Rather Wet Yet Wonderful Times In Gisborne And Rarotonga

Since falling head over heels in love with New Zealand in 2001, my experience here has been around 80% blue skies and sunshine year-round in Gisborne. When we’re living in the UK, I frequently long to be here for that reason (amongst others) – and I feel it’s why kiwis appear friendlier than Brits (IMHO). This visit, however, has been unbelievably different. It’s felt far more like a British summer, sadly. Is it climate change or just a different weather pattern?

There follows a rather lengthy catch-up of what we’ve been up to since before Christmas and our previous post. Finding time to blog has been impossible – until we’ve been forced to stay indoors due to the current Cyclone Gabrielle (yep, even MORE rain!). Cyclone Hale brought devastation and sadly a death here, a few weeks ago. More about that later …

A Family Christmas

My youngest daughter Kimberley (Kim) arrived in Gisborne on 24th December and stayed with us until the 25th of January. How amazing to spend so much time with her when neither of us had to work very much. It was an extremely precious time.

From 17th December to 25th January, we were house and cat-sitting for a friend which made accommodation simple. Apart from the catfight! I’ll explain shortly …

We had some sunshine on Christmas eve Day so enjoyed drinks and food at The Wharf Bar and Sunshine Brewery where Barry’s brother Ray and his daughter Emma joined us. We exchanged a few gifts on Christmas Eve back at the house-sit and relished being in each other’s company. Thank you Sam from ‘Gangplank Spirits & Preserves‘ for the Christmas Eve minis!). Kim had bought me a set of pyjamas from China and bought herself (a much smaller!) set too! Oh, and a cute set of reindeer ears 😉

On Christmas Day Barry’s son Tom and his partner Mir, plus the lovely Ludo, came round for pancakes (cooked outside on the BBQ), bacon, bananas and maple syrup. That may sound peculiar to people reading in the UK, but it’s a Teutenberg Christmas family tradition!

You’ll note the three feet photo? Kim found a pair of silly feet that she gave to me – they’re remarkably similar to Barry and Tom’s ‘Hobbit’ feet! Hilarious!

Barry’s elder brother, Ray, has only one ‘official’ day off per year on Christmas Day. Last year he made the momentous decision to take 28th December off too and came out for a day of fun with us. We went to Motu Falls, somewhere I’d not been to previously. There’s an amazing swing bridge over to a bush walk, and we had a yummy picnic of Christmas leftovers al fresco.

A Happy New Year

Out of Christmas and New Year, for me, the latter wins in enjoyment. I find Christmas intensely annoying – far too much emphasis on buying ‘stuff’ with money most people don’t have for a spurious reason (sorry, but as far as I’ve researched, that birth did not happen on 25th December – the whole event was kidnapped from a German festival of trees and a Pagan celebration of the winter solstice!). I do, however, enjoy New Zealand Christmases. It’s a far more subdued occasion here – probably as it’s in summer and the days are long and light. A few homes make an effort and have festive lights in their garden, but as it’s not dark till after 9 pm it’s not a big thing.

We spent New Year’s eve at the Tatapouri Fishing Club, dancing the night away into 2023. It was brilliant with a great band called simply ‘111’. Barry’s friend Eddie joined us. Barry used to house share with him in the 1980s. He now lives in Perth so it was amazing to spend time with him. Sadly I failed to take a single photo of Ediie! Sorry lovely man. One day we WILL get to Perth to visit you.

We gave Eddie a lift home in the early hours of 1st January – and got a flat tyre on the way back! A rather inebriated Barry had to change the tyre on the car we had borrowed from Tom. It wasn’t the warmest of evenings, along with a smattering of rain (a commonplace occurrence this summer down here!), but it was amusing to watch. It turned into a rather expensive first day of 2023!

Since 1st January 2002, Gisborne has held a ‘Fire In The Sky‘ event at the confluence of the three rivers. It’s sponsored by the bakers Walter Findlay Ltd and is a fantastic family evening out. The weather was rather cool, but thankfully it only rained a little bit! The event has only been cancelled once – January 2021 due to COVID restrictions. Ludo had his ear defenders on, but it was still rather overwhelming for him so he didn’t stay the whole evening. It’s one of many amazing experiences to savour living in ‘Gizzy town’.

