Papakura Radio Club inc.
& NZART Branch 65, Papakura.
1 Great South Road, Papakura.
“Working towards NZART Guiding Light award”
ZL2SEA Lighthouse Activities.
We have just returned from a great weekend away, chasing lighthouses, having so much fun it’s hard to believe it was all above board, legal and we were sober!
Since arriving back from Cape Brett , Nigel and I have been busy with research and preparations for the Waitangi weekend. Extra equipment has been bought; Nigel made contacts and gained special permission to use the Pencarrow Coast Road and the Pencarrow Historical Lighthouse and had booked our accommodation. My preparations included making up a folder of information covering the NZART Guiding Light Award, road maps, making up a new log book for Nigel and filing walks information we’d need. Both cameras were ready to go, extra fire power available and 6GB memory between them. GPS was ready.
Nigel and I drove to Wellington for the Waitangi long weekend, staying at Upper Hutt as our base. It took us about four and a half hours to drive down and the most exciting thing was finding a straight road in NZ! State Highways 1 and 3 reminded me of driving through the New England area of the Great Dividing Range , minus the gum trees. I think it was wheat growing in the paddocks we passed. At 100km/hr it is hard to tell.
Nigel had me navigating all the way down which was fine apart from all the unpronounceable names we came across. We never got lost, but once we arrived, I discovered Nigel knew where he was all along!! While putting the fresh food in the cabin fridge I found we had Kelly cat’s fresh meat along for the weekend. Poor Kitty-puss!
Friday 6th February 09.
Pencarrow Lighthouse Adventure.
We had an early start to the day picking up the gate and lighthouse keys from Nigel’s friend at 0730 before heading out to Pencarrow Lighthouse for the morning. Driving through the gate into restricted territory was a strange exciting feeling. The gravel road was well kept and this was a very civilised way to find lighthouses!
The Pajero 4x4 was loaded with equipment. Talk about travelling light!! We had a car sized battery, two solar panels, large and small radios, all the wires, the flexi fibreglass pole and aluminium spaghetti pole, tent pegs, ropes, you name it, it was onboard! Excitement grew as the twin Pencarrow lighthouses were spotted in the distance.
We drove past the path up to the historic lighthouse and around the corner to see the working lighthouse. It was parked on the beach, surrounded by rocks. The breaking surf in the background was pretty, matching the turquoise paint on the lighthouse. Hurriedly snapping a couple photos I decided I’d come back for a more leisurely shoot once Nigel was set with his radio.
We drove back to the path and unloaded gear onto the two wheeled trolley for the tramp up hill. Our day packs were also full of gear and there were two folding garden chairs as well…
The track was slightly better than a sheep track uphill, narrow in places and better formed in others. Nigel set off towing the trolley with me trailing with the chairs. I soon caught him on a steep section that required both of us to haul the trolley to the next section, then went back for the chairs.
This was repeated several times till we reached an A frame fence crossing. The track on the other side looked a fully formed dirt road. Funny how things on the other side of the fence look better!! Nigel took the heavy end and I took the light end and between us the trolley went up and over the fence crossing. He was on his way again. We were running a bit late. Stopping to take photos of the view of the harbour and the lighthouse in the distance, I caught Nigel up a bit later lying on the track beside the trolley. No, he was OK, just resting. The track was too steep to manage on his own and he needed a hand. We towed the trolley together to the top of the rise and later up the last long stretch to the lighthouse. Whew! We made it!!
We were met by strong wind that nearly blew us down again! My pack loaded with cameras, drinking water and other things that made it heavy was blown off the lighthouse base as soon as I unbuckled it and put it down to photograph Nigel unlocking the lighthouse door. The loaded trolley was taken inside to unload the solar panels and battery for the big radio. The wind never let up! It wasn’t gusting bullets. It was constant and only grew stronger, making my eyes water! When I returned with the two folded chairs I found I was unable to walk the remaining 3 metres to the lighthouse base. I was stuck! To reach the lighthouse door I had to go behind the lighthouse and along the left side. The chairs were trying to fly on their own.
