Sunday, October 22, 2017

Napier - Art Deco District

We spent our leaving morning wandering through part of the area enjoying an al fresco breakfast and taking a few pictures. For a fee, we could have taken a walking tour or a vintage car tour. We passed on those opportunities, but we was people in the vintage cars having a good time. As you look at the pictures, note the soft pastel colors, the use of curves, and the interesting designs including some with Maori influence.

Mother waving to her son
Who happens to be across the street

The War Memorial is in Art Deco area park

East Cape Drive - Wairoa to Napier

Today we awoke to more sun with few clouds for our drive to Napier, only about 80 miles away. The first part of the drive is away from the beach through hills and farmland. We saw some cows and a lot of sheep on the hillsides - even a few goats on the steepest slopes. We tried one side trip to see the beach and ran into a locked gate. Another side trip took us up and down some hills but not to the beach either. Pretty country anyway.

Another railroad bridge
The road follows the railroad line which could be a nice tourist train, but is only used for freight. We stopped to take a good look at one trestle that straddles 95 meters above the Mohaka River. Unfortunately, the rest stop there offers no views of the trestle. We had to stop by the road bridge and walk part way across to get any pictures.

Lake Tukirii
Lake Tukiri

We made another stop at Lake Tukiri. This lake was formed by a landslide across the valley about 700 years ago. Lakes formed this way usually only last a few years. The stream soon cuts through the dam and wears it down. In this case, however, the lake found another outlet above the dam relieving the pressure on the dam and allowing the lake to stick around.

Suspension bridge across the stream
Leading to the waterfall

Our next stop came at a sign for a waterfall. We decided to skip the view when we learned it was an hour trek to the viewing platform. It was still a pretty stop for a short rest.

Our last stop before reaching Napier was at the Esk River Winery where we tasted their wines and purchased a nice rose for the evening. After checking in at our hotel we walked down the beach for lunch and stopped at the grocery store for some breakfast items. We will be here two nights giving us some time at New Zealand’s national aquarium and a couple more wineries on our way to our next stop at Rotorua.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

East Cape Drive - Hicks Bay to Wairoa

Morning view from the hotel
When I did arise at 6:00, I was pleased to see that we would have sunshine today even as I dismissed my disappointment at missing that first sunrise. We did still make the drive out to the lighthouse although, we did not make the climb. The road follows to the light follows the coastline from Te Araroa about 20 kilometers. About half is sealed and good driving. The rest is gravel, but most is still easy driving. Only a couple of kilometers have had a recent problem with slippage still in need of repair. Even these sections were easy driving and perfectly safe. We enjoyed the ocean views in the sunshine and the cattle,sheep, and horses along the way. We only had to slow for them a couple of times. They are fenced, but it’s hard to see how much good the fences actually do since the animals are still along the road. The early morning sun and a few clouds created some beautiful scenery with the mixture of greens and blues.

The world’s largest pohutukawa tree
Te Araroa Church
The turnoff to the lighthouse at Te Araroa is also the location of the world’s largest pohutukawa tree, New Zealand’s Christmas tree. The red flowers bloom during the Christmas season. This tree must put on a great show in the middle of summer to celebrate the season.

About one kilometer like this.
I was glad to not drive this in the dark.
So much beauty, we took a lot of pictures

This island really gets the first sunrise.
I think it is an off-limits reserve

Further down the road at Ruatoria, we tried a back road to the beach. After the beach I thought we could take a shortcut back to the highway. We made a quick stop to check the map and were told we had best move on as there was a herd of cows coming right through where we had stopped. We moved on about 15 miles down the road up and down one major hill only to reach a dead end. By the time we got back, the cows were still moving and we had to wind our way through them.

