Look to the East

Retrieving my travel companion Steff in Whakatane, we set off immediately for the East Cape – Te Araroa was our destination for the night, which is the nearest stop to the East Cape lighthouse – one of the first places you can see the sun rise on a new day.

The drive during the late afternoon and early evening was fairly unexciting. The weather had been temperamental all day and as such, the waves were high and vicious, the clouds often grey and dark.

Past Opotiki, there really is very little in the way of settlements for 300km until you get to Gisborne. There is a much shorter route that cuts across the south of the East Cape connecting Opotiki to Gisborne, but this is the more picturesque route. After 2.5 hours of driving, we arrived at our camp for the night and I got to set up my sleeping arrangement for the first time here in New Zealand, and Steff set up her tent beside the car.

We had a wholesome dinner of granola bars, peanut butter sandwiches and bananas, and then went to bed by around 8-830pm. We had an early morning alarm set – 515am. The moon was full during the night, so it was surprisingly bright, even with no unnatural light sources near the car at all.

Morning came VERY early, and we packed up our stuff and then took to doing a morning hike to the top of a nearby hill to get to the East Cape Lighthouse. It was 970 steps to get to the top, a good way to get your heart racing early in the morning!

As usual, the bloody weather decided to hate me. 15 minutes after sunrise, the scene now looked like this:

So we just had to use our imagination, but we were indeed two of the first people to see the sun that day. Sort of. You can get a sense of the height we climbed when we turned around and looked down into the valley below. Several farms and then my car sitting by itself.

After returning to the car and starting the drive out (it’s a 22km gravel road from the main road to get to the lighthouse), the sun decided to show it’s cheeky self. You can see the lighthouse up on the top of the hill.

Shortly after that picture stop, I made another one because we spotted a baby fur seal at the side of the road.

Sadly, a Fur Seal this far up on the land likely means it is sick and on death’s door. We left it where we found it and continued back to the main road, and then south towards Gisborne.

As you head south, tiny villages start popping up. We made our first stop at Tokamaru Bay.

This pier, no longer used, was connected to several large abandonded buildings. A lot of overgrowth and crumbling walls made for an interesting walk amongst them.

The most well known building here is the old New Zealand Shipping Company Woolstore – the whole port was set up to handle wool exports, though that must have stopped decades ago. Now, just a few people lived in the area.

One final shot of the bay and area.

We drove for a bit until Tolaga Bay, the largest town on the Eastern Cape. We stopped for a quick snack (milkshakes), and then hit the bay, which is very picturesque.

The most notable thing about Tolaga Bay is that it has the longest wharf in New Zealand, at 660m long. Quite the good little walk to the end and back, which of course we did.

After wandering around the wharf area for a bit, we made one final stop, at a marine reserve. Didn’t see anything of note, but did get spied upon by many sheep.

Finally, by mid-afternoon we made it to Gisborne and the next host stay – at a Lemon farm! Not only do they have numerous lemon trees, but they also have a few sheep, lots of chooks, 3 ducks, several Kune-Kune pigs, 3 cats and a dog. So quite the veritable animal farm too!

All in all it was quite the journey. About 450km all around the East Cape, said and done, and lots of good scenery to be seen. It was enjoyable to have a travel companion with Steff to see the area, she’s very well versed in travel, having done a lot of camping and such in the past. Now, to get to work again.

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