Inside the lighthouse there was a constant low roar with anything said from the floors above echoing off the steel walls and merging into each other to form a loud noise. It was like being inside a tin can in a wind tunnel! We were grateful for the lighthouse’s shelter as it was the only shelter we had from the wind. The views were beautiful, but the wind made taking photos difficult.
Nigel set up the flexi pole on the balustrade tying it in place with straps. It was difficult work in the buffeting wind. Getting the antenna wires and cable in place in strong winds was interesting… they were like runaway halyards blowing just out of reach, teasing. Nigel was on the balcony, with me chasing the wires below… finally catching them with the hook of a tent peg. The antenna wires were run out and pegged in place when the pole was at the right hight. Sounds simple, but the pole collapsed in on itself several times before Nigel managed to get it to cooperate. I must say I have to admire his persistence!!
The solar panels were laid flat on the grass in the lee shelter of a large gorse bush. It was risky, but there was nowhere else to safely lay them. Soon after, Nigel had the battery connected and charging, his big radio connected and on the air. What a lot of effort to be calling “seek ewe”!
Once Nigel was settled I went walk-about with the cameras. Wellington harbour is quite pretty and very busy. A number of inter island ferries, container ships, fishing vessels and sailing boats were plying the harbour entrance. A nasty set of rocks were visible off to the left of the channel, with the boats coming closer to the Pencarrow side. That made for some nice photos. I walked back to the beach lighthouse taking a number of photos as I went. The lower lighthouse is parked on a rocky point and the beach is pebbly. I collected two oval pebbles off the beach, one for each lighthouse. The wave action was incredible! It seemed like the water was deep close in and would have a strong under-current to it. The strong winds blew the cresting waves into spindrift. From the top lighthouse, the spindrift had rainbow colours. In the distance I could see the Baring Head lighthouse.
Returning to the Pajero, I collected two more tent pegs, a charger unit, and some fruit and headed back up to the historic lighthouse. I heard the wind howling through the antenna rig before reaching the lighthouse. Nigel was still calling “seek ewe…” but stopped long enough to secure the solar panels as the wind strength had increased further. An hour or so later it was time to pack up and head down to the Baring Head light. Packing up in strong winds was just as much fun as setting up. Good thing nothing was lost or broken. The trolley was loaded with the battery and solar panels and flexi pole and carefully wheeled out of the lighthouse. The lighthouse was secured and locked and we headed down the track to the vehicle.
Part ways down I heard Nigel say something to me. Turning around, Nigel repeats what he said to me “We have a problem!” He was stopped and the trolley was lying on the ground on a crazy angle, resting on silver metal with the tyre lying off to the side of the track. A bolt was not far behind the trolley and further back was the washer and nut.. How hilarious!!
What do you do when you can’t laugh out loud? Take photos!
We did have a problem… it was too far back to the car to carry the gear and we had to find the other 3 nuts, bolts and washers so we could get back to the vehicle!! Nigel set off looking for the bolt sets while I set about taking photos and laughing quietly. He returned with a bolt and nut and pulling a spanner out of his pack, put the wheel back on the trolley. As he was completing that I slowly headed back up hill searching for the other nuts, bolts and washers. I found a nut and washer not far from the trolley and gave that to Nigel then continued my search. It led me back to the lighthouse and down again. I found the forth nut and washer resting in the grass at the start of the final stretch to the lighthouse and the third bolt in a rocky section about 200m further down the track from there. We were one bolt short.
Nigel, the chairs and the trolley were not where I’d left them so I continued on down the track. I found him near the fence crossing resting beside the trolley, busy on the radio. He had late comers wishing to pick up Pencarrow Light and others calling in wanting to know when we would be at Baring Head. Nigel was explaining we had been delayed as our trolley wheel had fallen off! Pulling the logbook and pen from my pack I gave them to him and got busy taking photos! Nigel was fielding calls for about 20 minutes. By then I was sitting on the A frame admiring the view…
We made it to the vehicle without further incidence and loaded everything into the Pajero. What a morning!! And we still had Baring Head light to reach! What other fun things would we find??
Baring Head Lighthouse Adventure.
