East Cape



David Whitley puts his manhood on the line to conquer nature’s own adrenalin sport – the Rere Rockslide.


It’s an unusual approach for a tour. Steve says: “I thought going for a drive would be a nice way to see the area.”


I agree wholeheartedly. But it seems as though there’s something I’ve not quite understood. It becomes clear when he hands me the keys to his car. After all, there are six of us, and it’s better to divide between two vehicles than squish into just one car.


And so it comes to pass that I am sat in a petrol station, driving a complete stranger’s car without him even checking that I can drive, unable to see out of the back due to the bodyboards and struggling to put it in reverse.


After a comical struggle around the pumps, I wind down the window and ask why the reverse on his car doesn’t work. “Maori theft alarm,” comes the reply. Apparently it stopped working last week, and he’s planning to take it in to the mechanic’s. Jolly nice of him to tell me about this twenty minutes after shunting me into the driving seat.


New Zealand isn’t exactly known for its starched formality, but in Tairawhiti, the relaxed, laissez-faire attitude is even more pronounced. The area, often known as Eastland or the East Cape stretches roughly from Gisborne to Opotiki, and it is well off the usual tourist trail.


And nowhere else in the country could the Rere Rockslide exist without cordons and close monitoring. It’s a 60m stretch of largely flat rock, descending at an angle of approximately 35 degrees into the Wharekopae river. Local legends of injuries sustained on it have been greatly encouraging. Broken bones, smashed teeth and one particular case of a torn scrotal sac have been hammed up to us during the preceding day.


Steve, to his credit, is keen to ensure that our limbs, heads and genitalia remain intact. He drums into us the two key rules – stay on the board at all times, even when fear makes us want to stick a leg out to slow down, and keep knees and legs up.


The boards are a cross between a bodyboard and an air mattress. Designed for both speed and impact-cushioning, we’re expected to ride them down the fast-flowing, greasy slope, over any ridge that may throw us into the air and into the big pool of water at the bottom. Oh, and we have to do it head first.


My first run isn’t exactly textbook – Steve’s method for controlling direction is to put the left or right arm out onto the rock when veering in the opposite direction, but it’s not by any means failsafe. I end up plunging into the lake side-on and getting a gobful of not-particularly-clean water.


But I soon start to get the hang of it, and before long I’m flying down, riding the ridges and skimming across the lake at the bottom with a tremendous bounce.


Others in the group are a bit braver, deliberately going in backwards and attempting 360 degrees spins on the way down. I value my crown jewels a bit too much to even attempt it – but it’s proof that not all of New Zealand’s thrills require high-tech equipment. Or, indeed, a reverse gear.






By David Whitley




Disclosure: David was a guest of Dive Tatapouri (Divetatapouri.com)