Mary and I are on a road trip.
Our purpose is to visit relatives in Whakatane and New Plymouth,but also to have some rest and relaxation on the way. We left Wellington early on Sunday Morning, travelling up SH1 and across the Desert Road from where we had a great view of mighty Ruapehu. Despite a gloomy forecast, we were lucky to get a clear view of the mountain before that cloud shrouded its summit.
On the way down into Turangi, the road takes some very sharp turns and one of them crosses the Oturere stream, which tumbles its icy way from high on the mountain to join the Tongariro river on its way to Lake Taupo.
We enjoyed a picnic lunch beside the lake near Motuoapa and then carried on towards Rotorua. Turning off at Waiotapu, we went through Murapara and turned North to Whakatane. This was a road I have not previously travelled, so I was watching for new landscape opportunities. Since the road passes through Kaingaroa Forest, it was quite some while before I saw a chance as we came down from Lake Aniwhenua towards the Matahina dam. The haze looked like that of a forest fire, but I have not heard any news of one.
Our accommodation for four nights is a delightful cottage on a farm us to the West of Whakatane. It is well clear of the main road and offers amazing pastoral tranquility and open views to the South. There are some cattle on the farm, and a wonderful assortment of old farm implements and a very ancient motor home in a state of picturesque disrepair.
After settling in for the night, we used Monday to visit the Ohiwa spit where the dotterels and white-fronted terns nest in large numbers. Sadly I saw neither but I did enjoy this Oystercatcher and its chick.
In case I didn’t mention it, the Ohiwa Spit is at the Eastern end of the stunningly beautiful Ohiwa harbour. On the way home we passed the Nukuhou Salt Marsh and saw a sign that suggested a useful lookout. The visitor information at the sight urged a lookout for the Australasian bittern and the very rare fernbird. To my great joy, I saw both, though the bittern was just a glimpse of its disappearing tail feathers as it crashed into the reeds to get out of sight. And there suddenly, was the notoriously shy fernbird. Fantastic.
This morning we went back again in hope of seeing the bittern. We didn’t, but the scenery alone made the trip worth while.
It wasn’t a total loss for birds, as we spotted a colony of pied stilts standing in the shallow water, milky calm reflecting the sea-mist behind.
As I have said on many previous occasions, I love still water, and as I sat watching the stilts, I saw the tips of some mangroves peeping above the very high tide. As I said, the water was absolutely still.
I am loving this trip.