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Published: October 10th 2006
After a busy first week we decided to take life a bit easier, on both body and wallet and have spent our time on the road exploring beautiful coastal scenery (and dodgy roads!), walking on driftwood-covered beaches, watching stunning sunsets and the like.
We ventured north to the Bay of Plenty coast and the small seaside town of Whakatane, which looks out towards the White Island, a large active volcano towards the edge of the Taupo volcanic plateau. Having had our fill of volcanic activity, we spent the afternoon doing some local trails and enjoying some sunshine as the weather has been extremely hit and miss recently. Ohope Beach was our rest point for the evening, just as it started raining.
We were hoping to spend the morning relaxing on the beach, but as it was windy we pressed onwards. Hitting the East Cape road, the Maori predominance in this area was instantly apparent as we passed many a Marae (meeting house with carved entrance) and some impressive carvings at Torere school. The coastal scenery is very rugged as the rocks are still volcanic and our road wound round mountains with a few unsealed sections
that Max (nor his driver) didn't enjoy too much. We stopped for the afternoon at our campsite at Waihau Bay where we enjoyed a walk down the beach and a great sunset.
Time to relive our Inca Trail/Salar days, we dragged ourselves from the back of the van at 5.30am to drive across to Hicks Bay with the hope of watching the sun rise. At the East Cape you are amongst the first in the world to see the new day given NZ's proximity to the international date line. Unfortunately (we don't seem to be having much luck with the weather recently) the cloud was too heavy to see the sun until it was well up, and we continued on into a building storm. At Tolaga Bay we stopped to see NZ's so-called longest pier, at 660m and were nearly blown off the end! Having abandoned any further sightseeing for the day, we continued on to Gisborne.
The City lies in Poverty Bay, which got its name from Capt Cook, where he first set foot on the newly-discovered country in 1769. Needless to say he didn't get a very rapturous welcome from the Maoris. Cook decided
the area had little to offer and ventured north.
Heard today that Mount Ruapehu erupted yesterday! Only a small one though and no lahar (dangerous volcanic mudslide).
Thankfully the weather had improved massively and we had beautiful sunshine, which we enjoyed by reading on the beach for a while. After this we cruised around the town, which was very sleepy and many of the shops were closed even though it was a Saturday afternoon. There were some great views from nearby Kaiti Hill, including across to Young Nick's Head - named for the cabin boy who first spotted land.
Not inspired by the town, we headed inland through a landscape of vineyards and pasture to Rere, which had a gorgeous waterfall that seemed very unvisited and peaceful.
Another great day saw us on another drive inland, to the Te Urewera National Park and Lake Waikeremoana. Some of this was slow going as despite it being a national highway, large sections were unsealed - Max protesting! This is supposed to be one of NZ's last great frontiers and did not disappoint. With vast areas of native forest and unspoiled lakes, the scenery was
Check out the massive amount of driftwood.
spectacular. The whole place is criss-crossed with DOC (Department of Conservation) trails and there were a couple for us to enjoy on our arrival. One led us to a huge Rata tree (the Ratas are actually vines which climb up trees and eventually kill the host), estimated to be over 1000 years old. We were tempted by a dip in the lake, but could only manage a paddle - apparently they had snow just last Friday, but you sometimes forget it's only spring when the sun comes out.
We set off early on the 'Black Beech trail' and then on to Waikereiti and Sandy Bay. Some of the walking was heavy going, but with only the Tuis and other birds as company most of the time, it was extremely relaxing. Luckily many of the trails have been cleared since a heavy snowfall over the winter. Without a TV, we had another early night.
Back to civilisation and the City of Napier, so-called Art Deco capital of the world, since a massive earthquake destroyed the area in the 1930s. We checked out the aquarium, which had crocs, piranha and sharks, but also got our first
Alex by Lake Waikaremoana
The lake was created by a massive landslide 2000 odd years ago.
glimpse of a kiwi in their kiwi house. The city itself is pretty enough, although we move on to nearby Hastings and Havelock North tomorrow to do some wine tasting.
As you can see, life is good! Although for those of you that consider it sounds very quiet and middle-aged, have no fear, we intend to do some partying soon!
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