Saturday, 27 December 2014

The Bay of Plenty - Gorgeous Gorges and Death-Defying Paragliding

The next morning, we ate pancakes at Verve Cafe and left Poverty Bay to get to the Bay of Plenty (it does sound like a bit of an improvement). 

Waioeka Gorge
This gorge spans much of the distance between Gisborne and Opotiki in the Bay of Plenty. A river wends its way alongside the road, and tall hills covered in what looks like native bush rise up on each side. 

It was a bit rainy and misty, and after a brief look and a stretch of my legs, I retreated back to Albi the car.

Having never heard much good about Whakatane, I unfairly assumed that it would be a typical town in the middle of nowhere that's got a main road filled with chain stores and not much else. But we found that it was actually rather pretty, and there was a French cafe called L'Epicerie where we got tarts to take away for later (it was too early for lunch, but the open faced sandwiches looked amazing).

The i-site overlooked a marina and it was nice to look at the slowly rocking boats for a moment.

There I am at the waters edge, being careful not to drops our tarts into the sea. 

And here's what they looked like! (This was much later, after a long walk up a mountain which I'm about to describe so stay tuned.) Don't you love our festive paper plates? 

By the time we got to Tauranga, we were hungry for lunch. Delissi restaurant was highly recommended on TripAdvisor so away we went. The food was tasty as promised, and the cider cold, which was perfect on such a hot day. 

Being in Tauranga, we had to walk up Mount Maunganui, which is affectionately called "the Mount" by locals. 
Upon beginning the ascent, we got a good view of the beach, which was a lot more crowded than we were used to. There did seem to be some event going on, and I think it was a sausage sizzle. Nothing draws a crowd quite like a sausage sizzle. $2 for a sausage on white bread, with tomato sauce? Yes please. Who could turn that down?

Here is a particularly impressive pohutukawa, with its flowers out in full force. You can see why they call it the New Zealand Christmas tree. 

On one particularly hot stretch of pathway, I saw this tui land and made Yannick take a photo. We were trying to be quiet to not scare it away. Look it his little white puff! I think he was showing off his shiny feathers to us. 

It was a challenging climb to the top, but we made it. I was getting very hot and tired, but I saw elderly people and children walking past us going down so I knew that if they could do it, I could. And once we arrived up there, we saw this crazy paraglider flying up high and then whooshing down really close to the cliff face and doing flips in the air. It was mesmerising, and he was definitely putting on a show for the tourists (me included). 
Walking down was easier, but still hot. Back at the beachfront, we got ice cold drinks to revive ourselves, and at the car we dug into those French tarts from Whakatane. It was a good day. 

Gisborne District, Day Two - In Which I Procure a Large Stick

Renie's Petite Cafe, run by (I think) Russians, provided an excellent Russian Blintz filled with Nutella, which was sort of like a crepe. We also acquired a caramel slice which we saved for later. We then walked around the Saturday farmers market, where we purchased strawberries and freshly squeezed orange juice. 

Tolaga Bay
Heading north from Gisborne, we stopped at the historic wharf at Tolaga Bay. New Zealand's longest wharf at 600 meters, it was built in the 1920's because the bay is shallow and in the early 20th century the easiest way to access the town was by boat. 

Parts of the wharf have been renovated, like his section shown here (though which you can see a boat being put back on its trailer after a morning out at sea). 

There is a walking trail here out to Cook's Cove. It takes 2 1/2 hours return, so we just went to the lookout platform which takes twenty minutes one way. The trail is through a sheep paddock so we were dodging stepping in poos up the track. The lookout is 120m above sea level. 

Tolaga Bay from above. From here the country's longest wharf looks like part of a child's Lego set. 

The paddock we walked through (and my sweet walking stick). Fun fact: this walking trail is closed off to visitors during the lambing season. After our walk, we tucked into the caramel slice in the heat of our car (Albi's air conditioning no longer functions).

Anaura Bay
Further up the coast is the well kept secret of Anaura Bay. A beautiful beach that hardly anyone goes to, we spent a fair bit of the afternoon here lounging on our picnic blanket in the sun, reading and napping. 
There is a campground literally 2 metres from the beach, just out of the scope of this photo. It would be lovely to stay there and wander onto the beach any old time you feel like it. 

Luckily it was a bit cloudy so we didn't overheat, but I still got hot enough to want to put my feet in the sea. Yannick went for a swim as he does at the tiniest of opportunities.

