Friday, October 31, 2008

Monday, October 27, 2008


Hastings is a town close to Napier, but not as well-known for some reason. They, too were affected by the earthquake but not as badly and not as many casualties. Both towns were given government money to repair and rebuild – one town had a vision, the other just rebuilt ad hoc.

The central street in Hastings showed some effort, but the historic element was missing and it seemed more of a ‘locals’ place, rather than a tourist place that had made the most of its past.

Outside Hastings we discovered an oak avenue planted in 1854. Huge, imposing oaks lined the way for a good five minute drive, impressive even by National Trust standards! We loved the way they seemed to be holding branches over our heads.

There was also a tiny signpost for Frimley Park, where originally there had been a homestead surrounded by formal gardens and a wide variety of non-native trees. The farm homestead burned down, but the gardens remain, with acres of climbing roses and huge trees from all over the world.

The rhododendrons were massed along one side in splashes of colour and there were so many shades of green it was almost shocking. It did remind us of England with its circles of multicoloured poppies and scented flox.

Our final stop for the day was Pernel Fruitworld, where we managed to catch the owner Phil, driving his tractor along and coerced him into taking us on a tour of the orchards. It took us an hour to go round and lines and lines of trees covered in white blossom everywhere. They even rent bees in the spring to pollinate the trees and ensure a good crop.

He decribed each grove in detail and we came away with the distinct impression that pacific Rose and Jazzy apples were the best in the world and that apple trees must be pruned or they become ‘wooly’ and the fruit is only good for juicing.
He grew kiwis, five kinds of apricots, six kinds of apple, pears “you grow pears for your heirs” apparently. He was full of NZ expressions, the best one was about the lambs who he said “could run like egg!”

The skies were a blue that hurt your eyes and we all caught the sun and delighted in the shade and home-baked cupcakes when we got home! We also came away with a ‘tasting’ bag of different apples and pears, to go with our diminishing stock of tangelos.

Sunday, October 26, 2008


After lunch we ventured out to Kidnappers bay, but the tide was too high for a coastal walk so we opted for the Botanical gardens instead. These were filled with white doves and rhododendrons, in masses of pinks and reds. There were some interesting signs, telling you what you couldn’t do!

At the top of the Gardens there is an old graveyard in which some famous New Zealanders are buried. Most of the headstones were thrown over and cracked in the earthquake and the locals simply glued them back together. At the very bottom of this is the Jewish section, where it is impossible to walk and the land is disappearing over the edge.

Here we found William C who was the first missionary to land here and Bishop William Williams, who, if his family plot is anything to go by, named all his sons William and four of them became Bishops too!

The weather was not so windy, brilliant blue skies and you can get sunburned if you’re not careful.
We passed a little town called Meeanee on the way home and made a detour – well, you would, wouldn’t you?
“Where do you live?”

Anyway there were signs stating that the place had an historic church, so we followed them until we found an impressive yellow and white, weather boarded church of an impressive size. Imaginatively called... wait for it ...The Old Church! It was surrounded by sturdy vineyards and had a pretty flower garden at the back; it looked idyllic.

When we went through the wooden doors it was a bit of a shock though .. it was a restaurant, filled with baroque furniture, rich red fabrics, curtains hung from the carved columns and a giant chandelier in the middle. People were being served luscious teas and the waitress asked us if we wanted help and we managed to tell her that we had thought this was a church.

It had been de-consecrated and bought by a restauranteur and is now used as a wedding and events venue! When we got back outside we noticed that all the grape vines were hung with little fairy lights and giant batteries were on the ends of the posts. You could have a real knees up there! But I’m sure it would cost you.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


We had vanilla pancakes and syrup to tide us over the art deco trail – the guide book said 60 minutes – we completed half the tour, in two hours! Still half to go; but the feeling of being art de-co-ed out is an interesting one!

The girls were our guides and told us about each building – the designer, features and what happened to it in the earthquake. I think they have become art deco experts.

We spotted every geometric, angular pattern variation, lots of sun symbols (even in the pavement) and dancing women – the antique shops which are down every street were filled with artefacts and china ornaments, embroidered silk shoes and beaded dresses.

What really came across was that the entire town, practically, was rebuilt in two years. The town was like a demolition site after the quake and the architects were nearly all art deco influenced (with some Spanish Mission style thrown in) the place has a cohesive feel to it, rather than the mis-matched usual style of a town.

