We travelled 20km along the rough gravel road from Te Araroa to reach our destination, the East Cape Lighthouse. There it sat, shining white in the sunshine, way up on top of a hill. The lighthouse is the most easterly in the world, and is reached by climbing 739 steps. Robin, Peter and myself started the long climb up. Can we do it – yes we can. “It takes about 20 minutes”, we were told by some young, fit looking tourists.
It took us longer than that, and we huffed and we puffed while climbing ever higher up the steps. We reached the 150 step sign, then one that said 301 steps to go. Finally we were there. The views were magnificent; sea views to one side and pastoral scenes on the other. The cameras came out and we posed in front of the lighthouse to prove that we had made the climb up. Originally built in 1900 on nearby East Island, the lighthouse was dogged with problems as the island was considered tapu (sacred) by the local Maori. It was later dismantled and moved in 1922.
Travelling back to Te Araroa we went in search of an ancient Pohutukawa tree , situated in the school grounds. This huge tree is reputed to be over 350 years old and is the largest of it’s species in the world. Some of the branches are now so heavy that they lie along the ground. Imagine what a sight this tree must be in Summer when it is covered in blossom.
On our way to Te Araroa today we stopped at St Mary’s Church in Tikitiki. The inside of the church is decorated with wonderful Maori carvings and Tukutuku woven panels. These were created by the local Ngati Porou craftspeople and the striking pulpit was a gift from the Te Arawa people.
The many brightly coloured patchwork and appliquéd cushions on every pew added a touch of whimsy.