February 10 and 11, 2014
Just a note about my previous blog. I got the dates wrong. It should read Feb 8th and 9th. If you are reading this post, I’ve already updated it with the correct dates. I’ve noticed that being on vacation, you tend to lose track of dates and times. Unless I have a wristwatch on or a cell phone with that information, I easily forget what day it is. And sometimes in the case of driving, I forget where I’ve been. I guess the driving, even if it’s under 5 hours each day can tire out the mind. Or it’s just not all that important to me while on holiday.
Well this post has the correct dates and I am sure it will be about the correct places: Whakatane, the East Cape Road, Hicks Bay, more of the East Cape Road and Gisborne.
I mentioned in my previous post that I needed certain things in town that a place like Hicks Bay definitely could not provide. So early in the morning, pre-breakfast, I was off to the big town of Whakatane. Priority number one, find a Farmer’s department store and get the right shade of powder foundation. I had already brought with me two different shades in anticipation of getting slightly darker, however I did not anticipate getting as dark as I am. It’s not unsightly, but if I stuck with what I was presently using, I would eventually look like a geisha girl with a super white face. That would be different, for sure. I was also thinking Farmer’s would be like a one stop shop and I could also get a travel adapter. Negative. But right next door was a Harvey Normans that sells furniture and household goods, including travel adaptors. Hallelujah, I can re-charge my laptop and continue to be connected to the world, and I can use my blowdryer again. Afterwards, I celebrated with breakfast. Eggs benedict with smoked salmon and a flat white at this place called Columbus. I think it’s a chain like Starbucks but with better food and better coffee. I like their flat whites here. It’s a shame we don’t have them in Canada. They are like milkier and foamier lattes. Since the drive to Hicks Bay was a short one, I decided to hang out in Whakatane a little while longer. Plus I was still in search of a place to repair my backpack. I gave up after the fourth place I went to. When you don’t know the town very well, even with good hearted people giving me verbal instructions, I still got lost. So I gave up after the fourth shop and headed over to the Countdown grocery store. This time I used the GPS to give me directions. She is such a bugger. She sent me to some crazy location by a warehouse. And yes she is a female. In the settings, you can choose the voice. Apparently this voice belongs to ‘Karen’, however she will be referred to as SHE or IT or if SHE is really bad, then I will call her BUGGER! So Countdown grocer store. I just went with directions to Hicks Bay to get me back onto the highway and then I ignored it and turned around to get back into town. The grocery store was just off the highway near the town centre. I remembered seeing it when I first entered town. Stupid ‘ftzz’ing machine.
After stocking up on supplies, I headed out of town to Opotiki to gas up and head onto the East Cape Road. I was on the road by 1pm. I got to Hicks Bay by 4pm. According to Google Maps it should’ve taken me 2 hours, but that doesn’t factor in scenic view stops, stops to let the locals pass you by, and side trips on smaller roads to get a better look at the beaches. The views were amazing. And I’ve also come to realize that I am fascinated with crashing waves. So you may see a lot of crashing waves photos from here on out. I’ll try to be more restrained.
And there is this tiny little cafe just off the highway, Pacific Coast Macadamias that makes their own homemade ice-cream. OMG! This is definitely a place worth stopping at. It is located at Whanarua Bay. When you see the green sign marking Whanarua Bay, either slow down or don’t blink. There will be another sign further up that will say Macadamia Cafe 50 m. If you are driving at the speed limit, you will miss it completely. The locals told me to stop at the Nut House. But the sign said Macadamia Cafe. I only stopped because I remembered the name of the Bay and I also remembered them telling me to try their macadamia nut ice cream. When you turn off the road, don’t be concerned. Look for the metal gate, it should already be wide open, and drive right through. You will see a blue building ahead of you and upon closer inspection, it is called the Nut House. Park by the lemon tree or anywhere by the building. You really have to get their ice cream. It was so good. I got the Macadamia and Manuka Honey Ice cream. Have a seat by the lemon tree, in the front, if you like, but you should really head towards the back. Keep going towards the picnic tables by the trees. As you walk, look down and you will see the area covered in macadamia shells. It was pretty cool. But the best part is the view from the picnic tables. It doesn’t matter which picnic bench you sit at, the view of the bay is spectacular. This was definitely worth a stop. You could also get a coffee or other macadamia related goods. If not for the locals, I would’ve just kept on going. This is definitely a hidden gem.
