Tuesday 16 August 2011

A partridge in a pear tree...

…was one creature I didn’t see today, on my 500km circuit of the East Cape. This is a remote and laid-back area, where animal husbandry is a fluid affair: viz the frequent roadside notices warning ‘Stock wandering’ and a helpline number to ring (if you were actually able to get a signal – remote area, remember). So on my long, long drive today, I saw on or by the road, loose, not a partridge but a pheasant, three turkeys, some ducks, a rooster, five peacocks, some sheep, some cattle, a bull, three horses, four pigs, a dog, a cat and a dead seal.

There was also a lot of frost and some black ice under a brilliantly clear and sunny sky as I wove through the Waioeke Gorge past geometrical winter-pruned vineyards and lumpy green paddocks and bush and kiwifruit orchards to Opotiki on the other side. Then I followed the coast along black basalt rocky reefs and sweeps of coffee-coloured sand, past little blips of settlements, each with a marae and a wharenui with impressive carvings on the frontage. There was the pretty little church at Raukokore, all by itself on the black rocks with turquoise sea all around, where penguins nest under the baptismal font; and distant White Island, its volcano steaming in a sinister manner, away on the horizon. Hicks Bay is a hick town with a beach second to none; Tolaga Bay has the longest jetty in the southern hemisphere. It took so long to get around, with photo stops and vain attempts to locate the locations of Whale Rider and the wonderful Boy, that by the time I got to the tip I had to power back down to Gisborne; so I didn’t get to the lighthouse at NZ’s easternmost point, or have a chance to linger along the beaches.

Perhaps tomorrow, weather willing: though it may be our turn for the Polar Blast that’s dominating the news. Poor old Dunedin is used to snow, and Queenstown thrives on it; but in Christchurch people are still living in cracked houses with outside loos (some even in caravans and tents) – and now literally on top of all that they’ve got snow too; and Wellington’s steep streets are slick with ice, plus they’ve had thunder and lightning; and they’ve all had power outages. Seems like it would be only fair if it were Gisborne’s turn tomorrow.

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