The day started out quite literally picture perfect.  As Gisborne is the easternmost point of the easternmost landmass, we’d be the first people on the planet to see the sunrise for the day and I wasn’t going to miss it.

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We sat on the beach, sipping our instant cappuccinos while watching the sunrise.  And when that was over, we packed up the little car again and went to explore the city centre.  Only, it was 6am and the people of Gisborne are long over being able to see the sunrise so there was no place for us to go.  We wandered like crackheads, looking for a cafe with WiFi or an outlet to charge up our electronics.  Anything would do.  But we were denied time and time again.  How could we camp on an isolated spot on the beach with WiFi and can’t find any in the city?  It was maddening.

What to do at 9am in a city where Captain Cook first landed declaring this land for the Crown?  Hit the Cidery, of course.  We walked through their door right as they were opening.  Fully aware that it didn’t look very good for two people to show up at the tasting room first thing in the morning, we wandered a bit looking at every award winning plaque and trivia sign posted.  After 10 minutes, we dropped all pretense and asked for a cider tasting.  I listened to the pretentious description of notes and careful fermentation fully knowing this is what my fellow classmates duct tape to their hands and chug until they pass out.  Not once during their drunken escapades have I heard them mention the subtle pear notes and mild apple essence.  Scrumpy is not known as a drink for the classy.  Yet here I was, sipping it and discussing its characteristics like you would a fine wine.

Bloated from all the cider, we walked around looking for Cook’s landing site.

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Instead of going down the wine trail for more booze tastings, we hit the Wine Centre for one-stop shopping.  We were on a tight schedule.  Did I mention it’s only 10am?

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Time to hit the road.  On the itinerary was a leisurely drive up to the East Cape, swing by the lighthouse and stop for the night at a campsite so remote and rustic, it had no address listed. Sounded perfect.

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We honestly thought this sign was a joke

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It wasn’t.

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After 40 minutes on an unpaved road, we finally found our campsite.

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Only it’s been abandoned for so long that a bird had built a nest in the cupboard and died of old age.  Seriously, we have photographic evidence.

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Steve wanted to camp regardless and then I pointed out the stripped bathroom facilities.

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But all was better once we came across a lovely family with whom we shared a bag of apples.

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Desperate to find a campsite before the sun went down, we chose the first place we came across in Te Araroa.  It seemed quaint but with a bit of something else.  We couldn’t quite put our finger on it.  After we set up our tent, we wandered a bit around the perimeter to get a sense of what “it” was.

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The broke-down caravan that served as the camp’s pigsty was clue #1

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The cemetery behind the pigsty was clue #2

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Still, the thought of camping at a site where we were probably surrounded by criminals looking to fall off the grid appealed to us.

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That sheep’s face mirrored my own once I stepped foot in the bathrooms.

It dawned on me, it was going to be a long night.  As we sat down in front of another broken down caravan serving cold beer with fish n chips, the notorious NZ sand flies feasted on our feet and ankles.  If you’ve never heard of sand flies, it’s because the States would never allow such a sadistic cousin of the mosquito to exist.  Not only do they itch like crazy after the initial bite, it’s the severe inflammatory response you undergo 24-48 hours later that drives you to insanity.  We fled to our tent trying to escape the swarm that was attracted to us.  We zipped up the tent nice and tight.  And then the skies opened up and tried to drown us out.

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