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March 16th 2011- Napier

March 11th 2011 – after a very peaceful night at White’s Bay we headed back up to the main highway and the route to Picton.  It didn’t take long to get there.  We parked the van and went for a strol around town, bought a few bits and bobs and stopped for a coffee at one of the café’s with a view over the sea and the marina – lovely!  The weather was absolutely amazing, blue sky and sunshine yet again!  We then drove up to Waikawa Bay, just to the East of Picton, to the campsite where we had stayed on our arrival in South Island a month ago. We spent a very relaxing afternoon and Clive took advantage of the sunshine to top up his tan!


A Real Picnic!


I was on the laptop blogging, checking emails, Facebook etc and I noticed that Lindsey was on Skype.  I texted Hello and got a reply back saying she hadn’t got long to chat as she had to leave for the airport shortly to catch a flight down to Wellie for a Forest and Bird meeting!  I couldn’t believe it!  I told her we were in Picton and heading over to Wellie the following afternoon!  She told me where she was staying and we said we would try and catch up with her at some point.  How amazing!


I went over to the camp kitchen a short while later to prepare our evening meal and there was a radio on but it wasn’t very loud.  I vaguely heard something about another earthquake and thought Christchurch had been struck again! There was a young couple in the kitchen too and I asked them what had happened and they explained that it wasn’t Christchurch this time but a huge earthquake had hit Japan and that there were tsunami warnings all over the Pacific!  Oh dear, things are really rocking and rolling at this side of the world aren’t they!


Later that evening, just before going to bed I nipped over to the loos and spotted this rather handsome green gentleman on the wall.  On closer inspection I realised it was a Praying Mantis.


Praying Mantis


March 12th 2011 – We were in no rush to do anything today as our ferry crossing was booked for 2.20pm so we had all morning to relax.  Unfortunately it was cloudy and quite a bit cooler than yesterday. However, we decided to go and investigate the Waikawa Bay Marina – you know how we like to look at boats!  I spotted a Pied Shag on a post preening, they are such pretty birds.


Pied Shag


Besides all the yachts and cruisers in the marina there were lots of yachts moored out in the Sound as well. If you lived here you would just have to have a boat, you could spend a lifetime just investigating all the little islands and bays in the Sounds, it really is a fantastic place.


Yachts in the Sound


There was a café at the Marina so we made good use of that.  We finally headed for the ferry terminal, Clive said we might as well get there early, check in, park the van in the boarding lane and whilst we were waiting we would have time to make some sandwiches for lunch and have another cuppa. Well, it didn’t work out quite like that!  We arrived at the terminal and checked in. We were quite early, it was 12.40 when we arrived, we weren't due to check in until 1.30. The lady in the kiosk checked our booking reference and asked if we would like to go on the earlier sailing at 1.10pm!  We said yes! We hadn’t booked to go on that sailing for the simple reason that it was $50 (£25) more expensive than the later crossing, so we did very well getting to go early for the price of going later – if you get my drift!


Within a few minutes of arriving at the terminal we were stowed in the hold!  We knew that we had about twenty minutes before departure so I quickly jumped into the back of the van and made some sandwiches, which we ate immediately, then locked up and headed upstairs.  We were wandering around looking for a good place to sit when a voice said “hello”!  It was Liam! Unbelievable that we should meet up again – they had told us they were planning to get the ferry over to Wellington this morning and we were booked on the late afternoon crossing yet here we were, together again!  Anne was outside on deck trying to get a signal on her dongle to post her blog but it wasn’t long before she made herway back inside and laughed her socks off when she saw us!  So we had good company for the crossing over to Wellie.  We stayed inside for most of the crossing but then Anne went off to get some photos and after a while came back in and suggested we all go up on deck as it was so beautiful, which we did.  It had brightened up considerably by now and the sun was out, it was still a wee bit cool but not too much to send us back inside, even though Clive and I were only in tee shirts!  Anne was right, it was very beautiful indeed.  I have to confess, I am very sorry to leave South Island, we have enjoyed it so much, it really is incredibly beautiful.


We arrived in Wellington and said our goodbyes once again to Liam and Anne with a promise to keep in touch and if ever we are in Ireland again we have promised to visit them in Clonmel, Co Tiperary.  I know we would be made extremely welcome and we would have a great time being in their company once again.


Once we had disembarked we headed straight into Wellie city centre to try and locate the hotel where Lindsey was. We did find it, not far from Te Papa, Wellington’s wonderful museum.  I changed into something a little more respectable and then we wandered into the hotel foyer.  Clive spotted a board announcing that the Forest and Bird meeting was in Room 44 – it was right next to the reception area.  The door was open so I peeped in, there were one or two people standing around but it was obvious the meeting had adjourned for the time being.  A gentleman wandered over to see if he could be of help, I explained we were looking for Lindsey.  He told us that the meeting was due to resume in a few minutes so she would be back shortly.  Sure enough she appeared and dida double-take when she saw us!  We just had time for a hug and a five minute chat then the meeting was ready to start and she had to go back in.  We said goodbye and told her to brace herself as we would be back with her in a fortnight!  I think she will be glad to have Clive back so he can mow her lawn again, its grown like mad recently!  She has mowed it since we left, in case you were wondering, but with the sunshine and rain of late it has just gone mad and is almost knee high again!


