Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Around The Cape With Rally Rex

The East Cape crew at Te Kaha
Sunset at Te Kaha
A hideously early start, up at 5.30am, for our trip to the East Cape. The bus turned out to be a shuttle taking people to buses for various tours so by the time we actually got on our Kiwi East As bus we had been travelling an hour and been on two previous buses - we must have looked like immigrant workers being shunted from one mini bus to another! Our driver and guide for the next four days was an older chap (73) called Rex, the first stop was at a tree sacred to the Maori tribe that owned and lived in the East Cape we were going to visit. The tree was supposed to protect travelers and how well we needed it, Rex (ex truck driver) thought himself a rally man and drove at the speed of light! It takes a very long time to get to Gisbourne on the south of the East Cape, you have to go up to Whakatane in the north and then 60km through a gorge, it's all very winding and lots of trees and rivers, very pretty at 100km p/hr! We arrived at Tatapouri, a surf lodge, for our first nights stay, we opted for a double room (didn't fancy a dorm) and ended up with a whole chalet to ourselves, sweet as! A walk along the beach with a group off the minibus (and a dog that joined us from the campsite) and then a walk up the hill behind and we were ready for our BBQ tea, green mussels, steak, chicken, sausage, salad and potatoes - not much for the veggies!. Most had opted for an evenings wine tasting at $20 each, however the bloke who ran it was away so spotting an opportunity the owners got a few of the usual bottles in and we had an impromptu tasting evening, a bit like Oz Clarke but as the hosts thought wine tasted like diesel we were on for an unusual evening. We all tasted, rated, cleansed our palates with chocs and cheese and then picked our winners, you finished the wine you rated highest! The evening culminated in a cigarette filter fight where you spat (clean) filters at people, Ruth was excellent at this, not sure it's an employable skill. Throughout all this we were having to learn a Maori song for the morning, a fab evening.

The following morning we were all up early to see the sunrise, it was a little cloudy but we were some of the first in the world to see the sun rise on a new day. Then some of the group went feeding stingrays (the sea was too rough to take the shark cage out) or surfing, Gary went for the latter. They had a good couple of hours in quite rough seas with proper hard boards, the instructor was a great bloke but completely crackers, he looked like Michael J Fox and drank like Keith Floyd, driving along the beach his surf boards flew off the back of the truck. One of the pupils split his chin open, one woman nearly drowned, but Gary stood up so good times! Back on the bus Rally Rex was keen to get us to our planned visit to a Maori Maere (meeting house, not sure if it's spelled right), once there we were greeted and allowed to enter, singing followed and then we had to sing our song, we didn't do too bad. The lady then described to us the uses and meanings of the building and we were allowed to have a look around and take photos as long as we didn't put them on the internet. Off again for a drive past Tolaga Wharf, once the longest wharf in the southern hemisphere and then off again along winding roads to Rangitukia and a bed for the night. This was a bunkhouse on a homestead in literally the middle of nowhere, the stock ran free as the road went no further, Rex cooked us all some quite delicious pancakes and then the afternoons activities began. One group went horse riding while we went bone carving. We had chosen a design while eating pancakes and our teachers, Kizzy and Tom, had sketched them out on pieces of cattle bone, using dremels we had to etch out the designs and smooth and shape them, it smelled like when the dentist drills your teeth! A lot of polishing and we were done, we relaxed while the horse lot came back and did their carvings and then made tea with the shopping we'd picked up on the way. A quiet night, for a Saturday, a campfire and a glass of wine and then an early bed. Up before dawn the following morning and just Gary and I went up the hill to be the first in the world to see the sun, it was well strange to think that in thirteen hours you lot would see the same thing, we were lead on our walk by Tux the farm dog who apparently enjoys taking folk up the hill, though he sometimes gets them lost and abandons them. After breakfast Rex really put his foot down, first stop was the East Cape lighthouse which was great, up 700+ steps, then a traumatic journey around to Te Kaha to watch the local Maoris rehearsing for a big competition in Gisbourne at the end of the week - Kopahaka (?). They had almost finished but we saw the women singing and dancing with their poi and the chaps, who are all huge, doing a haka. Rugby balls were very much in evidence, not a single football, doesn't get a look in here. The homestead at Te Kaha was a mad place, very laid back, hard to say who was in charge. A quick watch of the Rugby 7s and then we got swimwear on and headed into the sea - turned out to be safer than the garden where these teeny horrid midge things called Sandflies were congregated - they draw blood when they bite and their faeces burns your skin, proper little charmers! The sea was warm and we had a lovely swim despite a sudden shower and then fell asleep on the beach and got the few remaining unburnt bits sunburnt. Tea was provided and really good, chicken, snapper, chips, pasta, salad and bean stew. Most people hopped into the hot tub with a beer and chatted the evening away, Gary sat around like Hugh Heffner and I was driven indoors by sandflies! One last mad Rex trip the following day, a stop to dig for Pipis (shellfish that we didn't eat as we knew winding roads to come) and then apple turnovers in Whakatane (that we did eat!) and we were back in Rotorua and Taupo and saying farwell. Our East Cape adventure was done.

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