We headed off to Gisborne for a week at the beginning of February 2017. We left bright and early at 5am. The long drive from Auckland to Gisborne took us around 7 hours, with a stop for breakfast along the way and a few rest stops.
We arrived at Makorori Station Beach Bach where we’d be staying for the week, only to discover that mobile phone signal was very patchy! 2degrees coverage was really bad and we could only pick up signal down on the beach or if we drove into the town of Gisborne.
The bach is situated on a working farm and it took a little while for me to get used to the sounds of sheepdogs, sheep, cattle and horses at night but it is really peaceful, especially if you ignore the sounds of the large timber trucks rumbling down the hill and along the main road past the bach during the day.
The bach looks out over a paddock, across the main road and out over the beach to the sea. Its about a two minute walk to the water’s edge and the beach is safe for swimming and learning to surf.
Driving back up the road and over Makorori Headland (toward Gisborne), the first Wainui Beach parking lot that you come across is called “Whales” and it was here that we saw a sign for a whale grave and went to investigate. There wasn’t much to see, other than an information signboard posted next to the road and we guessed that the whale grave had to be somewhere under the sand dunes nearby.
Upon further investigation (thanks to Google), we discovered that 59 sperm whales had swum into the shallows and died, on a stormy Autumn day on the 18th March 1970. It was impossible to save the whales and they were buried in a mass grave in the Wainui sand dunes. A hole 500 feet long, 30 feet wide and 15 feet deep had to be dug and the bodies of the whales were pushed and pulled into the grave by two bulldozers, it took four days and nights to bury all the whales.
Today, nearly 47 years later, the fence is gone and there is no visible sign of any mass whale grave, other than the signboard on the side of the road and normal looking sand dunes.
To read the full, horrific story about these poor whales and how they died, click on this link www.wainuibeach.co.nz
Further up the road is Wainui Beach “The Pines” and Okitu Dairy, where the locals provide friendly, helpful service. The coffee from the dairy is okay but the hot chips are really very moreish! Right opposite the dairy is Lysnar Reserve, complete with a kiddies playground, picnic tables, toilets, paths down onto the beach and “The Pines” surf spot. It’s the perfect spot to get coffee, cool drinks and fish ‘n chips or ice cream from the dairy and then simply cross over the road for a chilled out picnic on the beach.
The town of Gisborne is about a 10 minute drive from Makorori Beach and groceries and necessary supplies can be bought from Pak ‘n Save or Countdown supermarkets and there is plenty to see and do within the town of Gisborne. Along the main road that runs the length of the CBD is a small cinema complex called the Odeon Theatre, there are plenty of restaurants and cafes dotted along this road, as well as along the waterfront and lots of shops to browse through.
We went to The Rivers restaurant for dinner one night. It’s a family-friendly Irish Pub that is situated on the river’s edge and boasts Gisborne’s only Beer Master. The menu is reasonably priced with generous portions of food. Seating consists of a mix of padded booths along one side, wooden tables & chairs scattered around the other side and centre of the restaurant and bar stools with higher tables closer to the bar. The food was really good and I was surprised that they even asked how I wanted my minute steak cooked. I had no idea that it was possible for a restaurant to cook a minute steak in the same way as a thick-cut steak. I asked for medium-rare and it arrived perfectly cooked and still beautifully pink and tender inside!
Staying at the bach on Makorori Farm, we were surprised at how brown and dry the grass in the Gisborne area was. We were used to seeing most of NZ as being green and lush all year round and only after chatting to the farmer, did we discover that this was the driest summer that Gisborne had seen in 47 years! A combination of the dry grass, brown rolling hills, the sounds of the crickets and the sunny, hot 33 degree weather reminded us so much of the Natal Midlands in South Africa! These poor cows and sheep haven’t had much green grass to eat, it’s all dry and straw-like.
Two days after we arrived in Gisborne it began raining. It started with a heavy downpour late on Tuesday evening and then settled into a nice, solid rain that fell for two full days. I’m sure the farmers appreciated the much needed rain.
It took a little while to get used to the grassy farmlands that seem to blend seamlessly into small suburbs right before you reach the town of Gisborne. It was only a 10 minute drive from Makorori to the centre of Gisborne and compared to the large, sprawling city of Auckland that just seems to go on forever, with crazy traffic that never seems to end, Gisborne made a nice, relaxed change. Even when there was the odd queue of traffic in the CBD, it still moved pretty swiftly.
I’ll be doing separate blog posts for all the places we visit in and around Gisborne.