In the Wake of James Cook

Eastland is the Norfolk of New
Zealand – a lump that sticks out to the east, which no-one passes through, and perhaps
more of a backwater than the rest of the country. (There the resemblance ends,
as Eastland is rugged and mountainous.) 
It is a long way from anywhere,
one of the reasons why we had not managed to visit it on our first trip to New
Zealand. Monday October 26th was a holiday here (Labour Day) so we
added some leave and set off after work on Friday 23rd to explore Eastland. We
drove through the Wairarapa, bypassed Napier in Hawke’s Bay and reached
Gisborne on Saturday night, after a stop to walk to a couple of waterfalls at
Tongoio Scenic Reserve.

 

As we drove up the east coast
from Gisborne, we found we were following in the wake of Captain James Cook,
who sailed along here in 1769 and landed at various spots. One of the best
walks we did was to Cook’s Cove, where he landed to get wood and water, and
where there is a natural window in the rock called the Hole in the Wall. We
also drove out along a rough road to the lighthouse at East Cape, at the very
eastern tip of New Zealand. On our way round the East Cape road we saw a number
of old churches and Maori marae (meeting houses) with elaborately carved
figures, and lots of wild beaches with interesting rock formations. At one
beach we came across a graveyard of old tractors, where they obviously come to
die.

 

The East Cape road ends at
Opotiki (opposite  Gisborne) and we
detoured from there to the town of Whakatane, at the eastern end of the Bay of
Plenty. There we visited an old friend of Ian’s from Cambridge whom he hadn’t
seen for about 40 years. He is a consultant in the hospital, and he and his
wife have been in New Zealand for 30 years. They invited us to their spacious
home and gave us a nice meal, and we caught up with 40 years of news. The other
thing we did while in Whakatane was to take a flight (in a 4-seater plane) out
over the Bay of Plenty to see White Island, an active volcano in the middle of
the sea.  The weather was perfect, and we
got some spectacular views. 

 

After some short walks in the
Whakatane area we headed back towards Gisborne on State Highway 2: a direct but
scenic route, as it passes through the Waioeka Gorge. We had the usual photo
stops and detours to historic bridges and the Motu Falls.  Unfortunately, the weather on Thursday
deteriorated rapidly, and after some agonising we decided to go straight back
to Wellington (and to work on Friday). 
It was a shame because there were other places we would have liked to
visit on the way south, but no point trying to do so in the pouring rain.      

 

We enjoyed our trip to Eastland very much.  The area is beautiful, but very sparsely
populated; a lot of places seemed to have closed, or be up for sale, and there
was a lack of motels and restaurants, so we found ourselves staying in some
unusual places.  In Gisborne (the only
town of any size) there are plenty of
motels, but when we arrived they were all full, due to some festival we didn’t
know about. We had to settle for a funny little hotel which was part of a
Chinese restaurant. Later (out in the wilds) we stayed in a 2-bedroom apartment
attached to a Maori tavern, a self-contained unit in someone’s house, and a
rambling ancient hotel where we were the only guests. At most places we were
able to get a meal, but while we were staying at Waihau Bay we found there was
absolutely nowhere to get anything to eat, and no shops where we could buy food.
Fortunately the kind people running the accommodation rustled us up some eggs
and a tin of spaghetti, so we were able to avoid starvation.

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