Walking And Reconnecting In Tūrunganui A Kiwa

I may have been spotted on one my many walks around Gisborne (Tūranganui a Kiwa), with a silly Cheshire-cat-like grin on my face – possibly simultaneously talking to myself. Next month will mark 19 years since I first set foot in this paradisical coastal city teetering on the edge of the world. I’m guessing those who’ve lived here for a long time, or forever (like Barry before we headed to the UK in 2009 for six months), are unlikely to see, or be emotionally touched by, the wonders I notice.

This place really is unique. It’s a good three-hour drive to the closest ‘big’ city, either through a mountainous twisting and turning road through the spectacular scenery of the Waioeka Gorge to Whakatane, or the equally or possibly more zig-zagging route south to the delightful Art Deco capital of the world – Napier.

Historic Tensions

Of the folks we talked to in the UK, when Barry’s was proudly flying the NZ flag, who told us they’ve been to New Zealand at some time or another, very few have heard of Gisborne never mind visited. It’s (thankfully!) not on the popular ‘tourist trails’. I’m also aware some kiwis look down their noses at Gisborne, for whatever reason. I believe historical racial tensions cloud some people’s perceptions of the area – from my perspective, it sounds like the usual story of white men thinking they’re somehow ‘superior’.

Arsons, abductions, confrontations with armed police… in the late eighties Ruatoria burned as more than 60 buildings, including the courthouse and police station, were torched in a long-running dispute over land between Pakeha property owners and a group of Rastafarians who’d swapped Bibles for firebombs.”


This is the First City To See The Sun each day – it’s also the first landing site of Captain Cook. Unfortunately, it’s not the happiest piece of NZ’s history, with much miscommunication, skirmishes and death. Last year marked the 250th anniversary:

British explorer Captain James Cook and the crew of the HMS Endeavour came to shore at Gisborne on 8 October 1769, ushering in colonial rule.

But nine indigenous people died during the first meeting between Cook and the Maori, who had been living in New Zealand – or Aotearoa – for centuries. 

Many say it is not an anniversary to celebrate, and protests were held on the shore as the Endeavour replica arrived on Tuesday.

Dame Jenny Shipley, co-chair for the 250th anniversary commemorations, said some people thought Cook’s arrival made “a huge contribution to society” – while others thought it a “tragic intervention”.

NZ anniversary: New Zealand divided over Cook’s landing https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-49958027

It certainly doesn’t make me proud to be British – but then regular readers won’t be surprised how opposed to and ashamed of I am of what the UK stands for and it’s brutal and insensitive colonialist past. The bi-cultural nature of Gisborne and the East Coast of the North Island of New Zealand is one of the many reasons I adore this part of the world.

Quirks & Cheerfulness

I also love its quirkiness. Soaking up the sunshine and blue skies the region is blessed with around 80% of the year: the relaxed vibes and incredible number of cafes and restaurants to choose from. Obviously the gorgeous golden sandy beaches. The prolific flowers and trees – there’s never a time when there aren’t leaves on some trees or flowers in bud – even in winter. The palm-fringed main street (though that’s a contentious issue as they’re growing far too tall!). The friendly people – almost everyone says a cheery ‘Kia’ ora’, or ‘hi’ as they walk past – I strongly suspect the high hours of sunshine helps!

In 2019, New Zealand made the bold step of formally dropping GDP as its primary measure of economic success and created its own index based upon its most pressing national concerns. “In this single act, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern shifted the priorities of her whole country away from pure growth and towards something that better reflects the aspirations many of us have.”

Saving Planet Earth: Sir David Attenborough Praises Jacinda Ardern’s Policies – New Zealand Herald 2th0 September 2020

Reconnecting With People and Nature

We’ve relished spending the last two weeks catching up with family and friends here – and we’ve hardly scratched the surface! It’s been incredible, and heartwarming to reconnect. Staying with Barry’s brother Ray is fantastic – and we even enjoyed an evening warmed by his home-made brazier:

The funds for our camper van have yet to appear in my bank account – we’re a little anxious that they won’t arrive by 29th September, but we’re remaining hopeful!

I’ve been busily planning Barry’s 65th birthday bash; thankfully he seems more than happy to celebrate with a big party surrounded by loved ones despite his previous reluctance. I’m not too sure of his chosen theme though, but it may actually sum a few things up from above (Pommie Bastards!).

Spring is blossoming, and I’ve noticed a few Pohutukawa trees flowering as well as some familiar spring blooms. This iconic New Zealand ‘Christmas Tree’ brings the most amazing crimson colours to the already vivid coastal and city scenes.

If all goes to plan, Barry and I are heading up to Cape Reinga next month, at the northernmost tip of New Zealand. Hopefully the famous Pohutukawa tree there will be in blossom and he’ll take some amazing Christmas card shots:

A gnarled, twisted pohutukawa on the windswept cliff top at Cape Reinga, the northern tip of New Zealand, has become of great significance to many New Zealanders. For Maori this small, venerated pohutukawa is known as ‘the place of leaping’. It is from here that the spirits of the dead begin their journey to their traditional homeland of Hawaiki. From this point the spirits leap off the headland and climb down the roots of the 800-year-old tree, descending into the underworld on their return journey.


In between all of this loveliness, I fit in my online work with Ad-extra. Early morning and late evening client calls are taking a bit of getting used to, but it’s really not a hardship to have such a flexible way of working. Life comes first, not the other way around.

I’m feeling very blessed for our wonderful lives together, and am extraordinarily proud of the lengths we’ve both gone to in order to achieve this. It’s certainly not all been plain sailing (pun intended!) 🙂

4 thoughts on “Walking And Reconnecting In Tūrunganui A Kiwa

  1. Look at those blue skies – so many memories come flooding back! Mind you it’s been lovely here for the last few days but come Wednesday…..12 degrees in the day and 4 at night!!!! Time to check the central heating.
    My happy place was up the Coast and I made so many friends in the schools there I was proud to feel part of the place, as Barry will understand from his photography days. xx

    • Blue as blue can be aye? Easy to take it for granted once you’re here. I’m planning on feeling grateful every day and not complacent.

      Our daughter had said it’s been a glorious week, Wednesday doesn’t sound so attractive 😂

      I love it up the coast too. Many special times when I was covering the midwife at Te Puia Springs, often for fourteen days in a row on call 24/7. I’d drive up to Te Araroa for a clinic or visit thinking I was the luckiest midwife on earth. It’s my idea of heaven on Earth 💜

        • I visited a beautiful family at Hicks Bay once. Their home was literally on the beach at a rocky cove. No electricity. So no internet. Can you imagine a life like that? Didn’t matter. They were happy and healthy. I was envious 🙂

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