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I’d really enjoyed Punakaiki, but there were things to do and places to be… and I’d finished what I gone there for.

Next stop was Westport. There was quite a lot to do there, but first a bit of catch up was in order.

Cape Foulwind, Westport

Cape Foulwind, Westport

I wrote up my own travels (or ‘travails’ for that particular post; ‘Disappointment to despair’), and I completed a short piece on a problem that would beset Tasman for his whole exploration; a ‘Lee Shore’. This needed explaining in advance, as I didn’t want to disturb the flow of the storyline by having to explain it later.

Then I set about preparations in earnest for the next block of filming. Good weather was coming in a few days, and I took the wet days leading up to prepare my scripts and illustrations.

I had three pieces to film
– Tasman’s progress up the coast to his first anchorage at Nine Mile Bay.
– Tasman at Cape Foulwind: introducing Gilseman’s drawings and ‘sailing lines of latitude’.
– The Ngati Tumatakokiri at Katawiri (Westport).

These preparations all take time. I know what I’m writing about, but organising it to make the essential points but also be concise, AND natural sounding is a real challenge; and then there are the illustrations. These take as long as everything else put together, even though they’ll only be ‘in camera’ for a few seconds (but I re-cycle them in the blog posts where I can).

I could see the weather window approaching, and by the time three good clear days arrived, I had all three days fully prepared.

I also had a big pile of wood drying.

It had rained for four days, and the tides were extremely high, right up to the dunes… so all the timber on the beach was wet, and it kept wandering around. As I’d walked in the afternoons I had thrown good looking bits up onto the grass… which all together would make a very handsome pile indeed.

When the good weather arrived I headed straight to my first location, Nine Mile beach.

Early morning at Nine Mile Beach

Early morning at Nine Mile Beach

Nine Mile beach is a wonderful little spot and the sort of place I could just move into. It’s a West Coast beach with all that comes with that; beautiful, simple and petulant.

My shooting location was on top of a low cliff that formed a little peninsula at the south end of the beach. It had views north, south and west. I could see where Tasman came from, where he anchored, and which way he went when he left. All that and it was only a few hundred yards from the van, which stayed in sight the whole time.

It couldn’t be better. The sun moved around me, so I could do all my filming from the one spot… facing North in the morning, and south in the afternoon… and all the time I had the beach, rocks, waves and cliffs.

I even had my own blow-hole which was booming away with the high tide and big swells.

The tide was high nearly the whole time. The waves were thumping into the pier I was on and the rocks in the bay. I spent nearly as much time filming the show put on by the waves crashing over the rocks as I did filming myself.

Nine Mile Beach looking south

Nine Mile Beach looking south

When I reached the end of my material I had only one more little job to do at Nine Mile. Whilst I had a heap of wood drying out, I had no dry kindling… so I picked it out of the bush on the edge of the beach.

Back at the campsite, there was no time to waste. The sun was already low and I still had quite a bit to do.

I made up my flask, changed into long pants, grabbed my coat kindling and Licorice Allsorts, and headed to the beach.

I found a nice tree trunk facing the right direction, started throwing timber down from the dune tops and smashed it all into fire sized lengths.

Sunset fire at Westport

Sunset fire at Westport

By the time the sun had set, my fire was full.

The next day was filming on Cape Foulwind itself. It’s a wild and rugged place. The swell here has come all the way from Australia and it was deep and regular.

Tasman called it Clyppige Hoek (your guess is as good as mine) and it means Rocky Point.

Between the huge swell and the rock spires all around the spectacle was even more dramatic than the day before. I had to keep stopping filming to watch as another huge ‘boom’- ‘shhh’ filled the air. The ‘boom’ was the waves hitting a rock slab, the ‘shhh’ was the spray landing on the water around.

I rounded off another good day with another good fire.

My third day was closer to the campsite. I was filming around where the Ngati Tumatakokiri lived; just inside the Buller River mouth. There the rugged coast gave way to sandy beaches, dunes and a calm lagoon.

The rocks at Cape Foulwind

The Lagoon at the mouth of the Buller River where the Ngati Tumatakokiri had their settlement

As I lit my fire that night I had the satisfaction of knowing that I’d nearly completed all the southern filming… I was heading to warmer places after this. I only had a short piece do to on the beach right next to the campground and I’d be on my way back to Golden Bay… to sunshine and sandy beaches.

It was bitterly cold in the morning; cloudy and dull with an icy wind. I had my camera apertures fully open just to get decent picture.

It was simply too cold for shorts, so I cheated. I organised my ‘B’ camera (the one I use to get the wide angle) to show me from only the waist up. At least that way I could keep my jeans on. Even so, the quick piece I had to shoot left me chilled through… so cold that two hours later I still had the cab heater on full.

The next leg was the only part of the coast that I couldn’t drive. There are no more roads now between Westport and Cape Farewell than in Tasman’s time, and that’s a total of 0.

