Thursday, March 22, 2007

From Napier via Gentle Annie to Ruapehu

We found Napier to be an unexpected delight. Despite having read about the Art Deco architecture, we really had no concept of how prevalent the theme was until we arrived and took our first drive through town open-mouthed. We managed to incur a speeding ticket in Napier, but I really don't understand how when we seemed to crawl around the place gawping at building after beautiful building!

I think the fact that we took one photo in Napier - this one of the harbour - simply indicates how overwhelmed we were. I don't think we could have decided which building to photograph. We loved the 1930s shop fronts, but the older houses - particularly on the headland - also delighted us and we spent one morning doing u-turns in steep narrow streets on Bluff Hill as we explored every inch of the place. The Harbour and West Quay were worth several hours mucking around in, watching fishing boats come and go. The Kiwi Adventure Centre had a St Vincent's-style cafe in the same building which served up a fantastic cooked breakfast.

It was the kind of town that suggested good fish and chips could be had. We were disappointed by one chippy, but thrilled by the deep fried oysters at a pub in the town centre (how completely indulgent ... and not something you'd expect to taste good at all!). We stayed at the reasonably priced Grange "farm stay" - - where the accommodation in a loft was very comfortable and spacious and the hosts were very nice (and knowledgeable local wine makers). We did feel though that Napier was the kind of town that one would enjoy most WITHOUT toddlers ... it had a couple feel to it. Not surprisingly, Little J and E weren't really inspired by the historic architecture or the wineries. So we didn't hang around Napier, but rather set off into the interior of the North Island - into King Country.

As we drove up into the high country the countryside took on a bleak appearance - a bit like Kiandra or the Yorkshire moors - and we thought this small church was absolutely intriguing. We stopped and wondered over for a closer look but got spooked by the grave of a small child dating back only a couple of years alongside graves from the 1800s. All the tombstones had Maori inscriptions and the community centre next door gave us the feeling that we had wandered into tribal lands. We beat a retreat hoping we hadn't offended anyone unseen.

After a long drive over what we later learned was "Gentle Annie", we hit Waiouru and yet another excellent cafe designed to make a cup of coffee with children a pleasant experience. Only trouble is you have to then convince them to get back in the car. One child each and we departed screaming and kicking to push on to our next farm stay just short of Taumaranui. Our hosts divided their time between sheep breeding and running a cafe in town (deciding where to have dinner was therefore not a problem). Again we lucked spacious accommodation in a converted garage with a great breakfast part of the deal. And I'll admit - there were times when cable television was welcome to transfix Little J and E at the end of a long day.

The little ones meant trekking the three volcanos - Mountains Ruapehu, Tongariro and Ngauruhoe - was not an option. But we could drive up past Whakapapa Village and get a good dose of Mt Doom and Mordor ... and the savage black rock-strewn landscape was eerie and draped in fog.

With walking not an option, we drove around the volcanoes and stopped for lunch at the bottom end of Lake Taupo. Then we chanced upon a trout farm and everyone was happy learning about trout and feeding the fish.

King Country is the heart of the North Island - and we were sorry to push on ... but once we heard about the Forgotten World Highway, well it had to be driven ...

1 comment:

  1. Jane... I was so excited to see a comment from you on my blog.

    I love your blog. Your family is certainly on an adventure and how gorgeous are the kidlets, especially where they seem to be eating in sync.

    Look after yourself and keep in touch.