Monday, August 30, 2010
DAWN AND DUSK ON THE TUTUKAKA COAST
A VIDEO POSTCARD On DVD: www.wadedoak.com
On a black and starless night, all the beauties of the Tutukaka Coast, from Sandy Bay to Ngunguru, are still present under the pall of darkness. Like the Mona Lisa when the lights are out. After forty years of loving this coast, its forests, headlands and estuaries, Jan and I have come to realise that capturing its essence is all a matter of lighting and atmospherics. If we wanted to celebrate it to the utmost we had to pull out all the stops. We had to seek that low, crisp lighting of midwinter, at dawn and at dusk. We had to get up in the dark and be ready with our tripods and cameras as the first rays peeped over the horizon. And do it all again, late in the day. “What would it be like if…?” motivated us on those wintry bookends of day when home warmth was more attractive. But the rewards were huge. The photos we gained have a unity and a purpose: a celebration of a very special part of New Zealand. South Islanders by birth, we have now explored this coast below water and above; all its wildlife, from fishes under the Matapouri bridge at night to clumps of orchids in pohutukawa trees hanging over the Ngunguru River; the geckoes, butterflies and birds; the vines and the trees. As full-time students of nature we have had the luxury of stepping back from it all, gaining an overview of the ‘big picture’. We hope our focus on the preciousness and special qualities of its land and seascapes may motivate people to care for and protect all these fragile treasures we live amongst from bulldozer and possum.
Headland Sunrise: TUTUKAKA LIGHTHOUSE
With packs on our backs full of camera gear and a breakfast snack Jan and I tread a moonlit path out to the cliff edge. Cautiously we descend a long wooden staircase to the noisy black brink of ocean. East beyond the offshore islands a faint glow on the skyline spurs us on. We cross a sandy isthmus to the island. We ascend a spiral pathway though dark forest. By the solar powered light beacon we feverishly set up tripods and camera arrays. Just in time, we hope... With the rising sun our lenses will capture the sequence of pastel worlds from darkness to glaring sunlight. A haunting time of subtle colour change. In the salty darkness we wait besides our camera tripods on a dome at the end off a narrow promontory extending towards the beloved Poor Knights islands. The rustle and slap of two calm bays excites our ears. The only illumination besides our torch lights is a pencil beam from the lighthouse that strobes the sea at fleeting intervals like a hallucination. Cramped and chill we await the sun, zoom lenses at the ready. I listen to the stereo chuckle of the waves and the occasional bird cry from the bush behind us. Jan’s tele lens reaches out to the edge of the world. A golden balloon wobbles clear of the Pacific only to enter a stratum of cloud just above the horizon, where it will vanish again. For a moment it hovers, just its upper portion obscured by wisps of vapour. The sea is emerald green. I zoom across to nearby cliffs and find their jagged profile matches a contiguous cloud mass edged with fire like lightning. The Sugarloaf is an immense shark fin, jet black against a salmon pink sky and a shimmering, slate blue sea. Through cloud gaps shafts of silver like wheel spokes halo the rock stack. A williwaw dances across the inshore waters. Day has fully dawned but ushered in with such detail, a magical quality still imbues the ordinary. Now the forest is alive with dawn chorus birdsong and our chilled bodies warm to the sunshine of another headland day. Home to coffee.
TUTUKAKA COAST AT DUSK
Since we arrived here on the Tutukaka coast in 1968 South Islanders Jan and I have had an increasingly passionate love affair with its many lovely faces. Our kids and now our grands have dragged us willingly over almost every inch with each generation. We have explored the coastline and estuaries undersea. We have walked cliff top paths by moonlight and set out in the dark to capture its sunrises. We have created photo archives of its trees, shrubs vines, orchids, ferns, birds, geckos...All this led us to take on the challenge of documenting its beauty and diversity at dusk, midwinter, when the low angle sunlight is very special, hoping we could do our utmost to celebrate a subject so very dear to us. So, from shy little Daisy Bay in the north to busy Ngunguru, we made photo essays. Some are brief. Others, because of the complexities of the location, demanded a much longer treatment.
North from Sandy Bay a road leads to a gate and a stile. A walkway skirts the coast from here up to Whananaki. The adventurous can scramble down the grassy hillside to explore a wild beach and, at low tide, a series of coves to the north. To my mind, the Tutukaka coast has its northernmost beginnings here. And twilight gathers gracefully, lighting up the cliffs of the Poor Knights Islands
It would be easy to overlook the tiny Kitty Vane Reserve at Sandy Bay. But at dusk it gives us elevation for vistas of the famous surfing bay; its lagoon, popular with waders and the Poor Knights Islands, mecca for divers. On either side of the bay, for the pensive rambler, there are low tide coves to explore to the heart’s content. At Sandy Bay I get the feeling of being in a painting of Northland.
