Being able to stay at Tane's Rest for several days at a time is now driving demands for greater support beyond water availability and the most pressing is the need for a composting toilet.
To build our new loo we have followed the principles of the humanure compositing toilet. This requires liquid and solid waste to be separated and the solid waste to be covered with a biodegradable material as it accumulates. Our near neighbour Steve operates a portable sawmill so we have a generous supply of dry untreated sawdust that is a perfect cover material.
We have built a large plywood box that fits two 30 litre buckets and has two hinging toilet seats with covers. The liquid waste bucket remains unlined, however the solid waste bucket is lined with two bags, an inner compostable liner and an outer disposable liner. The strong outer liner allows the bucket contents to be safely carried to a burial pit where the inner liner and its contents can be dumped cleanly without any spillages. The outer liner is then landfilled.
The objectionable odours that emanate from traditional longdrop toilets is due to the amalgamation of liquid and solid waste where the nitrogenous liquid waste is able to react with the biological components of the solid waste. Preventing this from happening means our privy remains pleasantly odour free, even on hot summer days, and Steve's macrocarpa sawdust has the bonus of its natural fragrance.
Currently our composting toilet is discretely positioned outside behind a wood stack with a beach umbrella for both shade and rain cover. Ultimately it will move under cover in an open air ensuite that we plan to build near the caravan to reduce the walk to answer nature's call.
The answer to increasing our living space is a deck to create an outside room extending the length of the caravan and projecting out from under the overhanging rain roof.
With Major Sprite now safely installed we have secure accommodation but only 10 square metres of living space. Thankfully Marie spotted a great decking system heavily discounted at Bunnings so we swooped. This has precut decking frames that screw together to form large timber decking tiles. They are each 1,100mm square and can be laid in any pattern you choose.
We have enough frames for a deck that is 5.5m long x 4.4m wide with extra 1.1m x 2.2m wings on each end to provide easy access onto and off the deck, a total of 24 frames and almost 30 square metres of outside living space. Being precut, we have been able to assemble the frames in Auckland and have also precut 288 decking boards so 12 can be nailed onto each frame, before trailering the entire deck to Tane's Rest for assembly.
After some serious digging time we have re-excavated the bench we dug out to level the caravan site and have extended it as an area of flat ground beside the caravan on which the deck will sit. The excess dirt has been spread in front of the caravan to create a raised flat area large enough to pitch a tent should people come to stay. This way we have created two shovelfuls of benefit for each shovelful of dirt we have moved.
We have sat the deck frames on large treated wooden blocks that have been leveled before the frames were nailed together and nailed down to the blocks. The frame arrangement has allowed one to become a raised step at the door of the caravan and the three posts supporting the rain roof pass through the deck frames without collision.
Now we have the task of finishing nailing down the decking boards and that requires 2,304 nails to be marked, drilled, driven and punched.
During September we transported to Tane's Rest our newly refurbished caravan, a 15 foot Sprite Major we have named "Major Sprite", and we have spent our first night on the property.
In fact, because Tane's Rest has never had any buildings on it we may actually be the first people to ever spend a civilised night on the property.
Just as we moved "The Major" to Auckland on a trailer so we have moved it from Auckland on a trailer. However, we have changed our normal route as the thought of towing both the trailer and the caravan over the Kaimai Ranges to Tauranga, especially up the steep climb on the western side of the ranges, was too daunting.
The alternative of traveling through the Karangahake Gorge with its twisting turns and rocky cliffs also wasn't appealing. Instead we traveled through Rotorua to get into the Bay of Plenty via the more gentle climb up onto the Mamaku Plateau before descending down past Kawerau to Awakeri Springs.
However the topography of the eastern North Island still has the challenge of traversing the Waioeka Gorge from Opotiki to gain access to Poverty Bay. To avoid this would have meant a much longer trip south to Taupo then to Napier before heading north to Gisborne via Wairoa, a journey that also includes some challenging climbs, so the Waioeka George looked the lesser of two evils.
