"Road Trip From Napier To Gisborne In New Zealand - Untouched Country Off The Beaten Track For Most"
The road trip from Napier to Gisborne in New Zealand, a route that closely follows the coast in the very east of the country's North Island, is rarely travelled by people from outside the region. Between the famous wine regions of Hawke's Bay and Gisborne (widely known for its Chardonnay wines) lies mainly steep hill country, farms and bush, and wild beaches.
In the video below we accompany a visitor from another wine region, California, as he drives along State Highway 2 north of Napier heading for the city that is "first to see the sun" each day, Gisborne, at the very eastern tip of the area known as the East Coast. As he drives and stops off along the way, he gives us a running commentary of his journey.
The first section is in Northern Hawke's Bay. Our guide stops at the mighty Mohaka River near Raupunga, whose upper reaches are well known among white water rafting enthusiasts. Local Maori use the volcanic stone from the Mohaka in their hangis, a method of cooking food in an earth oven (umu) .
The Mohaka's other claim to fame is the 278 m long railway viaduct that spans its banks 97 m above the river. Since 1937 it has been the highest railway viaduct in New Zealand. In fact for many years the Mohaka Viaduct was the highest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. When it was completed, it was held to be the fourth highest worldwide.
At the bottom of the hill our driver stops again to look across the river from one side of the "new" road bridge. "New" is relative, a little over 30 years. It was one of the first bridges in the country made to absorb eathquake forces - a frequent occurrence in this region.
Next to it we see the few remains of the old bridge, known as the Rabbit Bridge. In the days when rabbits were a real plague in this country, the Mohaka River formed a natural barrier to them spreading. Thus this, the only bridge across that barrier, was fitted with a gate at the northern end to stop them getting across.
While we don't see it in this film, once you cross the Mohaka and continue up the winding road on the northern bank and through the village of Raupunga, soon after you come across some vineyards after all.
There is no winery nearby, instead the grapes are grown on contract for large wine companies such as Nobilos. (North of Gisborne in the more isolated parts of the East Coast there are more of these.)
Northern Hawke's Bay's "capital", Wairoa, with its distinctive lighthouse on the banks of the Wairoa River right in the middle of town - several miles from the sea - does not feature in the film either.
Back in the days of horse drawn coaches, the difficult trip from Napier to Wairoa used to require 100 horses because of the frequently necessary changes, and passengers overnighted in Mohaka.
Instead of viewing Wairoa, however, we turn off the main road at Nuhaka to take a look at the top of the Mahia Peninsula.
Before we get there we pass Black's Beach, a black sand beach whose waves are very popular with surfers.
Soon after we arrive at Mokotahi, otherwise known as Mahia Beach, a small community in the winter months whose numbers swell in the New Zealand summer as "bach" (beach house, known as a crib in the South Island) owners from the Wairoa area and beyond as well as campers and caravaners, many also local, spend their main holiday here after Christmas.
In our film the beach is practically deserted, a rare sight in summer.
Our visitor from California passes Black's Beach again on the way back to State Highway 2 and continues northwards. On reaching Gisborne it's back down to the beach, which happens to be right outside his motel.
It's nearly sunset as he relaxes on the beach after enjoying his leisurely road trip from Napier to Gisborne in New Zealand.
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