East cape at Easter

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April 11th 2007
Published: August 7th 2007
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Adventuring with Chris and Aisha

The East Cape of New Zealand isn't your normal tourist destination. It's remote, sparsely populated, and mountainous in the interior. It's known as a bit of a backwater lost in time. But the road around it hugs the rugged coast providing spectacular views, and much of the land is owned by Maori so the culture is much more apparent here. And for New Zealand, there's a lot of history here. We thought it would be somewhere a bit different to take Chris & Aisha - it's not where most tourists end up going.

We should say at this point that Chris and Aisha took a lot of really good photos on our trip and so we've used a few of them in this blog (since they so foolishly left them on our lap-top - nyah ha ha). We have marked those which are theirs - though we would like to pretend they are ours - especially the one at Millton Vineyard. If you want to see more of them their blog is on Travelblog too at Aisha-Chris.


We started out in Whakatane. This is a name that causes enormous mirth
White IslandWhite IslandWhite Island

Yes - that is steam rising out of it's centre. One of C&A's photos.
for non-New Zealanders because it is pronounced fuckatarnay. (D - !!!) From here we visited White Island - an active volcano. It's 50 miles off-shore, so the journey out and back took up the better part of the day. Luckily it was on a boat of gin-palace proportions and appointment.

We had to be ferried out to the island on a run-about. Once on the island we had to have the safety drill - what to do in the event of an eruption or landslide. This definitely added to the taste of adventure. Our guide, then took us on a loop of some of the site. It's a real moonscape, but with plenty of activity. We had to dodge bubbling mud pools and steam vents, and take care of our footing at the edge of the steaming bubbling crater.

D - One of the best bits was probably wearing the hard hat and gas mask because those made us feel really adventurous - like we were living on a knife edge. But mostly the mask was to protect us from the fart smell. Abbie wanted to keep one, but I disagreed - everyone likes the smell of their own farts, don't they?

From Whakatane we also tried to go swimming with dolphins, but despite at least three phantom sightings, we didn't actually find any after about three hours of looking, so we ended up swimming with a seal instead. Which was pretty good. But not really a pod of dolphins. So we're going to have another go at Christmas time. Unlucky for Chris and Aisha though (their second thwarted attempt) who didn't have time to hang around for a second attempt - they had to move on to Fiji. What bad luck!

D - Relaying this story back to work colleague, I was shocked to find that seals are the preferred food of choice for Great White Sharks. Gulp.

Whakatane to Hicks Bay

From Whakatane we started our cruise along the true East Cape. We spent some time mooching and walking around on Ohope beach, watching the fishermen, collecting shells and watching the sunset.

Opotiki was our next stop. The local Rodeo was an option for whiling away a morning, but it just didn't appeal somehow. We could all think of better ways of spending the day so we hit the
Walking into the craterWalking into the craterWalking into the crater

Another one of C&As photos.

This is when the scenery started to get really interesting. From Opotiki the road takes you along an amazing coast of deserted beaches and tiny towns. It has a really strong Maori flavour, and every town has a Marae (if not two), which is the central focus for Maori life. The whole journey felt like we were getting further and further away from civilization. Which we were. By the time we got to Hicks Bay, we calculated that we were more than 2 hours drive from the nearest supermarket. We were also worried at one point about petrol, especially as every other field we passed had at least 3 abandoned cars in it...

We took this section slowly, stopping for coffees at a macadamia farm, and for a fish & chip lunch at Waihau Bay. We spent a lot of time on beaches looking in rock pools and skimming stones. The whole vibe of the region is slow paced, and we were fitting right into it.

Eventually we reached Hicks Bay, and our hotel with incredible views out along the beach with its surfers and long empty stretches.

Hicks Bay is near the eastern most point of New Zealand. The actual eastern-most point is overlooked by a light-house. As such it is one of the first places in the world to see each new day. After lengthy lengthy discussion we finally decided, on balance, that we should probably make the pilgrimage out there to climb up to the lighthouse and see the sun rise. The reason this required so much discussion was that it would require us to get up at around 5am.

We actually managed to be up in time and took the long drive out along the wild coast, along rough unsealed roads to the bottom of the light-house. We made it there just as the sun was rising - which was a right old pain since the lighthouse is actually atop a hill - which was between us and the sunrise, shielding us from the view. We did the fastest ever climb up the 750 steps to see the sun already hovering above the horizon. And although it was pretty, we felt like we'd missed out. Even stopping at Te Araroa to look at the worlds largest pohutukawa tree didn't really help.

