|There is something special about the East Cape, it’s hard to put your finger on but we love it here. It’s really wild and unspoilt partly because of it’s remoteness and partly because this is mostly Maori land which has been untouched for generations.
The roads are great too, windy and unpredictable but enormous fun to ride and seemingly endless. It’s a really hot day and by mid afternoon we are ready for an ice cream and a break, we also need supplies so we turn into Ruatoria. Pulling into the only shop in town we find most things we need, we are getting very short of cash however as we didn’t realise we were low when we left Gisbourne and we haven’t seen an atm for days. There is a small bank next to the shop but as it’s Saturday they are closed in this sleepy little town. Most of the stores take Eftpos which is like a kiwi debit card but ours won’t work except at bank atm’s. Just as we are saddling up to go a van pulls alongside and the maori passenger says Kev, Karen ? We are confused as to how she knows who we are but then she gives us a free copy of the Gisbourne Herald that they are delivering and all is revealed. We are on page 2 with a good picture and a bit of a write up. We thank her for her kindness and stash the rest of the paper to read later before heading out toward Tikitiki. Just on the outskirts I make a u turn to go back and take a photo. Suddenly two bikers appear just as we are about to turn back, they are Germans that are living here now. They were in a bar down the street and came out for a look at the strange motorcycle that they saw through the window. One of them is writing a book about motorcycle style and design and he has never seen anything quite like this. We have a good chat and they take some photos but we need to get going as we haven’t covered much ground today. We make our excuses and give them our card so they can take a look at the website. Just a few hundred metres around the corner we come across a Maori church Karen has been keeping an eye out for as it has intricate carvings and decoration. So much for progress but it’s worth stopping for, I have been in quite a few churches in my life but never one like this. The pulpit is beautifully carved with traditional Maori wood and designs as is the altar. The walls and roof are also intricately painted, it is beautifully different.
We take lots of pictures and then resume our journey to Te Aroroa from here we turn right onto the gravel road to the east cape peninsula. It’s about 20km to the tip where there is a lighthouse that you can walk up to. It’s a long climb but a good view, this is the most easterley point in New Zealand and the first place to see the sun in the world (the international date line curves around this headland just out to sea). On the road to the lighthouse we passed a simple yet beautiful campsite in a farmers field. We stop on the way back and decide to stay and get up early to watch the sunrise tomorrow. The campground is two big hay fields bordered by a river which runs down to the beach. It’s a really peaceful and serene spot and we are only sharing it with one other couple in a camper van the other side of the field, we sleep well until the alarm goes off at 4.30am It’s a bit premature and pretty dark but we wander down to a good vantage point with a tarp and collapse in the long grass waiting for the sun to come up and trying not to fall asleep. We see the first light and get some good pictures but sadly the actual sunrise is shrouded by cloud, ho-hum.
Despite the early start we are completely rubbish and go back to bed till 9am but then pack up and head back to Te Aroroa. We have to get fuel here and as it is out in the boonies it’s 222 cents a litre rather than the usual 199 owch! because of this we just put NZ$20 in rather than filling it right up. By the school in town there is what’s thought to be the worlds oldest Pohutakawa tree. It’s huge but it has grown out rather than up and covers a massive area with branches that come almost down to the ground. After taking some pictures we get chatting to an English couple who are parked here having lunch in their camper van. The bike breaks the ice as usual and we have a good chat over a cup of tea in Seth and Janet’s camper van about NZ and our experiences in general. When they move on we have lunch in the shade of the Pohutakawa and then carry on around the coast road. From here on we bump into Seth and Janet about 5 times as there are numerous viewpoints along the way and there is only one coast road. Later that afternoon we head to a free campsite marked on our very handy local guide leaflet. It’s a big grassy field that is owned by the local Maori tribe who kindly let people camp here for free. There are a few other groups of people but it’s big enough that we aren’t on top of one another and we sleep well.