Russell to Tinopai

The weather gods are still frowning on us, it seems.

We left Russell in reasonable weather but with huge storms forecast for the far north east coast, so reluctantly abandoned all plans for a stay at a camp right on the beach at Tokerau on the Karikari Peninsula, and a day visit to Cape Reinga.

Instead we headed straight across country to the west coast, where we stopped at Opononi for provisions at the very well stocked 4-Square and where Dave had a long conversation with the cashier whose Uncle had just received a cochlear implant!

Then down south for the Waipoua Kauri Forest Camp only to find it closed. On the way we bypassed the giant totara Tane Mahuta which we have visited more than once before. The interminable (but very beautiful) twisty road eventually led us to the Kauri Coast Top 10 Holiday Park, in a broad valley surrounded by kauri forest and bounded by two rivers. It looked to be a safe site so we decided to stay for several days during the expected severe weather, a wise decision as it turned out. The camp is very well maintained with awesome spots to pitch tents etc, a swimming hole, etc and was practically deserted at that time of year.

That first night it REALLY rained hard; we stayed warm and dry apart from a leak where rain was driven into the top of the slider, resulting in some wet carpet on one side of the bed – mine, of course. We tilted the caravan slightly sideways and had no more problems. Full laundry facilities, power and Wifi made our enforced stay over the next few days quite enjoyable.

The river rose until it was half way over the flying fox course and one end was smothered with debris. Curiously the ‘lawn’ near the normal river edge was littered with small freshwater mussels, many still alive. I’m not sure how many km we were inland from the river mouth (apparently around 80 km!). We stayed high and dry of course – we were still about 4 or 5 metres above flood level.

Moving on, we drove the relatively short distance to Dargaville and after inspecting the NZMCA camp and noting the sign warning it could flood, we spent 2 nights in another camp perched up on a hill and right next to the famed Gumdiggers Museum. We have been to the museum before but it is one I was happy to explore again. I wrote about it at some length in a much earlier blog. As before, I was awed by the collection of spades each labelled with its owners’ name and often a photograph. Mostly men from Dalmatia and nearby European countries.

The sunset the first evening was about the only decent one we have seen for weeks. The view looking north next morning was awesome – the mighty Wairoa Rver, the longest and biggest in Northland NZ, is 150 km long and the majority is tidal. It feeds into the Kaipara Harbour, the largest harbour in the Southern Hemisphere. The little huts in the foreground of one photo are part of a Gumdiggers Camp.

The museum has a large display about the tragic bombing of the Rainbow Warrior in Auckland harbour and also displays, outside, the two masts from Greenpeace’s nuclear and whaling protest vessel. The masts give some indication of the sheer size of the vessel.

Nearby are the remains of a small lighthouse, first erected at Pouto Point in 1907 “… to guide sailing vessels to a safe anchorage …”, and also a monument to a fisherman father and daughter lost at sea. Nearby is the site of a large Pa (Maori village) and a cemetery on the very steep hillside.

We had two new front tyres fitted to the ute – they had to be sent up from Auckland. Safety first in the coming wet weather.

I should mention the NZMCA camp again. Many camps have been beautified by local members, but Dargaville’s surely takes the prize. At the end of the camp is a beautiful, quirky little garden and a pathway leading to a seat with a fabulous view of the river.

From Dargaville we drove on to Tinopai, first stopping at the famed Kauri Museum. I wrote about it at some length in a previous blog. Like the Gumdiggers museum it is another one I was happy to visit again. Almost all the life-sized figures in the various tableaux were modelled on actual people descended from early settlers in the district. Note thedetail of the carpenter’s hands. There was also an excellent Anzac display.

The cafe where we had a memorable Devonshire tea some years ago is no longer there but there is a new, bright and modern cafe where I had an excellent mussel chowder with gluten-free bread – a brand I had not heard of before which the cook was happy to talk about.

Tinopai is a lovely little town at the head of the Kaipara Harbour. Of course it rained most of the time! We were parked right on the waterfront.

We did a Tiki tour of the nearby inlets, at one of which was this beautiful old house, first spotted from the other side of the bay..

Unfortunately while the Tinopai camp had a washing machine there was no dryer, and by now we had a huge load of washing, so off we set again for Ardmore and the Laundromat and shopping at nearby Papakura. Next morning we were off again ….

To be continued.

1 thought on “Russell to Tinopai

  1. You are having a wonderful time indeed. Its many years since we have traveled up that way, should plan to go there there on our next big trip, I think. Watch out for the weather and stay safe, it all seems to have turned bad.

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