Home through the boondocks – a photo log

The long road home from Gisborne to Napier takes you through the boondocks. Tiniroto Road, also known as the Inland Road, between Gisborne and Wairoa is almost as far off the beaten track as it’s possible to get in New Zealand without going off road.

Getting oriented

Getting oriented

Gisborne to Napier via Tiniroto Raod

Gisborne to Napier via Tiniroto Raod

It’s 104km of winding and hilly road that reminded me of the New Zealand of my childhood.

There’s only the occasional patch of forestry; there are no cafes and no wineries. This is farmland. Sheep farms, mainly.

The road to Gisborne

At Tiniroto, just past the halfway mark there’s a pub,

Tiniroto Pub

a school,

Tiniroto School

and a fire station.Fire station

At the pub there was only one patron – whiling away his Sunday afternoon with a pint. He had the best view in the world for company.
Lake Rotokaha

If he thought us a couple of “soft” townies when we arrived, we confirmed it when we ordered a pot of tea.

Tiniroto, he told us, means valley of lakes. It’s limestone country and he told us the lakes were formed thousands of years ago. (Wikipedia says they were formed by landslides.) The fishing is good he said. And some of the locals used to water ski on the largest, Lake Rotokaha, but not any more. He didn’t say why. Perhaps they moved away. Or perhaps, now that the road is sealed rather than shingle, it’s easier to tow the boat to the beach.

In the half hour or so it took to drink our tea – we were in no hurry – a total of three cars drove along the road. One called in at the pub. It’s a busy place, Tiniroto.

We were keen to stretch our legs and we wandered up the road behind the pub, to the school and the fire station. There was one house. The curtains twitched at the window, a figure appeared, then disappeared.

Down Ruakaka Road these roses fighting for space in the hedgerow are a sure sign that someone, filled with hope no doubt, once planted a garden here. It’s long gone.


I don’t know the name of the pinkish one, but that pale cream bloom at bottom right looks to me like Madame Alfred Carriere, the first rose Vita Sackville-West planted at Sissinghurst, and which I have in my garden. It’s a hardy thing. Despite minimal attention from me and the ravages of die-back it blooms faithfully year after year.

Opposite the hedgerow, and although the grass in the paddock was a lush green, this calf was prepared to almost strangulate himself to get the tasty piece just beyond his reach.

The grass is greener

You could say the belief in the grass being greener is what brought most New Zealanders here, whether that was eight hundred years ago or yesterday.

A few kilometres down the road we turned into Te Reinga, hoping to check out the waterfalls. We could hear the roar from the car park. But unfortunately the lookout was closed and we had to make do with this historic photo from the DOC noticeboard.
Visiting Te Reinga on 1894

At the junction of Tiniroto Raod and State Highway 38 we came to Frasertown, where we turned left and headed to Wairoa.

There’s a lot going for Wairoa. It’s beautiful for a start. And despite some troubles the people are resourceful. But, as with small towns all around our country, it’s easy to see the times are tough.

Shops - Marine Parade, Wairoa

There was history everywhere we looked. The Old Portland Island lighthouse,

Old Portland Lighthouse

the commemorations to the chief, Te Kopu, who the sign says was a friend to the Pakeha,

Kopu Memorial

and across the road this village green was once a pa. The large oak to the left was planted to commemorate the coronation of Queen Elizabeth 11 in 1952.

Village Green , Wairoa

And in Wairoa the people were, maybe still are, God fearing. These two churches were only about one hundred metres apart.

Church 1

Church 2

The weather was balmy. What better place than this for fish and chips from Fish and Feathers on Marine Parade, Wairoa. They were delicious.
Wairoa River

Tummies filled, we headed home. And when we got there my roses were in full bloom.

Graham Thomas


Madame Alfred de Carriere

21 replies »

  1. Thank you for taking us around these lovely places, Jill. A huge contrast to what I am looking at through my window right now. Actually, it’s 3 p.m. and is already pitch dark. So I am not really seeing anything… 🙂


  2. What a lovely journey. Thanks so much for taking me along. I’m going to look up the Madame Alfred Carriere rose and see if we can get them on this end of the world. You’re a gift in my life and waken the wanderer in me…now, let’s see….how much would it take to finally fly to New Zealand instead of just think about it….


    • Oh, thank-you Janet. I do like to wander and to see what’s around the corner. I wonder if Madame Alfred Carriere is available in your part of the world? Do the roses survive the snow or do you have to lift them each year?


  3. Great road trip Jill, that is a road I have not been along only went along the coast road. How green the grass is, it really is a clean green country. I loved the photo of the calf reaching through to the “greener” grass on the other side. Your roses are looking good. I loved my roses in NZ but have given up on them over here, they do not like the humidity.


    • You’re right about roses and humidity, Pommepal – they just don’t go together, do they. It has been a very green spring but now here in the Bay they’re beginning to talk about drought. We didn’t get much rain in November. At least for now my garden is doing okay.


      • We had the driest November on record in our area, but it is making up for it this month, lots of storms and the grass is all green again. Pleased to hear your garden is doing well.


  4. Oh Jill – this was such delightful post – the maps and then all the stuff throughout – including two very different churches and little details like giving us the “stay clear” in front of the fire station – to then end with the reception of the open blooms – awwwwwww.

    and seriously – sometimes the best shah moment in life has to be a pint and the company of a “best view” ha! well said and cheers 🙂


  5. Great post and photos. It made me realise it’s over thirty years since I’ve driven (actually been driven) that road. That’s how long it is since I went to Gisborne. I feel a road trip coming on; woo hoo. Cheers, Su.


  6. These are beautiful photos. What a lovely drive that was. I really like the first church and the cow. Too bad the waterfall lookout was closed, that looks amazing. Thanks for sharing another slice of your beautiful country.


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