Thursday, June 20, 2013

Gisborne NZ: The First Light Of The World

It was because of a random acquaintance that I decided at the last minute, to change my New Zealand route and head to Gisborne.

I had every intention of driving down the middle of the island after staying in Rotorua, to visit Lake Taupo, as well as see Tongariro National Park before heading down to Wellington.

However, during one of my networking events in Manila, I got acquainted with a Kiwi doing business in the Philippines... and upon learning about my trip, he boldly suggested that I drive down the Eastern Coast of the North Island (instead of down the middle like I planned), to visit Gisborne, where I could catch the first sunrise of the world.

I have to admit - I was intrigued. The idea of visiting the first city in the world to see the light of the new day sounded like something worth changing my itinerary for. This guy, who was practically a stranger, spoke so confidently about the beauty of the East Coast, that I was compelled to at least check it out!

And so I did some research, checked if it was feasible for me to change my route, and took a shot at emailing Couchsurfing hosts in Gisborne, just to see if someone was even available to take me in. No one in Taupo had responded to my Couchsurfing requests at that point yet, so I left it up to fate.

It just so happened that a family in Gisborne responded almost instantly to my request to stay at their house. There it was... the sign I was looking for. I took one look at the tattoo on my wrist, took a deep breath, and just like that, my plans took a different turn and off to Gisborne I went!

The Detour

Coming from Rotorua, it was going to take me about 4 hours to drive to Gisborne. 4 hours? Not bad! It'd be easier and quicker than driving from LA to San Francisco, which I have done several times. What I didn't expect was the level of difficulty of the drive.

I've mentioned in my other posts that I had rented a small right hand drive manual transition car I called, Sparky. At this point, I was still having such a hard time adjusting to driving on the other side of the road... plus Sparky wasn't an easy car to drive. The clutch was a little deeper than I've been used to so I fumbled most of the time. Take all those issues I've been having with the car and add the incredible feat of driving 80 kilometers an hour in and around a HUGE mountain. You can imagine how petrified I was.

The Near-Death Experience

And as if THAT wasn't scary enough... About an hour into the drive, I found myself in the middle of a lightning storm! AND - It started to HAIL. It was SO BAD, I actually thought someone was shooting a machine gun at me and Sparky!

I kid you not --- I was SCREAMING inside my car.
I thought I was going to die. I swear - I thought it was the end of me.

Throughout the entire hailstorm that lasted for 20 minutes or so, I kept thinking about the saying, "If you're going through hell, keep going." There really was no choice but to keep moving forward, and so I just kept driving... until finally, after what felt like an eternity, it stopped raining.

I had survived the deathly mountain unscathed! I was just in the process of thanking the Universe for keeping me alive when I saw---

There is always a rainbow after the storm
A rainbow!
Actually, it was a DOUBLE RAINBOW, you just don't see the other one in this photo because I didn't have time to switch my zoom lens out.

It was such a great omen... And in that moment (and pardon my Stephen Chbosky quote), I swear I was infinite. 

Nothing could ever phase me from that moment on... And even if Gisborne turned out to be a crappy place (which it didn't), I probably would have thought it was the most beautiful place on Earth.

I met my Couchsurfing hosts that night who turned out to be such amazing people - probably my favorite travel acquaintances so far, but more on that story another time. They cooked dinner, had a few people over, and we had a great evening.

First to see the light

The next morning, I rose really early to catch the first light of the world...

Gisborne is a city so close to the edge, that it is the "birthplace of the sun". I can't even describe what it was like being able to witness that.
Another Infinite moment, I have to say.

I took as many photos as I could... and afterwards, I just sat there... I waited and watched the sun rise higher and higher until the light spread throughout the entire beach.
It was a very spiritual experience, watching the sun that day. It was special... and I knew at that moment...I was blessed. :)

I drove off in high spirits, and I spent the rest of the day seeing the city and taking photos. (click on photos to enlarge)

Dumb luck and Hapenstance

This is probably one of the best, most unexpected detours I've ever experienced. Gisborne wasn't even part of the plan... but because of a random stranger, some faith and a little luck, I ended up having the experience of a lifetime!

How many of us could say we have driven through a lightning HAILSTORM to find a double rainbow waiting for us in the end? Or say we have seen the first sunrise before everyone else?

It just goes to show that life really doesn't always turn out the way you plan.
And if you're lucky like I am, unexpected things just fall into place, and you get dealt a hand that's even better than you've ever imagined. :)