East Cape

The country is definitely different out here. Heading in to Opotiki there are kids riding bareback through town, with just a rope around the horse’s neck. We stop at a holiday park outside of Te Araroa. The sign says AA Membership discount, and we had just signed up and so enquire. The response is I don’t care if you’re a card-carry communist! I guess the discount is out.

A lot of people in trailers call this lovely little campsite home. There’s the man with full-on moko (traditional facial tattoo) with his family. The little boys ask how tall I am and are blown away by my answer of six-foot-one. They don’t know how tall they are. It takes them awhile to guess where I am from. They know I am American but just can’t seem to think of what it’s called.

Erica takes a long and lovely walk down the beach. She nearly makes the next town but with each step forward knows there is more distance to cover to get back. A dead goat lies bloated and rotting in the sand. That’s a sign to turn around. She says that she watched pelicans hunting the surf on the way back. I have stayed behind because all my glands have swollen up and I’ve lost my appetite and all my energy. I think the Bedford has actually worried me sick.

I ring up Collin and ask what he thinks it would take to make the camper run well. He would want to put a seal kit on the transmission to stop leaks, a cost of about $1000 and to stop the tapping in the engine rebuild that for about another $2500. I take it in to advisement; we check the fluids before heading out.

Another local comes by, relighting his hand-rolled cigarette and watching us top things off. He’s a mechanic and full of questions about the van, top most being why the heck we would by something like that and for which I deign not to answer. He also points out that it is smoking really badly, another new problem arising in this awful beast.

A rugged land of ups and downs has us rolling along the coast around to Tolaga Bay. This is one of those places that feel like it is up-and-coming.

We walk out to Cook’s Cove where he once anchored and through a little arch in the rock where the river has cut through to the ocean. At night we free camp by the cemetery, sandwiched between a bird sanctuary and the beach.

It is dinner at the Pickled Walnut where we read about a murder-suicide and the family of the murdered woman disgusted that the other family will perform the kappa-haka for the killer. It’s a measure of disrespect for their dead and encouragement to other violent men that this behavior will be condoned. Instead, they feel the body should be thrown in a sack, dumped in a hole to the entrance of the cemetery for all people to tread upon. This is the traditional way to treat a reviled and disgraced person.

One of those somewhat boring days besieges us as we drive in to Gisborne. I am still feeling awful and will continue to do so for about 2 weeks. We wind up checking email at a little shop as the library is actually not on line. We get to talking with the owner of the shop, a man of Asian descent who grew up in Vancouver and has lived in town for 13 years. He talks about big box stores stomping over the ‘Mayberry RFD’ feel of the country. The country feel was why he moved here. Prices for real estate are rising, but so is crime. He has been burgled 8 times. Part of it, he thinks, is because the town is small enough people know when he’s at work, part of it is he’s a business owner and must have money, and of course part of it is he looks different.

As the land becomes flatter, hotter and uninspiring we cruise in to Napier and hop on our bikes for a look around the art deco buildings. The town was rebuilt in the 30’s after a devastating earthquake hit the area with many buildings done in this style. We also go to the national aquarium and watched a diver feed the fish. Not exactly the type of place we would like to live, but fun for a day.