Chilling In Rarotonga

In December 2012, I flew to Bali to meet Kim for her 30th birthday on 4th January 2013. We had an idyllic three weeks there. For her 40th we chose Rarotonga, the largest of the 15 Cook Islands in the central South Pacific. Its population is around 13k of the total Cook Islands around 17.5k. I hadn’t realised when I made the booking that they’re 23 hours BEHIND New Zealand! Another costly error as I had to change our flights to and from Gisborne and add an extra night onto our stay.

We had the most amazing time. It’s over three hours of flying time northeast from Auckland, with Air New Zealand. Currently, it’s the only place you can fly there from as other airlines from the USA and Australia haven’t restarted since COVID hit in 2020. A friend of Kim’s, Jeremy, who she met in China, joined us on Tuesday 3rd January from Wellington, New Zealand.

The first wakas (canoe-type carved boats) set sail from Rarotonga to New Zealand via Tahiti and The Marquesa Islands hundreds of years ago:

As to where the New Zealand fleet came from prior to its stay in Rarotonga, I much regret that the excitement caused by finding such a complete knowledge of New Zealand history in Rarotonga, caused me to forget to ask Tamarua’s opinion on the matter; but from the information obtained by Mr. Large, and what was told me by the late Te Pou-o-te-rangi, of Rarotonga, they came from Tahiti, though perhaps not from the Marquesas, as Mr. Large learnt. Whilst there can be no reasonable doubt that in those days, the Maoris and Earotongans were perfectly familiar with the Marquesas (Iva, or in Maori Hiwa), we cannot neglect the important statement of the Maoris themselves that they came from Tawhiti, or Tahiti, especially when taken in conjunction with the Tahitian names of the west coast of that island, preserved by the Ngati-Awa people of the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand. That Tahiti and the neighbouring islands was the home of the Maoris some generations before their migration has been proved by the identity of ancestors.


The Takitimu will feature once again towards the end of this (very long!) post.

We loved Rarotonga where we stayed from the 2nd to the 12th of January. Amusingly we left Gisborne on 2nd January, stayed overnight in Auckland in an airport hotel, and then flew to Rarotonga on 3rd January. We arrived 0n 2nd January before we’d left Gisborne! Time travel is a painless event we learnt …

It meant that we celebrated Kim’s 40th in the last place on earth to experience the 4th of January. We stayed at Moana Sands Lagoon Resort for five nights, close to muri beach, and then Ikurangi Eco Resort for three nights a little further up the east coast. Both were amazing places – though we were disappointed in the first as it was purportedly ‘adults only’ but the bar and restaurant were only open for two hours in the morning then not again until the evening! That felt wrong – what is the point of being adults only we wondered?

However we did enjoy the kayaks (though not having to carry them to and from the beach down and upstairs!), and the room overlooking the pool and lagoon was superb. The Eco Resort was amazing, with nourishing breakfasts delivered each morning – but sadly it rained almost the whole three days we spent there. My booked cross-island walk on our final day was cancelled, as was Kim and Jeremy’s scuba diving trip – their booked kite surfing also didn’t materialise due to poor weather. Mother Nature is sure causing challenges. These were minor I totally realise in comparison to the extreme weather events around the world.

We enjoyed the cheap bus service for six of our days there (the first two days were public holidays), a magnificent cultural show at Te Vara Nui (I even bought a coconuts bra following the event as I was so impressed with theirs!), a brilliant boat, snorkelling and an island BBQ trip with Captain Tama for Kim’s birthday (when we actually had a blue sky warm day!), and many delicious dinners out.

Unfortunately our evening at Antipodes, on Saturday 7th January, didn’t reveal the promoted spectacular sunrise view! As there were no buses that worked with our times, we biked from the Eco Resort. Kim and Jeremy had been quad biking and arrived back late in the afternoon. They had an awesome adventure – I’d chosen to forgo the adventure as I was cautious about risking breaking any of my ageing bones! Oh. My. Goodness! It was a lot further than I thought cycling so far! It’s mostly flat on the island, and you can drive the whole way around the 32 kilometres in about 45 minutes.

