Te Maika – 13 – Why visit?

What is it that intrigues people about Te Maika?

Let’s look at the “negative”…

  • It is on the west coast of New Zealand therefore the weather is usually quite erratic.
  • It is so isolated that there are no shops to drive to – oops, no cars to drive either!
  • Food for the stay must be taken on the initial trip unless one has access to a boat.
  • There are no medical facilities.
  • There is no power.

Now let’s look at the “positive”…

  • It is on the west coast of New Zealand therefore the weather is usually quite erratic. – Yay! makes for variety!
  • It is so isolated that there are no shops to drive to. – Yay, nowhere to spend money!
  • Food for the stay must be taken on the initial trip unless one has access to a boat. – Yay! no further meal planning… and one must catch some fish!
  • There are no medical facilities. – Well, we’ve never actually needed them that urgently.
  • There is no power. – Yay! leave those pesky machines at home!

Actually, things have naturally “evolved” over the years and “improved” but “internet”, “cell phones”, even “television”, were not in the English vocabulary back when I started holidaying at Te Maika. When cassette players and then hand-held devices became popular we had a rule that they must be left at home… did anyone complain? Yes, for the first day, maybe, but then they were happily forgotten. We were so isolated from the rest of the world that two weeks would happily pass by without us knowing whether or not the rest of the world even continued to exist!

A storm is heading our way…

Weather forecasts are quite important to us now in planning our days but back then we just took it as it came and planned anyway.  Nothing we could or can do about it! One wet and stormy day was always welcome after several hot and sunny ones.  A great time to stay indoors and play board or card games. As in most kiwi baches, there is a pile of games left there just for that purpose – played with excitement over the holiday period and not seen any other time of the year.

… and the rain come down!

And when kids get tired of being cooped up inside, it’s on with the coats (or not, if one is happy to get wet!) and out for a roam to see what the high tide is doing!

Admittedly, some folk just cannot understand how we can cope at such an isolated place, but these folk are are in the minority. Do we really need to shower every day when we can swim? And what if it’s too cold for swimming? Well, probably others aren’t swimming either so we all smell as bad as each other! (Actually, it’s only in fairly recent times that daily showering has become the norm.)

So now, I’ve clarified those issues, I will tell you about some of our visitors over the years … tomorrow…

Te Maika – 12 – Lights and Hi-jinks

“When you come inside you get ready for bed.”

The children knew this and it was a great ploy to keep them outside for as long as possible! By the time my children and my friends’ children had another friend or cousin at Te Maika we often numbered three adults and six children in our tiny bach. None of us really minded where we slept so long as we had somewhere to lay our heads so we had energy for the following day’s activities.

But evenings were quite special, too. The first task, once night came upon us, was to light the lamp.  The procedure went something like this:

  1. Check that there was sufficient kerosene in the base for the evening.
  2. Turn various knobs for whatever reasons…
  3. Pump a knob to build up pressure until gauge reached a red line.
  4. Fill tray below mantle with meths.
  5. Light meths with match.
  6. When meths has mostly burned off turn another knob and light the mantle with another match (I think).
  7. Hope mantle lights.
  8. Pump again to ensure gauge is at red line.

I lived in fear that the whole thing would blow up in our faces; the children loved to help and were quite in awe of the procedure.  On occasion I did have to rush the lamp outside as something went wrong, and we would wait until the flames died down before beginning all over again!  But the lamp generally worked very well and provided ample light to sit around the table playing games. Another benefit was that the fumes kept mosquitoes and other little insects away.

A smaller and less complicated kerosene lamp was used for light in the kitchen and bathroom and torches were kept handy if one needed to visit the long drop in the night (though, I think the moonlight served instead when one just popped out the door…!)

