Sunday 13 May 2018

Moreporks & Horses- East Cape; Part 1


We left Waipiro Bay and rather than back-track to Te Puia Springs we took the loop road back to the main road. It was only about 8kms but it was narrow, potholed and dusty. David very nearly turned around after 2-3kms but I convinced him we only had a short distance to cover before we were back on the highway.

We called into Ruatoria for lunch and supplies and then continued on, stopping in Tikitiki to take photos of another beautiful historic church. St Mary's Anglican Church is well known due to the beautiful Maori carvings and panelling inside but unfortunately the church has been closed to the public for many years so I'm unable to show you the interior. 

St Mary’s was completed in 1926 as a memorial to the local Ngati Porou soldiers who fought and died in the First World War. Standing high on the hill behind the church is the cenotaph.

There are Te Araroa signs all the way up the coast so I had to post at least one on here. Those that have been following my blog for awhile will know that I've posted many Te Araroa signs from the South Island's remote and sometimes snowed in interior in the past.  Of course those signs are for Te Araroa, New Zealand's Trail or the Long Pathway- the roughly 3000km walking trail from the top of the North Island to the bottom of the South.

This sign post is for the real McCoy- Te Araroa, the East Coast village. It's a pity that the trail doesn't pass through here, it would add a whole lot of money to the local economy but also a whole heap of kilometres to the trail.

Tikitiki is another tiny East Coast settlement with just a few houses and a number of long empty commercial buildings. It says a lot for the area that the only businesses that look to have survived are the RSA (with post boxes) and a barber's shop! Although that looks to have shut down too.  

Our next stop is at Moreports Nest in Te Araroa. This will be our home base for the next few days. We've finally reached the top of the East Coast and the most eastern settlement in New Zealand.

Moreporks Nest is a hidden gem and well worth an extended stay. They offer backpacker accommodation inside the homestead, tent sites on the front lawn and a large parking area at the entrance for self-contained RVs at $15 a night per van. And it lives up to its name; Moreporks gently  (or otherwise) 'more...pork' you to sleep from the pines up behind the campsite every night.

The 130 year old colonial home was originally situated in Gisborne, where it was once occupied by nuns and operated as a school. It was shifted to Te Araroa in 1985 and is slowly being restored to its former glory. A section of the top storey was removed when it arrived and is now one of the whanau's homes down the road.

There's a great communal kitchen and BBQ area at the back of the main house and laundry, toilets & showers available too. It's also one of the very few places around the coast where you can fill up with water; and lovely spring water at that. Most people are on tank supply and water is a valuable commodity for the locals. 

I do feel very sad for Moreporks Nest though, they are about to loose a fair bit of their trade. This is not good for any East Coast business where it is a daily struggle to survive. And the reason? There is a new NZMCA Park about to open just half a kilometre down the road, the digger was parked up ready to attack the paddock a few days after we left.

Te Araroa village is not very big and I know that having the NZMCA Park in town is going to bring a lot of other business to the settlement but sadly it's also going to take some away from Moreporks Nest. I hope people will still support Moreporks, it's a lovely place with charming hosts.

Site of the new Te Araroa NZMCA Park
Of course our first day of exploring was out to East Cape and the lighthouse. We first visited the lighthouse back in 2011 when we did a quick three day loop in our car from Tauranga up the Eastern Bay of Plenty, round the Cape and down to Gisborne, then back home through the Waioeka Gorge. David recalls the number of steps involved and is reluctant to commit to climbing them again. He comes along for the ride anyway, all 22kms and much of it gravel.

It's a beautiful sunny, calm autumn day but you can see from the hillside how ferocious the wind blows out here along the Cape road. The last time I saw bush sculptured like this was in South Westland on the West Coast near Haast. 

I get excited when, just as the road leaves the coast for a short distance to cross a river, I think I spy some horses on the beach. We turn around and head back and sure enough, there are horses resting on the sand near the water line. Two of them are cooling off by actually laying on the wet sand, did you spot them? 

The East Coast is well known for it's free-running horses, they're not actually wild horses although some appear to be wild by nature. They belong to local families and have either broken free from their paddocks (where fencing is not the best) or have been set free to roam at will and caught again when they're needed for breeding or riding. 

I took this photo a couple of days later when I headed back to the beach to see if I could find the horses again. This time there were a few extras in the group.

This photo was also taken on that second trip, as you can see the weather was turning but it made for a great moody shot.

About 6kms from the Cape we stopped to check out a very 'rustic' campground with one of the best views in the country.

East Coast Campground is really just a random, half finished building in a paddock with very few facilities. I'm sure the vision was there at the beginning- the Gisborne District mayor even opened it back in 2005- but it seems to have petered out over time. 

Now all it really is, is just a stunning place to park up for a night or two (self contained of course). I love the directions to the honesty box; arrows on the door frame leading in from outside up the edge and over to a slot in the wall!

We're nearly to the end of the road and ahead of us I can see East/Whangaokeno Island which sits just 2kms off  the Cape. The lighthouse and keepers house used to be on this island (a very lonely place for a family) but was shifted back to the mainland in 1922 because of access problems, earthquakes and landslips.

Around the next corner we can see the lighthouse high atop Otiki Hill, the sign ahead warns of cattle, perhaps that should have been horses.

Though these horses are all behind the flimsy fences that hold them all in the one large paddock...

...that contains all the old lighthouse keepers buildings.

There are horses galore of all different ages from new born foals, yearlings and mares (many seeming to be in foal too). 

A couple of the mares had two youngsters of different ages following along. I counted over 48 horses in total! They all seem to have come from a similar bloodline; a paddock full of chestnuts, palominos, creams and champagne horses. I didn't see a stallion amongst them although there must be one very near! I didn't look too hard though. 

I spoke to one of our hosts back at Moreporks later, asking her what happens to all the horses on the Coast. She told me that East Coast horses are actually highly sort after when they have horse sales because they breed them tough and they have a lot of stamina. I'd have to agree with that!

I could have stayed and watched the horses for ages, especially this little cutie; she kept close as Mum gently rocked back and forward near a pole. It wasn't until Mum stepped away that I realised she'd been scratching her bum on a broken clothes line pole! Don't you dig the foal's little punk-rocker mane tuft.

There was no point in delaying the obvious though, the time had come to tackle those steps, all 800 of them. And surprise, surprise, David decided he might as well climb them too, as I knew he would.

To be continued...

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