We had booked into a campsite at Porirua, a small city just a few miles up the coast from Wellington. However we were both absolutely starving so decided to have a meal before heading up there.  We wandered around looking for a restaurant and finally found a rather interesting one, it was an old tug boat which had been converted into a restaurant.  We both had a burger and very nice they were too.


Floating restaurant


Once replete we walked back to the van and headed up the coast to Porirua.  The campsite itself was actually part of a motel complex and very pleasant it was too.  We went into the lounge area and made use of the TV and it was then that we realised the full impact of the Japanese earthquake and the resulting tsunami!  We thought Christchurch was pretty bad but this was total devastation.  The footage of the tsunami coming in, relentlessly taking everything in its path, even buildings on fire floating along with it, was just horrifying. 


March 13th 2011 – we spent a very lazy morning, there didn’t seem to be a specific departure time at this campsite so we stayed put, blogging etc then late morning we set off to have lunch at my friend Sue Reeves’ house.    On our way we noticed some really weird clouds, we have never seen clouds like these before, they looked like shadowy hills in the distance at first.  This photo doesn’t really show how weird they were but will give you a bit of an idea!




Weird clouds


Sue’s house was a bit tricky to find but we finally got there.  She lives in the most amazing place.  Her house is set on a hillside overlooking Wellington Harbour, the view is stunning!  She has a really lovely window set in one corner of her lounge framing the view.


Sue's lovely window - it does not tilt to the left as my photo suggests!!


Sue poured us both a glass of wine, took us out onto her terrace and informed us we were lunching al fresco!  We were just waiting for her friend Lee to arrive before eating.  He turned up a few minutes later.


Sue's terrace and that wonderful view (not me, behind me!)


We had a lovely lunch, good food, fine wine and great company.  Lee was a laugh a minute and kept us all entertained.  However, he had to leave soon after lunch as he was playing tennis.  A very popular sport over here, every  town has a tennis club and the kids start playing at an early age too.  We finally said our goodbyes to Sue, its been lovely to see her again.  Its really good to see her enjoying life as it is now seven years since she lost her lovely husband, Chris.


After chatting to both Sue and Lee about where we should go next we decided to head up towards Masterton. We had a fantastic drive through some amazing countryside, first climbing up through the hills and wondering if the faithful old Econovan was going to make it to the top, then plunging down the other side, hoping the brakes would hold!  When we finally reached the bottom we were in the vast, flat expanse of the Wairarapa Valley, another wine making and fruit producing area. We had decided to camp in a place called Carterton and it wasn’t long before we arrived and got settled into a very pleasant campsite.


March 14th 2011 – Our journey today was very uneventful, after leaving Carterton we continued up the main highway, Route 2.  We stopped off at Mt Bruce Wildlife Centre for a bit of lunch then carried on up to Waipawa.  We found a campsite and Clive went into the office to check in.  He could hear somebody having a piano lesson in the back and a young girl, Clive reckoned she was about 12, did the checking in.  Could only take cash and told him to help himself to a site, anywhere!  We did just that.  Well, we have to say it was the most laid back site we have been too!  It was extremely basic to say the least!  At one point I was just exploring the facility block and a man came out of the Ladies!  He turned out to be the owner.  He asked if we had got checked in ok and had we been informed that the Ladies’ showers weren’t working?  Er no! Fortunately, I had showered that morning so reckoned I could manage another day.  He wasn’t kidding though, the showers were not only not working, they had been ripped out!  It turned out that they need regular maintenance as the water tends to leak down the sides of the cubicles and rots the wood – the last time he maintained them was ten years ago!!!  At least, that explained what he was doing in the Ladies!


March 15th 2011 – We left Waipawa after breakfast and continued our journey to Hastings.  We decided to stop in Hastings to have a look around and have a coffee.  Hastings is a lovely place, all the shop fronts were festooned with hanging baskets and looked very pretty.  There are also some interesting sculptures around the town too. 


It was a bit disconcerting to discover that there is a railway line running right through the town centre!  New Zealand's rail network is nothing like ours at home, it is very sparse indeed, we rarely see trains and those that we do see tend to be goods trains.  The level crossings aren't as sophisticated as our either, most don't have barriers, just flashing lights and sirens, some don't even have that, just a sign stating "Look For Trains!".   So I had a very good look in both directions before crossing this one, then I got brave and nipped back to take this photo!

Intercity rail!!