One night each holiday the children were allowed to go outside again after dark… Moonlight was not a video game back then.  It was game where players hid and then returned to an allocated spot (“home”) before the “in” person spotted or caught them. Of course, the adults joined in … and visits to the long drop were essential before the game began! Even so, I remember more than one occasion when one of the girls came back laughing loudly… “I’ve wet my pants!” or she crashed to the ground just short of “home” with her legs crossed laughing so much, “I’m peeing my pants!!”

The kerosene lamps were gradually superseded by more modern ones and then camping lamps and flash torches until now we actually have solar-powered lighting – turned on by the flick of a switch, and in all the sleeping areas, too!

Serious Stuff 1
One night in between different lamps and torches when candles had to suffice!

My daughter, on a recent visit, asked if we could light the old lamp “for old times’ sake…” “Ummmm, no!”


Te Maika – 12

Do you like to share experiences with your friends? Do you talk about places you’ve been and show photos to anyone interested? And what happens when these friends say, “Gosh, I’d love to go there…!”

Well that was me… I couldn’t help but talk about Te Maika after each holiday.  The topic often came up following another question … “How did you get so brown?” I am fortunate to tan easily and after two weeks living mainly outdoors it was, and is, inevitable that I return to “civilisation” a few shades darker than when I left!

So it was, one evening of socialising with a couple of my close friends, talking about holidays and favourite places and of course Te Maika came into the conversation.  “Could we come up next year?” ….. “Well, I don’t know… I guess I could ask Dad…”

And so once it was ‘okayed’ by my father, Jan, Paula and I planned throughout the year.  Food and other provisions were purchased near to departure time, children were informed and travel plans implemented…. this was going to be FUN!

And it was FUN! My father took us over in JulieAnn (and put Paula off small boats for life!) and deposited us on the shore. Our children knew each other well and my son often had a cousin there as well for company nearer his age. “Traditions” were instigated… a barbecue at a special beach where we hiked over the hills (well, it’s not far really, but with youngish children in tow, it certainly seemed like a hike!) carrying food, drinks, towels and togs. The descent to the beach was down a steep hill and there we built a fire from sticks found on the beach before cooking sausages, damper and marshmallows and chocolate in bananas. There was always time to clamber over the rocks, swim in a rock pool or splash in the waves and search for crabs in abundance in the cracks in the rocks. Once the food was eaten and the sun was on its way down we would either clamber up the hill to return to the bach or, if the tide was low enough, would take the easier way around the rocks and beach.

Barbecue beach (tide in).

Another “must do” each year was a walk around the harbour. A couple of times we ventured across the harbour at very low tide to “Shelly Bay”. This was a very sticky traipse over the mud flats… and I wish I had photos to show of Jan and Paula up to their thighs in the mud! That was a sloooow crossing having to pull each leg out of the ooze before taking the next step! The children fared better as they managed to remain mostly above ground being somewhat lighter. Once at Shelley Bay we explored the promontory, refreshed ourselves with well-earned drink and bickies, the repeated the procedure to return home…. somewhat exhausted!

More antics next time…



Te Maika – 1 – A Little Bit of History


(I have just re-posted this page as the previous one got ‘lost’… at least I had to search for it before I could find it!)

If you’ve been following my “Blogging” posts you’ll know that I am still in the learning phase of setting up pages or categories or tags or menu items or whatever they may be called… see, I don’t even know the correct terminology! So today I have decided to set up a new page/category/whatever… “Travel”. And this is my first “Travel” post … we’ll see if it arrives under “Travel” on the menu !

By way of introducing my “Travel” page/post/whatever I will take you briefly to one of my favourite places in New Zealand.  You are very unlikely to have even heard of this holiday destination and even less likely to have been there… (unless, of course, you are a close friend or family member!)… and if you are one of those you’ll know I’m talking about the wonderful hidey-hole in the North Island… on the west coast… in the Kawhia Harbour.

Te Maika, translated from Maori means “food basket”, and has a long history with Maori. It was once a large pa and home to a sizeable Maori population. Now geologists frequent the area digging and seeking fossils and rock formations they believe date back millions of years… as a creationist, I think their timing is out by millions of years minus a few thousand!