It was still frozen up in the afternoon as I drove over the top at ‘Hope Saddle’. I think it gets its name from the original mail delivery service to Westport. Apparently they routinely descended the Westport side covered in frost. I like to think they were saying to themselves “I Hope they’ve got the jug on”… but perhaps not.

Hope Saddle

Hope Saddle

I was pleased to exchange the cold of the West Coast for the less-cold of Golden Bay. The daily forecasts had shown me that for that six hours driving, I would get two degrees warmer, and I was ready for that. My last morning of filming in Westport had been absolutely freezing.

Golden Bay is a wonderful place, I really like it here. Takaka, the main town has everything I could need, and not much I don’t. But it’s an unusual place too.

Looking down from Takaka Hill

Looking down onto the plain behind Takaka from Takaka Hill

There’s only one road in, and that’s over a big hill. It makes it like an inland Island… and the people here are exactly like small Island people. I’d pitch them at somewhere between Waiheke Island folk, and Great Barrier folk.

If they don’t have what you want in the shops here, then it’s a big trip to somewhere that does. There are no quick solutions here, and people generally move slower, but think longer term.

It’s a rural community with an overlay of ‘arty’ and ‘alternative’ types. I don’t particularly identify with those two groups, but then, they don’t bother me either.

What everyone here has is an intrinsic care for the environment.

In the supermarket (that’s the supermarket) you get asked if you’d like your stuff in a cardboard box, or in plastic bags. Only ‘out of town’-ers choose the plastic bags, and you get a funny look if you do (I only did it once).

I’ve been in Golden Bay for two weeks now… it’s hard to believe. A favourite saying comes to mind… “time flies like an arrow”, “fruit flies like a banana”.

I like that. It works in so many different directions simultaneously it makes your head spin when you try to de-construct it.

Where I’m camped is right here.

It looks busy in the picture, but that must have been taken in summer. At the moment it’s just me, and a couple in a bus and their dogs.

I’m just 32 steps from the beach (I counted them for you), and from there it’s 20 or 120 steps to the water, depending on the tide.

“Golden Bay” is a fairly new name for the place. The people who settled here didn’t like the name it had when they arrived. Tasman had called it ‘Murderers Bay’ (for reasons that will become apparent soon), Cook called it ‘Blind Bay’, but D’Urville, who came 50 years after Cook called it ‘Massacre Bay’… and that’s the name that stuck.

It’s hard to sell ‘Massacre Bay’ as a good destination for settlers, so when gold was discovered here in 1857 they re-named it ‘Golden Bay’. Within 6 months of the discovery there were over 1,000 men working the beds up the Aorere river… that’s more people than there are in the area today.

It’s a beautiful place, but the sea is the main attraction for me. It is sheltered from the ocean by Farewell Spit which extends fully halfway across the width of the Bay, and it keeps the waves in order. I’ve yet to see one higher than my knee, and they flop onto the sand with a soft whoosh, unlike the constant roar of the wild West Coast beaches.

For most of my time here it’s been cold… not quite cold enough for a night frost, but cold enough to need my duvet and a sleeping bag. In the last couple of days however it’s not been so chill. I think it was the lightning that warmed the air up. We had a four hour period when it was like being surrounded by artilliary… pretty spectacular!

I’ve been busy while I’ve been here and got everything caught up to date. My last days at Westport left me with my documentary being several installments ahead of the blog, book and maps, so I had to address all that before I could get onto any current stuff.

Since leaving Westport I’ve published items progressing Tasman up the coast to where he see’s signs of people, and then he anchors off end of Farewell Spit, before entering the Bay.

I dealt with some Maori Archaeology at Katawiri, and needed to talk about some other journals… the Sailor’s journal, and the Surgeon-Barbers account. They don’t usually add much to Tasman’s ‘official’ journal, but they are important for the next few days. I had to get them introduced before I move Tasman into the Bay, as I’ll quote from them as I describe the events of the 2 days that follow. I don’t want to detract from the events by having to explain where these new journals came from in the middle of all the action.

So that’s it; I’m all up to date and about to start work on some of the dramatic bits.

I’m all poised for writing and shooting some of the big stuff, and I’m getting pretty excited about it all.

Looking across Golden Bay

My bench next to the van. Looking out to Taupo Pa from near Parapara in the centre of Golden Bay

So… a cup of coffee in my favourite seat, a look out across the water, and back into it. From where I sit I can see where Tasman sat at anchor on the spit, where he sailed into the Bay and where the fires were lit to raise the alarm. The campsite is right next to one of the Pa sites that were occupied at the time, and I can look across to Taupo Point, where the main Pa in the story is located.

Next, I’ll tell you all about what the Maori thought of these ships that came over the horizon. It’s mostly written, I just need to finish off the illustrations and then I’ll post it.

And my closing thought on the day?… It’s not just fruit flies… sand flies like bananas too.

Posted in My Journey

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