Heading back to Gisborne, we decided to go on a walk around the river to Kaiti Hill which overlooks Cook's first landing site. Though after our earlier walk, we were tired and only went a little way up. 
Also, I didn't have a great walking stick to help me up that hill. 

Thursday, 25 December 2014

Gisborne District, Day One - Rich Food in Poverty Bay

Though it was sunnier than the day before, we still ended up packing away our tent in a sun shower. Having been used to camping in the fields and hills of the coast, we weren't used to the loud birdsong that came with having your tent next to a forest, so we woke up quite early. 

Onepoto Caves walk, Lake Waikaremoana
On our way out of Lake Waikaremoana and back to Wairoa where we would take the turn off for Gisborne, we went on another walking track to the Onepoto caves. (One hour each way, but there is a shorter bush walk back along the road, so it only took us an hour and twenty minutes.)

The path was treacherous, with deep holes to either side of the trail at times, and steep drop offs. I enjoyed shining my torch into the holes to see how far down they went and what was down there. 

I usually just wear jandals on bush walks, but thinking that a caves walk might require a bit more traction, I wore my sports shoes. Yannick gave me the nickname "Grippy Two-Feet". He still wore his jandals. 

You can't tell, but I was right at the edge of a precipice! That green thing that looks like a bush by my foot was actually a tree clinging to the side of the cliff! I am such an intrepid explorer. 

Mahia Peninsula
We took a brief detour along the peninsula and found a wonderful lookout of the bay. There was a bit of a swarm of bees here, seemingly originating from a nearby bin, but they didn't bother us and we ignored them. When we were taking photos, a lady pulled up in her SUV and worriedly told us that there were a lot of bees around. We said they were fine and she looked doubtful but carried on her way. 

We pulled over at the first beach we found, which doesn't seem to have a name, but I will call it Mahia beach. It was so nice that even I went for a swim. 
Leaving that afternoon, we passed out of Hawkes Bay and into the Gisborne District, where there were certainly fewer bees.

Our first stop in Gisborne was the Marina Restaurant, a French run restaurant on (surprise surprise) the marina. Not too many restaurants stood out to me on TripAdvisor, but this one did for its resonably priced set menu - $25 for a choice of a starter and a main or a main and a dessert. The crispy chicken with lemon sauce was a good choice for main. 

For dessert I had the special, which was a deconstructed strawberry and white peach crumble. I was a little intrigued by the fruit, which was not cooked as I had expected in a crumble. Upon eating it, however, I respect their choice as the fruit was so fresh and delicious that it would seem a shame to cook it. 

Taking a walk through the town, we saw another noticeable clocktower sticking up well above the rest of the buildings. Don't you love its pink hues?

Gisborne once laid claim to the fact that it was the first city to see the light of the sun. Now Apia has taken credit, as they have changed time zones to ours but the island is further northeast than Gisborne. Yannick uses the mnemonic "if you have Samoa you will be Apia" (if you have some more you will be happier) to remember what the capital city of Samoa is. 
Gisborne no longer uses the info on promotional material, but the paving stones still remain. Upon approaching the i-site, they also had a large New Zealand on a stained glass window with the point of Gisborne facing the rising sun. Inside, the lady at the counter was very friendly and said that the nearby beach was one of the best around. 

We spent much of the afternoon on the beach (Yannick had a swim of course), and in the evening we went for a wander along the waterfront of Poverty Bay. Originally called Teoneroa, when Captain Cook set foot here he obtained herbs to ward off scurvy in his crew, but was unable to acquire many of the provisions he desired, hence the name. Their arrival also led to skirmishes with local Maori in which six Maori died. 

We saw a statue of Young Nick who first spotted New Zealand off Captain Cook's ship. He had a funny expression on so I thought he could do with a mocking pose from me.

And further along, a Captain Cook statue looking very regal in silhouette as the sun set over Poverty Bay. 

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Hawke's Bay Day Four - Sun Showers Galore

Once again a lovely day in Napier after the rain.

2 Fat Lattes cafe, Napier
Our last breakfast in Napier, we went with the predictable choice of French toast. Apart from using frozen berries (why use frozen when you have a plethora of amazing fresh berries at your fingertips?) it was very enjoyable. We then set off on the road to Lake Waikaremoana.