But I am more interested in Te Maika in my day. I have been holidaying there for longer than I can remember. My mother was born in the town of Kawhia, also, naturally, in the Kawhia Harbour, and her father built and fixed boats which took locals to Te Maika.  As a child she remembers camping in the grasses and lupins on the beach with her father.  Families and friends often took the launch over the harbour during summer months for an afternoon of fun in the sun and surf. She often spoke about the house on the hill above Goodfellows Beach (oddly enough, owned by Mr Goodfellow but long since burnt down) and the piano which, after swimming in the surf below, around which folk would gather for a ‘sing-song’ before returning home to Kawhia.

Now, I see I have digressed from “Te Maika in my day”.. but a bit of history is often necessary to set the scene… So it was only natural, that when my parents married and my brothers and I duly arrived, that we would also visit Te Maika. And have been doing so ever since… for 60+ years!

Lion Rock – a Maori fortress in times past.
Te Maika
Cable Bay looking out the harbour mouth. (Actually looks a lot bigger than it is.)
Cable Bay from the other direction – our Bach on the right.
That’s our bach with the green roof.

Tomorrow I will continue with our journey to Te Maika but now I will add couple of photos and see if I have managed to set up this new “Travel” page…

Te Maika – 11

Yesterday as I was looking through photos to upload I was reminded of the many, many visitors we have entertained at Te Maika. As children, we didn’t invite friends probably because we only had a small five-seater car and that was loaded to the gunnels and on the roof as well… remember the days of roof racks?

However, a cousin my age did join us one time. She was staying with us while her parents were overseas so I guess this was the reason.  And did four of us squeeze into the back seat of our car? I don’t know, but it was in the days before compulsory (or even mandatory) seat belts. Rosemary and I are similar ages and have always enjoyed each other’s company. So a holiday at Te Maika was eagerly anticipated.

Now, as is quite common in 12year old-ish girls, we shared a love of horses.  And horses abounded then at Te Maika as they do now. Several of them were tame back then as there was a family (Tom, the boat and store-owner’s family) in residence and their main transport (apart from the boat) was horseback.

Horses enjoying a twilight feed on a hilltop.
My grandchildren try to befriend a foal.

So Rosemary and I decided that we would like to ride a horse.  We did obtain permission from the owners and were even given a rope or two… and maybe a bridle on one occasion. We were able to catch one or two and delighted in climbing on and riding wherever they took us – bareback and, as I said, not usually with a bridle.  I admire my mother for not intervening and putting a stop to our antics.

It wasn’t until I had children of my own that the flow of visitors became quite steady. I was in the habit of taking my children on our annual holiday to stay with my Mum and Dad for a week.  One year some friends and I were discussing Te Maika and, no doubt, looking at photos so I invited them to join me with their children the following year.

Well, things were never the same again!  My parents relinquished the bach into our  hands for a week while they relocated themselves to the comfort of civilisation over the harbour at Kawhia for a week. My father would take us over in JulieAnn, and later, Dolphin, drop children and adults, food and other necessities on the shore, and return a week later.  This was before the days of cell phones so the only communication was via the phone box and a neighbouring relative at Kawhia.

Too bad if the weather was rough on the day of return… my father would be there to pick us up! I remember one such trip when I surely hoped that he wouldn’t come.. but he did and we weren’t at all sure we’d feel dry land under our feet again!



Te Maika – 10

As I have mentioned, Te Maika is on a peninsula. One side of the peninsula is the rugged west coast, the other the Kawhia Harbour. Our bach, as can be seen in the photos, looks out to the mouth of the harbour. As it was when I was a child, we have some “must do”s while on holiday at Te Maika. And, as our legs are our only form of transport, these involved walking.

