Cape Farewell

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Before leaving the campsite at Tukurua Road I shot a quick bit of video, but was excited by the prospect of the day and keen to get moving.

From where I was you can’t go far north before the road stops, but I wasn’t going quite to the end of the road today. I was going to Farewell spit…. About 5 km before the end of that particular road.

A brief stop at Collingwood to replenish my bread and milk, and I was on my way to the Cape.

Farewell Spit Cafe

Farewell Spit Cafe

There’s a wonderful café at the Cape with views clear down the length of the spit, and I sat sipping there for a while, but looking down the length of dunes just made me impatient to get my pack on, and soon I was striding down the sand.

The spit extends for 25km but I wasn’t going that far. I was looking for a vantage point, a place to tell the story. I was looking for somewhere that gave me a view of the northeast, or ‘outer’ coast.

Tasman came along this piece of coast on the afternoon of 17th of December 1642… the day that he first saw signs of people. He had seen smoke first thing in the morning, and then followed this coast along to the very end of the spit, where he had anchored.

Farewell Spit

Farewell Spit

I followed the dunes of the inner shore until I reached the point where the last hill came down to the shoreline; then I followed this ridge up. I was looking for something, and an hour later I found it; a mizzen.

It was a depression in the ground, about three metres long and one and a half wide, and on the top of the ridge. There is no natural process that can make a depression like this on the top of a hill… this is man-made. Tasman reported seeing smoke ‘at various places’, and I was looking for one of these places… and had found one.

Where I was standing was the last piece of high ground overlooking farewell Spit. This was where you would keep a lookout if you wanted forewarning of anyone entering the bay from the West. This was one of the places that a signal fire had been lit.

Smoke from here can be seen across the whole bay, right out to ‘Separation Point’, the peak of ridge dividing Golden Bay and Tasman Bay.

What a wonderful day. I stood there looking down the length of the sand knowing that there was no footprint for the next 25 kms. I could hear no-one, and see no-one.

I pulled onto a camping spot called ‘the Gravel Yard’ and parked up on the water’s edge, looking across Golden Bay to Abel Tasman National Park, and snow-capped peaks.

This Streetview scene is at the entrance to the stop-over. After about 100 there is a claring on the sea-front (the tide is out in this scene).

It was level, quiet, and beautiful. I had clear sky in all directions, a full mobile signal, a gas heater that works and a full gas bottle. Just stunning.

In the evening, to cap off a wonderful day, I had a long call from an old friend; thanks Pete.

Next morning I rose with the sun, and stepped out into the frosted day, grass crunching underfoot. More small vans had arrived with the last of the light, and I’d watched them lift their rear doors and stands in the freezing breeze to cook their dinners. I’ll admit to some considerable smugness as I looked on from the comfort of my heated van, one eye on them, and the other on the TV.

Then, it was off to the lighthouse.

Looking across Golden Bay from above Farewell Spit

Looking across Golden Bay from above Farewell Spit

There’s something you can guarantee about a lighthouse… you will always get a good view of the coast from it.

5km down the road from where I was parked was a rough road with a track off it. Thirty minutes up the track was the lighthouse; a somewhat disappointing modern automatic station, but then I was there for the vista, not the lighthouse.

From the lighthouse I had clear sight of the Cape itself, where the direction of the land turns from Northeast to East. I could see where Tasman changed his course to the east to follow the lie of the land. Further along the ridge to the east I had a wonderful view down the length of Farewell spit, and clear across to the other side of the bay; Seperation Point.

Job done, I moved back to the van. It wasn’t clear to me ‘til the last instant whether I should turn left, to see what was at the end of the road, or turn right and move on to my next location seeking destination.

Curiosity overcame duty, and I turned left. I’d seen some cars continue down the road, four in total, and on this road that was a lot… so there must be something down there worth seeing. The car park at the end had a signpost to Wharariki Beach, 30 mins, so I threw my pack back on and set off.

What an absolute ripper.

Archway rocks, Wharariki Beach

Archway rocks, Wharariki Beach

The beach is big; wide and windblown. In all respects it felt like a west coast beach, even the shape of the rocks was familiar, one resembling Camel Rock at Piha.

I declared it an ‘Honorary’ West Coast beach… kin in spirit if not aspect.

Apart from a handful of sightseers this huge span of sand was deserted from cliff to cliff. Moving into position to get a good picture through the openings in ‘Archway Rocks’, I found the best place signposted for me; some joker had written “te pic” in the sand, and they were right… it was the best place.

I was feeling all smug with myself, as I was the only person on this part of the beach… the other five or six people were missing the best shot. I walked over to let them know, only to discover that it was actually me that was missing the main event.

In a group of rock pools, on the tide line, there were a dozen seal pups performing for the spectators.

They were utterly absorbing, and had the small crowd silent and transfixed.

Golden Bay is a simply glorious place. No wonder the Ngati Tumatakokiri settled here.

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