How’s this for a back doorstep?
As excited as I am about planning big overseas adventures with my little love over the next year or so, and as much as I can’t wait to start exploring the globe, other nations, and other cultures with her, I can’t help but feel incredibly blessed to call NZ home. To live in a country that pulls in millions and millions of tourism dollars every year without having any major theme parks, no grand highways, no royalty, no historic buildings with international acclaim has got me feeling a little smug.
After driving 8.5hrs from Northland to Gisborne on 2.5hrs of sleep, 2 cups of coffee, a bag of banana chips, and a very overused Spotify playlist, we needed a pretty low key first day.
We packed a few snacks, a few bottles of water, jackets, and our babes, and went for a little drive. Our first unintentional but much appreciated stop was to the World Famous In Gizzy Donut Caravan. Our greed got in the way of our best interests, and we walked away with a dozen of the most indulgent sugar laded treats ever. Usually I try and find time to SnapChat while we drive, but not yesterday. I just ate.
Then 40mins later, just North-east of Gisborne we arrived at this beautiful settlement; Tolaga Bay. A tiny East Coast town that is the epitome of laid back coastal life. To drive through the town is a bit of a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it experience. It has nothing more than what we call the Obligatory Kiwi Three: Pub, Petrol Station, 4Square (in that order). There’s also a rugby field (coasties are big on their “friendly” sporting rivalries), a takeaway shop or two, and a church. Bar this, there isn’t much else here.
Until you look closer.
Just before you reach the little beach township, a quick right turn will have you parked under these majestic white cliffs so typical of this region, and right at the entrance to the Tolaga Wharf, the longest wharf in the southern hemisphere. It is simple perfection. No big hurrah, no international fame, but a serene and beautiful piece of our nations history, and a place where I can, and do, spend hours just sitting. You really do have to walk the wharf to appreciate just how amazing (and long!) it is, and on a sunny day, or a warm summers evening, the wharf will be teeming with adventurers both young and not so young jumping off and into the deep blue about half way down, putting out fishing rods to haul in the running Kahawai or a cheeky snapper, or just sitting on one of the bench seats right at the very end, admiring the beauty of the coast.
There’s also a camping ground conveniently located right next to the beach with cabins, tent and campervan sites, and uninhibited views of the ocean. It’s the kind of place you go when you need to unplug. Like, really unplug. There’s just ocean, sand, chatty locals, and peace. No malls, no wifi hotspots, I’m not even sure if there’s somewhere to buy coffee.
While we were there yesterday we did the Cooks Cove walk which goes up and over the cliffs, winding through gentle farmland (we scared a few young cattle with our loud chats and groaning children) until you reach a viewing platform that leaves you feeling like you’re sitting on top of the ocean. A perfect place for a picnic! A track down through the bush leads you to where Captain Cook and his jolly crew first made land in the bay. The track starts off with a fair few stairs, and then a bit of time spent trudging uphill, the views are worth it, and the majority of the track is easy, even for our littlies. There were a few complaints of tired legs on the way home, but we just took all kinds of sugar to bribe them with.
I have walked this wharf at least a dozen or more times. There have also been lazy days when all I’ve managed is to drive up and lay on the white sands next to it. I have spent many, many days of my life here. But the feeling never changes. I still catch my breathe every time I round that final corner and it materializes into view right before my very eyes. I still marvel at the beautiful beaches you have to pass to get here: Wainui, Okitu, Makarori, Tatapouri, Turihaua, Pouawa, Whangara…all of these place names etched into my soul. Although my Maori pronunciation is poor at the best of times, somehow these place names roll fluently off my tongue as if I’ve been whispering them since birth. The silence, the lack of crowds, the limited reception, all of it just adds to the beauty.
I want to see the world. I want my baby to see the world. I want her to smell foods her senses don’t recognise. I want her to take walks through woods filled with trees native to foreign lands. I want her to find the landmarks she’d only otherwise recognise from storybooks and National Geographic. I want to explore with her, and learn with her, and grow more in love with our planet with her.
But we want to start here. In New Zealand. In our own country, filled with our own history, and our own people and stories. In a land where it is perfectly possible to encounter all four seasons in one day. In our beautiful country where we can go from building snowmen in the morning, to kayaking along the lakefront after nap time. Where bonfires on the beach on a summers evening can be ended by torrential rain, only to wake up again to blistering sunshine and endless possibilities.
There is so much more to see here, and so many places we need to see again, and again. Our love for travel started here. So we’re going to feed our fire here first. We’re going to just drive. For hours and hours. Just drive. Along the way we’re going to stop, explore, take photo’s, leave footprints, and then we’re going to drive some more. Once we know our own lands as well as we know our own hands, then we can fly a little further.
New Zealand, you are an absolute stunner. Let’s be travelling buddies for a little while longer.
No travels today…I need to do some work so we can buy our dream camper!