January 24, 2005 The day after sightseeing with Kaye we continued cycling. Kaye kindly dropped us and our gear in Te Puke, just east of Tauranga. This saved us about 30 kilometers, but most of all, we avoided riding through the city in morning rush hour. When you reach Te Puke, most of the crowds and traffic are gone. Our plan was to cycle along the coast and around the East Cape.
The first place we stopped for the night was Ohope Beach. As the name indicates, this is a beach town and it offered little in the way of services. It was still quite busy, school holidays were still on, but we managed to find a pleasant motel, just a hundred meters or so from the beach.
Ohope is a long (15 km) skinny town. Fortunately we stayed at the end with a store, restaurant and cafe. Many people travel into the town of Whakatane, just six kilometers west of Ohope Beach, but those six kilometers are over an extremely steep hill, along a narrow road, not very attractive to cyclist, so we relied on the services available in Ohope. We enjoyed the town and the beach so much that we decided to stay an extra day before carrying onto the East Cape.
January 26, 2005 Once we left Ohope we followed highway 35, which runs along the coast of the Bay of Plenty and around the East Cape. The crowd had disappeared by this time, since this area is not as touristy as the more westerly stretch of the Bay of Plenty.
January 27, 2005 The trip along the west coast of the East Cape was pretty. The road was relatively flat and ran right along the coastline. Te Kaha is on a small point. The hotel was basic and had shared facilities, but the view was fabulous.
Not surprising, a big development sign on the site indicated that the hotel would be torn down and replaced with an upscale resort and conference complex. For New Zealand $280.000 you too can be the proud owner of a studio suite in Te Kaha. (To contrast, we were paying New Zealand $50 for our room; same view.)
The pace and way of life on the East Cape is different. This is on the east side of the cape somewhere. We suddenly encounter this herd of cows being moved to a different field. Cows being cows, they were quite curious about the colourful characters on bicycles waiting at the side the road, and several of them stopped or would start heading in our direction. Of course they were quickly brought back in line by the dogs.
January 28, 2005 We spent the night in Te Araroa, which offered an interesting slice of life. It was the worst night of the whole trip. At the hotel, the help hadn’t shown up that day, so the owner was doing all the work, focussing on serving drinks in the pub; housekeeping and food service were non-existent.
That night our room became infested with mosquitoes. We didn’t sleep as we spent most of the night wrapped up in the sheet. But you have to breathe, so you can’t be completely wrapped up. The next morning I woke up with my face covered in bites; it looked like I had chickenpox. It got me some strange looks over the next few days. Somehow Roy managed to avoid getting bitten.
As I said: a different way of life. Horseback riding is common among the mostly Maori population of the East Cape. On one stretch of road, a young boy was casually riding a horse and tried to race us as we went up hill. I’m not keen on horses, so traveling in such close proximity to a horse didn’t feel comfortable.
The longest wharf in New Zealand. An impressive construction, considering the big surf along this shore.
Gisborne was our final stop on our tour of the East Cape. On our way back from dinner, we were treated to this beautiful picture of “God’s fingers touching the world”, as one excited young boy exclaimed.
In Gisborne we stayed in a good hostel, just across the harbour bridge on the edge of town. Unfortunately it was Sunday and late afternoon when we arrived, so most stores were closed, but we did manage to find a cafe that was still willing to serve us a ‘real’ coffee before closing its doors at 4 p.m. Gisborne seemed worth another day. However, the next day was a statutory holiday and much of the town would be closed. We decided it would be a good day to travel and left Gisborne the following morning by catching the bus to Napier.