35. Lake Wilkie and Some Stages of Travelling

Leaving again – while all these leavings have been a bit hard on Kevin and I think he likes to know where we will be parked up each night, he seems to be settling into the routine now, and enjoying himself as much as I am. It’s my turn now, as I start wanting to check out the real estate of places we stop in – it’s like I want to put down roots in all these beautiful places we go.

Actually I had a very interesting conversation with my brother who travelled in Europe for a year, who says there’s research that shows it’s normal to go through a series of four (I think) stages while settling into the travelling life. So I’m guessing that being grumpy-ish and wanting to put down roots-ish are two of these stages. I’ve tried googling but can’t find the research so hope to come across it some day. In the meantime, it’s great to have a better understanding of the way we are feeling.

We didn’t get far out of Papatowai before stopping again – this time at Florence Hill where we watched Rere Kohu/the Spouting Cave for a while. It looked impressive enough in calm weather, and we wondered how spectacular it might become in a storm.
Looking down over Tautuku Bay. If it wasn’t tucked out of sight in the bush, we would be able to see Lake Wilkie from here (and the Tautuku Outdoor Education Centre). Tautuku Peninsula that you can see at the back has seen a lot of human activity over the centuries including fishing, whaling, timber and flax milling. Now there are just baches left, or cribs as they are called down here, where people spend their weekends and holidays.
The parking area for Lake Wilkie was nice and big, so we parked up and started the 30-minute walk. The track was wide and manicured and over the boggy part of Lake Wilkie it ran across a boardwalk, so it was very easy.
It’s all ancient podocarp (native, southern hemisphere) forest here with living trees that reach 1000 years old – including lots of southern rata, miro, kamahi, karamu and rimu. We would love to be here in the summer months to see the southern rata in flower.
Kamahi at the front, southern rata at the back.
A young miro tree to the left, a juvenile horoeka/lancewood to the right. These lancewoods have quite a different appearance when they are children compared to when they turn into adults at around 20 years of age! Maori used the stems to make spears for lancing birds, which is where the European name likely comes from.
A rimu trunk perhaps? We weren’t sure…
Looking down on Lake Wilkie from the top of the bank, which the track led down in an easy negotiation. Lake Wilkie is a bog lake which formed in a depression between the sand dunes and this bank we’re standing on.
With most of the native bush birds represented here, we could hear lots of bird song throughout our dawdling walk. In addition there were lots of mosses and lichens to swoon over. We were surprised once or twice by other couples rushing through the walk as quickly as they could – I guess they were either in ticklist mode or had little time to spare, making it better to rush through than not visit at all.
The lake is home to several species of teensy-weensy native plankton and small invertebrates, along with the non-native whistling tree frog. You can see plenty of spike rushes growing around the edges which trap the sediment creeping downhill in the rain. These sediments are slowly filling the lake in, so eventually it will all give way to podocarp forest.
Crossing a boggy patch of Lake Wilkie on a boardwalk.
Too fast – or on the winding forest road there wasn’t time to process information quickly enough – we completely missed the stops for one or two of the short Tautuku Walks which would have taken us through more bush to the coastline with it’s own particular brand of beauty. Jingers…but we didn’t turn back, we just saved it for next time.

Moving on towards Niagara and Waikawa, the photo above shows the Chaslands Tussock Restoration which is managed and run by local volunteers to preserve some of New Zealand’s rarest tussocks and shrubs, endemic to this southern region. Farming has threatened their existence, thus the need to protect the small pockets that survive in shallow gullies out of the worst of the gales. The red tussocks (behind the grass at the front of the photo) have long thin tightly coiled leaves for survival, while the shrubs have small thick leaves and tough woody stems.
From Niagara we went and visited Waikawa Bay and its museum. The proprietor was really friendly and has lived here all her life. We studied the locally-found Jurassic petrified wood out front – the same stuff that’s at the famous Curio Bay which we will visit tomorrow. In addition, we saw some examples of pretty fossilised punga nodules which are found in this area too.

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