We left Raglan six days after the country moved to Alert Level 2 and headed to Tauranga and Mount Maunganui on the East Coast. During our stay, we hiked up the Mount, visited the local Hot Pools and caught up with friends, Lou and Victoria. Our next stops were Whakatane and Ohope, where we could clearly see the large and very active White Island volcano, some 50km off the coast.
Our plan was to follow the coastline to East Cape, but the weather was deteriorating, we couldn't even see the nearest bluff, so we decided to take the inland route to Gisborne and do the Cape from the opposite direction, when the weather improved. On route we visited Tauranga Bridge in the pouring rain, the only surviving harp suspension bridge in New Zealand. As we approached Gisborne, we turned a corner to find it bathed in sunshine - apparently it is the sunniest place in NZ.
Gisborne is reknowned for its kite-surfing, although there are only a handful of people who live locally and enjoy the sport. I managed a very brief kite session just north of town and the next day, on advice of the local kite-surf guru, we set off for Mahia - great scenery, but we didn't manage to kite. Somewhere in the round trip of 150 km my kite harness flew off the van roof - it had been put up to dry after the previous day's session and I'd failed to clip it to the roof rack. On returning to Gisborne I discovered my error. The local kiters were informed, but I wasn't holding out too much hope that it would be found.
So with improved weather at East Cape, we set off up the coast. We stopped at lots of bays and old wharves along the way, including a remote camp-site in Anaura Bay. Schoolboy error, we had no cash and their card reader wouldn't process foreign cards. The nearest cash was 40km away, so the unfazed owner gave us a bank pay-in slip.....'just pay when when you find a bank'.
The next day we found the best fish 'n chips for lunch at a little roadside caravan at Ruatoria. We'd been told the area was a little rough and not to go there, but we found everyone friendly and the lunch worth the detour. We reached East Cape at sunset and the views were spectacular. This is the most easterly point of NZ and supposedly, because of the dateline, the first land in the world to get the sun on a new day. They are pushing that a little - the Chatham Islands are to the East! We camped for the night with views of the Cape and very early, on a freezing morning, I was dragged out of bed for sunrise. Mrs P wasn't accepting my plaintive pleas that first light is a good distance in time from sunrise. Later in the morning we revisited the Cape and hiked up to the lighthouse, before continuing along the coast and returning to a sunnier Ohope and Whakatane.
We then headed inland to the Te Urewa Forest and Lake Waikaremoana. The weather was foul, but we managed a walk to Lake Waikareiti. The place was beautiful despite the weather, but we didn't hang around too long as there was no improvement in the forecast. Back to that sunniest of places, Gisborne, where there was good news - my harness had actually been found. The reward to the finder was several jars of Manuka honey - cheap considering the cost of a replacement. We visited the Tairāwhiti Museum, which had an excellent Cook exhibition and while collecting the harness, we were treated to a bee talk and full tour by Boyd, the Manuka honey producer. We purchased several jars of honey, including those for the person who had found the harness, and Boyd gifted us venison fillets from the depths of his freezer.
The next main event was Napier. The town, mostly destroyed by a massive earthquake in 1931, was rebuilt in Art Deco style. A handsome looking place with a load of landmark buildings. Rachel took me on a full self-guided walking. It was still Alert Level 2, so the town was quiet and to our benefit, we were able to get a table at Pacifica, NZ's top restaurant in 2017. The set menu was amazing.
As we were in Hawkes Bay, we stopped near Bridge Pa for a cycle tour of the local vineyards. We were told that we might not make it to all six listed wineries. We had a great time. The man was right - distance wasn't the problem, our liking of the grape juice was... We managed four, only the 4th was the location of the bike hire.