Our second trip of the year to New Zealand was a mix of catching up with people, attending a conference and exploring a part of the country that we hadn’t been to before.
Visiting friends ….
Ronelle & Dave have always been welcoming hosts and this time was no exception. With both children studying away from home – one in Christchurch on New Zealand’s South Island and the other at Oxford in the UK – the house felt empty, except for Hazel the rabbit (named after the famous bunny in Watership Down).
We thoroughly enjoyed our stay with them. We were able to see their new kitchen and spend time catching up on what had happened since we were with them in April. On the Sunday morning, we visited a tiny new church called Vine, meeting in a small shopping centre at a nearby marina. After a bite to eat at a café on the water, Dave went off to his Coast Guard duty and we had a relaxing afternoon of a short stroll and more talking. Having discovered a nice Indian Restaurant in the neighbouring beachside suburb of Orewa during our last stay, we decided to return.
Travelling off the beaten track
Having toured most of North Island previously, we had missed out on the East Cape, a remote region jutting out of the east coast of the North Island. Little had prepared us for the stunning rugged beauty of the coast line or the significant Maori presence, evidenced by the numerous marae along the roadside (A marae is a communal or sacred place that serves religious and social purposes).
The 5 hour trip from Auckland to Ohiwa Beach was relatively uneventful. We did stop off along the way to climb Mount Maunganui and were rewarded with gorgeous views across Tauranga and the ocean. We checked into our little self-contained studio before taking a drive to nearby Opotiki to stock up on some supplies.
With only two full days to explore the region, we had to be selective. On day 1, the drive through the Waioeka Gorge between Opotiki and Gisborne was beautiful albeit a little misty. We stopped en route for a hike that followed the river after crossing an old bridge. We didn’t have much time to explore Gisborne but managed a picnic lunch at a high vantage point over the city and discovered a quirky coffee shop producing a great cup of coffee.
Day 2 we followed the coast, stopping off at a couple of marae along the way and enjoying coffee at a honey farm just before the East Cape Lighthouse. Given it was getting late in the day, we chose not to take the unpaved road to the lighthouse, so missed visiting this eastern most point of North Island considered as the first place to watch the sun rise.
Church door from St Paul’s, London A Marae
When we embarked on our driving tour of this remote area, little did we know that it would be making the news just months later. And sadly, not for positive reasons. Until then we had never heard of the little volcanic island, White Island, sitting 20 miles off the coast. The little plume of white smoke looked pretty against the blue sky. If we’d known about it beforehand and had more time, we’d likely have embarked on one of the island tours. Only when the eruption occurred in November, killing a number of tourists, did we truly understand why the only access was in a tour group with a guide.
The main reason for our trip was to join Glenda’s cousin Dale, her husband, and about 70 other young people at a conference. It was inspirational to spend a few days with a large group of emerging Christian leaders, hearing there stories and passing on some of our life lessons, particularly from our corporate work. There was plenty of down time to spend meditating and enjoying the gorgeous location.
Back to Pauanui in the Coromandel
It was fabulous to reconnect with Jakki & Colin again following our visit earlier in the year. We spent the evening engrossed in stimulating and fun conversations over a scrumptious home-cooked dinner.
With rain predicted, we were glad that it hadn’t arrived as we traversed the windy road across the Coromandel from Pauanui to Thames. The sun was still shining through the cloud when we arrived in Auckland, so we managed a nice walk amongst the sheep and lambs in the Domain around One Tree Hill. On checking in at our hotel in the Auckland CBD, the weather was still holding so we took a relaxed stroll down to the harbour and around some of the city streets that we hadn’t explored for a while or at all.
Torrential rain prevented us from going out the following morning, so we relaxed in our room and the hotel lobby before taking a drive to the airport for our return flight to Brisbane.
Kia Ora New Zealand…….until we return…..