A beautiful fine Sunday was the perfect opportunity for David Coxon to escape the chores by exploring the Wairarapa coastline.
A good mix of rain and sun over the last month or so had left the Wairarapa hills with a verdant green cloak of grass. This contrasted nicely with the blue sky as May and I headed out towards White Rock with a plan to keep the trip short and have the time to stop or take detours, making the journey more important than the destination.
We had passed through Martinborough hoping for a coffee stop at a café in the sun, but there were so many other people with the same idea that it was all too crowded for our tastes. Skipping the coffee, we left Martinborough and its crowds for the coast on White Rock Rd.
At the top of the first range of hills we broke new ground by taking Range Rd through the Hau Nui Wind Farm. This was a pleasant drive over a mainly well-maintained gravel road, passing a number of wind turbines and getting some breathtaking views across the Wairarapa.
Dropping down to the Makara River, we stopped at the T-intersection for a quick coffee break on the sheep-mown grass verge. The map showed that the top of the T only went a few hundred metres in each direction, so we decided not to risk ending up in someone’s back yard and headed back out, getting equally spectacular views in the opposite direction.
Back on the road again
Back on White Rock Rd, we passed the colourful school at Tuturumuri before turning right at a Y-intersection to follow the now unsealed White Rock Rd rather than the sealed Tora Rd. The trip soon started feeling more remote as we passed a sign warning of unfenced roads and wandering stock, before dropping down
into the headwaters of the Opouawe River. With hunger nagging and very lit tle traffic, a nice grassy verge on the side of the road near the valley floor provided a pleasant breeze-free spot for a quick lunch stop before following the river the rest of the way to the coast and an exposed part of the reef of white rocks that gives the area its name. Usually the final stopping point is the car park and informal camping area right beside the main mass of the reef, however this time there was a temporary barrier across the cattle stop just before the car park turnoff. While there was an unlocked gate beside the cattle stop, this was closed so we decided to park up and enjoy a brief walk as a welcome break from driving.
We then spent about half an hour clambering over the reef watching the gentle surge of the sea through the rocks and enjoying the mild sea breeze and fresh air. While I looked for photographs from new and interesting angles only accessible with the current low tide, May fossicked for interesting bits of flotsam.
I would have liked to stay longer but an incoming tide started to threaten our return to dry land, so we retreated to the beach and made our way back to the car for a final coffee break in the sun.
Chasing the sun
With the autumn sun starting to drop we decided it was time to head back for more “evening light” photo stops before we lost the sun. In keeping with the day’s theme that the journey was more important than the destination we detoured the four km up Kaiwaka Rd, following Poley Stream to the road end at an entrance to the forest park.
Even before reaching the large grassy area at the road end, there were plenty of attractive places to pull off for a break. This would have been a much nicer lunch stop than the side of the road, had we known it was here – one to remember for next time.
Continuing our return to the Wairarapa, after about twenty kilometres we had just about reached the end of the gravel when we were flagged down by the driver of an oncoming car, a small city runabout, nervously wanting to know if she was on the right road for White Rocks, and how much further it was.
While I admired her enthusiasm I pointed out the distance and road quality she had ahead of her, and suggested that she might do better to try again another day, starting earlier. She seemed quite happy to follow my advice.
Since my main hope was to get to the top of the hills overlooking the Wairarapa plains before the sun disappeared, we kept moving and made good time especially once we got back onto the sealed road. We crested the ridge overlooking the Wairarapa still with plenty of sun, but unfortunately, although I had arranged the time correctly, I had forgotten to book a clear evening, and the clouds massing over the Rimutaka Ranges were within minutes of blocking the sun. I only had time for a few photos at one spot before the warm evening light was replaced by a sullen grey, murky dusk. That was the end of my photography but it was still a pleasant and relaxing drive the rest of the way home without the sun in my eyes.
Overall the day had been a perfect relaxing and unhurried break – just what we needed.
At last – a glimpse of the sea
It couldn’t have been a better day for visiting Range Road.
May was fascinated by the seaweed…
White Rock Rd follows the Opouawe River.
“The” White Rock.
The rich, green cloak of autumn.