We drove further down the Pencarrow Coast Road through open gates. We pulled up beside the wreck of the SS Paiaka and took some photos of it, before continuing on. We came to a farm gate that said private. Nigel wanted to go through it, but I wasn’t too keen. We continued along the road we were on till we came to a road block, parked the Pajero and climbed over the fence. We were hiking the rest of the way to the lighthouse. This time we were both wearing hats. I’d already been sun kissed without my hat at Pencarrow and the sun was getting hotter.. We had 5 to 6 km to walk!
The wind was behind us pushing us along and pushing my hat forward onto my glasses. The road started off firm and formed then deteriorated into soft sand scattered with stones. The sand deepened the closer we came to the beach. High on the cliff we could see the structure of a tower. Nigel told me the GPS showed that was where the lighthouse was… there should be a track around the corner. We continued onto the beach, wove through large rocks and headed out onto the sand dune. The going got harder and slower as we climbed the sand dune towards the cliff face. I could see no marked track.
Nigel was ahead and climbed up the right hand side of the sand dune onto a sheep trail. I was to the left and was keen to get out of the sand. At first opportunity I was off and heading up a narrow track to the left. It looked like there was a track… it turned out to be a hairy goat trail strewn with loose rocks, steep, slippery and held together with spear grass. Touching that once was enough! Near the top I saw the blue tower structure and took a photo of it, thinking it a disappointing excuse for a lighthouse! Reaching the top of the cliff I waited for Nigel to meet up with me, before we climbed over 4 fences and made our way past pale green boarded up houses and through the pine trees and another fence. We had finally made it!
Baring Head lighthouse is a beautifully kept concrete structure similar to Cape Reinga . It had a large rock near the back of the lighthouse which added interest.
Nigel had carried the small radio with him on this trek and after making a call to ZL1DK he was off looking for somewhere to hang his antenna. He found the perfect place… the post of an old rotary clothesline! The flexi pole was tied to the post and I ran out the antenna wire as Nigel was fixing the pole. I have graduated from observer to antenna wire runner!!
It took a little while to get things up and running and when Nigel retired to the shade of nearby trees with the radio, I went walk-about again with the cameras. I could have left it at one or two good shots at the lighthouse, but decided to get creative and shoot from all angles. I wasn’t likely to return in a long while, so I had to make the most of this visit! Some time later I wandered back to Nigel and took a rest in the shade while he continued his calls. At 5:15pm we had to pack up so we could reach base before dark. I gave Nigel a hand packing up. We could have taken the easy route and walked past the farmer’s home, but Nigel didn’t consider that polite.
We walked around the back of the weather research station enclosure, along the edge of the cliff, over fences and back to the cliff face we climbed. Nigel deemed my route too dangerous to go down, so we headed over to where he came up. We missed the entrance and found ourselves in swampy muddy conditions fighting through long grass down a disappearing cattle track. Ick! I climbed back out, went higher and further around and went down a dry sheep trail through a lot of Scotch thistle. One thistle must have been over a metre high, too prickly to push aside, so I walked into its base and flattened it to get past. I love my hiking boots! Nigel was calling out to me by this stage. I stumbled down the rest of the track onto the sand dune and we returned to the vehicle. Yeah… Sounds simple until you remember we had 5 - 6km to walk against the strong wind!
The drive back was slow. Rounding one corner we had a great view of the twin Pencarrow lights. Nigel pulled up for me. He had a call to make for someone wanting the lighthouse and I told him… you talk, I shoot! The rest of the trip was uneventful, but when Nigel let us through Burdans gate he told me… we have a flat!
This was too good to be true!! He had to be joking! Taking the Canon with me I found Nigel was 100% correct and the tyre dead flat! It was too funny. I just wanted to laugh. I took photos…
Nigel went to the tool compartment and pulled out a miniature jack, barely 15 cm tall. It apparently belonged to the vehicle as its storage space was the same size and it had Mitsubishi on it, but it looked more suitable for a Mini Minor than a big Pajero 4 wheel drive!! They have to be joking! Even the jack for my Hyundai Accent was larger!
Nigel jacked the vehicle up as high as he could get it on the miniature jack and managed to get the flat tyre off. The spare’s cover needed a key to unlock the cover. The key was not in the vehicle! A tent peg coaxed the cover off. Luckily the ignition key fitted the spare’s lock nut. The spare was taken down; only to find it would not go on as it required a lot more height! Oops!!
