Sunday, April 13, 2008

The East Cape, Part 2

We never did wake up in time to see the sun rise in Gisborne. (You won’t be seeing it, either, as none of the photos here are actually from Gisborne…) As New Zealand’s most easterly city it sees the sun first, so apparently it’s the thing to do. But we’re just not morning people, so we had to settle for enjoying the city’s other fine attractions (at a more reasonable hour). Though put off a bit by its short hours (we had to go back three times- how do they sell anything?!), Muirs Bookshop has a nice selection of new books and a lovely café upstairs. But, seeing as we can’t afford new books (and even if we could it would be tough to buy them from a closed shop), we looked for pre-loved ones. (Seriously, it’s $30-35 for a nice new paperback here!) We were thrilled to find a great used book shop down the road that had everything half price. (They wanted to get all of the extra books off the floor so they could clean the carpets.) Plus it was open, which we tend to like. (I wish I could give this place a decent plug, but I just can’t remember what it’s called! If I ever find out I’ll post it here!) It was a great little place and supplied us with ample reading material for the trip around the Cape. =) Other Gisborne attractions included several close beaches- some rough and great for surfing, others calm and nice for swimming, of which we took full advantage, as one of my summer projects is to maintain a skin tone that suggests I am alive… After a couple of days of city stuff (grocery shopping, hunting down a suitable coffee press for the road) and lazing around on sandy Waikanae Beach, we headed north on Highway 35, the route around the stunning East Cape. =) We stopped at various bays and beaches, most notably Tolaga Bay, where we walked down New Zealand’s longest pier (660m) in all its rusty and deteriorating glory, and finally pitched our tent at Brian’s Place (backpackers accommodation) in Tokomaru Bay. (This is where the photos come in.) The bay is 7km wide and very sheltered; the water is the same surreal turquoise you see all around the Cape. There are only about 465 people there now, down from 5000, most of whom left town when the freezing works (slaughterhouse) closed down in the 50’s. The mass exodus left dozens of buildings unused, falling gracefully into a state of disrepair (some falling more gracefully than others). “Romantically crumbling” says the guide book, and really that’s the way it feels. I don't want to give the wrong impression- the place isn't abandoned or anything! There's still a lot going on there- a thriving arts and crafts scene and that kind of thing. Brian’s Place was awesome. =) It’s not "romantically crumbling," which I say is a plus for accommodation. =) It’s a lovely, big house with lots of beds accessed by a gravel driveway up a steep hill. As you might imagine, the view from the top is great. (Actually, you don’t have to imagine. Here’s a picture.) There are adorable cabins hiding in the hills around the property, as well as an odd, but totally sweet camping patch. Brian is a really cool guy who keeps bees in his van and has his mysterious kiwi appliances (electric kettle) mutilated by American tourists. He has a cat named Nelson (after Nelson Mandela) who couldn’t decide whose lap he liked better- mine or Gordon’s. In the end we both got a lot of cuddling and kneading. =) I love kitties! =) We spent the evening playing cards and drinking beer (soda for me) and played a little table footie with the two other guests (it was a slow night- the night before we got there there was apparently a whole busload of people). The next day was hot and sunny and beautiful [much like myself ;) ], so we spent a good part of the morning soaking up the sun before heading further north to Araroa. Wonderful, relaxing place. If you ever visit Tokomaru Bay, say to Brian for us. =)

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