Wrong Way Round, April 2008

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Hi all

Well we’ve been back a week from our latest travels, so it’s time for another update on life in New Zealand. Following on from our very successful attempt to emulate Ewan Mc Gregor and Charlie Boorman’s ‘Long Way Down’ with our very own ‘Short Way Up’ to Cape Reinga in December, we were going to continue the theme with our own interpretation of ‘Long Way Round – namely ‘Short Way Round’. But – for reasons that will be seen later – ‘Wrong Way Round’ is much more apt!

So – where did we go?

Well, there’s a little known (and rarely visited) area of New Zealand known as ‘Eastland’. I’m not saying that there’s not much there, but let’s put it this way. There is one road that runs around the coast, then back across the peninsula. The loop is over 460 km long, and there are only two roads leading into it from the rest of New Zealand. Around the loop, there are only gravelled tracks leading inland, and only a couple of dead-end roads leading down to the sea.

This area of New Zealand is Maori Country. There are a number of Maori gangs in the area, including the notorious Black Power and Mongrel Mob. We were warned to take care, and not to leave anything on the bikes when we left them. All I can say is all the people we met were great, and really friendly. We had a fantastic time!

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The Route

For Arts birthday last year, I bought him ‘The Motorcycle Atlas of New Zealand’. This wonderful book marks all the best roads for motorcycles, and gives you a bit of background of the area at the same time. We thoroughly recommend it, and have been trying to work our way down all the roads it marks.

Now this next bit’s for any bikers out there who plan to visit this part of the world. So skip to the next heading if you’re not interested….

Our week-long journey started with a ride south from Howick down small country roads through Clevedon and Happy Valley – much more relaxed riding than the more traditional route of Highway 1, although a bit slower. But what the hell! We were on holiday! Then through Paeroa (as in Lemon and… see previous diary) and, via a short stop at Waihi Beach, on to our first night’s stop with friends at Katikati.

Then on to Lake Rotorua, along Route 30 (which runs alongside the three other lakes of Rotoiti, Rotoehu and Rotoma – guess what – Roto means ‘Lake’) then a left hand turn just past the last lake up a small tarmacked road going towards Manawahe and Whakatane before stopping for our second night in Ohope Beach.

A short ride took us to Opotiki, at the start of the Eastland loop. Now at this point everyone normally goes clockwise round the loop. But the weather was looking a bit dodgy, so we decided to head anti-clockwise, taking Highway 2 through the Waioeka Gorge to Gisbourne (see? ‘The Wrong Way Round’).

We had a day off in Gisbourne, then headed north up the Cape via Tolanga Bay, Tokomaru Bay and Tikitiki to our ‘luxurious’ accommodation at Te Araroa, the gateway to the final road to East Cape.

Next day, we took the road to East Cape. Then back, via the park to pick up our gear, and on to Waihau Bay for the night.

Our final day on the Cape took us back to Opotiki, then across country to Matamata and the Opal Hot Springs before taking the coast road back up towards Kaiaua, and home.

Where To Stay

From experience, we’ve found that the most convenient places to stay with the motorbikes are holiday parks. Cabins are reasonably priced (an average of $60 per night for a basic one with use of the toilet and kitchen facilities), and you can usually park the bikes right next to the cabin.

However, the quality of the parks does vary. When we can, we stay in Top 10 holiday parks (www.top10.co.nz). They’re a consistently high standard, although usually a tad more expensive than the average. We have a discount card, which gives us a 10% discount. The Top 10 at Ohope Beach was beautifully clean, and in a fantastic location on the beach, but a bit soulless.

The ones we stayed in around East Cape were of a slightly different quality. The Te Araroa Holiday Park boasts a general and bottle store, takeaway and cinema. Well, we should have been warned when I asked on booking whether there was anywhere to eat, and the reply was ‘Well there is a caravan that does takeaways, and it should be open, but it depends how she feels after the night before’! To cut it short, the store was a couple of shelves by reception, the cinema must have been closed for at least 10 years, and the caravan should have been demolished. The toilet block and kitchen facilities were pretty basic, and the water had to be boiled before it was safe to drink. But the location was superb. A short walk across a field brought you to a long, sandy deserted beach (see ‘Beaches and Bays’ below). And this place was a goldmine waiting to be found. Bearing in mind we were there mid-week out of season, they were turning people away.