WOOLLEY’S BAY TO WHALE BAY
It is the year’s midnight; and we set out to explore from Woolley’s Bay to Whale Bay at the end of the shortest day. A storm is in the offing...We have haunted these pathways for so many years; they are alive with associations for us; but we always feel as if we are here for the very first time. Inevitably we discover something entirely new to us. I liked the distant prospect of beach mist in a series of veils drifting north along the far beaches of Whananaki.
North of Matapouri bay, through a saddle between forested ridges, an easy track leads to a beach of semi-precious stones. And distant prospects up the coast to the shark-tooth outlines of the Rimiriki islets out from Mimiwhangata. By the beach and close to the path, another sign posted track follows the cliff edges to Whale Bay, Cabbage Tree Bay and the main road.
Late afternoon, midwinter, and Matapouri beach is alive with strollers and runners and people who just huddle in a blanket and listen to the stereophonic growl of the waves around the curving shoreline. As the sun began to sink we rushed to the southernmost estuary bridge to share the final rays gilding a curve of forested estuary-with a muscovy duck.
Perhaps, for many visitors, Tutukaka Harbour is just a convenient stepping stone to the fabulous waters of the Poor Knights Islands or the adjacent coast. But Jan and I contend that a week’s holiday could be spent just exploring all the bays, promontories and lookouts around this very special harbour of stone and native forest. From the lighthouse on South Gable to Wellington’s Reserve above Dolphin Bay, good walking tracks lead to adventure. How many people know about the tunnel track to Beck’s Bay where there is a grove of kauri trees and a wild beach that could be anywhere on the Northland coast; only minutes from hotel, motels, homestays and restaurants? We found dusk, midwinter, a mellow, enchanting time to venture out: in that bewitched interval between four and five p.m. our lenses clicked.
Facing southward into Ngunguru Bay and towards the islands of Hauraki Gulf, Whangarei Heads and Mt. Manaia, from Whangaumu beach at dusk we get our last prospect of open sea on the Tutukaka coast. A long and rich visual journey from Daisy Bay and Sandy Bay to the north-but really only minutes away. On a tranquil winter evening Jan and I find so many people enjoying the beach: kids exploring the crags of a tiny island; a lone jet skier creating screens of water, backlit by the sun; a man near the placid Ngunguru river bar, paddling his outrigger: languid strollers and crazy lens-wielders like ourselves. And a homeward shag seeking its roost.
Could any short stretch of coastline possibly offer more diversity? From river entrance dunes out from the school; the wilderness of the beloved sandspit Pimanu [’gullcry’]; upriver prospects such as Snells Point Reserve and its mighty pohutukawa giants; to the mangrove-nestled isle of Mr Hurdy Gurdy and the water highway inland where the sun leaves us for Australia, Ngunguru river is a changing smorgasbord of visual delights randomised by the shifting tides. We never know what to expect. A rainbow over Whakairiora, sacred Maori mountain; a flash of lightning across the bay. And then there are all the wading birds: trilling oystercatchers, gawky pied stilts, elegant white-faced herons, immaculate gulls and even a lone kingfisher out on the mudflats. For Jan and for me our midwinter celebration of the Tutukaka Coast at day’s end, has been a labour of love; memories to treasure down all our days. Maybe we will set out now to explore it during storms. Has anybody got a spare body? *Contact: www.wadedoak.com
MORNING on the TUTUKAKA COAST:
DAISY BAY; SANDY BAY
WOOLLEY’S BAY TO WHALE BAY
TUTUKAKA LIGHTHOUSE SUNRISE
EARLY TUTUKAKA HARBOUR
TUTUKAKA ESTATES TO
SOME ENCHANTED MORNING AT NGUNGURU
TUTUKAKA COAST AT DAY’S END
DAISY BAY; SANDY BAY
WOOLLEY’S BAY TO WHALE BAY AT DUSK
PEBBLY BEACH NEAR DUSK
LATE MATAPOURI BAY
TUTUKAKA HARBOUR SUNDOWN
WHANGAUMU BAY AT SUNDOWN
NGUNGURU AT DAY’S END
[also available as photo prints]