We did manage a speck of sunset on Kim’s birthday from the beach near The Kikau Hut, where we ate a divine dinner with amazingly friendly service. On our final evening, we discovered Vaima On The Beach following a recommendation by a local Kim and Jeremy had met. Dinner is quite literally served on the beach; followed by a couple of drinks at the Shipwreck Hut Beach Bar which is owned by a jovial kiwi.

Celebrating Ludo Cave Being One-Year-Old!

Our gorgeous kiwi grandson Ludo Cave Teutenberg was one-year-old on 10th January. What an immense journey he’s had from conception to now. We’re extraordinarily proud of his doting parents without whom he would not be so fortunate. We also remembered his twin brother, Ira Leif, who sadly wasn’t so fortunate.

As we were away on the 10th of January, Tom and Mir organised his first birthday party for Sunday 15th of January. Dozens of friends and family came to celebrate and meet Ludo, who was totally overwhelmed by the whole thing! He is adored by so many people and is the happiest little chap you could imagine. You’ll see from the photos how besotted Barry is. Possibly more than Areandare? We have absolutely no idea how we’ll leave him in May …

Rail Bikes And Beaches

In between the atrocious weather we’ve had, there have been a few ‘normal’ Gisborne sunny summer days. We’ve made the most of these by going to local beaches, cafes and places like the regular Saturday morning Farmer’s Market. Of course, we’ve also had lots of fun times with friends – I’ve just been very remiss at capturing many on my phone camera.

One outstanding experience which took place on a fine day while Kim was with us, was The Gisborne Railbikes Adventure. I’d wanted to do this for many years so booked it with Kim. As you have to travel on tandem bikes, sadly Barry couldn’t come. Officially opened in December 2018, there are three different railbike trips available:

We chose the Beach Loop trip as we’d done this section of the track together on the steam train for Kim’s 19th birthday back in 2002! I also did it with my mum and dad in March 2002 for dad’s 82nd birthday. Many fond memories.

It was a magnificent trip that I’d thoroughly recommend. Admittedly I chose the electric bike option, as I didn’t fancy struggling to get up the inclines even though I knew they’d be gradual. I was so glad I had. Geoff Main the Director dreamed up the idea of using the rail tracks and had persevered over many years to get the licence for the sole use of the disused portion of the railway track. The track after Beach Loop sadly ‘disappeared’ following previous severe weather events.

Following ex-cyclone Hale in January, tree debris from rivers and wood slash washed down from forestry sites littered the beaches in Gisborne. It’s an all too frequent occurrence. Kim and I walked on the Marine Reserve at Pouawa on her last day in Gisborne. I picked up a paua shell and took it to the sea to wash the sand off to look at it. I had absolutely no intention of taking it from the reserve. In the sea was a small log, which, when a wave washed in, crashed onto my foot. It was terribly painful! Kim said that was Tangaroa‘s way of telling me to leave the shell on the beach. Which of course I did.

The following day, 25th January, Kim sadly left to return to her job in China at an International School as Head of Student Support. That day, a tragedy befell 11-year-old Oliver Shone at Waikanae beach in Gisborne. He’d been on holiday with his family from Wellington and was playing on the shoreline amongst the log debris. Sadly he fell and was almost instantaneously killed. Having felt the impact of a small log bashing my foot I can only imagine the shock to the body of a large log hitting it. Rest in peace, Oliver.

Floods And Heavenly Anaura Bay

On 27th January, torrential downpours flooded Auckland City and devastated many homes – mostly those built on hills. One of these was recently sold for $10 million. Around 276 houses in Auckland have been ‘red stickered’ since the floods, and four people lost their lives. Our friend Rod is a builder who travelled to Christchurch following the earthquake and worked as an insurance adviser there for a number of years. Last week he went to Auckland to do the same.

Before he did, we went up to his family bach with him and his wife Tracy, sister Adrienne and brother-in-law Simon for Waitangi weekend. We’d spent two nights after our December 22nd 2009 wedding at Rangimarie in Anaura Bay, and New Year 2020/21 at Rod and Tracy’s bach in our campervan. It’s a very special place.

