After the few hours on the ferry, we arrived, unloaded and got back in our home on wheels. We began our last adventure...the North Island East Coast. From Wellington we ventured 281kms through the winding roads, rolling hills, covered in sheep, with the random farms along the way, all the way on a random back road that was so rural that we figured we must be lost. But, as we were committed to our paper maps for navigation, it did in fact say that there was a town called Mara down the road we were travelling, which was our desired destination. We drove quite a ways only to discover that Mara, was a sign with about 4 little houses clustered around a T-intersection. It was obvious that Mara likely had been a town once but now was not much more than a hamlet or village. It was a place. Not much more. Fortunately it was a gorgeous drive, otherwise our endeavour would have been in vain.
After this adventure to find Mara, we headed to our campsite for the night. Another wonderful free campsite on Te Paerahi Beach. We were fortunate as always to experience an incredible sunset and sunrise here, an incredible midnight moon. Nothing like a mid-night bathroom break to be completely knocked off your feet by a breathtaking star filled night sky.
After our usual early morning wake up, we got on the road and back tracked a bit to set the place with the longest name in the world. Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu. This place, specifically a hill, is near Porangahau. The story of how this hill was named is a rather interesting piece of Maori history. According to the sign here it translates to, "The summit where Tamatea, the man with big knees, the slider, climer of mountains, the land-swallower who travelled about, played his nose flute to his loved one." Tamatea was born to be an explorer....it was in his blood. Canoes, wives, children and many other things come up when you search this name.
As we drove along in the morning hours, the beauty and grandeur of New Zealand continued to take my breath away and the words from my mind. This country never ceases to amaze me.
Our drive from the Te Paeraki Beach Campsite took us through Napier, Gisborne and all of the way to the East Cape, our final destination for the day. 516 kms of more incredible rolling hills and gorgeous coastal views. Along our way we stopped at Tolago Bay to see the countries longest wharf, a whopping 660 meters. It really did not seem that spectacular but was still nice to see. Yet another example of New Zealand's claim to fame that everything is the most incredible sights to see. That being said, part of Eastland history and apparently a great spot to fish, it was a beautiful evening mucking about on the historical wharf.
After sternly being told we could not stay the night in the parking lot at the wharf, which we had zero intentions doing, we made our way on a very bumpy road, in the dark to the campsite where we would be staying the night in order to make our way to the East Cape Lighthouse where we would watch the sunrise. This spot is said to be the most eastern point in the world and the place where you can boldly say that you were the first in the world to see the sun rise. We were up at 6 am which turned out to not be early enough. As I had previously explained to my friend, we had to climb 800 steps to get up to the lighthouse, and at 6 am the prospect of this task was not welcomed with smiles and enthusiasm. I nearly perished trying to race to the top in order to not miss out on the sunrise. Left in the dust of my friend, I trudged along the steps, willing my sleepy legs to get me all the way to the top without failing me. Alas, I made it moments behind my friend. The sunrise was not as spectacular as the frantic race to the top of this hill was, but it was definitely worth it nonetheless. There is something very beautiful and grounding to be in a place that makes you sit and contemplate the intricacies of this world and of this life.