First place in the world to see the sun everyday, a region rich with Maori Culture a travelers destination that will keep you on your toes and bloody beautiful!
There is something truly special about this region that sings to me, it’s so raw and natural, it’s not like anywhere I have ever been before so hard to compare. When you enter the East Cape region you step back in time, it’s an incredibly poor part of the country and some would say less developed. The people you will meet are proud of their region and will tell you this is the “REAL NEW ZEALAND” they are expectational hosts, never wanting anyone to leave without a full puku (belly) smile on your face and good memory. The Cape is more than a home for these people it’s their life and has been for centuries. It is an intimidating place to travel in parts, some places have yet to warm up to the idea of tourism, you do question your safety, there is a history of crime and meeting the locals you know they are on the push to kick this reputation. Our Journey up the Cape kicked off in the Tologa Bay pub meeting Auntie Annie. In Maori culture every woman kinda gets that “Auntie” title. Nick Topara from Gisborne had made a call ahead to organise for us to meet with her to learn more about the Cape. Auntie Annie is one of those ladies that makes your heart melt when you meet her big hugs all around. We had heard all about Cpt James Cooks arrival in Gisborne the day before from Nick, how it didn’t go well so he headed to Tologa Bay for round 2. Tologa Bay loves Cook, the street names are named after him and his crew. He had stuffed up in Gisborne, learning from his mistakes he achieved a much better welcoming to Aotearoa than before, “Mind you he sent the Tahitian, Tupaia in first this time and he made it work for the white guys” laughed Auntie Annie. The spoken history tells of the Maori treating Tupaia like he was a God almost, treating him like he was the Captain not Cook, how he held court in a cave in Cooks Cove, telling stories of his travels, the locals loved him. So the moral of the story is, always listen to the locals or in Cooks case, your guide. Cook’s Cove walkway: LOVE THIS WALK! It’s a step climb in and out but so worth it! The view from the top over looking the bay is epic, it takes about an hour to get to the site. Tupaia’s caves are still here, Auntie Annie told us they plan to fence them off to preserve them, so until then you can still walk in. When we arrived we got a shock to discover people have placed Pacific and Maori beads/necklaces, bags and made a bed. There is no explanation to this but it’s clear through the stories we had just been told, Tupaia was really worshiped by tribes in Tologa bay, his Mana (honour) still lives strong today. You can’t help feel the significance of the spot, it’s sobering to think our history with England kicked off from here. I wonder if they ever thought there would be sheep and travelers running around this spot?
Tologa Bay Wharf. New Zealand largest Wharf at 660 metre long, It’s huge! It was a crazy hot day when we visited and had just hiked out of Cooks Cove the ocean was calling us, so what a better place to do some bombs than the Tologa Bay Wharf! We joined a bunch of School kids already here living it up. Even if you’re not planning a swim I highly recommend walking out. Our day kinda disappeared on us here, we were running out of time fast to get to our accommodation in Te Araroa, the Cape kinda does that to people. It’s bigger than you think, It’s a time killer as there is to much going on.
This place is what I imagine hostels where like in the beginning.
It’s by far not your usual accommodation, it’s “East As”, At first I thought we had stuffed up and pulled up to someones house, especially when the little kids came running out to great us. We realised ever so quickly it was Pauline’s House, the doors always stay open welcoming in guests. It’s a massive old two story house full of character with art and old photos hanging everywhere. Pauline is one hell of a host, cooking us massive meals. What sets the Araroa Backpackers apart from anywhere else I have ever stayed is just how raw and honest it is. You are literally living in their home sharing their fridge and eating with the locals, I love it! Pauline teaches weaving to her guest connecting people to her Maori culture, if weaving isn’t your thing you can also craft a Bone or Greenstone necklace with master carver Jack.
Either way your not leaving this place without a memory of the East Cape that will never leave. Te Araroa township is the entry point to the the actual East Cape, it’s a 22 kilometre, mostly unsealed no-exit road to the most Easterly point on mainland New Zealand. The road clings to the Eastern coastline with constant stunning views. We left our accommodation at 5am not wanting to miss any part of this sunrise, hiked up the 700+ stairs and witnessed the first sunrise in the WORLD!
The peak of Hikurangi is recognised as the first land in the world to catch the rays of the new day’s sun! With this title comes huge responsibility, for the local Maori Iwi (Tribe) Ngāti Porou this is embraced with pride. All Maori tribes have a Maunga (Mountain) that they call home and Hikurangi is theirs. In Māori mythology, it was the first part of the North Island to emerge when Māui pulled it as a giant fish from the ocean. According to these beliefs, his waka, Nukutaimemeha, became stranded on the mountain, and lies petrified near the mountain’s summit. For the 2000 millennium celebrations a series of giant carvings where created by the Art School in Gisborne and places below this summit to tell the story of Māui, his journey through life, the connections with Ngāti Porou and all Maori. Ngāti Porou hold access to Hikurangi, but do not wish to close this. You must cross their farm land so you either need to park at the bottom and hike up or get permission to drive the steep 4X4 road up. Permission is very rarely granted as it a working farm and gates have been left opened in the past. Ngāti Porou want visitors to come, but more want respect for this amazing maunga and are worried not all people come with this in mind. We went up with the local guide and expert, Paora Brooking from Ngāti Porou Tourism. Paora drove us up to these carvings, telling us endless local history and mythology. Bloody good day and well worth it!
Everyone had told me this was the spot to catch a fish…can’t go wrong they said…..WHAT EVER! All I got was eaten by the biggest mozzy’s I have ever seen and a damaged pride 🙂 But hey that’s fishing, you win some you lose some, I will be back.
Part of New Zealand’s cycle trails the Motu is at home in Opotiki with 3 different trails that link into one or like us get a ride up to the top of Pakihi Trail! It’s a 20km downhill ride with epic scenery thick native bush following the Pakihi stream and Otara River which you cross on a 25metre swingbridge. They say the trail requires moderate fitness and caution in certain areas due to steep drop offs, I totally agree with this caution. She is along way down in some areas so take it easy and enjoy the ride…not the race! We went with all around good guys John and Ngaio Knebel who own and run www.motucycletrails.com providing local knowledge, transport to and from the trails, bikes, equipment and accommodation! Basically your one stop shop for the Motu Trail and the nicest people you will ever meet.
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