Friday, November 03, 2006

East Coast

We didn’t get woken up by sheep in Morere, but they were bustling towards the van when I came back from the toilets in the morning. Maybe they were going to eat Gemma. They got spooked when they saw me and ran off. Our first port of call for the day was Gisborne, the major town of these parts. A quick coffee and use of the telephone and we were back on the road again, this time up the east coast. The road winds it’s way through pretty rolling hills, partly grazed and partly forested with both native and pine trees. At times the main road dips to the coast, affording lovely views of the bays. Mostly though the road stays inland. We did take a couple of short detours to get to the sea. These roads passed through small towns with tumbledown buildings. We couldn’t find many places to park up so our time there was quite limited. We covered a fair amount of ground, despite the road being as bad in places as the one from the previous day. Patches of unsealed road would suddenly appear with very little warning. Twice we had to pick all the cups and plates up after they came out of their holders.

At Te Araroa we stopped for the day in a camp ground set in a lovely garden near the beach. The camp ground has the world’s most easterly cinema -top that Lowestoft! Gemma was a little scared by the camp ground, it was a little bit local. There were several families who obviously lived in the park permanently. I would hate to go so far as to use the label trailer-trash, as it may be completely unfair, but there was a general impression.

Heading back westward the road was much better, with only a couple of random unsealed segments. This road also hugged the coastline for much of the way meaning we were treated to much more dramatic scenery. The waves battering the rocky shoreline and the gnarled and twisted trees made us think we were back on the South Island. The trees were Pohutukawa, only found in the northern part of the North Island, and very lovely. Again, as previously on the North Island, we were frustrated at the lack of proper stopping places so we couldn’t hop out and take photographs. Apparently a constantly smoking active volcano, White Island, should have been visible in the bay but I couldn’t see it. Gemma thought she could make it out though.

Gemma was up for a bit more driving, so after Opitiki we hooked back inland, pausing briefly in Rotarua for some lunch at the excellent Fat Dog Café. The food and the coffee were superb in there. I think Gemma particular liked the dog-based poetry adorning the walls, plates, toilets, everything else.

After lunch we continued to Taupo and De Bretts Thermal Resort again. The woman behind the counter looked surprised to see us back. It was pretty much on our route and a logical place to stop, and so stop we did. We both quite fancied a dip in the hot pools to soothe out the driving kinks from our shoulders. It was just as nice second time around, although there was some confusion at the start leading to the two of us sitting in different pools for about 10 minutes.

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