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Old 03-09-2012, 08:14 PM   #1
Bendernz OP
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Joined: Aug 2009
Location: Auckland, New Zealand
Oddometer: 567
Auckland’s Awhitu Peninsula and Manukau Lighthouse

There's only one piece of water that scares the living bejasis out of me ... the narrow mouth through which the huge Manukau harbour empties onto Auckland’s west coast. A broad sandbar shallows the harbour entrance and from the Tasman Sea, short steep and vicious mountains of water smash relentlessly against the bar in a never ending maelstrom.

The Manukau harbour bar is site of New Zealand's worst ever shipwreck, Her Majesty's Ship Orpheus, which in 1863 arrived with out of date charts, ignored the signals from the semaphore station overlooking the entrance and struck the bar. 189 souls died. Every year small boats come to grief, mostly caught by this notoriously changeable piece of water.

I’ve been across it quite a few times or rather, around it using one of the deeper channels that avoid the shallowest and most dangerous parts. You radio the coastguard watch house to let them know you are about to transition the bar, and then when you are safely across.

Perched high on the cliffs on the southern side is a small white lighthouse, no longer operational. I'd seen it and wondered about it - my interest being heightened by reading some articles taken from a book written by the wife of one of the lighthouse keepers.

The first was built in 1874 and the current one is a replica built to authentic plans and retaining the original glass prisms and cast iron/copper dome. This was a place where lighthouse keepers and their families were stationed, maintaining the kerosene burning light and supporting themselves off a farm there – a harsh existence that all too often turned fatal when there were medical problems and no fast route to help. Now you can jump on a motorcycle and ride there in under an hour.

About a year ago I read a ride report by someone who took the road out along the Awhitu peninsula to the lighthouse and it fired my imagination to visit. I’d always wondered what the view was like from high on this rugged and foreboding cliffs.

I had to endure almost an hour of motorway boredom before turning onto the fast sweeping roads through the countryside to Waiuku. There I turned right and the fun began. Quite simply I was stunned at how good the ride was and by the utterly beautiful countryside. New Zealand has been my home for most of my life and it still has the ability to leave me breathless with its beauty. I love a good surprise.

The road starts wide open with sweeping corners before tightening up for 5km of tight twisting turns, second and third gear stuff, then opening out slightly with for miles of turns of all speeds. Tight, middle, sweeping, fast and slow.

From time to time vistas of the Manukau Harbour opened out to the right, and then the Tasman sea, cobalt blue on this sunny day, flashes through valleys and gaps in the hills to the left.

The road follows the coastal ridge line and from time to time there are huge valleys falling away on either side. Ever kilometre brings a different type of scenery and as a rider you’re constantly torn between getting the throttle on and enjoying the road, or pootling along looking at the scenery.

There’s a weatherworn look to everything out here – wild and sandblasted, many of the homes are snugged in behind windbreaks and any tree that has managed to survive out here for any length of time grows branches that have been blown away from the coastal side, crazy and lopsided.

Reminder that it’s rural – a good coating of dung.

Before I got to the lighthouse I could see the Manukau Bar and the harbour entrance. It doesn't look half as scary up here as it does when you're on the water.

I parked in the lighthouse carpark, walked up the steps to enjoy the views. You can go inside the lighthouse – not that it’s very big – and take the stairs up to the dome and out onto the walkway.

The views are indeed spectacular. A boat smashes its way through the entrance, stops beneath us as they radio the Coastguard radio hut next door, then turns and hightails it through the north channel. It’s not too bad today – when it's rough, the north channel is untenable.

The copper and cast iron dome.

When the lighthouse was right on the edge of the cliff (it's been moved back some) they used to bury these anchors in the ground and tie the dome to them to stop it being blow away.

Painting of the Orpheus wreck.

The road was getting busy as I returned to Waiuku, two cars and three motorbikes were heading out to the lighthouse.

At Waiuku fate cast her magic spell on me , causing me to stop in my tracks as I crossed the road towards the town bakery for a sandwich, get back on the Yamaha, and gun it back down the road to the Kentish, a magnificent old pub (see its claim to historical significance here.).

I was not disappointed at my choice of lunchtime stopover, with a cool ale and one of the best hamburgers I’ve ever eaten, in a roofed but open area which was warm with a cool breeze wafting through it. The day was getting very hot by now - we’ve had the worst of summers here in New Zealand, wettest ever according to records, and to say I’ve lucked out on the weather today is an understatement.

Oh lordy lordy it was good.

A good hamburger is one of the finest foods, full stop. The McDonalds of this world have reduced this art form to pap but occasionally someone takes it seriously.

According to my friends I am an utter bastard for texting them progress reports of the day while they were at work - but it's agreed a group ride to the lighthouse will be happening and soon (followed by a stop at the Kentish for lunch).

Happy days.

Bendernz screwed with this post 03-09-2012 at 08:51 PM
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Old 03-09-2012, 08:21 PM   #2
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aahh....all of life's little pleasures right in one thread....well almost.....thanks for sharing.
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Old 03-10-2012, 03:01 AM   #3
Joined: Sep 2009
Location: The swamps of home - Louisiana
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Great ride report. Absolutely beautiful! Thanks for posting.
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Old 03-19-2012, 11:03 AM   #4
ADVreader Blows
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Originally Posted by WHITEHOUSE

Great ride report. Absolutely beautiful! Thanks for posting.

What more can be said?
Sadly, though, it seems as if these 'smaller' reports often go neglected because few even realize they exist!

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Old 03-19-2012, 11:17 AM   #5
the darth peach
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Nice! Looks a bit like our coast up here in N California…

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