Back to basics

Trip Start Feb 17, 2005
Trip End Feb 27, 2006

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Where I stayed
Te Kaha Hotel
Mel's Place

Flag of New Zealand  ,
Monday, April 25, 2005

It took over two hours to get from Tokomaru Bay to Hick's Bay, my next port of call. The minibus was full of locals and I stuck out like a sore thumb with my backpacker attire! One lady in particular was very friendly and she asked a lot of questions about where I'm from, what I'm doing in New Zealand etc. She jokingly (I think) said that if I stuck around the East Cape long enough, I'd easily be able to "bag a Maori bride!"

I arrived at Mel's Place just after 5pm, i.e. just after the shop (singular) closed! Therefore I was without food. Mel seemed really friendly and showed me around the hostel, as a storm brewed above us. It quickly became clear that this hostel was a real back-to-basics affair, complete with a toilet with a view. Indeed, the hostel was in an ideal location on the beach and I was hopeful of seeing another sunrise the following morning.

Staying in my dorm come kitchen come lounge were a couple of German guys, an older Kiwi guy, and a girl called Amber from the US. The guys had been fishing earlier in the day and seemed well acquainted with the limited kitchen facilities, and they proceeded to make a great meal that included lots of hapuku, broccoli and other vegetables (that's right everyone back home, I ate fish AND broccoli!).

There was a really friendly atmosphere at this hostel, and I ended up staying 3 nights in total. It was like a home away from home as it was so relaxed, and there were plenty of pets around to keep everyone company! A 2 month old crazy little kitten stayed in the dorm on a couple of occasions, and I loved the two Rottweilers, especially the more 'playful' 18 month old one.

I got to watch a magnificent, clear sunrise on the first morning with Amber and one of the cats. We all sat on the edge of the rocks with the sea crashing beneath us, as we waited for the sun to appear. Likewise, on my final morning I watched it again with the 5 other people who were staying at the hostel.

I did plenty of walking around Hick's Bay, including a pleasant 3 hour return journey to the Point. I also had a stroll to a huge waterfall that was close by, although the line of bulls that were watching my every move prevented me from getting too close to it!

In between walks and watching the sunrises, I just relaxed in the garden and enjoyed the amazing views. I met some really nice people as well, including Lucy from Bristol who was really bubbly, and two German girls who worked at the packhouse in Mount Maunganui last September...and really enjoyed it! On the last night I met Gabrielle, a primary school teacher from Auckland who was taking advantage of the school holidays, and seeing some more of her country. We sat out in the garden at night and just relaxed, and she let me listen to samples of the bands that are big in New Zealand, including the bizarrely-named Salmonella Dub!

Sunday turned into quite an eventful day, but also an enjoyable one...for the most part anyway! It began with the sunrise and was followed by a trip to the East Cape Lighthouse - the most easterly tip of New Zealand. Gabrielle kindly let me accompany her on the journey along narrow, unsealed roads, and up the steps on our arrival. There is some debate as to just how many steps there are - Amber counted 758 while Gabrielle counted 759! Either way, it was a lot and we were ready to just chill out at the summit.

After a quick stop in Te Araroa to see a 600 year old pohutukawa tree, Gabrielle made a slight detour and dropped me off at Mel's Place. Unfortunately, she was heading towards Gisborne while I needed to go in the opposite direction towards Opotiki. My plans had been scuppered somewhat by the fact that this weekend was a bank holiday, and consequently Polly's weren't running on Saturday, Sunday and Monday. So, I was left with no other option - I had to hitch hike on the isolated State Highway 35!

I made my way to the road in question, armed with my increasingly heavy backpack, and waited. And waited. After nearly 15 minutes, a car appeared in the distance. I stuck my arm out and prayed that they would have mercy on a poor backpacker who was standing underneath some ominous looking dark clouds. They did! This hitch hiking malarky is easy - the first car that passed stopped for me! The kind souls in this case were two extremely friendly German women, one of whom had been based in Ireland for 10 years. They were on their way to Whakatane to do the White Island trip, so we chatted about that and other things on the one hour journey to Te Kaha.

Things started to go a little pear-shaped (at least temporarily) when the woman dropped me off in the centre of Te Kaha. I asked where the Homestead Lodge was, and was told it was 3km away - that's 3km in the very direction that my lift had just departed to! So after walking for over half an hour, I was greeted by the owner of the Lodge, who was without doubt the most enthusiastic man I have ever met! Of course, there were no vacancies. I had chosen to stay on the exact same day as: 1) A bus load of revellers from the Kiwi Experience Bus, and 2) A group of military personnel who were in town for the Anzac Day service the following day. Usually, I would have called beforehand to check on availability but the area leading up to Te Kaha was so remote, that getting a mobile phone signal was nigh on impossible!

By this time, it was starting to get a little dark and so I hastily paced another 1.5km to the Te Kaha Hotel. In order to get to Reception, you needed to walk through the local pub, which was reminiscent of a scene from an old wild west movie! Everyone turned round and looked at this new kid in town! Thankfully the hotel wasn't actually connected to the pub, and to my surprise the room was really neat and complete with TV and sea view!

It had been a mixed bag of a day, and I enjoyed some 'alone time' to recharge my batteries, ready for the final part of my trip.
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