Cows don't easily obey and the dogs were not helping

The little boy is trying to help
Not an unusual scene in ranch country.
One of my bicycle rides near Malheur in Oregon was stopped by cattle
Further down the road, we at Tokomaru Bay, we talked about stopping for lunch. We hadn’t really made a decision as we passed Tokomaru, but as we climbed the hill out of town, we ran into a herd of sheep heading up the road. Their herder said they would be on the road for five more kilometers. Decision made.
Lunch at Tokomaru

We turned around and headed back into Tokomaru for lunch. We had a couple of burgers and a conversation with the owner. I started by asking about the tools on the wall. I recognized the shearing clippers, but had to ask about the others. She told me one was a drencher. The drencher is pushed down the sheep’s throat to administer medicine. The others were simply water sprayers. While chatting with her, she told me that the building was a replacement for one destroyed a few years earlier. The old building, built around 1900, had been completely demolished when a tree blocking the stream above gave way leading to a huge flood and landslide. It also destroyed several other buildings. After lunch we drove down the the site to see some of damage. We also saw the tramway that had carried goods off the pier and up the hillside. Tokomaru is one of the few towns we saw that has really fallen on hard times along the coast. The restaurant/hotel is doing fine, but with only some farming and forestry as industry, there just isn’t much income. Apparently, it was a stopping point for some passenger ships in the early 20th century and it was also a whaling station.
The White Cliffs of the Mahia Peninsula just north of Wairoa.
This peninsula is being readied to launch 200 rockets a year into space.
This is the world's first privately-owned orbital launch site.
After lunch we drove on to Wairoa where we would spend the night. As we entered town, we crossed the Wairoa River and passed the Portland Island Lighthouse. After it was replaced by fully automated light, the lighthouse was moved to Wairoa. Today it is still lit at in the evenings. The light is part of an effort to make the town more touristy. This small town with only one business street and a couple of restaurants has also renovated its movie theater and built a nice 3.5 kilometer walk/cycle trail along the river and the bay. It seems like a nice little town, clean and neat. Our hotel host was friendly and helpful offering a number of suggestions of things to do and recommending one of the restaurants for breakfast and telling us about the movie theater. It seems like it should be a good alternative to the larger Gisborne to the south and a place to stay for visits to the Lake Waikaremoana nature reserve a few miles inland.
Our hotel in Wairoa. Pool is behind the green fence.
Actually it was quite nice with a very friendly, helpful host.

Wairoa bicycle path runs here

Downtown Wairoa
Wairoa Cinema
Sunset in Wairoa

A lumpy hillside perfect for Hobbit Town

Friday, October 20, 2017

East Cape Drive - Tauranga to Hicks Bay

Our hotel at Hicks Bay
Tauranga is a city of 120,000, New Zealand’s busiest port with petrol refineries and transfers of coal and lumber. It has also become a tourist site with its fine beaches, good restaurants and the easily climbable Mt. Maunganui. We had an excellent dinner at a new restaurant and interesting conversations with our waiter. It wasn’t terribly busy on this Sunday evening. The next morning we headed off to Hicks Bay after touring the downtown area and waterfront. They are working to make this area even more attractive. The original design left a grassy area along the river with an esplanade and businesses open to the waterfront. The only problem might be the train that runs along the esplanade, but as we drove through traffic was light and the train nowhere to be seen. It appears there are enough crossings to eliminate this as a problem.

More of the same
Our 180 mile drive to Hicks Bay was similar to yesterday’s. We had lots of rain and no breaks in the clouds anywhere. One of the recommended stops is to visit New Zealand’s only active volcano on White Island. We aren’t even sure we could see it through the fog and clouds. We really did not make any other memorable stops as we enjoyed the beaches and hillsides we passed along the way. We arrived at our hotel about 4:30 well above the village of Hicks Bay. We had a good view of the ocean and the village from our room. I did walk the grounds and managed to see my first kingfisher here in the South Pacific. Australia has several colorful kingfishers, but we missed them all other than the Kookaburra. New Zealand has only one. The sacred kingbird is a beautiful turquoise color with a white breast making it quite a striking specimen.

I had hoped to rise early in the morning to see the first sunrise of the day. About one hour from our hotel is the East Cape Lighthouse. A good climb to the light puts one at the spot where you can first see the sunrise each day. This is a technical thing since it depends on the fact that the International Dateline is just east of New Zealand so this is where the new day dawns. Unfortunately, the forecast was for rain, rain, and more rain, so I did not set the alarm for 4:00 am to have time to make the drive and the hike.

Lovely place to be buried along the coast
Anglican church along the coast at Waihau Bay