We really do have a PROBLEM!
By now the Pajero was standing on 3 feet and I was laughing at how crazy it was turning out! What can one do but take more photos… The Auto Association guys were called and while we waited, the garden chairs were set out and we had a picnic dinner! And more photos…
This was too funny! The Cape Brett venture had a flat tyre on the red car; the Pencarrow light adventure had the trolley wheel fall off and now the Baring Head adventure had the Pajero stranded on 3 wheels…
The AA man arrived and pulled a great big trolley jack out of the back of his vehicle. He had the Pajero hoisted high in no time and he and Nigel had the spare on with no fuss. The miniature was put away and Nigel has noted a new jack is to be fitted to his work vehicle… one that is large enough to handle the job!
We waved the AA man goodbye and headed for base. What a day! Too much fun for one day for sure, but it was a great adventure! We fell into bed exhausted from too much fun and too much sun.
Pencarrow and Baring Head lighthouses would have to rate up there with Cape Brett for adventure and amount of fun. Cape Brett is still to be beaten!
Saturday 7th February 09
Brother’s Lighthouse Adventure.
Saturday morning was spent quietly in the shade. I was tired and cherry pink from Friday. After a late lunch we hopped in the Pajero and headed for Makara Beach and the walk we had planned to do up to the old gun emplacements. The GPS took us the “most direct route…” down through a gorge with narrow winding roads through dry poor looking country side. Gorse seemed to be the only thing thriving.
Makara was listed as a contact point for the Brothers Lighthouse in Cook Straight. We arrived at Makara beach only to find it pebbly, totally unsuitable for pegging out antenna. It was exposed to the weather which was closing in.. We cancelled our walk when we found the cloud was below the tops of the hills. The area was run down and depressing. We checked Opau road, only to find very unfriendly warning signs to Keep Out! Apparently that area was being developed into a wind farm. I wish the best of luck… not much else seems to grow out there!
In Makara Village we took some photos of a church before heading off to find the graves of the “Penguin” wreck. The red warning light for low petrol was flashing. Good one! All we need to cap the weekend was to run out of fuel! In finding Karori we found not only the graves, but a closer, easier way home to base!
We returned to the top of the hill above Makara. It was getting dark as we set up the antenna and flexi pole. There was one problem after another and in the end Nigel totally change the antenna and cable. I ran the wires out and wound them back in. We were working by torch light. The flexi pole was wet from the fine mist and kept collapsing. Nigel persisted in putting it back up until it stayed up. By then he found the frequency was taken over by the Counties and Awards net. Nigel asked me to record the calls for him when he joined the net to take calls from lighthouse interests. Dave (ZL1DK) alerted Bev (ZL3OV) that Nigel was standing by. Bev was conducting the net and in an orderly manner she went right through the list of people on the net for us. We discovered the place name Makara was not a soft sounding Ma-car-a, but a harsh Mack-ra. I don’t know!! Why can’t they be as simple as Woolloomooloo??
We had enough petrol to get us to the nearest fuel station, and then went to bed. I have 3 lousy shots of the Pajero with falling rain in the dark! Bit of a let down I reckon.
OK, I know the Brothers Lighthouse is on an unfriendly almost inaccessible rock in the middle of Cook Strait , but taking a yacht out into the strait and heaving to or sailing around the rocks for a few hours sounds a lot more fun! And there’d be a story and a photo or two to show for the effort! And a few bruises!! But that's all part of the adventure!
Dream on Di!
Sunday 8th February 09.
Somes Island Adventure.
This lighthouse adventure started by dropping the gate and lighthouse keys into the Lower Hutt Information Centre on the way to Days Bay . We parked opposite the ferry wharf and had time to kill. We fed the ducks some stale bread, went for a walk and then at 1020 waited on the wharf.
The ferry was late arriving and did a fantastic turn in its own length before tying up at the wharf. I didn’t expect the ferry skipper to hop out the wheelhouse window and up onto the wharf, but that’s what he did!
