After ditching Stu I drove northeast from Rotorua, to explore the tiny coastal villages along the east coast. First stop was Opotiki, where I spent 2 days holed up in a cabin at a beachside motor park waiting out the rainy weather and resting my weary body. After a couple of days I was walking normally again....
Heading east the road meanders along the coastline, past sleepy villages, with numerous Marae, this area being predominantly Maori. It's also where Boy was filmed. I stayed the first night at a basic beachside campsite, sheltered from the strong norwesters, and lulled to sleep by the gentle sound of waves against the shore.
I continued on, past cute churches on headlands and more pretty coves to East Cape, where it was blowing a veritable gale. Given I was being blown over just getting out of the car, I didn't even attempt the climb up to the lighthouse, and I definitely wasn't staying at the nearby campsite!
Sheltered from the norwester, the beaches south of East Cape were calm and glorious. I checked out the old wharf at Tokomaru Bay, but you can't walk out because it's falling apart. These small coastal towns used to be booming as important ports, but the railways turned them into sleepy backwaters and they don't seem to have ever recovered.
I turned off the highway to find a gorgeous campsite at Anaura Bay. I stayed there two nights, walking along the beach and doing a small local walk through the forest.
Just south of the bay was where Captain Cook first landed in 1769, on his first trip to NZ. It's a lovely walk down to the cove, through native forest and the unique "hole in the wall".
Gisbourne didn't entice me to explore it, instead continuing south to Mahia Peninsula, where I caught up with my old ski friend Heidi, who was also tiki touring around, but headed northward. We heard there had been a stranding of a sperm whale, which had died, and the next morning we watched them dragging the whale onto the beach so the jawbone could be removed and the carcass buried. Mahia is renowned for whale strandings, and the local iwi have a very strong connection to whales within their culture. This is where Whale Rider was filmed.
I didn't stay to watch the full gory proceedings, but continued driving south, finding a quiet campsite by a river at the end of a long dirt road. That night I was surprised to see a lunar eclipse.
The next morning, rather than walking along the track to the beach, requiring a climb up over some bluffs, I inflated the packraft and had a ten minute paddle to the ocean. It's times like these that having a small boat with you is such a blessing!
I'd been looking forward to visiting Napier, and imagine my luck to turn up just in time to go on a guided tour of some of the Art Deco buildings. A massive earthquake in 1931 destroyed the town, killing a fair few folk as well. The rebuild was in the modern style of architecture of the time. Not only were classic motifs used, Maori iconography was also incorporated into motifs.
Culturally sated, I headed to Clifton, and another beachside campsite. The weather continued to be warm and sunny, perfect for booking the tractor tour to visit the nesting Gannet colonies at Cape Kidnappers. The alternative was to walk instead but for a little over $50 it was well worth getting the tour. Not only did I also learn about the geology of the spectacular cliffs, the tour gave you lots of time to enjoy watching the gannets, and have lunch and a swim, and not worry about beating the tides.
I decided to check on Stu's progress. He was in Masterton, having a rest day after a rather unpleasant crossing of the Tararuas and a couple of days paddling down the Ruamahanga. I drove down to Masterton to meet up with him, but decided against joining him for the rest of the river journey to Lake Ferry.
Stu headed off early the next morning. I drove out to Castlepoint, and went for a lovely wander, before heading down to Lake Ferry.
I camped at Lake Ferry a couple of nights, and sorted my gear for the walk to Cape Palliser. Stu turned up late on the second day, having walked the last 10 kms due to nasty headwinds. I was glad I'd chosen not to paddle it with him.
Stu looked exhausted. Despite the rest day in Masterton, the trip over the Tararuas had taken it's toll. I suggested he take another rest day, but the end was so near, and Stu wanted to go home. We would leave the packrafts in my car at Lake Ferry, so at least the load would be lighter. Only two more days to Cape Palliser.
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