My final day on the coast and finally the sunrise I had been waiting for … all those early alarms were worth it (or not 😂). It was still hazy, but the sky was generally clear and for the first time the only colour in the sky was not grey 😂❤️. Of course, I live on the east coast at home and see some beautiful sunrises but here it is 10 minutes earlier 😂.
As always, sunsets change – bright colours first (about 40 minutes before the actual sunrise), then beautiful colour reflections in the waters of low tide. About 10 minutes before the sunrise time, the sun started to poke up from the horizon. It was so red when it first rose and perfectly reflected in the sea. It was absolutely stunning. As always with sunrises (and sunsets) I find myself with that age old dilemma, how many photos are too many 🤔(there is a right answer and it is that there are never too many 😂).
What a perfect way to finish up my time on the east coast.
I packed up the car and headed back through Gisborne and inland. My first stop was Rere Waterfalls, a 45 minute drive out of Gisborne. The falls are on the Wharekopae River and although they are only 5 metres high, they are 20 metres wide and very picturesque. There is a lovely area there to have a picnic too if you are that way inclined.
From here, I travelled out of Tairawhiti and into the Hawkes Bay region. It was a beautiful drive through vineyards and fields of newly planted corn. There lots of wineries in the area and it was a shame I was driving… and that it was 10am in the morning lol.
I didn’t have a long drive today, and my final destination was the Morere Hot Springs – I had seen the hot springs described as “a treat not to be missed”. Apparently the springs produce 250,000 litres of hot sea water each day which is piped to pools set in the 364 hectares of rain forest. There is also a lot of history here, as the hot springs were used by the local Māori for healing, long before they were discovered by Europeans in 1884. Sadly, I was not able to enjoy their healing power myself on this day.
Because of their level 2 Covid restrictions, the Nikau pools (the ones I had come for which are set in the bush) were closed unless you were in a group of 5 or more. Because there are no cameras, they could not guarantee the required social distancing – it did not matter that I was the only person in the place, and they did not get the irony of that! The cold pool was also closed.
Because it was still so early in the day, I decided to at least take a walk around the Nikau Forest (around a 30 minute walk) which was beautiful. It is actually one of the last remaining tracts of coastal native forest on the East Coast. It was a lovely walk, but I probably could have done a similar one for free (rather than the $10 paid to get in – at least they have reduced the price from $18 because only 1 of the 3 pools were actually available).
The lovely walk took me passed the empty pools that I was not allowed to use before I left – as I did not fancy sitting in a hot pool in an enclosed building with no view – I can do that at home – it’s called a bath 😂🥴
My accommodation at the Morere Hot Springs Lodge was, not surprisingly, just across the road and now I was way too early for check in – I decided to give it a go and thankfully my cabin was ready for me. My simple but well equipped cabin was located in peaceful farmland, and it was lovely.
There was nothing in the way of shops or cafes in Morere (well there was a café, but it was not open) so I decided to take a drive and headed to Mahia beach on Mahia Peninsula for lunch. It was a nice little town with lots of houses that look like they are holiday/weekend homes and I can imagine it is packed in the summer.
If you are thinking the name sounds familiar, it may be because it is the home of Rocket Lab’s missile launch complex, or perhaps because it is one of the rare sports on the east coast famous for its sunsets (rare because the sunset sets in the west, but the angle and location of the peninsula enables it to get a decent sunset and sunrise). Sadly, I don’t think I will be bothered coming back in 5 hours after my early start – and we all know sunrises are my ‘thing’ 👍🏻.
After a peaceful night in my lovely accommodation, I continued my way back inland, through small towns and passed small maraes, stopping in Wairoa for breakfast. The main attraction of Wairoa is the Portland Island lighthouse, strategically placed by the river. It is one of the oldest lighthouses in the country and not surprisingly, used to sit on Portland Island, just off the coast of the Mahia Peninsula. In 1957 it was moved to Wairoa where its history has been preserved.
From here I left the Pacific Coast road, back to the Thermal Explorer highway. I could have gone a longer way via lakes and waterfalls, but that came with lots of windy mountainous roads, and I was feeling pretty tired by this point. I was surprised how tired I was as I have done lots of trips as busy and as long, if not longer … but then I remembered I don’t drive on many of those, so during the driving time I can be relaxing or dozing. Not like the concentration it requires to drive on some of these roads (well all roads really) lol.
There was not a lot of stopping today. There were not many places to stop, no shops or toilets. I also did not want to be passed by slow trucks/campers I had patiently passed and on top of that it was raining and cloudy. I did take the risk to stop at one scenic lookout which turned out to be the pretty impressive Waipunga waterfall (- even in the rain 🥴😂).
And so, I arrived in Taupo same day covid did 🤦🏻♀️ so social distancing was the plan!