We set off for Somes Island soon after. It was reasonably calm so Nigel and I took the top deck for the better view. Arriving at Somes Island we were met by Rangers who guided us into the “rat house” to check we had no mice, rats, ferrets, possums or weed seeds in our bags. We were given a brief history of the island and an introduction to the special wildlife and birds to be found there. Being an Aussie, I got a bit more information from the Rangers. As I left the “rat house”, Nigel was speaking to the Head Ranger and briefed him on what we were doing. He was fine with that.
We headed off to the highest point on the island where the trig point is. It also happens to be where the gun emplacements are and over looks the lighthouse nestled in the bushes. I helped Nigel set up camp in one of the bunkers and the antenna was stretched from the trig station to the fence.
Over the fence near the trig was a Black Backed Gull’s nest with one camouflage egg resting in it. The egg was a decent size. Outside the fence at the other end of the antenna, was another gull nest with 2 eggs in it. I never saw any birds showing interest in the nests. The Ranger had told me the gulls had been nesting at the top of the island and their breeding season was practically finished. The dark coloured birds were young gulls. It was interesting watching the young gulls taking their flying lessons with a parent or two not far away squawking encouragement and instructions. One adult gull dived on an airborne chick forcing it to take avoiding action. I was almost jealous of them! My attempts at taking off at Pencarrow in the heavy winds failed, even though I’d flapped my arms like they do! There must be a flight feather or two missing…
Once Nigel was settled and calling “seek ewe” I went walk-about again with the cameras. It took a while to locate the track down to the lighthouse, but the coastal views from the track were lovely. I took my time taking photos as I went. The lighthouse was best photographed from a distance. It was disappointing not being able to get up close for a clear shot. The bushes need to be cleared away from the lighthouse. The lighthouse was looking a bit sad, in need of a little TLC, a new coat of paint and rubbish cleared from its gutters.
I walked right past the giant Weta’s Motel without even noticing it. The only birdlife I saw was the gulls. I only heard cicadas. An hour later I returned to Nigel and rested in the bunker’s shade for a short time before we had lunch. The shady tree area was cool and well covered with sheep droppings, the picnic table was covered with bird droppings… we had the picnic table in the full sun.
Nigel had a slight mishap with his little radio and he is still unsure if he has blown something in it. It seems to work ok on HF, but not on UHF. Nigel worked till 2pm as planned, then packed up for the day and went walk-about with me.
I showed Nigel the track down to the lighthouse, the look out and a few other things I’d seen. Nigel was more in tune with the NZ bush, stopping when we heard rustling in the dry grass, looking in the hope of seeing a Tuatara. We saw nothing. I took some photos of Nigel with the lighthouse, having to back right into the bushes to try and fit the lighthouse in. On the way back to the track, Nigel saw the Weta Motel and showed me the big bugs in their rooms. The bugs looked as if they had been squeezed in and nailed shut. Apparently they go into the little rooms of their own accord, through the tunnel hole drilled in the log… beats me how their long hopper legs get in!!
We continued our walk around the island towards the ferry wharf. We had less than half an hour to get there before our ferry was supposed to leave. Nigel was more relaxed than me regarding the time. He saw and heard birds I completely missed. The bush was empty to what I’m used to. I only found bait traps.
The harbour was choppy when we reached the wharf and the wind was quite fresh. When our ferry arrived we chose to stay downstairs and stay dry. Pulling into Days Bay the ferry had to wait for a capsized canoe to get out of the way before it could berth. The beach and wharf were crowded and young guys lined the sides of the wharf to dive bomb the ferry passengers as they left the wharf.
We headed out of Wellington and back to New Plymouth. Along the way we saw the snow clad mountains of Ruapehu in the distance and not long after I saw the faint outline of Mt Egmont! That was as exciting as seeing land after being at sea for days on end! And like seeing land from out to sea, it took a long time to finally reach it! Nigel’s red car was picked up at Hawera and I followed him home. Mt Egmont was out until we reached Inglewood , then as if satisfied its wanderers were home, Egmont pulled the clouds up over his head and went to bed. We followed his example shortly after.
We are already planning the next lighthouse long weekend to Cape Palliser and Castle Point. There is a bit of work to do, but we are eagerly anticipating that adventure...
Until next installment,
Diane signing off.
How to contact us:
Papakura Radio Club inc.
1 Great South Road, Papakura
P.O.Box 72397, Papakura 2244