Archive for May 23rd, 2007

Hicksville

There were cows nibbling at the wing mirrors when I woke. Cows are dumb.

Started the morning with a bush walk around (and over) one of the hills surrounding the bay. As usual it’s loosely marked, and involves a few wrong turns and getting lost in deep bush like Lothlorien or somewhere. All adds to the experience.

And after leaving Anaura bay it hits a bit of a down hill slide. Both in terms of weather and pretty sights. It’s here that the rural desolation of the east cape kicks in. The settlements I pass through are terribly run down, the last paint job being the late 70s. Now some would say this adds to the rustic chic but I’m not sure the locals would agree.

In Waiparo bay i stop at the beach and make myself some coffee (the other problem with being run down is lack of a decent espresso joint…) and wait for the sand flies to find me yet again. I sit on the bonnet reading ‘the poisonwood bible‘ with the sun on my back. Looking at the sky it looks like it might be the last I see of it for a bit.

There is, of course no surf.

State Highway 35 abandons the coast for the next 60 km or so and I stop only in Ruatoria for lunch. The most Maori of towns in a nearly totally Maori area I feel a bit out of place. Not cause I’m white (though I am always as obvious and unbearably white as they come), but because I’m not wearing wellies and don’t have 6 dogs in the back of my ute. This is sheep country.

A few minutes earlier SH35 was brought to a standstill as 150 sheep were being herded down the road. There didn’t seem any great urgency in herding them. The dogs were lazily sniffing each other’s butts and seemed happy enough for me to do all the herding as I drove into the crowd

I got the universally accepted symbol of acknowledgement for my efforts from the farmer, a nonchalant lift of the index finger and a nod.

Back in Ruatoria there’s a chap in wellies riding a horse down the main street. I can hear distant banjos…

North of Ruatoria there’s not much. Just 30km of road and then the ocean. You have a choice, 20km east there’s the cape itself with compulsory lighthouse. Or you can begin your slow trip west to civilisation

East every time. Tourists/travellers/tour buses are drawn somehow to the points of the compass. That there’s somehow something virtuous in seeing them. It’s a claim to fame for the brochures, and something to fill the time for the traveller like me – and what is travelling if not filling time between meals and coffee.

The dirt road is windy and hugs the base of sand stone cliffs, and separates the beach and the relentless pounding waves from eating away at the cliffs. The type of waves that are nice to stare at from under a hat and some gore tex before hastening back to the car on a cold winter’s afternoon. So no, I didn’t try surfing here.

The lighthouse (the most easterly in the world…) is a top a hill towering over a farm. You have to walk through their front yard to get there. It’s a pretty white lighthouse though surprisingly small. When I get to the top I can see a blooming big island about a mile further east. Right where – if you were a ship rounding the cape, being guided by the lighthouse – your course would lie.

This seems just silly, as if they were trying to make the ships crash by putting the lighthouse in the wrong place. This before I read the sign about how the original lighthouse was on east island (cook really needed someone with a bit of poetry on his boat…) before the keeper lost three kids, almost went mad and half the island slipped into the sea. I stand corrected. Best put the lighthouse on the main land then…

The one cool thing about being at the world’s most easterly lighthouse is that you can think yourself into all kind of geographical and temporal muddles. Just thinking that if I go a few hundred miles east then it’ll still be yesterday. I get easily confused. When I come home (via LA) in July I’ll be circumnavigating the globe for the second time in my life and by my (dubious) reckoning that gives me two extra days and so somehow gives me the edge on everyone.

I consider parking the car on the endless sweeping beach, facing the terrible, never ending waves, staring at the bleak, but achingly beautiful cliffs framing the dramatic picturesque bay, but I realise I’ll never have enough adjectives to make it through to morning.

As I resolve my dilemma it starts to rain. And I mean really rain. Decision made (sleeping in the car is alright when you can spend all evening lying on the bonnet for entertainment) I head back to civilisation to look for a room for the night.

Te Arora is another hicksville, wellies everywhere but no horses. I look at the map wondering where’s next and my eyes surely deceive me, could this actually be right, the next town on the map is – Hick’s Bay. I’m not making this up. Thinking that someone somewhere has a wonderful sense of irony (turns out it’s named after one of Cook’s crew – surprised he didn’t name it ‘one of my men’s town’ or something equally creative).

I end up in Hick’s Bay holiday camp, a collection of run down wooden huts with a shop, a lot of rusting caravans, a chip van and a cinema (the world’s most easterly cinema! Oh give it a break…) of all things.

I desperately want to go to the cinema but am too embarrassed to ask as I’m sure I’ll be the only one in a leaky tin hut watching sponge bob square pants or something.

Instead I wash (first for everything eh?), drink coffee (old habits die hard) and eat fish and chips from the van (possibly the most easterly in the world, though I see no sign, must remember to mention it to the woman…) and read.

There are few famous kiwi films (lord of the rings was of course made here but is hardly a kiwi film). One that is worth watching is ‘the whale rider‘ filmed in one of the bays I came up through. As east coast ngati poru (maori tribe) as it gets. And that’s what this place feels like. Even down to the young girl singing and dancing in the chip shop. In some ways it at least feels like something authentic.

Would prefer to be back at Anaura bay lying on the car on the beach, but I think it’s even raining there now too. Change in weather may lead to a change of plans. More driving and less lying on a beach in the sun. I know what I’d prefer.

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