Something else the locals suggested for me, before I even started onto the East Cape Road, pick up a free magazine called ‘Pacific Coast Highway Guide’. You can get this at any i-Site in Whakatane or Opotiki. Really, you can get it anywhere there is tourist information stuff, even in the grocery stores at the check out counters. It’s a very good guide and gives you ideas on where to stop and what to see. After my little indulgence, I was back on the road. And along the way, you will see the water again and just off in the distance you will see a church. It stood out so much that I had to stop and take several photos. After getting back into my car, I actually discovered that it was stop that I could make when I drove further along the highway. It was the Raukokore Church. It is definitely in a prime location, not to be missed. Make this another stop along the way.
After Whangaparaoa, you are headed away from the water before you hit Hicks Bay. Like I said, I got there by 4pm. And since I was staying at the motel, all I had in my room was a mini fridge and a kettle to boil water, so I ate at their restaurant, which was surprisingly very good. Might I suggest the seafood platter. I got the seafood platter and there was a lot of food, hot and cold seafood. The only thing that was ‘interesting’ was the squid rings. I was thinking calamari, but it was like a minced squid and shaped into rings. Weird, and not bad tasting, but the texture was odd. Maybe it’s a NZ way?
After dinner, I sat in their lounge to get connected. Hicks Bay is so isolated that their internet works only in their lounge and only at ‘the two white chairs’ in the lounge. Really? That is actually really funny. They were comfy chairs. And it was free internet, so I wasn’t gonna complain. But I had to turn in early. I had a sunrise to go see in the morning. After paying my dinner bill and getting weather reports and sunrise times, it was off to bed for me. But first I wanted to pack up as much stuff that night so I could make a quick dash out the door in the morning. Sunrise was at 6:35 that morning. The weather was going to be sunny with cloud and some showers. Hopefully the showers don’t start till later that day. The girl behind the counter gave me a once over and said that I looked pretty fit and that I could leave at 5:30am and get there in time. Thanks! That’s actually really thoughtful of you to say! Big smile on my face.
The next morning, I was out the door by 5:30am. It was a 10 minute drive into Te Araroa but then a 30 minute drive still to the East Cape Lighthouse and a 25 minute hike up to the actual lighthouse. I was cutting it close. It truly was a 10 minute drive, but only because I was stuck behind a gigantic truck loaded up with logs. Then the drive from to the lighthouse was about 25 minutes. The road was sealed, not sealed, sealed, not sealed, worse than not sealed and back to sealed. The only section that was scar was the ‘worse than not sealed’ and the parts of the road where the farm animals, cows and horses were right on the side of the road. Be careful going around the corners, in the dark. The horses get nervous and can run right in front of your car. I speak from experience. Just go slow. Give yourself enough time to get there. Even going slow, will make them nervous. I had cows look up and move away from me, thankfully, but the horse crossed the road and for several moments, I thought I was going to have to follow it and miss my sunrise. Ai Yah! Okay, it’s moved off the road. Onwards I go. As I was getting closer, I could see the sky getting lighter which is actually a good thing, though it was making a little nervous. What if I got my times wrong? I was gonna miss it! But with the light, it’s easier to see the sign for the East Cape Lighthouse. It’s a big white sign on your left, but with smallish writing. You have to cross private property and when I went, there were four other cars there before me. So if it wasn’t for them, I could’ve easily missed the sign. Again, make sure you give yourself time to get there. So now I had 700+ steps to climb to get to the lighthouse. Everything I read said it would take 25 minutes to get to the top. Well, when you think you’re gonna miss the sunrise, it will take you 15 minutes. It was beautiful. I saw the sky lighten and far off in the distance you can see the clouds turn from pink to gold as the sun comes up. Look back at the lighthouse and you can see it turn those colours as the first light of the day hits the white paint of the lighthouse. Two couples left quite soon, after the sun was up. But me and another girl hung around for a little bit more. Me to just shoot some photos and soak in the sun, she to also shoot more photos and do a little meditation.