Waihau Bay Holiday Park was something else again. We reckon it was a front for something – see what you think. We tried phoning a number of times during the day, but only got an answerphone. When we turned up, we were charged the most of any of the places we’d stayed ($70), the facilities were worse than at Te Araroa, and they didn’t even supply mugs for a cup of tea as standard. We were the only tourists there and most of the other very tatty caravans had satellite dishes. The café didn’t sell anything (well, it had a couple of very tatty bits of grocery on a shelf) but there was a continuous stream of locals visiting and the owner had a white BMW car. On the plus side, there was another lovely beach, and the cabin and bed we were given were very nice.


As may be gathered from the holiday park descriptions above, it can be difficult to find something to eat in the evening. It pays to go prepared to ‘do it yourself’. But bearing in mind the state of some of the kitchens, even this can be adventurous. So here’s our suggestion:

1. Have a snack for breakfast, then find a café en route for brunch. Even round Eastland there are places to be found that do really good value and tasty cooked breakfasts. But don’t expect the taverns to be open during the day – we didn’t find any that were. You do get to the stage where you’re craving for a bit of salad, too.

2. Take an ‘emergency pack’ of food and utensils. We recommend the following:

  • A cool bag, plastic storage box, kitchen knife, foil, matches, camping saucepans, cutlery, melamine plates & mugs, pack of cards, corkscrew (essential!).
  • Muesli bars, a couple of vacuum packed dinners that don’t need keeping cool (we took pre-cooked rice and curry), biscuits for cheese, a small Camembert, apples, Cup-A-Soup, a stir fry sauce pack, bottle of wine (essential!).

3. Stock up when you can in big towns like Gisborne. Things are expensive on the Loop.

Beaches and Bays

Apart from the scenery that hits you at every turn, the beaches and bays are the reason for going to Eastland. Each one is long, covered in golden sand, and empty!


We had heard mixed reports of Gisborne – not all of them good. What we discovered was a lovely little town (well, officially it’s a city, but comparatively it makes Bath look like New York!) sitting in a very fertile river delta full of market gardens and vineyards. Like Napier, Gisborne has many 1930’s Art Deco buildings, and a more than acceptable shopping centre with all the major shops that you’d need. The holiday park was less than 0.5 km from the centre, and right on the beach front.

On our day off, we booked a wine tour with one of the locals, which we’d really recommend. We went to three local vineyards, a cider factory and a beauty spot. The tour company was just one of three jobs that our guide had, which shows just how un-touristy it is around Gisborne at the moment.

East Cape

This was the main reason for our journey, so it’s only fitting I leave it to last. On the ‘big day’ we left all our gear at the holiday park and headed up the 20km track to East Cape. The maps show this road as gravel, but in fact around half of it is now tarmacked. I’ve certainly ridden on worse gravel tracks, too. The road runs right along the coast, and has lovely views. At the far end, there’s a 700-step climb to the lighthouse. It’s a hard climb, but worth it. There’s a very presentable light house for a photo opportunity too. Sitemap


So why mention a dot on the map that has a church, but no other buildings? Well, the church at Raukokore has a fantastic location, right by the seafront. The church itself is very pretty, and is the usual ‘unusual’ mix of European and Maori culture, but nothing spectacular. But it has the saddest graveyard I’ve ever been in.

The graveyard is very small. And full of members of the Stirling family. But the saddest graves are some of the newest. There are three gravestones in a row, dedicated to three brothers, Hamiora, George and Kepa Stirling, aged 19, 22 and 27. All were ‘killed accidentally’ on the same date 17 April 1987. Apparently they were all killed in a car crash. I can only feel for their parents.

On the church front, apparently we missed the inside of the best church at Tiritiri although we have photos of the outside (see above). Go inside (it looks locked, but try the door). Apparently it is full of Maori carving.

So What Next?

Well, we’re home now, and wondering where our next trip will be. We’re tempted by a long weekend along the Forgotten Highway, to the west of North Island. We’ll keep you updated!

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motorcycle_trips/wrong_way_round.txt · Last modified: 2014/06/06 12:30 by art
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