The Far Side
North of Helensville is the South Head of the Kaipara Harbour, and stretching down to meet it from Dargaville is the North Head with Pouto at the very tip.
These three locations are within a few kilometres by sea, but nearly 400 km by road to encompass all three.
We decided on a trip up to Pouto in the first place as a shakedown trip for the van over several days, and secondly because the walk, being relatively level and flat, would give me an opportunity to stretch out my legs without too much stress on them. They have been gradually improving with a series of osteo and acupuncture visits, and I am gradually pushing out the limits of what I can do once again.
Part 1. To Bayly's Beach: Alice Aforethought
We set off late Friday afternoon and managed to score a fine sunset from the Kaipara Lookout along the ridge just before Wellsford
but in doing so we just missed the Dutch Deli in Kaiwaka. I always stop at the Dutch Deli in Kaiwaka if I can - it's one of the best there is. (It seems to have transferred to new ownership, btw, with a Welsh flag outside and bumper stickers for sale inside saying Cymru.)
We carried on, past the sultry delights of the Swinging Cow Cafe at Brynderwyn, to Paparoa where we stopped for dinner at Chez Wudhi's. We chose the Tsapasui with salad and bread roll. Delicious, but probably Vailima would have been a better choice to wash it down with than Waikato Green. Next time. Dishes washed and stowed, we set off again in the dark and reached Dargaville in due course, then on out to Bayly's Beach on the West Coast.
I had somewhat ignorantly formed the view from news items and the like that Dargaville was a somewhat seedy, slightly larger, northern version of Helensville, left behind by not just the twenty first century but probably the twentieth as well, that nothing had seriously happened there since the felling of the last kauri tree. Not at all. I was impressed.
We headed for the campground at Baylys, and were directed to a site with the only large puddle for miles. Alice revelled in it and kept jumping back into the van to shake herself. Either our 230v electricity cable or the campground electricity supply was non-functional. Something else to look at when we got back. The 12v supply in the van was fine.
At bedtime, we crated Alice on the grounds that a major territorial claim on her part was likely to completely ruin the van until such time as we could get the bedding drycleaned.
Ten minutes of canine protest can sound like days in a confined spot. I'll be surprised if the Yanks aren't using it in Gitmo. She eventually settles and we drift off until we are peremptorily summoned by the dog crate at 2 am. Outside for a shivery few minutes, and this time we relent. No crate. She is pefectly well-behaved until (she decides) it's morning.
By 6 am, Alice is operational, so Miranda headed off for an early morning walk to the beach with her and I reorganised the van from bedroom to breakfast bar and cooked the toast, b. and e. and coffee in time for her return. We tidied up and headed for the beach again.
You wouldn't dream of taking a non 4WD vehicle through the loose dry sand at Muriwai or Rimmers road access points. Here it was different. Right up to the road end was fine, firm, hardpacked sand. 4WDs were "recommended" but by no means a necessity. The speed limit was open road.
We turned Alice loose and she went crazy along the shoreline.
It's lovely and it's open and the air is clean and the beach is still quiet, apart from a sudden hoon in a yellow Holden ute who rockets out onto the beach, does a two wheel drift that is perilously close to a capsize, and heads off again at speed.
Despite the claims of "90 Mile" Beach, this strip of beach right here is the longest beach road in the country, at around 100km. Unfortunately, the area, with it's sand dunes and isolation has become a mecca for 4WD vehicles and off-roaders who pay little attention to the somewhat fragile ecology of the area, and their behaviour in general is obliging authorities to place restrictions on access before irreparable damage is done or fatalities multiply.
We walked for a bit until Alice looked vaguely like slowing down. There are sandy clay cliffs right along the beach with a mixture of salt-resistant vegetation - iceplant, pittosporum and marram grass in abundance. High tide comes right to the base of the cliffs in most places.
At one point there appears to be the remains of a tree embedded in the rock
It reminds me a little of the coal seams we encountered on the Heaphy track, though obviously a lot more recent.
The sand patterns are beautiful and I stop for a couple.
Alice at last obliges and we can resume our journey with a degree of relaxation. Miranda obliges too, with a plastic bag.
We pass the Funky Fish Restaurant, highly recommended by internet reviewers, but we're not ready for a fish dinner at 9.45 am, so leave it for another day. Bayly's other fish shop, Sharky's also comes with high recommendation. Maybe a fish weekend, sometime.