Friday, 14 December 2007

Silly Season Road Trip - Day Two

Day Two
Dad's turn to drive. Our first stop is Waipukurau, where Mom wanted to check out an art gallery. My parents bought some ceramic plates with a kiwi design done in blacks and blues, which seemed appropriate because kiwi are nocturnal - a point we had just been reminded of at our visit to Mt. Bruce the day before. I have seen many a kiwi in New Zealand, but always in the hushed artificial night of a kiwi house at a zoo or wildlife park.

We stopped for lunch in Hastings. Now we were in Art Deco country. We spent some time wandering around the town square and photographing things. Suddenly everything was art. The street lights, the bell tower, the movie theatre.
The other notable thing about Hastings is that they built the town square such that the railway runs right through the middle of the water fountain. I was hoping for a train to come by and really make a great photo, but no such luck.
belltower hastings
We mapped a route from Hastings to Napier that would take us past a couple of wineries. We were now in the Hawke's Bay region. Know more for its Chardonnay and big reds like cabernet and merlot, this region has a lot in common with Northern California. Not a fan of big reds, we mostly stuck with Chardonnay.

Napier. This detail from a park bench says it all:
rebuilt with vision
Both Hastings and Napier were devastated by an earth quake in 1931. Art deco was in high fashion at the time, so both cities rebuilt almost exclusively in this style. Only fitting since part of the mythos of art deco has to do with the dawning of a new era, a shinning future of industry and beauty. Napier has a huge advantage over Hastings, as far as I'm concerned, due to it being on the coast. A long, straight stretch of beach runs along Napier, and they have made excellent use of it, building a park along side most of it, with such features as botanic gardens, an aquarium, a skate park, and the "soundshell" - an open air sound stage:
the shell napier
The best feature, however, was Ocean Spa. Loren and I got a private spa bath. Kept at just barely above body temperature, the water seems not quite hot enough at first, but ten minutes in and I'm toasty warm and drowsy, looking up at the darkening sky out the window. At that moment I felt completely relaxed. And that's when I knew I was really on vacation.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Silly Season Road Trip - Day One

Christmas and Summer Break all at once? There's a reason the Kiwis call it the Silly Season. With my parents in town, Loren and I both got a week off work to tour the countryside at the end of November. It was too early for folks to be on X-mas holiday, and it was mid-week as well, so had a laid-back time of it, with very few fellow tourists on the roads.

Day one:

My turn to drive. We stop at a two fruit stands and one winery. Fruit stand number one makes fresh fruit ice cream where they take plain ice cream and whatever kind of fruit you want, and stick them in an ancient-looking device that turns it into something tasty. At fruit stand number two Dad bought perfectly ripe black berries and insisted we eat them immediately. We mentioned we were on the look out for wine, and so the ladies at the fruit stand phoned the winery just down the road to make sure it would be open for tasting. The black berries were gone before we got there. We bought a pinot noir - one of the Wairarapa region's specialities, which is just fine with us since it's one of our favourites.


Next stop was Mt. Bruce - a wildlife reserve that has breeding programs for a native birds. We got up close with the kaka which are loose in the park:
And I got to show my family some hihi (the species I volunteer with here in Wellington). By the time we finished wandering through the park, we were all ready to find a place to spend the night. The next town was Etekahuna - a town too small to rate even one stop sign, but somehow managed to claim the national bird as it's own mascot:
There were exactly two restaurants open in Etekahuna. After a dinner of fish and chips wrapped in news paper, we decided to move along - the next dot on the map looked a little larger and therefore more promising.

At Pahiatua we followed a sign which simply said "quiet motel" and found a very pleasant B&B (acutally it was a 'bed' with an option for 'breakfast' for an additional fee). It was indeed quiet, with a pleasant garden as well:
There is no night life in Pahiatua. But the night was cool and clear, and I showed Mom what the Southern Cross looks like when it's up-side-down (not a sight you can see from the Northern Hemisphere, not even in Hawaii).

And that was just Day One!

More to come!

(photos from today's post were taken by my mother, except for the one of the kaka)

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

long overdue

Wow! I haven't posted since the beginning of November. That's just awful! Well, I will sit down and write a proper post about our road trip to Napier soon. In the mean time, take a look at my photos of the trip on Flickr: