Stranded in Opotiki
Opotiki Travel Blog› entry 88 of 206 › view all entries
Today started well as I joined a new group of 8 to go on the 3 day east coast pass. I had lamented not seeing White Island and had been given a leaflet on this and thought the sound of shark diving and seeing the first sunrise of the world sounded pretty cool. 2 hours in it became clear that the pass was in a state of flux, and that White Island was an option only open to people hopping off the bus and prepared to wait for the next bus on it's way round 3 days later. Also, the shark diving was off due to weather forecast and not due again for another 5 days, which I was welcome to spend in Gisbourne. I, unfortunately, don't have time for either of these stop-offs, and 2 hours in, after a word to the Stray office, was turned out at Opotiki to make my own arrangements with a partial refund for my troubles.
I found myself at a cosy little hostel, having missed the daily buses that return to Rotorua. The hostel is someone's house, refurbished to accomodate backpackers, and the hostess a gentle-mannered German lady. I sat for some time trying to work out what to do with my extra 2 days, and was frustrated to realise that merely getting back to my original location would mean 2 wasted days of non-activity to add to yesterday's wasted day. As I sat at the window, I noticed how like English spring it smelled, and how familiar the birdsong. So I decided to go for a cycle.
The lady, Uta, recommended a ride up to the Hukatairi Domain, which is the home to a wide range of unusual and rare plants, and also of a giant tree called Taketakerua, used by Maori to protect distinguished human bones from enemy desecration in past times.
As usual for Australasia, this endeavour was not something to be entered into lightly, and an hour later I was at the top of another long hill, cycling through unending fields of green, the town had receded into the folds of valley sides, and trees that looked like they might house a reserve were still miles away in the distance. At this point I began seriously to worry that I'd missed the turning and was heading miles and miles beyond my goal, and that I wasn't going to make it back up and down all these rolling hills. Added to the fact that I was on a 40 year old bicycle with only 2 gears; my legs frequently burned with the effort and as I free-wheeled down each next enormous hill I considered just how long and arduous the journey back would be.
The reserve was already dark and brooding; the weather had been moody all day and it felt close to dusk. I walked awkwardly into the forest and started to follow unmarked paths into the wilderness. When the paths started to branch, and I started to push through foliage and over fallen plants I worried again that I wouldn't find my way out. And all this for a tree that wasn't signposted, so I trusted in my sense of direction (ha!) and ploughed on. After a time I noticed with relief some people on a boardwalk, not for any other reason than I had noted the presence of a people carrier in the car park, and hoped that if I struck up a conversation with the owners they might offer me and the bike a lift back.... Approaching them with this in mind, we greeted one another and I struggled to start a conversation before suddenly noticing the giant tree they were admiring.... !
While I busied myself taking photos, they moved away and when I looked up again they had disappeared further into the forest. I consoled myself with the fact that I had achieved my goal and was free to return victorious, escaping the cloud of evil biting bugs that were sure to take advantage of my unprotected state. So I turned tail and legged it out of the forest, and started on my long journey home.
Bizarrely the short break on my legs proved rejuvenating, and after climbing the car park road I found myself flying along in the breeze, happy again to be on a bike. The hills that I had noted on the ride up with apprehension seemed not to materialise, or weren't as bad as I remembered, and 'flat' roads that I had struggled to reach the end of now seemed to have been marginally uphill afterall, so I zoomed down them in no time. In fact I only got off twice and pedalled and free-wheeled the full hour and a half home again to arrive flushed with triumph.
Back at the hostel I felt revived enough to make proper plans for my next 2 days and booked on the bus back to Rotorua for the following day, and onto White Island on the day after that without Stray. Then I will pick up the south-bound pass as originally planned, and will have to leave the first sunrise in Gisbourne for another visit.