A couple weekends ago, we took a lovely Saturday and drove up Pacific Highway 35 to Tokomaru Bay. We wanted something we could do in an afternoon because Sean and I were both planning on running the Gisborne Quarter Marathon the following morning. So our plans to check out Rotarua (ro-ta-RU-ah) or Opotiki (o-po-TEE-kee), along highway 2 through the Waioeka (don’t know about the pronunciation of that one yet) Gorge, would have to wait for a weekend when we could spend a night or two in a motel. So for this day, Tokomaru (to-ko-MAH-ru) Bay was our destination. The Lonely Planet Guide describes the highway up the East Coast as one of the most “awesome drives” in all of New Zealand. And we concur.
Within minutes of driving out of central Gisborne, the road hugs the coast. It’s gorgeous driving, bay after bay, around the hillside and into the next bay. It was just stunning.
I couldn’t stop snapping photos. Sitting in the passenger seat–on the left side of the car–I had to try hard not to impede Sean’s vision as I snapped photos of the ocean on our right. Sean is immensely tolerant!
I love this sight: Freedom Campers. What is it that makes this so charming? There is something about it, imagining that we might be in one of those campervans, packing up food for a few days, playing in the water with the kids, surfing — don’t laugh; we’ve had our first surfing lesson! More about that soon — going to sleep under the stars, waking to the sound of the surf…
I know, I know. Simultaneously, I can think of some reasons why this could (could) be a living nightmare: seeking shelter in a drafty mobile tent, kids not sleeping until late into the night, kids waking up at sunrise, said kids becoming exhausted and subsequently monstrous, a case of close quarters sowing seeds of misery? But no. I’ll stop myself from going further down that road. I choose to be optimistic! So much so that Sean and I are kicking around the idea of renting a campervan for a week-long holiday around the South Island during the summer holiday. More to come about that…
Anyway, back to our trip to Tokomaru Bay. After Tolaga (TO-lah-gah) Bay, the road pulls inland, away from the coast, and so we were disappointingly met with views like this:
Bo-ring! More gorgeous countryside? Again? Obviously, I’m kidding. But after a while of “bucolic” views, as the Lonely Planet guide accurately describes them, we rounded a curve, crested a hill, and we could see into Tokomaru Bay.
We drove through this tiny town, all the way through to the top of the bay where the beach road ends at the old freezing works. During the first half of the 20th century, the freezing works put this town on the map.
This was the old track that — we’re guessing — allowed crates loaded with frozen exports to be wheeled out of the factory to the waiting ships, ready to make their long journey abroad.
However, in the 1950’s, the plant closed and the works building was left to be absorbed into the landscape. Now what remains are Tikal-type ruins: the brick shell of the building and the tracks that snake into the middle of the plant the only things left. The roof is gone; the innards are gone. Mother Nature has overtaken the building. And it was cool and eerie to say the least!
After the ruins of the freezer works, we drove back to the restaurant, a beach-front pub with excellent views of the bay. There was the third division provincial Heartland Championship rugby game on tv and a significant percentage of the town turned up to watch the game. (The team from the East Coast region, the Ngati Porou East Coast team, was playing and won.) We enjoyed the views from our table.
After lunch, we headed for the beach. It was a bit windy and so Sean and I never got out of our jackets/hoodies. But the kids were typical and shed layers and more layers. At one point Thora was naked. (That girl is crazy!)
But the beach was deserted, except for this lonesome 8 year old who befriended us. I got a case of the giggles after this exchange with Sean occurred:
The Kid: I killed a pig this morning. I stabbed it.
The Kid: I mean I shot it in the head.
Sean: Even better.
The Kid: I mean I stabbed it in the heart. Right in the heart. There was blood–
Sean: Wow. That’s great.
The Kid: Can your kids shoot a gun?
Sean: Umm, no. They’re too young.
The Kid: Are they old enough to stab?
Sean: Good question.
It was about then that we put the kids in the car and said our goodbyes to that kid and to Tokomaru Bay. We wanted to make sure that we did all the driving during daylight, and most importantly, since the kids were likely to fall asleep in the car, the sooner they did this, the better. So we turned around in the grassy field where we’d parked next to the beach and turned onto highway 35, headed South. I drove this time, to give Sean a chance to take in the scenery on the way back. And it was on the way back that we took this snapshot of Makorori (mah-kah-ROR-ee) Beach from a scenic lookout. This will certainly be a destination for an afternoon on the beach. Just stunning.
All in all, we were happy with our first daytrip up the coast. There is so much to see in New Zealand, I’m not sure when we’ll be back to Tokomaru Bay. (I think we pretty much did what there was to do there.) But I’m glad that we did it. More surprisingly, I found I was happy to be pulling into our home town, passed increasingly familiar sights: Makorori Beach, then Okitu (OH-ki-tu) Beach, then Wainui (why-NEW-ee) Beach, then into town. Our town. Our humble, little, pretty awesome, growing-on-me-each-day, Gizzy.