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Chillin' in Hawke's Bay

Napier, New Zealand

Chillin' in Hawke's Bay and sressin' on the coast highway...

Everyone needs to take a break, even when they're travelling, and find a sanctuary for some solitude and sense of space. It was a 'no brainer' to choose Victoria's sister city, Napier, renown for its Art Deco architecture, as the place to toss our backpacks into a corner and chill. It's located in the Hawke's Bay region with its Mediterranean climate, beautiful scenery in every direction and home to no less than 70 wineries. We hired a 'bach' (cottage) at Wishart Vineyards in Bay View, about 10 km north of Napier. A ten minute walk through the vineyard takes us to the beach where we can watch the waves break and crash after their long journey across the Pacific. We hired a car, too, so we can explore the local area in all directions.

Truth be known, I had already arranged to spend time shadowing Napier Boys' High School rugby coaches at practices and figured that Norma would enjoy the shops and vineyards in a warmer clime. I was right, too! We were in our shorts and t-shirts having morning tea on the veranda when we heard that Dunedin is covered in snow this morning (Tuesday June 16).

We arrived last Wednesday (June 10) and have had a mix of busy and quiet days. We explored the vineyard and beach Thursday while our laundry was on the go, then visited Esk Winery across the road for a tasting. I headed off to practice at NBHS that afternoon and afterwards found myself madly scribbling notes about drills and plays.

We walked the streets of Napier Friday to see the Art Deco buildings contructed to restore the city after an earthquake devastated it in 1931. It is literally a city that rose from the ashes; its architecture is fascinating and its story is inspiring. We'll walk the opposite sides of the streets before we leave so that we can see the buildings from a different perspective.

Norma was a content rugby widow Saturday. I hit the road before 7 am on the drive to Gisborne, 200+ km north, to watch the NBHS teams play their rival, Gisborne Boys' High School. These lads play hard exciting rugby! The 1st XV game would be a close equal to any of our local premier games for skill and speed. I arrived back at the bach shortly before 6:30 pm and then headed to the local pub to watch the All Blacks vs. France game because we don't have Sky Sports on our bach telly. The game was a disappointment (France won with help from the All Blacks) and it was rebroadcast on a regular telly channel half an hour after I got back to the bach!

The road to Gisborne is the mother of all Malahats. In fact, it makes the Malahat look like a prairie freeway! It's a challenge in daylight with its twists and turns. Speed limits change from 100 kph to 25 kph in the blink of an eye. Steep climbs through the hills apparently aren't challenging enough for Kiwis - they narrow the roadway so that loaded semis almost brush cars in the opposite lane and bar any escape with a sheer drop on one side and towering overhanging rock faces on the other! None of this seems to phase the Kiwis, though. The way that they drive leads me to believe that they have visions of being the next Formula One great! Throw darkness into the mix and the whole experience requires a few stiff drinks when you get back to the bach!

Sunday...we drove down to Haverlock North and up to the top of the peak of Te Mata. The sheer escarpments and the incredible clear-day views in all directions from the 399m summit gave Norma the 'woozies'! Stops at the Arataki Honey Visitor Centre and the Te Mata Cheese Company brought her back to life.

The sun was out in all its glory yesterday (Monday June 15) so we jumped into the car and headed north for a soak at Morere Hot Springs. 40o C hot pools under the canopy of a lush rainforest of towering nikau palms, ferns and other native trees. Bird song mingled with the steam of the pools as we simmered in the mineral waters. We drove out to the Mahia Peninsula, which was once an island before sands filled in the gap over eons to join it to the mainland. The beaches and coastline were spectacular, and we found a wonderful spot on the shore to relax with a beer and snack on Te Mata blue cheese. The waves continually crashed onto the sandstone formations that waves through the millennia have etched and carved into stunning sculptures. Before leaving the peninsula, I had to stop at the local rugby pitch and marvel at its setting on an escarpment high above the wide open Pacific. The view is unobstructed and only the ocean separates the pitch from South America.

We turned onto the highway for the trip home as the sun started to set and the skies ahead glowed with its fiery colors. The marvels of nature disappeared with darkness and the challenges of driving the coast highway took over. The experience gripped Norma and she too found comfort in a stiff drink once back in the comfort of the bach!

Yep, you have appreciate the ying and yang of chillin' in Hawke's Bay and stressin' on the coast highway...

permalink written by  Shane & Norma on June 15, 2009 from Napier, New Zealand
from the travel blog: "Not Just Another Rugby Tour" - New Zealand, Samoa and Australia
tagged Hot, Napier, TeMata, Morere, Springs, Mahia and Peninsula

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