Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Exploring East Cape

On our day off yesterday (Tuesday), Matt and I slept in a bit, then headed off to explore East Cape, the easternmost portion of New Zealand, which forms the eastern side of the Bay of Plenty. Opotiki is basically the last town of any size for several hundred kilometres. East Cape is incredibly rugged, remote, and made up of predominantly Maori settlements with very few amenities of any kind. It is also ridiculously beautiful. We drove 120km from Opotiki, to Whanaparaoa, at Cape Runaway, which is the place where the first Maori canoes from Hawaiiki, the Homeland, landed in New Zealand in 1350 A.D. The road, a state highway, was incredibly hairy, and I was glad to have Matt do the driving. At many points, the highway was reduced to a single lane by slips (landslides) and at one point the entire highway was inaccessible, and all traffic was diverted onto a gravel logging track for a few kms. One and a half lanes, no guard rails, and a sheer cliff over one side. Exciting, to say the least!~

(Click on photos to enlarge)
 A New Zealand detour...

But we were very glad to have gone, because the scenery we saw was incredible. Here's some photos:

 Beautiful Maori cemetery by the sea. 

 A not uncommon sight around Opotiki and East Cape: a shaggy mountain horse tied up to graze on the side of the road (or in this case, in an undeveloped park). Also not unusual is to see people riding their horse to town, or along the highway. Yesterday we saw two guys, one on horseback, and the other on his bike, holding onto his friend's stirrup and being pulled along by the horse!

 Matt, making friends.

 We found some great tidepools, among these crazily shaped rocks. The were absolutely packed with sea snails and limpets, but none of the photos of them came out well.

 The beautiful old Anglican church where we ate our picnic lunch. The church sits on a promontory that juts out into the ocean, and the views were amazing. The red archway over the door is traditional Maori carving.

 One of several paua shells we found on the beach. The beaches here are covered in incredibly shaped driftwood, and all kinds of shells we've never seen before, from paua to perfectly round clams, to incredibly intricate sea snail shells.

 Agapantha flower and pohutukawa tree in front of Cape Runaway.

 Whangaparaoa, the site where the Maori first came ashore in New Zealand.

Lyn had told us how to get to a secret little surf cove just north of Opotiki, which you access by driving down a tiny winding lane and parking in an empty cattle paddock, then hiking down to the beach. We stopped there at the end of the day, just before getting home. There was no surf, but that didn't matter, because it looked like this: 

We're so lucky to have well-versed locals advising us where to go see cool things. What average tourists would ever have gotten to go here?

We ended the day by coming back down the highway and stopping at the settlement of Opape, to see the beach where Lyn and Kate were married, and to take in the view from Lyn's tribe's Marae.

I feel so very blessed to have seen everything we saw yesterday. Seeing East Cape and all of these places felt like a religious experience in many ways. There is so much history and culture there, and just outright beauty. We got to go places where very few tourists ever go, and I am very grateful to have had that privilege.


FlowerLady said...

Thank you for this tour. It is so wonderful being on this journey with you both, via the web.

What a beautiful country and a wonderful experience for you.


Alina Harway said...

That 3rd to last picture is GORGEOUS!
Thanks for the update (and thanks for the postcard! Made my day!)