East Cape NZ
The area known as East Cape is that large part that ‘sticks out’ on the map on the eastern coast of the North Island. It is a mix of beautiful and isolated beaches with a background of rugged landscapes provided by the Raukumara Ranges.
The weather can move from very hot to very windy, depending on the wind shadow provided by the Raukumaras!
I drove south to Whakatane and left the car with friends before loading up and heading south towards Opotiki. Ahh, that first stretch of the legs as I was immediately into the hills between Whakatane and Opotiki! The road was rather busy until I got to Opotiki, some 50kms on, where the world just seemed to slow-down. And I had made it to the ocean. So peaceful…
At Opotiki, I knew there were a series of cycle trails and after visiting the i-Site folks I opted for the Dunes trail. This trail is 11kms and has been built through, up and over the sand dunes along the coast. Being on a loaded touring bike, it required a wee bit of caution compared to riding it on an unloaded bike, but it is not impossible. The wooden-battened sections across the inlets were fabulous. The bonus was the sound of the crashing waves and fabulous views from atop the dunes – well recommended.
All too soon, the trail ended and I was back on the roads.
The road from Opotiki and Gisborne via East Cape roughly follows the coast. However, the coastal headlands and various inlets along the route mean that the road either goes up and over the headlands or deviates inland to go around the inlets. It is definitely not all easy flat coastal riding!
After a sluggish 70kms (first day loaded and all that!), and being hassled by diving magpies (grrr..), I camped at Hawai Bay. The beach is not that attractive, being shingle. The volume of broken trees and logs washed up onto the beach was testament to how rugged the easterly storms must be in this area! Very impressive.
The next morning was a swift introduction to the day with about 100m of flat road then immediately into 6-7kms of climbing. I certainly did not see that coming when I stopped to camp last night.. oh well, guess I was just looking forward to food (as usual) and sleep!
At the head of one of the inlets, I crossed a substantial bridge that spans the great Motu River, which runs from deep within the Te Urewera National Park.
The views on this day were just one beautiful vista after another. I was forever stopping to take photos … Stunning, but cycle touring so allows you to stop so easily, and anywhere on the road.
Towards the latter part of the day, I started to see huge fences, yes metres high around the vineyards. Talking to the locals, they are needed to protect the vines due to the storms that batter the coast.
It was a somewhat taxing day – my legs were getting tired into the afternoon due to the constant rollercoaster roads and the short steep hills…. I was very pleased when I rolled into Te Kaha for my overnight camp spot!
The beach was calling and soon I was enjoying a refreshing swim in the late afternoon.
I decided to get a ‘burger and chips’ for an evening snack. When I enquired as to what time the general store / hardware shop / takeaway joint closed, they stated ‘ last orders at 5:30pm’. Obviously there is no night life in this village! Just as well that I asked…
A beautiful still day dawned as I broke camp and headed onwards. Today, Whanarua Bay was high on the ‘not to be missed’ list as there was a macadamia farm to be visited – but there was more – they also had a cafe and sold macadamia ice cream. Roll on the morning! And what a magnificent ride it was as the road wound along the coast under the shade of the overhanging pohutukawa trees.
Finally the sign for the macadamia Farm – yippee – it was a very pleasant distraction for an hour or so, enjoying the view from the outdoor cafe high above the road.
A steady day brought me to my overnight stop at Waihau Bay. Camping beside the local country hotel seemed very sensible – great sea views also as the hotel and camping was all waterfront.
Three further cycle tourists arrived soon after – a french couple with their 11 month old daughter travelling in a trailer towed by one of the bikes. They had ‘been on the road’ for 6 months and the their young daughter was very active, wandering about and greeting everyone.
A cold beer or two in the pub was most welcome!
Another brilliant weather day greeted this sleepy face as it peered out of the tent not long after sunrise. It was getting very warm in the tent and it was time to move on. I rode out with the french family but we soon parted as their spped was much slower than me – not totally surprising as the rider towing the trailer with child and luggage was hauling 55kgs of weight!
Initially the route follows the coast before turning inland toward Hicks Bay.
to be continued….