Cape Palliser Lighthouse – Buy
Early on my climb up the 253 steps I had to ascend to get to the Cape Palliser lighthouse, I couldn’t help but spare a thought for the early lighthouse keepers at the Cape. You see, when the lighthouse was open in 1897, not only did they have to scramble up a muddy, 58 metre-high cliff to get to the lighthouse, but, they had to manually haul large drums of oil and kerosene up as well. This lunacy continued for the first 15 years of operation at Cape Palliser until someone had the genius idea of putting in a set of steps!
Cape Palliser Lighthouse – Buy or view the Ōtepoti | Dunedin gallery
I arrived at what can only be described as a ‘makeshift’ parking lot. Standing in an enthusiastic wind, I steady myself for the ascent to the red and white striped Cape Palliser Lighthouse that sat on a rocky point some 60 metres above me.
To get to the Lighthouse (having first survived the drive), first you must commit yourself to climbing the 252 steps which were built in 1912. Keeping in mind that the Lighthouse was first lit in 1897, that gives 15 years that Keepers had to scramble up a dangerously slippery dirt track just to reach the Lighthouse. Once there, they still had to haul the supplies (oil and kerosene) up the cliff face to the light station by way of a hand winch.
Getting supplies to live off was just as complicated. Stores were delivered every 3 months, weather permitting. On the occasions when the seas were too rough, the stores were landed 6 kilometres away at Kawakawa Bay. This then left the Lighthouse Keeper with the dilemna of getting the stores back to his lodgings.
Standing at the Lighthouse I took a moment to take in my surroundings. It was beginning to rain. The wind was picking up and I couldn’t help but reflect that the life of a Lighthouse Keeper must have been a lonely existence. With that I departed, heading for the charm of the Martinborough Hotel.
Mangatoetoe – Buy or view the Ōtepoti | Dunedin gallery
The next day, heavy, dark clouds hung overhead like a thick blanket and in the distance a wall of weather loomed ominously on the horizon. Between, patches of blue sky gave a sense of hope that there might yet be some fine weather left in the day. I hoped so, I was heading for Cape Palliser Lighthouse, the southernmost point of the North Island.
Approaching the coast which would eventually lead to the Lighthouse, the wind picked up and the countryside changed to a beach of blacksand with dramatic pinnacle cliffs. Occasionally I’d pass cribs and huts that were scattered along the road that held little or no protection from the elements. I manoeuvred past partially washed out roads and small villages that were filled with crayfish pots and fishing boats that were pushed into the sea by bulldozers. The road narrowed to a single lane, a ford had to be negotiated, fallen rocks scattered the way ahead and I lost wifi coverage. This was a place that you’d truly have to love to spend any length of time. It was New Zealand’s rugged coastline at its very best and what’s more, it had a Lighthouse!