One of the biggest things I wanted to do when I came back to New Zealand for my trip myself was do Stray Bus’s trip of the East Cape of the North Island. This is one of the least populated places in the country (as if this is even possible) and they only run bus trips during the summer months. Since there is lots of Maori history in this part of the country, I really wanted someone to drive me around and tell me about what we were seeing. All the trips start and end in Rotorua and in the previous years, they traveled clock-wise, which would have been perfect for me, I would have just hopped off in Gisbourne and taken the bus down to Napier, but when the summer brochures came out, they reversed the tour direction, so I would have to start and end it in Rotorua, so I could catch the bus to Napier. I was pissed about how much time I would have to spend in Rotorua (I was so over that place) but I did have a hostel there that I loved a lot, so that was one good thing. The day I got on the bus, the driver informed me that we would be going on the previous years direction and I was slightly annoyed about the late information. But oh well, being in New Zealand is all about going with the flow.
I wish I had budgeted better as I really wanted to go to White Island at some point but we only made a pit stop in Whakatane before heading out to our first nights stay in Maraehako Bay at a lovely little oceanside hostel that I would highly reccomend. Some people grabbed snorkles and went out into the water, but after an early morning start, I claimed a hamock in the shade and spent the afternoon napping under the trees. Talk about best day ever!
The next morning, we drove out to the point that is farthest east in all of New Zealand and to see the worlds lagest Pōhutukawa or New Zealand Christmas Tree as it’s generally known. We contiuned on to Tokomaru for afternoon snacks and a pit stop at the cutest hotel I had ever seen, Brian’s Place because the driver had to drop something off. Staying in the cabins at this place looked so much fun! We drove on to Tolaga Bay where one of the longest piers in the world is located. It’s quiet a walk to the end and when we got out there, our van driver urged us to jump! All the boys and some of the girls did, but I did not. It’s really high! We had a quick stop at Whangara, which is where the story in the film Whale Rider takes place. I hadn’t seen the movie in years and have since rewatched it and it looks exactly the same as it did when they made the movie years ago. They actually did film it there and I think I understood it more, once I had been to New Zealand and understood the culture more. It’s a good movie to watch either before or after you have visited.
We continued on to Gisbourne. Everyone on the tour wanted to feed sting ray’s so we stopped at the place near town in Tatapouri that does sting ray feed and shark diving. It was really fun, but kind of scarey. You walk out into the water, drop some food and the rays come like right up to you and swim all around you. You are wearing these highwater pants that you normally only see fisherman wear to protect you, but it’s still funny. After that and before we got to the hostel, we stopped at a place in town to get Hangi for dinner. We sat right on the beach and ate it and it was fantastic, a true New Zealand and Maori experience. And hello, meat and potatoes, you can’t go wrong there! Sounds like my kind of meal.
Stray has their own hostel a little outside of town, right on the beach, that I currently can’t find any information online about, but I don’t think it matters as the public doesn’t stay there anyway. The place was so super cute! Some other people who had been through the Stray East Cape tour had stopped there for a few months to help up keep the hostel and spent the rest of their time surfing, so it was nice to talk to people outside the tour for the first time in a few days. The place was very rustic. Bathrooms are sort of outside, but it just reminded me of Girl Scouts. There is only one large dorm room, but tons of space, plus you know everyone, so it wasn’t pretty much a non-issue. There is also a fire pit and a super cute backyard. Plus, like everything in New Zealand, it was super clean. No complaints from me!
The next day, before the ride back to Rotorua, to essentially pick up my bag for one last night at my favorite hostel in Rotorua, Kiwi-Paka, there were some other activities in the area, a big one being surfing, but I and 2 other girls on the tour picked rock sliding nearby. This was so much fun! It is called the Rere Rock slide and is a bit of a way outside of Gisbourne, but if you have boards, it’s a free activity and I had a GREAT time! You pay Stray and they provide the ride out, instruction and wetsuite, board and tube rental, which was great. But it can be free if you have all these materials already.
This isn’t me doing the rock slide, it’s video I took of one of the other girls doing it:
After a quick stop back in town to grab some lunch, we were on our way back to Rotorua. A stop at some hot pools outside of town and one last Maroi prayer and we were back in town.
Maori: I am very glad I did an East Cape tour with a guide. The first time. Just rushing through it all, makes me want to go back and hire a camper van and do the whole thing again, but at my own pace. This is definatly a place I will return to and see it all again, in my own car, on my own time. Seriously one of the least populated places I have ever seen in the country. I know I say that a lot, but that is still saying something for the North Island. Plus, you have to make an effort to get here, so everyone is so glad to see you, that you came! Loved it.