Hastings and its sister town, Napier, share an interesting past.  On 3rd February 1931 both towns were devastated by the huge Hawke’s Bay earthquake, which measured 7.8 on the Richter scale, actually there were two quakes, one immediately following the first and in total lasted for an incredible three minutes!  Hastings was almost destroyed but Napier’s destruction was even worse due to fires which raged through the town following the quake.  Both of these towns were almost totally rebuilt in the Art Deco style of the time, which makes them quite unique.  So, as you see, earthquakes are not new to New Zealand!  We thoroughly enjoyed wandering around the town and then stopped for a coffee and a muffin at one of the many coffee bars in the town.  It was lovely sitting outside in the sunshine watching the world go by.


We resumed our journey to Napier but on the way passed through another town.  This was definitely the place for a photoshoot so Clive pulled over and parked the van.  We crossed the road and Clive posed for the camera!


Clive in Clive!


Interestingly both Clive and the town were named after the same person, Sir Robert Clive, "Clive of India", who was born in Market Drayton, Shropshire!


A short time later we arrived in Napier.  We drove around and had a look at the city centre briefly but decided to find the campsite and take the next day to explore Napier at our leisure.   We found a lovely campsite on the West Shore and got ourselves settled in. We hadn’t anything in for tea so I headed off to the local shops but unfortunately passed a fish and chip shop on the way – oh dear!  Well there was no contest, they sold Tarakihi!  Nom Nom!

March 16th 2011 – we made an executive decision when we woke up, we decided to stay another night!  So Clive nipped over to the office and booked us in again.  That meant we didn’t need to rush!  We had a leisurely morning, Clive is doing some more family tree research, this time for my cousins, Charlotte, Chloe and Rob Mason.  Late morning we drove into Napier for a look around. Its beautiful!  The first place we came to was Clive Square!  There is a lovely park here complete with fish pond and fountain and also an unusual musical sculpture!  Its called the Napier Carillon and it plays a different tune every half hour on the lovely tinkly bells, its sounds gorgeous!

Napier Carillon

We sauntered along through the lovely Art Deco streets, some with very upmarket high street shops, some selling antiquities from the 20s and 30s, including retro clothes!  Then we spotted this very elegant young lady taking her dog for a walk, Clive made her acquaintance and I took their photograph!

That dog is eyeing him quite suspiciously don't you think!

The Art Deco style is evident everywhere, all in different pastel shades, very pretty indeed.  One particular building has quite a dramatic history; the Masonic Hotel.  The first Masonic Hotel was opened on the present site by the proprietor, Joseph Gill on 14th September 1861, later it was extended and had a new proprietor; Mr A Dalziell.  On 23rd May 1896 it was destroyed by fire!  The hotel was rebuilt in 1897 by a Mr C Fleming McDonald and became the grandest hotel in Napier!  In the 1931 Hawke’s Bay earthquake the hotel was destroyed again, mainly by the fires that raged after the quake itself.  After the quake a temporary corrugated iron building was erected to serve the patrons whilst a new hotel was built.  In 1932 the current hotel was built and fortunately it is still standing today! We have not been able to ascertain its connection to freemasonry but the Masonic symbols are evident in its décor.  It really is very grand.  We had a look around in the foyer, it is like stepping into a past time.


The third Masonic Hotel!


We stopped for a bite to eat at a cafe on the opposite corner to the hotel, we had a lovely lunch accompanied by a smoothie made from Feijoa fruit!  The Feijoa fruit tree grows all over New Zealand, though it is not a native, it actually came from South America but is often used as hedging and has the added bonus of bearing fruit!  It was quite delicious, unusual flavour, sort of a mixture of banana, lemon and pineapple!


Feijoa fruit


After lunch we did a bit more exploring.  Whilst we were in Hastings we had passed a music shop and the manager was outside cleaning the windows.  He saw us looking at the instruments in the window and asked if we were gearing up for Paddy’s Day!  We had completely forgotten that it was actually this week!  So, one of the things we wanted to find was somewhere celebrating Paddy’s Day with live music!  We had expected to be in Gisborne by Thursday or Friday but on checking on the web there didn’t seem to be any live music on or indeed an Irish pub in Gisborne!  We had found one in Napier called The Rose but they were only having recorded music on – oh dear!  However we were reliably informed at the iSite office that there was a pub called The Brazen Head, which was almost certain to have a live band on, so we went to find out if this was true.  We found the pub and sure enough they informed us that there will be stuff on all day tomorrow, a live band in the afternoon and another one on in the evening – brilliant! So we made another executive decision, we’re staying in Napier another night!

We had thought it would be nice to go for a swim in the sea it was still lovely and hot and sunny. Unfortunately the beaches around Napier are very pebbly indeed so we changed plans and went to the Ocean Spa instead!  It is situated right next to the beach just a few minutes walk from the city centre.  There were several pools to choose from, some quite chilly until you became acclimatised but were nice to swim in and some quite hot so you could just sit in the warm water and relax – lovely!  We spent a couple of hours in there then headed back to the campsite for dinner, which we ate outside on the picnic table next to the van – very nice indeed.


We will report back on how Paddy’s Day Napier style goes –watch this space!








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