Published: June 20th 2009June 20th 2009
Art Deco Capital of the World
Poor old Napier was flattened by an earthquake in 1931 and rebuilt from scratch in the Art Deco style, what is left is a grid system of streets with some beautiful pastel coloured deco buildings and a mish mash of everything else. Pulling into town you half expect to see chaps walking around in straw boaters, talking very quickly, and finishing every sentence with “don't you know” and women swinging their beads around, walking in a Charlton-esque manner. They don't, they walk just like you and us, except once a year when they have an art deco jamboree. We stayed in a rubbish hostel, not up to our usual standard, it was so bad we're not even going to mention it! Just forget we mentioned it.
We left Napier on a tip off from some traveler's, taking us on the hunt for a dolphin that you can swim with in the wild that has resided in a bay (the name of which we cannot mention for fear of letting the secret out to the world) for the last couple of years, not even the guidebooks mention it so we thought we must be onto
despite the smell!
Lady Knox Geyser Wai-O-Tapu
a winner; no other tourists. We're sure when we arrived that the dolphin must have been somewhere but as the weather closed in and it started hissing down, the sea was whipping up white horses that were not looking too friendly, definitely not a day for getting wet. A local lady confidently assured us that “on a day like this Moko (the dolphin) knows that no-one would be stupid enough to get into the sea so stays away”; we were told of her antics, how she arrives in the bay and bashes the buoy until someone goes out to play with her or how she's snapped the leashes of body boards, attached to their owners and then goes off with their boards! Nice dolphin! Amazingly, no-one feeds her, she literally turns up to play with anyone who's around.
Feeling a little dejected at missing our close encounter of the dolphin kind, we started our journey around the East Cape, the area described in the guide as being “rugged, isolated and solidly Maori, the place where you come to connect with the land and its people”. We would have to agree on the rugged remoteness, more winding roads that led
to beautiful bays and sweeping landscapes. We visited towns once thriving with the shipping industry exporting goods overseas, but with the improvement of the roads, the ports closed, now all that remains are the boarded up banks and shops that once were, through it all people have continued to reside in the towns, even though they are a shadow of their former selves.
Tokomaru Bay was one of these ghost towns with grand buildings boarded up and left to the elements. We stayed at Brian's Place positioned high up overlooking Tokomaru Bay; instructions had been left for us to light the fire, take our shoes off and make ourselves at home, we did just that and it wasn't long before we had a roaring fire toasting our smelly feet! Our shoes DO NOT smell good! We had a whole log cabin to ourselves if you didn't include Gypsy Girl the killer cat, who greeted us with a fresh bird kill, all the pheasant's in the grounds and she comes back with a Silver Eye (a very very small bird) and plonks it at our feet, there was no way it was going to feed the three of us!
Brian (the owner) popped over to check we'd settled in, he was a pretty straight talking kind of guy, he shared stories of experiences he has had since owning the hostel and why in particular he can no longer look at horses having ridden them all his life. He used to run horse trekking around the East Cape but after 10 years he became fed up with the backpackers thinking they knew better than he did when it came to the horses. On one occasion a girl was letting a horse loose on the rein so that it could eat grass, Brian said “I don't like my horses to eat while riding”, the girl not taking the subtle hint replied “I don't mind if he eats”, at this point Brian took a deep breath and predicted the future of this horse if she carried on, “todays Monday and if you let it continue eating, tomorrow the horse will try and eat again on a ride, by Wednesday the horse will think it's normal to eat while out on a ride and by Friday I'll have to shoot the f@%kin horse and hang it out for the dogs to eat!” With
that the girl yanked the horses head up so fast he nearly left his teeth behind! Hence the reason and many others like this why Brian no longer likes running trekking trips nor has been on a horse since.
We left Brian's under a bruised sky, not knowing which way the weather was going to turn, what we did know was, it was cold! We followed the road around to the most easterly point of New Zealand, where a lighthouse stands watch over the East Cape's rocky coastline. This is where people come to be the first in the world to see the new day dawn, it was way too late for us to greet the dawn on this occasion. The lighthouse sits high above the valley, in fact 700 muddy steep steps high, we counted every one....well almost, someone else had kindly written it on the steps, which was just as well listening to our hearts beating in our ears was enough to concentrate on. The views at the top were worth the steep ascent and enabled us to see the rain clouds crossing the bay in our direction, after taking in the views we beat a retreat.
Shipping to England
Train tracks for the warehouses
Staying in the trees
At Whanarua Bay we were welcomed by Pihi, the owner of the hostel described as a “retreat”, we could not have agreed more; you left the main road (main in the loosest sense of the word), then drove down a remote track to a building that resembled a tree house set against the rocks in a secluded bay; as we already felt a million miles away from civilization, this felt like light-years away. It is always such a treat to find such a special place, the only problem is it tends to put you behind schedule as you know you will have to stay at least an extra day!
The first night there was one other guest and the second night just the two of us and Pihi who had invited us into his home to warm our cockles by his log fire, we got chatting and before we knew it we had spent the whole afternoon hanging out in his pad, with by now very toasty cockles. Throughout the day we had watched the rain coming and going but mainly coming; Pihi must have decided the conversation was stimulating as he invited us
to have dinner with him, either that or he felt sorry for his as we did not seem to be leaving too quickly and he thought we had no food! We were treated to a “boil up” which is basically all the ingredients thrown into one pot and left boiling for hours, luckily this was one that had been prepared earlier and just needed heating up; it had pork and lamb joints along with huge potatoes and Puha (a green that is picked wild and resembles kale but with spiky looking thistles, luckily soft when cooked). The food was plated up and served with a mug of the juices it had been cooked in, it was delicious. Somehow it felt all wrong that we had paid to stay in Pihi's hostel and he was entertaining us in his home but at the same time it felt so right. It was yet another truly memorable meal to add to our ever increasing tally.
It Rained Sideways!
Our plans were continuing to be duped by high winds and heavy rain, we arrived at Whakatane where we had planned to go on a trip out to White Island, an active volcanic island,
but alas the weather was set to continue its wet weather theme; after consoling ourselves with the best fish & chips so far in NZ, we made the decision to push on through to smelly egg country.
From The Sweet Sea Air To Smelly Egg Country
Arriving in Rotorua is not the most pleasant experience on account of the smell that greets you when you arrive, sitting in the car covering our noses and mouths to try and filter what we could, waking up in the morning it felt like you had been feasting on 28 day aged egg sandwiches in your sleep; not the fine cheese and chutney sandwiches which we had now become accustomed (addicted) to! It's quite easy to spot the tourists as we all walk around with whatever we can find to wrap round our faces, come to think of it we were the only ones who seemed to be holding our breaths and coughing!
The upside to all this smelliness is seeing one of the geothermal areas, we chose Wai-O-Tapu, to view what usually goes on at the centre of the earth but can been seen above ground, this makes for some otherworldly
scenery, bubbling, hissing water, boiling mud and beautiful colourful pools.
Interesting as Rotarua is, we were quite pleased to be heading back towards the coast, as we got further out of town we took a deeeeeeeeep breath.......ahhh the fresh air filled our lungs full of the good stuff we were on our way again!!!
There are more photos below