Tikitiki to Gisborne

From Hicks Bay we had to head inland to make our way across to the other side of the cape. Our first stop was at Tikitiki for some horse riding.

A - Chris and Daren couldn't be bothered, so it was just Aisha and me, and Reg our guide. What a ride. Reg took us galloping along the beach in the surf. I almost parted company with my horse when we couldn't agree what way to go. Then we headed up into the hills behind the beach right up along the ridgeline. I have no head for heights, and sitting on top of a horse, looking down a 100 foot cliff was pretty nerve wracking. Coming back down was really steep too. But by the time we got back to the farm, I was feeling pretty chuffed with myself. We were out for almost two hours and needless to say I was feeling it for the next few days.

D - While Abbie & Aisha rode off into the hills, Chris and I headed off to the beach with books and cameras. Wild, windswept, more driftwood than you could shake a stick at, and totally deserted! A great spot to kick back in for a few hours. So, a couple of soft pasty poms were sitting on the beach when, accompanied by their five dogs, two Maori fella's rode up to us on big old horses. One came over and had a chat. They were off pig hunting. For a few days. Now, I'm not the most perceptive guy in the world, but I'm not sure if it was the bowie knife strapped to his side or the rifle resting across his legs which gave the game away. Suffice to say that it was at this point that both Chris and I realised just how far away we were from our version of the world. Images of The Deer Hunter and Deliverance quickly came to mind as Chris and I reflected on the encounter. Just disappointed neither of us had the forethought to grab our cameras and take their picture. Oh well, next time...

From Tikitiki we cruised down gently down towards Gisborne - stopping in at Tokomaru Bay and Tolaga Bay - both booming towns early in the 20th century, but now largely forgotten and quite poor. But fabulous beaches, and really interesting to visit. Both have massively long piers in pretty degraded states of repair - very picturesque. Without realising it at the time, we also passed through Whangara, the town where the movie 'The Whale Rider' was filmed.

Gisborne - it's always sunny here

And finally it was on to Gisborne. Gisborne is known for its great wines and its surf and it has a reputation for always being sunny (and being the first city in the world to see the sun) and watching the weather reports confirms that. It's blowing a gale in Auckland. Sunny and 20 degrees in Gisborne. Floods in Wellington. Sunny and 20 degrees in Gisborne. We should live there.

We had intended to head down to Napier after Gisborne, but after our early morning start, and the amount of driving that would be required we decided to give it a miss and just hang out in Gisborne.

By now it was Easter Monday, and the weather, predictably, was clear, sunny and warm. So we spent our time tasting wine at Millton Vineyard, and eating and drinking at Matawhero. Then back into Gisborne town to hang around down at the wharf drinking wine and listening to the local jazz
Right in amongst the bubbling mudRight in amongst the bubbling mudRight in amongst the bubbling mud

C&A again. We didn't want to get our camera too near to all that nasty stuff...
festival (the term 'jazz' is widely interpreted in Gisborne). Hard work, but someone had to do it. And then 'an Indian' for dinner. Who would have thought that there would be such good curry in Gisborne?

Additional photos below
Photos: 32, Displayed: 28


Blue Mau Mau spotted on our way homeBlue Mau Mau spotted on our way home
Blue Mau Mau spotted on our way home

Blue fish! Yup - another one of C&As.
Entrance to Whakatane harbourEntrance to Whakatane harbour
Entrance to Whakatane harbour

Snapped while trying to find a curry-house for dinner. The statue on the rock commemorates Wairaka who with the other women, had been left in the waka (canoe) that started to drift while the men went ashore. In defiance of tapu (prohibition) she grabbed a paddle and yelled ‘Me whakatane au i ahau nei!’ (I must act like a man!) and saved the vessel.
Grover - fashion iconGrover - fashion icon
Grover - fashion icon

The cardigan-wetsuit combination - it'll be big in Milan this year.
Sunset along the coastSunset along the coast
Sunset along the coast

Another great photo from C&A

8th June 2007

blankaty blank
Nice blog guys, I think im going to save for a visit next year. Can you set me up with a mauri woman, one with lots of land. Cheers, RP
15th June 2007

Thanks ....
for a great time at the East Cape. Well, what a great blog - very jealous that you have managed to keep this up to date, yet Chris and I back in the UK are slacking behind!!! Not had a chance to sort all our photos out, so was great to be reminded of the fun time we had there. Can't wait to get back there...one day soon!!!

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