Off We Goooo

Te Hapu

May 04, 2017 | 7 Minute Read

The drive to Te Hapu hasn’t been challenging per se, but definitely required vigilance. As if being a winding road, right off the cliff wasn’t enough, the gravel often left place to the mud through which our rear wheel drive van didn’t shine, although proved itself very capable.

These narrow roads over the wetlands made Dana nervous. As do most of New Zealand’s roads.

After a little less than an hour, the shearing shed sign is in sight. Dana jumps off the van, get the key, open the gate and jumps back in. The vegetation opens to a large area, the mountains in the distance, the valley before them, the ocean at the bottom and the house on our left.

I gotta say I love how the various places Loïc and I have stayed throughout the world from AirBnB or kiwi holiday homes often involve a bit of puzzle-solving to hide keys away in a secure spot that only the intended person can find!

It was brilliantly sunny when we arrived, so we had an excellent view of everything we’d get to enjoy during our stay. The valley we were in was lined by tall, jagged mountains with iconic rock shapes at the tops. The land was a mixture of pasture grass and wild bush. But the holiday home! It had all the appearance of simple and basic kiwi construction, but all in all it was lovely and felt like home instantly. We reserved a larger home than we needed (the smaller shack was already occupied), but the size was perfect. There was a spare bedroom which we closed off, but otherwise we had a little kitchen, a wood-fired stove, a dining room and couch, some love seats and a little coffee table, and finally a large bed all in one big open space for us. Cozy!

We also had a front porch facing the mountains with a table made from an irregularly-shaped chunk of a tree. We parked to the side of the house, and around the back was an outdoor bath tub!

Nothing better than kicking your feet up with a great view!

We spent a bit of time and effort unpacking what we needed from the van into the home, especially our food and entertainment. We also propped up the cushions inside the van to air them out, something that’s always a bit laborious. I lay down on the couch after all this to relax for a bit as the golden sunshine poured in through the living room windows, and sure enough I was asleep in seconds.

It’s always a compliment to your home if I can fall asleep instantly on your couch!

Dana fall asleep on the couch as I read about the history of the farm. There isn’t much record of Maori history around there, but European history began around 1917 when Tai Tapu Gold estate began subdividing off chunks of their holdings that weren’t gold bearing and did have farming prospects. The land has been farmed ever since, but it’s so vast that it wasn’t until 2003 that Hunters Cave was discovered, despite the entrance is “big enough for two buses”.

The weather is changing very quickly here, maybe even quicker than in Wellington. It can be sunny one moment and stormy with high wind and showers the moment after, so as soon as the sky clears up, I put my boots on and go for a hike to the beach.

I could have taken the main “road” but where is the fun in it when you have side trails all around? I disappear into the bush and, only a few minutes later, as my boots end up ankle deep in the mud, I realise that it would have been wise to stay on the (road). Meh, I will play smart another day, I’m loving it.

Of course I get a bit lost but that’s part of the fun. The area is relatively small anyway and as soon as you get off the bush, you can see the ocean and quickly re-orient yourself.

The beach is of a beautiful white sand and isn’t that far off now but I’ll have to wait until tomorrow to walk on it as the wind is picking up again and the sky is darkening. The leaflet in the house did mention that caves would make a good shelter against the wind but I didn’t see any on my way down so I would rather not push my luck and head back to the shed.

It was sunny not 20 minutes ago.

Loïc came back after however long and gently woke me up. I was a little embarrassed for having been out so long. But I guess we all vacation in different ways, eh?

The sun was already starting its decent behind the mountains, so I’d have to go on Loïc’s exciting tales of tramping for now and stay put for the rest of the night. Still, maybe the best part of a long afternoon nap is waking up just in time for dinner!

The shed has a beautiful old wood cooking stove and oven, which also happens to be the only way to heat the water for a hot shower or bath. It took us a few tries but we finally get it going.

Someone is excited to cook on the old wood-fired stove.

I prepare some veggies and a few sausages for the barbecue while Dana chops some apples and pears to roast with some cinnamon, vanilla extract and maple syrup (stuff we packed when we moved out of the apartment and didn’t want to throw away) and chucks the dish in the oven. I don’t know if we’re operating it wrong or if it is simply what old ovens were like, but it doesn’t get very hot in there so we figure we can relax in the outdoor bath while it cooks.

This is quite a unique experience. With the wind and the short showers, we tuck ourselves in the hot water, only our heads popping out. After a while, we timed our exit between two showers and rush back inside the shed for a delicious meal.

Outdoor bath & candle lights (which unfortunately won't survive the rain and wind).

Even though we have to checkout before 10am, we are welcome to stay on the property for the day so we aim for the whale skeleton near the shark head rock.

Breakfast on the front porch before the walk.

In the historical information provided that Loïc had read through, there was an article about a blue whale that had washed up on shore nearby sometime in the 80’s.

A 21 metres, 150 tonnes blue whale was once found dead on the beach, several snack bites on its body and its tail mostly eaten away.

The decision at the time was to let the whale decay naturally and to leave its skeleton in place. I didn’t think it was likely to still be there today, but for a whole blue whale, it was worth trying to look!

Unfortunately for us, only the name remain and no whale skeleton is to be seen anymore. Nonetheless, it was a beautiful walk with a few creepy starring cows.

Yeah, what was with that? As we walked around the property along the path and through the pastures, the cows would stare at us, clustered in groups, not moving or blinking at all, just turning their heads at us as we went along. Creepy!

Mooooo.

Te Hapu is a really great place. I hope to be able to come back someday, but with a few friends and for a longer stay.

No whales, but one of the most beautiful coastlines imaginable.