Lake Waikaremoana
To get here, we had to first go through the nondescript town of Wairoa where we couldn't find the supermarket, and then go along roads that turned from paved to gravel to paved more times than made sense. But getting there, we pulled into the campground and tried to wait out the rain to put up our tent. It seems that the lake has its own microclimate where it is always in the middle of a sun shower. It will occasionally be cloudy while showering or sunny with no sun shower, but the majority of the time was sun shower time. Even while looking right up at the sky, I couldn't quite figure out where the rain was coming from. 

Me pointing to the fantastic view of the lake (see above). During a break in the sun shower, we went on a bush walk that provided such great views. 

Seeing this knobbly tree, I wanted a photo, and Yannick cannot pose like a normal person. 

This is how one poses for a photo. The trees along the path had some interesting root systems, one of which I could fit inside. What you can't see is the huge spider web just above my head (no spider to be seen otherwise I wouldn't have knelt down there). I couldn't help but think what that would have been like if we lived in Australia, with all sorts of creepy crawlies of a size only seen in the time of the dinosaurs. And poisonous to boot. I've heard there is a plant there that kills you if you touch it. Not eat it, just touch it! Thank goodness for New Zealand's nice little ecosystem, full of flightless birds. 

The majestic rata tree. It is estimated to be about one thousand years old. Yannick used a vertical panorama to capture its height rising far above us. 

On our second bush walk of the day, we visited Papakorito falls. Papakorito sounds more Mexican to me than Maori, but I guess it's all in the pronunciation (and I pronounce it with a ridiculously stereotypical Mexican accent for comedic effect). 

Our third and final bush walk showcased the Aniwaniwa falls, three waterfalls in quick succession with lots of trees covered in green moss, ferns and other growths. 
We walked down to the lake that evening to see if we could go for a swim, however the water was extremely cold and we saw a dark blue storm cloud brewing so thought better of it. 

Hawke's Bay Day Three - When it Rains, Scrumpy

Back in Ahuriri, we broke our fast at the aptly named Cafe Ahuriri. The portion sizes were very large and we should have shared one serving as we had been doing previously. We sure do eat a lot of french toast and pancakes. And tea. 

Unfortunately it was a rainy day, but we thought it would be fun to do indoors activities for one day while we waited for the weather to clear. We went back to the vintage shop and tried on more hats. Here is Yannick looking dapper with a boating hat and cane. 

Some lovely Art Deco graphic design.

Stopping by the aquarium, we saw this guy swimming close to the glass. He's almost as big as me!

It was not only raining outside, but also in he penguin enclosure. The little blue penguins repeatedly shook out their feathers and looked grumpy.
As well as penguins, the aquarium had a bird that I didn't expect to see: the kiwi. It turned out to be the best I've ever been able to see a kiwi. As they are nocturnal, they need very dark enclosures and most of the time you can just see a bit of movement in some dark foliage. But this enclosure was better lit, perhaps by using special lights which didn't disturb them, and the kiwis were very active, scampering around with each other and sticking their long beaks into the ground looking for grubs, right up next to the glass. They looked super soft.

For lunch we went to the Filter Room ale house and cidery, where we got a tasting tray of 6 ciders and scrumpies. Some of them were alright, but I actually prefer the Rochdale you can get at the supermarket. It was a little disappointing as I had hoped they had some really good locally brewed ciders, but I'm glad I did try them, as now I know. I had the lamb for my main course, and it was enjoyable but about average quality. 

While we were eating and drinking, the rain died down a little and the PYO Ruby Glen was just down the road, so we went back for a second lot of raspberries. One of the employees who seemed senior, so let's call him the Berry Lieutenant, saw us and said "You're keen." We were keen. So would you be if you had eaten the raspberries. 

Intending to see a film at 5:45pm at a cinema in Havelock North, we had several hours to kill. We decided that a cafe with a socket to charge our iPad was necessary, and one with wifi ideal. We went to Hawthorne Coffee where we were provided with coffee, macarons and Christmas tarts. We read until the cafe closed and we moved on to the cinema, Cinema Gold. We read there until Yannick had the great idea to look up the opening hours for Rush Munro's Icecream Garden in Hastings, at which time we had about half an hour to drive there, eat the ice cream, and drive back before the movie started.

The ice cream was good, but it was quite cold outside so I'm not sure I appreciated it fully.

The hills around our campsite were misty and lent an eerie feeling to the landscape. Needless to say, we did not try to find the secret river swimming hole this day.