For us sailors, lighthouses are the road-signs of our coastal sailing. We try not to get too close, as they usually mark a rocky point or shallow patch best avoided but they are reassuring landmarks for us. At night we count the number of flashes to check their identities and are reassured that they confirm the position given by our (mostly) infallible GPS chart plotters. No doubt some Whitehall bean counters will suggest they be abandoned as redundant, last-century technology but let's hope that sense prevails.
When we're on a coastal walk, we're drawn to walking to lighthouses, to admire their open views of the sea and to think about all the other mariners who've sailed safely by. In our little road trip of the past week we've visited the most northerly light at Cape Reinga and, a couple of days ago, a redundant light at the entrance to Kaipara Harbour on the west coast.
|Cape Reinga light - built in 1941 and automated in 1987|
|The waves breaking in the distance show the location of the dangerous bar|
Kaipara was, and still is, a treacherous place to navigate with a huge sand bar in the entrance and ever-shifting shallows within the harbour. If you have Google Earth do have a look at it, the sand dunes and coast are amazing - the coordinates are:
36 deg, 23.25 mins south
174 deg, 7.24 mins east
The first charts were drawn in the mid-1800's and the lighthouse was built around 1900. A small but busy community was built at Pouto Point which became a loading wharf for Kauri timber hauled from the huge forests to the north. The arrival of a railway to the town of Dargaville, some 60km further up the harbour, in 1947 spelled the end of the commercial activities in this remote village and the light was abandoned in the 1970's. Today the structure is maintained by volunteers who have to dig the encroaching sand dunes away from it fairly regularly.
Our campsite in Pouto is our favourite to date. A small, level area of grass is big enough for perhaps 12 campervans and tents and the wooden hall, built as NZ's first customs house in the 1870's provides a great kitchen, showers and toilets. The place belongs to the community with volunteers running it as a not-for-profit entity; all the proceeds are ploughed back into maintaining the historic building. We'll definitely come back here.