November 12, 2023 Road Trip Part 1 (Day 46)

We started out early (for us) at 7:30ish for a long day of driving along part of the East Cape of the North Island. Our first stop was  in Whakatane (pronounced fah-kah-tah-neh) for some bacon and egg pies and coffees. As we drove out of town we noticed a lot of walkers and runners on the road with numbers on their shirts. We took a side road up to a viewpoint (we try to stop at every one we see!) and asked a volunteer what was the function. It is an annual fundraising challenging walk/run called Toi’s Challenge, an 18km (11 mile) route that takes the runners up over the viewpoint and back into town. We were happy to drive up!

I think the statue is of Toi, an early chief of the Maori in the Whakatane area about 800 years ago. It is positioned on the site of a prominent Pa (fortified village) overlooking modern Whakatane.

The statue looks out to sea, somewhere out there is White Island where 21 people died (some after being in hospital) after an eruption in December 2019.

We continued along the coast past Opotiki where Highway 2 cuts across the cape to Gisborne. After that there are virtually no roads into the interior! About a 40 minute drive further we crossed the Motu river. It looks almost like the braided rivers that flow out of glaciated valleys, but there are no glaciers here! I think that storms just scour out the steep valleys in torrents once in awhile!

The mountains start to get more rugged and steep, with less obvious human impact!

Somewhere up in the interior mountains is Mount Hikurangi, a sacred place to the local Maori. It is the highest non-volcanic mountain on the north island and purportedly “the first land in the world to catch the rays of the new day’s sun”, open to interpretation!…According to Wikipedia. Further past the Motu river we came to a wide open stretch of beach and a lonely old building.

I thought church at first, but maybe a schoolhouse?

Just down the road is a much newer complex of buildings, the Otuwhare Marae at Omaio. A marae (pronounced mar-i) is explained here.

This Marae is prominent in that it’s right along the road and has this intricately carved gateway.

Both the old schoolhouse and newer Marae face out to the expansive sea on Omaio Bay.

We stopped at a shady spot to have some lunch and saw these locals enjoying a Sunday ride along the ocean. It was too windy for lunch so we moved on.

We reached Waihau Bay just in time for our next coffees!

The landscape was a little different here with interesting vertical rock formations going out into the bay. Volcanic maybe?

We enjoyed our lunch at a small park next to the Waihau Bay Lodge watching 2 snorkelers in the bay and a fishing boat driving up onto a trailer and being hauled ashore by a tractor!

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