Rod and Tracy had brought up a cast iron bath that they’d taken out of their Gisborne house they’ve been renovating and put it in the garden at the bach. The men thought it could be fun to fill the bath and heat it – then drew straws to see who would take a plunge. Barry ‘won’! Ordinarily, he dislikes baths but being the ever-young-jester he is, he took on the challenge. Me and my ‘nursing’ brain were horrified, and stayed inside the bach unable to even watch the escapades believing he’d get third-degree burns – as a minimum! Of course, he didn’t, and Rod even found a cigar somewhere to complete the Winston Churchill chilling effect. Daft buggars!

Sadly today, Monday 13th January, Cyclone Gabrielle is causing problems for this remote community. We really hope that the bach survives intact:

“The seaside community of Anaura Bay north of Tolaga Bay is bracing for today’s high tide as State Highway 35 starts to flood. Resident Hera Ngata-Gibson told the Herald they had had steady rain since yesterday afternoon. And today the sea looked very full, hours ahead of high tide. “Wind gusts are picking up. There’s some surface flooding between Mangatuna and Tokomaru Bay on SH35.”“Our little community is as prepared as it can be.””


An Unexpected Trip Aboard The Takitimu

Yesterday I went to the Farmer’s Market to buy some fruit, and soak up the gloriously chilled atmosphere. Ludo had loved some organic mandarins I’d bought there a few weeks ago, and I found some more for him. I was walking to tom’s place and decided to go past the Tatapouri Fishing Club en route. As I did I saw Tom and Ludo1 Tom was waiting for the Takitimu to cruise out of the harbour and was taking photos. With him was Taan from Bayley’s Real Estate Agency, who I’d seen was sponsoring the unexpected boat trip. I’d previously had the pleasure of a harbour and bay cruise on this beautiful boat in January 2016, with my dear mum.

Cyclone Gabrielle

Today we’ve been hit by Cyclone Gabrielle and it’s looking likely to be catastrophic for many areas of the North Island – especially north of Tologa Bay up the east coast from Gisborne. In the past 12 months, they’ve had over half a dozen severe weather events, and the road there is frequently closed. It’s hard to imagine, but the community up there, without road access, is completely cut off. During this type of weather, the only way to get anyone seriously ill to a Secondary Care hospital here in Gisborne would be by helicopter. Of course, that’s impossible during weather like this.

For those of you who don’t know the geography of the east Coast, here are a couple of maps:

Gisborne city itself where we are should be okay, but we’re sending our thoughts to those living up the coast tonight as the Cyclone worsens. We have, however, received an emergency warning from the Council at 2243hrs this evening, especially for those residents close to rivers in low-lying areas (Barry’s brother Ray!) and our power has gone off. Fingers and toes crossed that the night doesn’t bring too much devastation …

Our Next Adventures

On 21st February we’re heading out of Gisborne to Auckland, where we’re picking up a Chubby Campervan on a free seven-day relocation deal through Travellers Autobarn. I found the deal on the Transfercar website in December and swiftly booked it up! Unfortunately, we were late booking the Cook Strait Ferry and had to move the dates a little.

We’ll be heading down the North Island, crossing the Strait on 26th February at 2 am (!), and handing the campervan over in Christchurch on 27th February. We’ll be staying with Jamie there, Barry’s daughter, and also doing the Trans-Alpine Train in early March. On 10th March we fly to Australia for a Teutenberg clan reunion – and other amazing adventures I’ll reveal in the next post. Goodness knows when that will be, as in between all of this I will be fitting in work …

Congratulations to those of you who have made it this far! Below you’ll discover some wow-worthy photography from Barry (click on the first image to commence the slide show):

6 thoughts on “Rather Wet Yet Wonderful Times In Gisborne And Rarotonga

    • Hi Linda. Fantastic that you’ve got NZ 2024 to look forward to. I hope you avoid any further extreme weather events. We’re still in a ‘National State of Emergency ‘ following Cyclone Gabrielle’s devastation 😢

      We won’t be on the Llangollen this summer; at this stage we have no idea where we’ll be 😂. You never know though our paths may cross! Would be happy to share any helpful knowledge of either location 😊

    • We did – however, this post was pre-Cyclone Gabrielle! So much has happened since posting in just one week 🙁 Thankfully we’re okay but many others in New Zealand haven’t been. Eleven lives lost so far, but the toll will rise. Nothing like Turkey and Syria of course, but hundreds if not thousands of homes have been destroyed …

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