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  • Writer's pictureClaire

02/04/24 Napier to Whakatāne

Despite having great hopes for a glorious sunrise, in our very best spot to witness it to date , we were sorely disappointed!

Nothing, all we could see was grey cloud!  What a waste of an epic parking space, Mother Nature had let us down in great style. 

My disgruntlement was such, that we decided we’d pack up Ismene, drive to the camp kitchen have some breakfast then hit the road.  One of the other guests was cooking curry for breakfast, and apologised for the smell which was unnecessary, but nice. After finishing up the leftovers, filling up the faithful bumble bee hot water bottle we left Napier. Not greatly enamoured with it but it’s another place ticked off . Our initial plan for the next few days was to take the costal road up to Hicks Bay around to Cape Runway and then back across the coast before heading for Rotorua. We had a look at the map and did some research and concluded that there wasn’t much for us on that route. Instead we opted to head up toward Opitiki cutting through the Waioeka Gorge Scenic Reserve, with the loose plan of staying in Opitiki overnight. 

From Napier we drove towards Gisborne and some of the scenery was incredible, little telly tubby mountains rolled as far as the eye could see, before we became surrounded by towering trees and ferns in the forest. The main highway had lulled me into a false sense of security and the road was once again steep, twisted and winding. When we  got as far as Gisborne we turned inland, and called in for a brew at a little cafe in Matawai, the first town of size that we came to. The brew turned into food as well and it was bloody good, scrambled eggs and thick toast slathered in butter! 

After feeding ourselves we got back on the road and started through the Waioeka Gorge. Taking this route took us through a spectacular conservation area of native forest and regenerating farmland. Part of the reserve runs alongside the Waioeka River, and the road whilst being fully sealed, was anything but straight and ran along  the now familiar deep ravines down for which there where no barriers. God I hate these bloody roads! Despite loathing the roads, I was enchanted with the scenery, just beautiful and so very peaceful. We hardly passed another vehicle along the way. 

As I said, our original destination was Ōpōtiki, a slightly worn around the edges kind of town with a scattering of historic buildings. Māori traditions are alive and well here, with more than half of the population claiming Māori descent. It small grid like streets didn’t really appeal to us and we made the decision to carry on a little way up the road to Whakatāne. It’s  a town that is  main centre for the eastern Bay of Plenty and apparently  Whakatāne  is one of the sunniest towns in New Zealand. It is known for its fishing – more yellowfin tuna are caught here than anywhere else in the country.

The site I had chosen wasn’t  a top ten camp site but we’d  picked the whakatane holiday park  for the reason  it was a bit closer to the places we wanted to go tomorrow. Not a bad site, a few minutes walk from town and very quiet. It was beachfront, but there was a large embankment that was paved protecting the camp from the elements. Free showers were back on the books, and they were boiling! The kitchen water was not the biggest but we only had a few cups of tea in there.  It seemed to have long term and short term visitors, all of whom were very sociable and happy to chat, and despite the proximity to the town it had a nice vibe to it. The swimming pool was available until 1930 too but it looked cold to me, besides its dark by that time of night and therefore its bedtime! The facilities were very clean, and also had a keypad entry system, which for me was a royal pain in the butt, because I’m not great remembering things. Problem averted by writing the number on my hand. Genius. 

The staff were really nice and helpful, and the price was good. So all in all nothing to complain about. The rain came in just as we were putting the bed up, so we just about managed it without getting too wet! Long driving day for Si, but tomorrow is scheduled to be a bit touristy and as such not quite the distance for him to drive!! 

Much Love


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