The Wairarapa Coast’s legendary landscapes…

At the bottom of the North Island there is a road, part dusty metal and part tar seal clinging to eroding cliffs, crossing rock strewn river fords and bordered in places by large fields of wild gazania daises in various shades of yellow and orange. Bleak and windswept you can almost taste the salt-laden southerlies that roar in from the Pacific Ocean. But not today. It's calm. The sky is a cloudless blue and it's a warm, balmy spring day as I head for the Palliser Bay from Martinborough. Manicured vineyards and olive groves soon give way to the lush green farmlands of the Wairarapa. Forty-five minutes later the scenery changes dramatically as you descend to the rugged coastline of Palliser Bay. Now it's all about erosion and legendary weather shaped landscapes starting with the Putangirua Pinnacles or, as fans of the Lord of the Rings film trilogy know it, the Dimholt Road where Aragon enlists the help of the Army of the Dead in Return of the King. This unusual landscape was formed over time as the streambed exposed layers of gravel to rains and floods. The harder parts of the gravel were more resistant to the erosion and remained as columns or pinnacles some with their vegetation still growing on the tops. You can walk directly to the filming locations by following a track beside then on to the streambed or you can take the tortuous bush walk to the lookout. I chose this option, as you do when unfit with dodgy knees but it was worth the effort and discomfort. The views of the Pinnacles in their entirety from the lookout is exceptional and not to be missed. The return to the streambed is marginally easier, but still an uphill battle on loose gravel and stones to reach the filming sites. They looked just as they did in the film, minus of course the strategically placed bushes. If you closed your eyes you could almost hear the three horses walking single file past you. Even without the film connection standing among these monuments was eerie and unsettling, almost grave-like. The odd rock "face" staring down at you didn't help either even though we all know there is no such thing as a ghost army. Still, the Putangirua Pinnacles may make you question that premise…

Continue reading this article about the wonderful Wairarapa coastline in issue #128 (Aprl-May 2015) of Motorhomes Caravans & Destinations magazine. Subscribe here.

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