Published: August 3rd 2009July 29th 2009
East Cape Lighthouse
One half of the view from the top
In contrast to the busy tourist bus route of the centre of the North Island, New Zealand's East Cape promised to be a venture into the rural, remote, and beautiful culture, lifestyle, and scenery that makes New Zealand unique.
The first night was spend in a tiny lodge, boasting the only wild stingray feeding in the world. Unfortunately they had been scared away by a recent storm and would not respond despite the guide standing knee deep in the sea throwing out fish oil for a good hour. The saving grace was, without doubt, an immense barbeque and mussels banquet - apparently costing around $2 per kilo, a fraction of the price and a multiple of the quality found in the UK.
Anyway, the real reason I am in New Zealand is (amongst others) to witness the first sunrise in the world, for one morning in my life, and be quite possibly the first person in the world to see it. One of the few benefits with Winter time is that this occurs at the not too antisocial hour of 7:15. After attempting to wake the others, to no avail, I set off with only some borrowed wellies, my
camera and my ipod, with just the local farmyard dog in tow. I quickly returned to pick up some underwear and other clothes. The (apparently 10 minute) walk up the hill quickly turned into a scramble through a recently collapsed path, made all the more difficult by having to frequently stop and de-impale myself on the encroaching gorse bushes. Muddy boots, gloves, and coat(s) ensued, and I was almost at the point of giving up before spying the dog (whom I thought had thrown in the towel long before) near the brow of the hill.
I clambered up into the clearing to a view of the sea and the opening chords of "Pyramid Song".
It's hard to describe in words what the view was like at the top. True - the clouds were out in force and I never actually saw any sunrise in the end, but this was the most remote feeling I had experienced in a very, very long time. The hill top provided a view of 360 degrees around, and, apart from the farmhouse I had been staying in, there were probably two more houses in the distance. The only living soul I had any
Possibly not a Welsh Sheepdog but I'm not an expert.
perception of was that of Tucks, who of course was shivering as dogs usually don't come out on walks in thick coats. Despite sunrise coming and going (invisibly) over the Pacific, I could have stayed up there with only the sound of the sea and the ocean breeze for a good hour longer, as this was, without doubt, the most liberated I can ever remember feeling.
Unfortunately, the Welsh Sheepdog had other ideas, and after muzzling against me for a few minutes, he finally resorted to pushing me down the hill as he quite fancied going back to his warm doorstep. Never mind - I was satisfied that I had experienced the most succesful failure of a sunrise possible, and with it, my current most magical experience in the country.
When I got back to wash my boots, as I turned the tap on, the hose dislodged itself and a large arc of water shot straight up my sleeve.
Later, we stopped at the East Cape lighthouse point, technically, the most most eastern point of New Zealand. As my companions had failed to get up for the sunrise, we decided to climb the 750 (or so) steps
Note higher viewing success than sunrise.
to the top of the hill to get an almost 270 degree view of the Pacific Ocean. The Lightouse itself was closed, locked, and fully automated, but the top provided brilliant views of the ocean, mountains, and ballsy sparrow size birds that (amusingly) failed to realise that animals as big as us would usually pose a significant danger to them and. They appeared to be performing something like a threatening "get off our turf" dance that, naturally, failed to intimidate any of us at all. Unfortunately this spectacle seemed to be photo resistant so it will forever remain in my memory.
The final night's stop on the East Cape trip was somewhere I am definitely going to return one day, in the middle of summer, with some lucky lady (whoever she may be). As we arrived, we walked past a box of freshly caught, still twitching Snapper, Barracuda, and others, soon to meet their fate in the deep fat fryer of the Te Kaha Homestead. A sunset definitely not to be missed (i.e. more visible than that day's sunrise), was definitely not missed, as my photo album demonstrates. The hot tub on the beach was the final complement to
an evening of general laziness, fed on the greatest fish and chips I have ever had, and, quite possibly, may ever have. Total cost - $30. That's 12 pounds in England.
That just about sums up the East Cape of New Zealand, the most gorgeous part of the country yet experienced. I would heavily advise anybody in the general area of the country to take time to visit it in person. I shall return in the next few days with a summary of the rest of the North Island, but until then, take care!