This blog entry records clocking up the kms as we drive around this large island ticking off some of the key tourist sites.
About 3 hours drive south of Hahei is Rotorua – a large town situated around a large lake. Because of the volcanic activity in the area, the smell of Hydrogen Sulphide is very strong,
It is the case that if you are a Rotarian, there is a welcoming club almost anywhere in the world. We happen to be passing through Rotorua when their lunchtime club was meeting and so we dropped in for lunch with the club. Although we are on holiday and therefore in touring clothes, the website for Rotorua says that they know that visiting Rotarians will be visiting the thermal pools and will be on holiday therefore they are welcome whatever their dress state.
Most guide books state that Rotorua is the tourist destination par excellence, we did not find it so although perhaps we did not have the time to find the excellence bits.
On the outskirts of town is Tewhakarewarewatangaoteopetauaawahao aka Whaharewarewa Thermal Village aka Whaka.
This is a Maori Village which has chosen to make a
living by inviting tourists into the village
to tour the village, see a cultural show and traditional crafts, and also see how they use the numerous thermal geysers in and around the village in their daily life.
The show felt a bit ersatz to us and I doubt that we will be going to any more whilst we are in New Zealand.
Traditional Crafts were demonstrated by us being shown
how to make a flax skirt.
The various geysers around the village had specific uses depending on their temperature. Korotiotio (meaning Gurgling Throat) is used for providing hot water to the communal baths. Others are used for cooking or steaming food.
The two most active are Pohutu (above left) and Prince of Wales’ Feathers (above right) which gush up to 13m high.
Whilst we did not tremendously enjoy this experience, the relationship we saw between the indigenous Maori and other New Zealanders / tourists was a marked contrast to the equivalent we experienced in Australia.
Near Rotorua at Lake Tarawera is some Maori Rock Art
which were submerged following a massive volcanic explosion in 1886 and subsequently reappeared as the lake water level fell. A Maori Canoe is quite recognisable in the above detail from the painting.
For the relief of those who think we are in constant
sunshine, the rain pours down as we see the Rock Art – 100mm is due today.
One gets the impression that much of the East Cape region of New Zealand is a backwater, its position, roads and terrain all add to issues related to isolation.
Around much of the East Cape, a narrow road hugs the shore line, and it rises and falls alarmingly with numerous blind corners, single track bridges and fast driving heavy lorries carrying logs adding to the sense of danger.
But also around every corner is a bay and view better than the last one.
At Raukokore we came across the most
idyllic church sitting all alone on a promontory
Built in the 19th Century. it now serves the Maori community around it
and throughout the church is evidence of its use
and and pivotal role in the Maori community.
It is the sort of church that one would enjoy being a member
of, if one lived in the area. A sign on the Church door shows that whomever looks after it, has a less serious side
Whilst we could not smell the Penguins, we did close the door.
Elsewhere on the East Cape is St Mary’s Church of England at Tikitiki (many Maori place names have the same word twice in them)
The church serves a predominantly Maori
congregation and this can be seen in the way the church is
decorated with traditional Maori carvings, weavings and the use of the Oyster Shell in pew ends, the shell
which is said to resemble the eye and thus the carving is always watching you.
A stormy night was promised so we stayed at a very basic and dilapidated camp site at Te Araroa which was also
home to the most easterly cinema in the world – sadly now
closed because of a lack of custom.
The take-away caravan attached to the Cinema is still doing business however. The town is also the site of what is supposedly New Zealand’s largest Pohutukawa tree.
It was raining so hard when we stopped at the tree that we were not sure which of the two adjacent trees it was. As you can see, it is not in bloom unlike some others elsewhere on the coast such as these in Tolaga Bay a few hundred kms south..
As we pass the actual East Cape (approximately 178 degrees 30 minutes East), yesterday is only just over the horizon (plus a few hundred kms or so). We are so far East that we are almost coming back from the West. Amusingly, the International Date Line has a few bends around here to ensure that whole groups of islands are either in today or yesterday. In 1999, one island which was just in yesterday (i.e. just over the IDL) announced it was changing its date and time so that not only would it be in today (just before the IDL) but also would be the first place in the world from where you could see the new millennium. No one took any notice of this tourism gambit and the island still remains in yesterday.
East Cape is also home to another “Longest in the Southern Hemisphere” item, this is the 600m pier at Tolaga Bay.
Built between 1924-1929, the pier was intended to aid the import and export of goods into the East Cape which as an area was badly served by other forms of transport. However as it was finished, the 1930’s crash struck and by the time the crash was over, roads had improved, then there was the war and then it was decided the pier was no longer needed and it fell into disrepair.
The pier, the cliffs,
the beach around it covered with driftwood
and the bay are still an impressive site and many tourists walk its 600m length.
When Captain Cook “discovered” New Zealand on Sunday 8th October 1769, his first landing was in the Bay of Poverty (so called because the natives who met him were not over welcome to being discovered) at what is now known as Gisborne.
A monument now marks the approximate spot which is further inland than in 1769.
However if you zoom out a bit, you see that the reason is that the historic spot is sandwiched between a road carrying logging trucks and a logging yard which strips logs for export.
We have learnt that the weather in New Zealand changes every few hours and every few hundred kms. When we get to a camp site, it is so hot and sunny that Lady Pat needs to use an electric fan powered from the van to keep cool! Somewhat of a contrast to the pouring rain we had in the morning.
As the sun sets over Mahia Bay, it promises a good day tomorrow.