One such walk takes us to the upper reaches of the harbour at low tide. If one is a geologist this walk can become a very interesting discovery ground (world-renowned, apparently) and if one is a child one can discover any number of “dinosaur” bones!  I remember taking my children on an excursion as far as we could go and discovering “dinosaur eggs”… whatever they actually were they do have significance in the geological scheme of things. Small sand crabs also provide objects of study as children dare to hold them… or not!

Isaiah’s “dinosaur” bone.
First crab

A second walk takes one down the other side of the peninsula, around the rocks and down the long ocean beach. As a child, I remember this was a major excursion and we packed drinks and snacks to enjoy when we reached our goal – the hole-in-the-rock. On the way along Ocean Beach we would dance and play in the shoreline waves so togs were the main apparel. Once we reached our destination and we’d been refreshed with food and drink, we would find the best swimming hole, or more than likely, romp between several to see which was deepest or warmest. And my grandchildren still do the same today… it’s wonderful that some things remain the same in our ever-changing world!

Returning from a wander over the hills.
Through one hole in the rock…
…and the other hole…

A third “must-do” is the walk along the hilltops. This is an “all-weather” activity as it is fun when the wind is blowing as spindrift can be viewed from the tops of the hills and there is always a cosy nook in which to sit for a while. In a stormy high tide I love to watch the breaking waves on the rocks below and on a sunny day it is fun to watch the fishing craft head off for a day of fishing or return with their catches.

A small boat heads back to the safety of the harbour after a day’s fishing.

There is a section on the rugged coast which provides a wonderful amble for budding rock climbers. The sand is only exposed at very low tides and even then it depends on the shift of the sands.  A “rock scramble” is a must as one watches the sea surge and wane into the gaps between the rocks.  I remember my father having to carry me across some “chasms” as I was afraid the sea would come and claim me as the waves gushed in and then rushed out again.

Te Maika – 9

Gosh,  I never intended to continue writing this many posts about Te Maika – but the memories just keep coming!  Rather like “the more you know the more you realise you don’t know”…. the more I write and reminisce the more I remember …

Sandhill gone
That’s our childhood sandhill in the distance left of centre, now covered in grasses.

Last night I re-visited a Te Maika Facebook page which includes some photos from the time of my childhood (and before!).  Interesting what else that stimulates in the memory… there are a couple of photos included which show Mrs Gibbons’ house (Jamie McNeish’s “Aunt Jean”, if you have listened to any of his “Touchstones” readings mentioned earlier) and also the little baches she had built way back last century.  Well, ours is the only one of those baches still standing which must make it one of the oldest on the peninsula. Some of the photos also show men dressed in suits and with ties arriving at Te Maika. I certainly don’t remember my father ever doing that… in fact, I only remember him in his oldest clothes – paint-stained and rather tatty! Funny, though, I do remember wearing my latest matching shorts and top (recent Christmas present ?) on the launch trips. But these clothes were probably safely tucked away until the trip home again once we had settled into our bach.

Close to the baches we rented was a big sandhill, now largely covered in grasses. My brothers and I spent many hours climbing this sandhill and sliding or running or tumbling down.  Yes, today, I will still run down what is left of it but I will come to the summit after a walk around the hill tops – no energy now to climb up the ever-slippery sand! When we bought our own bach the closest sandhill was quarter the height so we took to hill slopes instead.  Food and supplies were taken to Te Maika in cardboard cartons which were eagerly awaited after unpacking so we could use them to slide down the slopes. It was a race to see who was the most daring when it came to how far up the slope we would begin our rides and which bumps we would negotiate on the way down! Thistles were squashed and sheep and cow manure smoothed out first time down…  scratches on bodies and dirty, smelly clothes were not a problem to our mother!

High tides and stormy days were the same as they are today… something to look forward to so long as it’s just for one day! After playing board games for a few hours it would be on with the wet-weather gear and over the hills to watch the sea at high tide smashing against the rocks.  There is a blow-hole that is quite impressive if it’s not filled with sand so this was always something to check out too.

A recent photo of the blowhole in action.

There was never a boring moment at Te Maika!