Given I have almost covered all extreme corners of the country, though I never planned for it, I ended up at East Cape last weekend and this happens to be the Eastern most point of New Zealand, the spot that literally sees the first sun rise in the world. By no means this sunrise is any different to sunrises in other parts of NZ or the world and there is also nothing extravagant about the event itself. But the fact that this spot gets to see the day’s sunlight first than anyone else in the world is what makes this place a lot more special.
Until I made it to East Cape, I knew Gisborne was the first city in the world to see the sunlight. But when I arrived into Gisborne, thinking there wasn’t too much to see or do (because it’s not a very tourism promoted destination) I wanted to go up the Pacific Coast highway. Having driven 1000s of kms in my solo trips, doing a round trip of around 600km from Gisborne through to Opotiki, Te Araroa and then back to Gissy didn’t feel like much of a big deal. I’ll write about the Pacific Coast highway separately, cuz it deserves it’s own post. This one’s about East Cape 🙂
Te Araroa is a town approximately 170kms from Opotiki in the Bay of Plenty region. I reached this town around 6pm just in time for the sunset. There were hardly any houses or stores, except for a couple of them. I managed to call Te Araroa Bcakpackers on the way to make sure they had a bed for me, else I would have driven all the way to Gissy. And yes they had a bed ready. In fact I was the only one staying in place where it could accomodate at least 30 people if not more. The host asked me if I was going to catch the sunrise at 5.43am next morning. I wasn’t too sure if I was ready to wake up that early and go a bit of a distance to witness it. But boy did I make a good call about the next day. I was told to start from the town at 4.30am or so, as it was a bit of a drive. At the kitchen that night I met a few campers who were also planning to get to the light house, which only pushed me further to think about it.
And thus before I hit the bed around 10pm, cursing myself, I set the alarm for 4am. With all the usual morning routine, after a cup of americano, I set off in the dark a few minutes later. East Cape was about 20km drive from Te Araroa, and it was only when I put the destination in the GPS that I was notified about the gravel road. Little did I know that the majority of this stretch was gravel and narrow one way lane with the cliff on one side, and the Pacific Ocean on the other. Anyway after a good 40mins of slow paced driving I reached the car park to find out that there were at least a dozen cars there already and I was the last one to get there that morning. It was only after parking and making my way to the light house I found out that there were approximately 900steps to climb to make it to the top. The night before I had read briefly about the spot but not to the level of detail that I was finding out as I went along. Not wanting to miss the sunrise I made it as fast as I could, huffing and puffing from about half way to the top. Oh geez, as soon as I climbed the final step to the top, I found that it was almost a mini party up there all waiting in their jackets and beanies, for the sun to rise. Thankfully I made it about 12mins before the actual time of the sunrise, set up the camera to capture a time-lapse and just waited. To my luck at that altitude of 500 ft above sea level, there was little to no breeze at all. It was a good 14deg C and silent as hell. Probably the best time to admire and be grateful of the wonderful planet we all live in.
The sun definitely rose on time, it made it’s way a bit further up as well; a few cargo ships were on their way from Tauranga across the Pacific and the 20 odd people who were there to witness the world’s first sunrise, all of them felt very special about the event for sure and so did I. But for me I sat there for another 45mins after the sunrise, thinking to myself that despite being literally in all corners of the country and also to 40 odd countries, I still had a lot of world to cover; and by lot I mean more than 75% yet !! This planet Earth is definitely magical – the more you explore, the more you want to do a lot more of it. I’m one of the lucky few (amongst millions of others) to be able to do what I want to. Travel……See……Write !!!