It is shorter but steeper, and true to form we encountered rain in the gorge. In fact it rained so heavily it was a challenge to see other vehicles on the road but stopping was not an option in case another driver couldn't see us.
In addition to the tow vehicle we took our trusty 4WD Toyota Rav4 with us as we knew it would be impossible to manoeuvre the caravan on the soft and wet winter ground conditions at Tanes Rest with our 2WD ute. After a carefully choreographed ballet to unload the caravan on a level section of our driveway and switch tow vehicles we were able to ease "Major Sprite" under the rain roof and into its new home without getting anything bogged down in the soft muddy ground.
Unfortunately our stay was just one night as we needed to return the trailer to Auckland, however our homeward journey was very satisfying having completed the task of delivering our home away from home some 540km from Auckland to Tolaga Bay, this trip without incident. And in the spirit of sustainability and to save some gas we loaded the Rav4 onto the trailer for the return trip to Auckland.
We shall return to Tane's Rest very shortly and look forward to putting our new accommodation to the test, ready for our second summer in paradise.
This year, news bulletins have been strangely silent about predictions for an El Nino or La Nina summer but this has not stopped the East Cape being locked in the grip of a drought that some locals are describing as the worst in living memory.
Around Tolaga Bay, except for the pine forests and tee tree the hills have long since lost their green carpet of grass, the vegetation has gone past being brown and under the searing sun appears yellow against an electric blue sky. Gisborne has recorded 36 degrees in the shade.
Friends that grow horticultural crops alongside the Mangaheia River have been searching for water to irrigate their crops but with no substantial rain since September the river's normally strong flow is now a trickle. Worse is that the river flow has been so low for so long that the high tide has forced salt water up the river channel so that where their land meets the river the water has the salinity of 50% seawater. At the house the river is 30% seawater and yet that point is at least eight kilometers upstream from the mouth of the river at the beach.
They can do nothing more than hope for rain. The government says that drought relief is still two weeks away.
Against this backdrop of natural challenges we have laboured to build by hand our roof to shelter Major Sprite. There is much satisfaction to be gained from beginning with a heap of timber, a stack of roofing and bags of fasteners and ending up with a structure that says we have arrived and are here to stay, will protect our bedroom and collect our water when eventually the rain does return. Marie has cleared the pine debris off a huge area around our living space and heaped it up for burning when we can get a fire permit.
It has also been a great opportunity to spend time with Zane before he moves away from home to begin university in Wellington, a path Grant followed 38 years ago. His labour will also turn into some weekly spending money as he embarks on the next exciting stage of his life.
With the ink dry on our agreement to purchase the property, the fastest way we can establish a permanent base at our city escape is to move a caravan on site and once again Trade Me has answered our call.
We have found a 15 foot Sprite Major caravan that is in need of some repair and renovation and sleeps four people. Sited at Goat Island, it used to live at a campsite somewhere on the Coromandel Peninsula. We have now relocated it back to Auckland using a massive flatdeck trailer in the hope of avoiding any chance of a mechanical failure stranding us on the road home.
We could not predict that the caravan would be fine, the hire trailer would be fine but that our trusty ute would breakdown after the radiator was struck by a rock from a passing vehicle and overheated when it lost the cooling water. Nevertheless, with perseverance we got Major Sprite home after organising an alternate tow vehicle then repeating the trip to recover the ute on the flatdeck trailer before our hire period expired.
It is truly amazing what can be accomplished in 24 hours when you commit all of it to the task at hand, complete with twists and turns that you did not expect.
This blog is the ongoing story of our piece of paradise on the East Cape we have named Tāne's Rest. Visit our About pages to read more about our project, and feel free to leave a comment on any of our posts.
Uawa County existed for 45 years from 1 December 1918 to 1 April 1964 before merging with Cook County. Click on the map to download a copy.