58. Tauranga Bay, Matauri Bay and the Mangonui Fish Shop

Our next stop was Tauranga Bay, part of NZ’s endless coastline of lovely beaches. We drove to Matauri Bay and back again; everywhere islands are clearly visible, quietly sitting on the water looking like giant slumbering animals.

Wainui Beach. As we usually do, we both took off our shoes to walk barefoot along the sand, feeling it’s coarseness and looking out for shells, seaweed and dead fish (yikes) to try and work out where they came from – what their marine communities were like, and where they might have lain beneath the waves.
Halfway along Matauri Bay we found this, a commemoration of early 1800’s local Ngāpuhi chief Ruatara and his journey in a European ship from which he brought back the bible along with Rev Samuel Marsden, who might be seen as the father of christianity in NZ.
There was a Māori community at one end of the beach and a motorcamp at the other. We were looking for the Rainbow Warrior monument and asked at the shop where we might find it.
This horse is cared for by the whole community here, since it’s owner passed away.
We see horses regularly on our trip around Northland and the Far North where horses walk freely, always with short ropes around their necks, I guess to make it easier when catching them.
We had a talk with a local woman here at the Matauri Bay shop, who rents out one of the baches overlooking the bay. She told us to go through the motorcamp to find the Rainbow Warrior monument.
We asked about all the handpainted signs asking drivers to slow down, and she told us that some of the local children and teenagers have fallen off their bikes due to cars passing them very close by and at speed (the road here is narrow, winding and unsealed). The drivers don’t stop, not seeming to realise what they’ve done, so the locals want visitors to know that it’s a multipurpose road.
We were interested that annually small fish swarm the beach; I think they were called kohura, and they provide fishing bait for months to come.
The woman in the office of the motorcamp pointed out for us the hill to climb for the monument, which is also an old pā site (the hill is named Matauri, like the bay). She asked where we were from so I told her Whakatū Nelson. She told us that the name of Matauri is usually pronounced wrongly, matowrie instead of mata uri, and that it means the tears of Uri when he realised his wife had been slain during a battle and was lying amongst the bodies being prepared for a hangi. It was quite a story and I couldn’t help feeling sorry for Uri, if his iwi (Ngati Kura I think) had been attacked without provocation. I can’t imagine what it was like living through those battlesome times, much preferring wars with words over wars with implements.
Nice view from the hilltop, the motor camp below and the Māori community at the far end of the beach.
I walked alone up the hill to find the monument.
The Rainbow Warrior was scuttled among the islands in the background, the Cavalli Islands. The masts were taken to the museum in Dargaville which we hope to visit in a few weeks.
The Rainbow Warrior lies out there…
The sun was sinking when I came back down. Sunsets, like beaches, are lovely, so double the impact when you get a sunset on a beach!!
Driving back over the Mahinepua hills to Tauranga Bay, a last glimpse of Matauri Bay and the Cavalli Islands. There are more islands in reality than what’s marked on our map.
The sun had gone all the way under by the time we made it back to Tauranga Bay, with a brisk breeze blowing.
We bought these in a local farmer’s market – still fresh in the middle of July! Only in the Far North…although the grower told us that it was the last of his crops for a few weeks now.
Kevin was interested in this truck we drove past as we headed further north, jacked up off it’s wheels. He said it’s for checking the ground conditions, compaction etc, and that they must be setting up to do some work on the road.
Driving past Whangaroa Harbour
Of course we went to the Mangonui Fish Shop, having heard about it’s fame from several different people.
Just as ‘of course’ we heard from our cousins to go to this hotel instead of the Fish Shop as the prices are half as much for the same product! So we did; we bought half our lunch at the Fish Shop and half at this hotel. A-and guess what? I felt ill afterwards, and Kevin said he wasn’t so great either. I don’t think it was the quality of the food we ate, which seemed high, but we decided that we just can’t stomach greasy, deep fried fish-nd-chip type food any longer.
We are seeing quite of few of these sharp points on the hilltops, and think they might be remnants of volcanic cores – I’m not keeping up with the geology at the moment; internet access is very patchy!
All around Mangonui, and back to Whangaroa Harbour once the caravan was safely parked up (this time at the bowling club in Cooper’s Beach for a few days), we visited beach after beach.
This is Taupo Bay. There are surfers in the waves.
We helped a stuck person with their van here on the grass, too busy pushing to get a photo!
Mahinepua and Cone Islands out there…
I love it when we see beautiful tracts of farmland as they somehow add to the landscape – otherwise farmland has the ability to turn a landscape into mediocrity.
Hihi Beach – a board showed us how the locals got together and did some earthworks to prevent erosion by the sea.
Another setting sun, looking forward to the days being longer; it’s still dark before 6pm at present.

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