Leaving from the Western Bay of Plenty heading east to Gisborne, we needed to pass through a few small towns, bush walks and the Waioeka Gorge.
One bush walk we did stop to enjoy was just out of Whakatane and near Awakeri called White Pine Bush Scenic Reserve, it was once a thriving Kahikatea [white pine] dominated forest and swamp that covered the area between Awakeri and Taneatua. The woods have shrunk due to historical demand for white pine boxes to export butter, and in recent times more fertile land was demanded. This 4.5-hectare forest is the last standing group of Kahikatea in the Bay of Plenty area. Which made it a worthwhile stop for a bush walk to stretch our legs. Luckily no wind or rain was around to hinder us, a sunny day and a walk and immersing ourselves in a small pocket of forest, really is good for the soul!
Another place, Taneatua which required, with my usual short notice, the Squire to slam on the breaks for a stop. Why?, would be the question on most people’s lips who live around the Bay of Plenty. Well, it was where we noticed a striking piece of street art capturing a stunning image of a Maori woman and her moko, this was beautifully achieved by a well-known street artist, Owen Dippie, yes, you guessed it I wanted to take a photo of it.
Heading back to the car down the main road in Taneatua, an old stray dog decided to cross the road, with the community cop cruising by and stopping so the said dog could continue to stroll across the road at his own leisure. Everything seems to be going at a slow pace, no hurry to get anywhere. It’s the sort of place where it is never too early to crack open a bottle when there is no job to distract. Grouped around laughing like they had no care in the world, whether it’s out in the open or behind closed doors. Seems some things don’t change in some New Zealand’s small rural towns.
Down the road and around a few more bends we stop to stretch our legs once again. This time, we saw evidence of more productivity in the form of an older woman who was tending to her large vegetable patch we guessed she may be planting more summer crops. Which made me think how much the small towns in New Zealand have changed over the years and many have been stagnant with barely any growth for years due to the lack of employment opportunities which of course had most young people migrating to the more significant centres. Now there is and has been a slow movement over the last few years to return to a quieter and less expensive area, usually within commute distance of a more substantial town or city. With many creative and entrepreneur type people bringing energy and creativity to rural towns, which is so much fun to experience. Evidence of this can be seen in the diverse cafe culture and art galleries scattered around the countryside, which certainly makes a road trip more interesting.
Before heading through the famous gorge, it is a tradition to stop in Opotiki for a coffee and something to eat as the arrival there seems to coincide with lunch. Before we reach the cafe in question, we stroll past these buildings on the corner, with not much notice given to it on previous visits.
Until the day it seemed to be screaming out, notice me, so I did.
A little bit further down the road, we found the Two Fish Cafe, a few years ago on our last trip through here. They served good coffee and an extremely packed full of goodness spinach and feta muffin, it has been a while since we have indulged in a muffin.
As a child, I never appreciated how majestic the Waioeka Gorge was, I just viewed it as a long boring ride that divided us who lived in Whakatane from family in Gisborne. This trip we wanted to be able to appreciate it, which meant that we frequently stopped to admire the luscious bush.
To stop and listen to the sound of the river and the bird life. We were fortunate that morning, as the traffic was at a low ebb, which meant just a couple of vehicles swished past us as we walked along the road for me to take some photos. Then back into the car and as it wended itself through the gorge, I remembered why the gorge was such an ordeal when we were kids.
Photo credit: Archives New Zealand ref: AAQT 6539 A1478
Welcome to Gisborne, Midway Beach
Websites that may be useful to planning your own roadtrip through the Waioeka Gorge: