This Just In: Hawkes Bay, NZ, Hates Pronouns, Loves American cheerleaders
February 15 – 17
But before we get to our headlines, let’s visit the stories below the fold. Allow me to take you on a trip through the mountains of the North Island, as we did. You left us last on the Coromandel, where we had our appetizer of natural beauty. Consider our 3-day voyage down the East Coast our soup and salad. Seriously – the drives through this country are abso-freaking-lutely mouthwateringly beautiful.
The curves were reminiscent of our ride through Tuscany (minus the meat hangover) and the countryside of our cruise through the South African Garden Route (minus the ostrich riding). The constant shift of colors from mint green fields and baby blue skies to the hunter hues of the trees and aquamarine of the water keep your eyes endlessly occupied. The landscape continued to churn out breathtaking landscapes that photos couldn’t quite capture (but I sure did try).
The cloud-crinkled sky was a tasty amuse-bouche as we made the drive along the coast from the Coromandel peninsula to Whakatane, a small harbor town claiming the title of NZ’s “sunniest city.” Our time here was short, but very, very important. Because here, we had lunch at Wally’s on the Wharf. Aside from the greasy, crunchy, fresher-than-fresh fish and chips right on the – you guessed it – wharf, we enjoyed a lively conversation with some young Colorado expats currently living in sun-drenched Whakatane (jerks). You may wonder, as we did, as to what profession could make it easy enough for them to make the move from one side of the globe to the other (we’re taking notes here, folks). Turns out? They’re both doctors (serious jerks). So, back to the drawing board.
After our piping hot lunch stop, we cut inland on our way to Gisborne. Traveling 144km via the Waioka Gorge, we lost sight of the water to gain incredible sheer walls of foliage as we shot around curves cut deep in the mountain. Our arrival in pretty little “Gizzy” found us mourning the loss of scenery, but a quick stop by Sunshine Brewing Company, kindly offering a taste of their four delicious home-brewed beers, revived our spirits.
Checking-in to a world-renowned, 4-star hotel grassy parking spot big enough to break out our plush couches and big screen tv folding table and chairs, we made camp for the night. Fancy, it may not be, but steps from the beach it absolutely was. We took in the crushingly beautiful sunset from our “front porch” on Poverty Bay while sipping our brewery takeaway treats.
A mere 10 hours and deep sleep later found us on nearby Wainui beach watching the sun rejoin this side of the world. Or, more accurately, the world, as Gisborne is the easternmost city in the easternmost country on this side of the international dateline. Which means we were among the veryfirst people, of billions, to see the sun rise that morning. It felt momentous. Fueled with caffeine and confident the sun WOULD rise another day, we hopped back in our home on wheels and made the short drive to our morning’s activity.
What you’ll find in any town/beach/city street/back alley in New Zealand is that there is ALWAYS a hike to be found. They are endless and awesome and impossible to choose between. After much discernment and outside counsel, we settled on a morning hike to Cook’s Cove, starting near Tolaga Bay Wharf, the longest concrete wharf in the Southern Hemisphere. A few hours later, we were sweatily pleased with our decision and had put some more mileage on the old Canon memory card.
Somewhat isolated on the east coast, Gisborne easily maintains it’s small-town charm and we were sad not to have more days to roam the deserted beaches and peaceful cafes. But we were off on another adventure: farming.
Yes, you read that right. So to prepare for this ridiculous idea of Dave’s (EDITOR’S NOTE: “Bauer” is German for “farmer.” Fact. Doesn’t sound so ridiculous anymore, does it?), I leveraged a quick stop by Wrights Vineyard, a newcomer to Gizzy, and one that shouldn’t be missed if you’re in the area. The chardonnay and gewurztraminer were crisp and delicious and the fruity sauvignon blanc left our taste buds tingling. BRING ON THE ANIMAL MANURE!
So we’ve made our way back to the headlines – I appreciate your patience (but seriously, the above was like, 24-hours. There is so. much. to do here.) – you’ve been an excellent audience. So, like I said, the headline. Dave’s friend Tim had pointed us in the direction of Wairunga, a beautiful, sprawling sheep farm high in the hills of Hawkes Bay where he had WWOOF-ed (basically room-and-board-compensated work on a local farm, a common thing in the Kiwi country) last year and fell in love with the family. The remaining drive took us through farmland as far as the eye could see, with the sheep and cows dotting the hills like sprinkles on vibrant (and grassy) scoops of ice cream, and we arrived at Wairunga ready for whatever was waiting for us.
Which turned out to be John and Paulette – the warmest, greatest people to have ever lived. The next two days flew by with tons of laughs (all), loads of sweat (Dave and John and his two friends Matt and Matt), even more wine (Paulette and me) and we were sad to leave. The incredible – and first in months – homecooked meals didn’t hurt either…
In the midst of all the sheep-shearing, hospital-corner sheet tucking and local white wine-drinking, Dave offhandedly mentioned to John that “she” (= me) did something or other (the details are since forgotten and unimportant). John seemed almost confused, and it quickly came to surface that New Zealanders find it rude to refer to someone in pronoun form. Take a second and think about how often you do it. After learning of our social snafu, we worked hard to avoid it and we. worked. HARD. We said each other’s names more times in those two days than we had in the last 10 months away. A culturally-enriching experiment to say the least.
Also? It turns out that Kiwis (or at least these ones) are FASCINATED with American cheerleading – it’s not something done in New Zealand. For the first time in approximately a decade, I did backflips, the Carmel High School fight song and more high kicks than I could count. Their two daughters were keen on learning to cartwheel, and while I can’t say I was a successful teacher, their passionate effort was appreciated. And I’ll never forget the group chant that peer-pressured me into performing all of these things in front of PEOPLE again (because obviously I still strike high V’s and execute cheerleader claps in private. Any former cheerleader that claims otherwise is lying).
And like that, we were off again. So much to see, so little time. We’ll never forget you Wairunga! GO TEAM!