Gisborne, New Zealand

Gisborne, New Zealand

My first full day anywhere this week. The hostel is full of seasonal workers, I was warned at least twice by the owner that it would be noisy and the kitchen dirty, though I didn’t notice anything too bad. The upside of evening noise, though, is total morning quiet. After 7 or so, when most people went to work, there was nothing. I was in a lovely little room at the quiet end of the building, one South American who came and went and one twit who watched Pulp Fiction on his laptop till midnight without the sociability of headphones. They had the single end-to-end beds, but I was happy in my lower bunk next to the window at the other end of a long thin room. Twit had left for good about 6, the other gone by 7 and I lounged.

An imposing facade with a few cars parked haphazardly outside
Flying Nun Backpackers.

Another bright and sunny day. Gisborne is not quite the furthest eastern point of NZ, but the first city to greet the sun, and it had certainly done so today. I wandered out into the sun, stopping at Countdown for supplies.

You get longer than 30 seconds to pick up your groceries at their supermarkets.

The cashier was thrilled that I was in town for a day, and turned herself into a tourist information officer, advising me of places to go. I wanted to climb Mt Kitai, which was the other side of the river. I was less convinced it would be enough exercise when my new guide pointed out that her colleague did the walk every day – she smiled beautifully, but wasn’t the smallest lady. Nonetheless, I walked from town to the hill, up and over the top, via a bit of a sit on the beach. From the lookout I could watch the industry below – a big ship I had seen from the beach was being loaded with logs, truck after truck appearing, having its load taken off by cranes and being replaced by another truck. There was a huge stock of logs, these were big trucks; all were dwarfed by the size of the ship.

Looking over a beach, at logs being loaded onto ships in the distance
Loading logs all day. This taken after five, lorries and cranes still moving.

Captain Cook came here, unfortunately shot a few locals, confused by their greeting, and departed without essential stores, naming the place Poverty Bay as a result. To his credit he was full of regret at having killed anyone, and the locals are happy to have statues of him. Two, in fact, one up the hill and one in the bay, which is near that of the lookout, Young Nick, who first spotted the land. The statue on the hill was copied from another statue found and assumed to be Cook, but it wasn’t. The plaque says, “Who was he? We have no idea!”

I had lunch in town then hit the library for some Internet time. Although wifi in NZ is often expensive, most libraries offer free wifi access. Some only allow access to cardholders – the Bay of Plenty seemed to apply that stricture – but Auckland, Northland and Gisborne have all been on the freebie. I booked a couple of trains in the US, travelling down the west coast and across to the Grand Canyon, before calling it quits for the day, wandering through Gisborne, along the sea front and back to the hostel for a quiet evening.

Reading: Updike, Rabbit Redux.

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