As I lay there in the grass looking out over the water and at the sun, not directly of course, but in the general direction, I had my iPod out and was listening to Royal Wood’s “Glory” and Ed Sheeran’s “I See Fire” from Desolation of Smaug – Hey! It was a glorious way to start the day and the pink and gold in the sky was like fire in the clouds. Sappy? Silly? YOU make an effort to find a lighthouse to watch the first light of the day in the southern hemisphere and tell me it’s not worth describing it like that! Anyway, there were other songs on my iPod but these ones fit the setting the most. The other thing was, it was now 7:15 am. I was the last one at the top. But I there was no hurry. It was another two hour drive, supposedly to Gisborne. But I hadn’t had breakfast yet and even by the time I made it back to Te Araroa, nothing would be open till 9am. So I lay there listening to my music and watched the clouds cross the sky. I hadn’t done this since I was a kid back in my little home town, just laying in the grass and looking up at the sky. Back in the days when we rolled ourselves down the hill in the back of our cousins house. Sisters, remember doing that? Back in the day when we were kids and didn’t care about getting dirty and getting grass in our hair? Just rolling down the hill because it was fun and then running back up so we could roll down the hill again. Wow, we were easily occupied! But it was fun. I remember that part too. So I watched the morning wispy clouds cross the sky. And then the sun went back and forth, in and out from behind some more clouds. And then I spotted the dark clouds. It was time to go. I wasn’t afraid of rain, since I was dressed for morning cold temperatures, but I didn’t want to drive on the scary, ‘worse than not sealed’ section of the road, in the rain.
I made it back to Te Araraoa by 8:45. Which was perfect, because now I was headed over to the East Cape Manuka Visitors Centre & Cafe for breakfast. It’s less than five minutes from Te Araraoa, if you’re headed back towards Hicks Bay. I had their cooked breakfast and a flat white, of course. They have a lot of Manuka products if you’re interested in stuff like that. And they have one of those cross section beehives that you can look at to try to find the queen bee amongst all the worker bees. It was a pretty neat place to go to, a good place to start your day, if you didn’t start it at the top of the hill by the lighthouse. I think this is the first time I actually took the time to read the book that I brought with me. I actually brought two with me, one I finished back in Queenstown on the last day of the Red Carpet Tour and left it on a park bench with a note for someone else to pick up and enjoy. I don’t know if enjoy is the right word. There were lots of parts that made me cry. “A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier” by Ishmael Beah. It definitely was a good read. Kind of embarrassing to start crying at certain parts while on the bus with everyone else. But still, make sure you have a box of tissues. This last one, “My Name is Memory” by Ann Brashares, so far is a really good read as well. This one I may keep to re-read at a later date. I don’t know yet. It will depend on how it ends. I’m three quarters of the way done now and I really like it. Now, back on topic. So at the cafe, since I was no longer in a rush, I was reading my book for a little bit and watching the other people in the store all looking at the Manuka stuff. I picked up some pamphlets on the way out. I’ll read them later. I might indulge in this stuff, I might not. I tasted the Manuka Honey and it has an interesting aftertaste. Well, it was time for me to move on and head out to Tikitiki to see St. Mary’s Church. This is a must see here. From the outside, it’s not much to see, but the moment you step inside, all you can to is say, “Oh Wow!” The decor is all Maori. The carvings, the woven panels, it is all Maori art. Please drop off a ‘gold coin’ into the donation box when you enter!
The drive from Tikitiki to Tolaga Bay was probably my most leisurely drive ever. Like I said, I was in no hurry. At Tolaga Bay, you must stop to see the historic Wharf. It is 660 m long and it is so worth the time to go out there. Afterwards, have a seat at the picnic tables and enjoy your lunch looking at the beach and listen to the waves crashing against the rocks. It is great!
I think I got into Gisborne by 4pm. The hostel is just a little outside of the city centre so I just hung out at the hostel reading my magazines and worked on the blog for a bit. I wandered out to stretch my legs, since I had been sitting in the car for so long. I visited another grocery store and a surf shop that was having a sale on beach ware and then headed back to the hostel. Since I was no re-connected to the world, it was time for me to go through my photos and update my posts with photos.
Next stop, Lake Taupo!
Missing you lots! Luv, Aunty!