wonderful experience; the boulders, the forest, the birds, the remote valley, Rita and Felix, everything. We just beat a rain shower back – it had been a lovely morning.

We left Suzi there for a bit and took the car back the couple of kms to the Hokianga Harbour and went the short distance to Mangungu. Here there is another ancient mission house and a cemetery with probably the oldest gravestones in New Zealand. The mission house was where 63 Maori chiefs signed the Treaty of Waitangi. We drove back to Horeke for a look; Horeke was the site of some of the earliest boat building in the country. The pub didn’t open until 4pm; I guess the oldest hotel is allowed a leisurely start to the day.

We headed back to Wairere and had a late lunch and headed off. The road towards SH12 continued unsealed for about 10kms, and we decided to take the two vehicles separately. It wasn’t like there was much traffic, but backing up anywhere with the A-frame is not a good option so meeting anything sizeable could have been a challenge. Wyn went ahead with the car and walkie talkie which proved very useful as she was able to warn me of an approaching ute with a trailer and I was able to pull over at a bit where there was plenty of room to pass. Not long after that we reached the tar seal and it was a weird transition. One moment we were on a narrow gravel road; the next it was a proper two-lane sealed road with white lines down the middle and marking both edges. We carried on in both vehicles as it wasn’t far to Opononi and we weren’t sure where we were going once we got there.

We found somewhere to park Suzi near the hotel at Opononi; Opononi is on the Hokianga Harbour near the heads. Opo the dolphin hung out here for a brief summer 50 years ago. We took the car the kilometre or so to check out a parkover place further on. The owners were away but we gave them a ring and she said it was OK to park there. It is a great spot, across the main road from the harbour; it is a privilege to be able to stay at people’s places on our travels. Across the mouth of the harbour we can see the massive sand dunes of north Head. They slide down them here as well, with access by water taxi, but it all seems quiet in August.

By the time we retrieved Suzi and got set up and settled in, the day was done. The wind was still blowing here from the NE; we realised we’d been sheltered in the morning. We had reasonable mobile reception so the internet was working and we were able to check out the Wairere Boulders website and a few other things. We got fish and chips from Opononi and they were very good. It was an interesting day and an interesting contrast between two parts of the Hokianga Harbour.

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