Wednesday 28 December 2016
The morning brings a another glorious morning, thankfully without yesterday’s howling wind and we resolve to take on the prior day’s aborted plans. First a wine tasting at Ati Rangi – 5 wines (luckily not Sav Blanc on offer) and a lovely chat with a lady from Oregon.
Then on the road for the 70km trip to Cape Pallister Lighthouse.
The first part of the trip through the valley towards the sea is beautiful, everywhere you look there a lovely view. Green rolling hills dotted with sheep or cattle. Cute farm houses nestled in tree groves. Grand mountains in the background.
However, once we reach the narrow coast plain the scenery changes to the dramatic. As we drive east along the coast on our right the milky turquoise ocean bashes itself against rugged black rock outcrops and dumps onto black sand beaches. On our left looms high impenetrable, sometimes barren, mountains. In between are lonely windswept plains and the occasional cosy bay with a smattering of semi-permanent caravans and holidays batches.
There is only one fishing village of note, Ngawi, where we are very surprised to see dozens of bulldozers and tractors on the beach used to haul the fishing boats in from the sea.
Along the way the road mostly hugs the coast line and is washed out in places with a series of one lane bridges.
Eventually we reach the end of the road where the Cape Palliser Lighthouse is perched on a bluff high about the beach, at the most southerly point on the North Island of New Zealand. There is an alarming, narrow staircase that goes straight up to the lighthouse, 251 steps and its only barely wide enough for 2 people to pass, so we wait until a large group of people come down before we start the assent.
Being a bit nervous around heights I put my head down and power up the stairs, too nervous to look around or stop. At the top is a small lighthouse sitting stoic against the ferocious wind buffering the point. We only stay long enough to regain our breath, take in the view and photograph the moment for prosperity. I headed straight down, stopping for no-one and nothing.
Under the lighthouse on the beach there is a permanent colony of New Zealand Fur Seals and we can see quite a few of the mammals basking and grooming themselves on the jagged black rocks. The big ones definitely don’t like it when you get too close.
On the return leg I have planned that we do the 2 hour walk to see the Putangirua Pinnacles but we don’t see any signs so we keep on going only stopping a couple of times to walk on a rough black beach and to watch the surfers on a point.
The coastal settlement of Lake Ferry, is our last stop on today’s itinerary. We have been told that the fish and chips at the Lake Ferry Hotel is a must. The village and hotel are located where Lake Oniki empties out to the sea. Across the outlet there is a vast black sand spit, stretching for miles, undeveloped and barren. On our side the sand dunes and rugged beach is open to anyone with a four wheel drive or dirt bike. Hopefully notice is taken to the signs explaining these dunes are important nesting grounds for a couple of bird species.
There are quite a few people fishing at the turbulent outlet mouth – some lucky, some not so lucky. After a walk along the dunes (not so much sand dunes more like pebble dunes) we return to the Lake Ferry Hotel and enjoy a drink in the beer garden before grabbing our reserved tables in the restaurant. I order the seafood chowder and “famous” fish and chips. Howard opts for the grilled scallops on pork belly and the fish of the day. I’m very happy with my selections, Howard must be too as he eats most of my fish and gives me half his grilled fish. Not fair!
We do not dally long as I have to drive the 30 minutes back to our lodgings. At 19:30 the sun is still hovering in the sky and it’s a beautiful drive to Martinborough. This true is a beautiful part of the world.