|We took the long way between Gisborne and Tauranga and it took two days to get here. I know I keep saying this, but this really was one of the prettiest drives we’ve done. We left Gisborne under cloudy skies and saw the sun for the first time in a couple of days once we got out of town. The road took us up and around the East Cape, which was one of the most remote places we’ve been. Even much more so than the south island. There were stretches of almost 30 minutes when we wouldn’t pass another vehicle. On the way we stopped at the longest pier in the Southern Hemisphere; it’s over a kilometer long!
We rolled into our accommodations for the night - Brian’s Place. Brian had been stung by one of his bees (he does beekeeping on the side) and wasn’t home. His one other guest – a Brit named Kevin that had been camping in the yard for a few days showed us around. The three of us shared a comfortable living area with the best view in town (if you can call it a town). It looked right over onto a beautiful bay. Brian and his swollen foot came by in the morning and offered to have his friends take Mike hunting for possum. This did not happen. Mike was not happy about that.
After reluctantly leaving Brian’s Place we went to yet another isolated and beautiful beach where Mike got in a surf and I walked on the beach; alone of course. Continuing down the one road, we ran into lots of “wandering stock” meaning cows, sheep and horses in the road! For dinner we picked up some fish and chips and camped off the side of the road at Hicks Bay. We barely slept a wink. The wind howled all night.
In the morning we met a nice Kiwi guy carrying his baby around and looking for a good chat. We visited a macadamia nut farm and had macadamia and manuka honey ice cream for breakfast. It was yummy!
We reached “civilization” in the form of Opotiki, where we lunched and poked our heads into the library for some cheap Internet. I could comfortably live in this town for one reason only: the library has a puzzle swapping program where you give them four puzzles and can then check out the puzzles others have donated. There were enough puzzles to keep me occupied for years! In Opotiki, we ate bacon, lots of bacon.
Along the road, we stopped to get in the water at Ohope beach. Ophope had an oyster farm and we snacked on fried oysters and BBQ’d mussels. This pleased Mike, a lot. On the way out of town we screeched to a halt at a wooden sign reading “50 cent avocados”. Up the driveway we went to meet a nice old man who gave us 5 avocados and a big heirloom tomato for NZ$2! He had a viscous couple of dogs but we got out of there unscathed.
Yesterday we arrived in Tauranga. This is one of the bigger cities in NZ with a population of over 100,000. There’s water on almost all sides and it has a real vacation feel. Today we hiked up to Mt. Manganui, which took us up to a gorgeous view of the ocean and the islands sitting out in the Bay of Plenty.
Tomorrow we’re off to Coromandel Peninsula for three days of hiking and beaches galore.