There are also no telephone poles or electric poles, as they were all buried underground after the disaster, which meant there were no street signs (there were no poles for them) instead they set them into the pavements. – there are, of course, street signs today, but the pavement names are still there, made out of mosaic tiles.

“ Napier’s buildings create a tapestry in which all the threads of the modern movement (the 1930s) are woven together.”

When you combine the buildings with the long sea front and avenues of bottle palms, it is a unique place to visit.
We also found ourselves noticing the Maori designs which crept into facades and balustrades or doorframes. The cathedral, and New Zealand only has seven, had a Maori altar, with woven flax designs, side by side with the traditional stained glass windows and pulpits. Interesting mixture of faiths.

There aren’t many statues here – some memorials to soldiers who fought in the war and one on the esplanade of Pania – it’s made of bronze and depicts a Maori legend of the place.
A Napier poet May Cottrell wrote a poem about the legend and the statue was modelled in 1954, using a student at the Maori Girls’ College, called May Robin.

Friday, October 24, 2008


The land gets flatter and flatter and the hills form a deep green bowl as you drive into Napier. It seems to have sprawled since we were last here and it was only as we came to the centre that I recognised it.

The Esplanade was as splendid as ever and filled with scented flowers at this time of year. The blue and white fountain was blowing everywhere as the wind was picking up when we arrived. We watched the orange dredgers in the harbour and found our Beach Cottage, right on the sea, with every modern comfort we could want, even pale yellow orchids growing in the garden – I guess that proves the climate is different here. We had freshly baked pizzas for dinner and hot chocolate with marshmallows before bedtime.

The next morning we knew we had little to no driving in front of us, so we headed for town and the Museum. The Museum has, for some reason, a corrugated iron gorilla, holding an ice-cream, peering over the top of it?
It’s crazily reminiscent of the statue of liberty, only more frightening!

Anyway, inside the Museum if you venture downstairs there is a film running, in a tent, with ‘survivor’ stories from the earthquake and a clear, but worrying display of what causes earthquakes and where New Zealand is, in relation to the fault lines. I think the title was ‘Something’s Got to Give!’

Once outside it was slightly unreal to walk down the High Street, having seen the film of its total destruction. We visited the Panui statue and Tourist info. To find out about the art deco tours and vineyards.

There is a festival here in February where everyone re-enacts the 1930s and dresses up in the fashion of the time and drive their old cars into town. It looks fabulous!
After lunch we decided, despite the wind, to attempt the Whakamaharatanga Walkway, up to the pa. The steep walkway takes you along the ridge of a hill which used to be an island in the middle of a lagoon.

When the earthquake happened the ground manoeuvred so high, that the island was lifted out of the lagoon and became joined to the peninsula. The lagoon then disappeared altogether and everyone began to use the land.

Tangoio Beach, was our next stop after that, to look at possible fishing sites. Greg brought the kayak and is hoping to catch us some fish for the barbeque tomorrow. Returning to our little haven we bought freshly picked apples from a local stall and Sophia made apple pie! We ate it with lots of ice-cream.
Early start tomorrow.

Thursday, October 23, 2008


This was a little river town where we stopped for lunch, we had hot sausage rolls on benches by the water.
There was a fat lighthouse in the middle of town, which was a little strange, and a giant cooking pot where the girls pretended they were being cooked up by cannibals (a little close to the bone considering where we were!)

The town had “misleading signs” as Sophia put it! For example, ‘Vegewise’ that sold clothes? Well?

But it was a pleasant walk that went on for miles along the river and even a 1913 art deco building, which reminded us that we needed to push on to Napier.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


This promised hot springs and lush rainforest walks – the springs were full of excited youngsters, so we opted for the muddy rainforest walk.
The owner told us he had come from Northland a decade ago and “found a piece of paradise”.

These springs produce 250,000 litres a day of ancient sea water.
The water emerges from a fractured fault-line running across the Mangakawa valley and is piped to pools which are a 10 minute walk into the rain-forest. It cost $3 a person to soak in the hot pools!

It was strangely filled with spiky nikau palms and huge black ferns.
There was a bright gypsy caravan at the entrance that reminded us of Roald Dahl’s ‘Danny Champion of the World’ one.