A Travellerspoint blog

Crossing the Cook Strait

Monday 19th October 2015

sunny 18 °C

Today is the day when we will be leaving North Island for the South. Fortunately the weather had improved overnight and the wind which was battering us yesterday had gone. We were catching the Interislander Ferry but not until 3:30pm so we had the whole morning to do more exploring of Wellington. As I hadn't been to the Te Papa museum yesterday we both went back there once we had checked out of our room. The huge figures representing some of the people involved in the Gallipoli campaign of World War 1, were amazingly lifelike and incredibly well crafted.

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I started off reading a lot of the material but after about an hour or so I was starting to feel a little jaded about the waste of life. I got no sense of what they were really fighting about and the idea that it is better to die nobly than to surrender doesn't make sense to me. It just sounds like the rhetoric used by leaders to turn ordinary people into cannon fodder. Don't get me wrong, the people (mainly men) that died on both sides were incredibly brave but I can't help but think that if foot soldiers refused to fight then we couldn't have wars.

I decided that I had seen enough so we went and had a look at the view of the harbour from the top of the building

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and then we went and had coffee. I was also quite keen to go on the Wellington Cable Car, which we could have gone on when we were on our tour yesterday, but we opted out because I thought misguidedly that it was too windy. Our guide Simon must have thought I had gone mad because it turned out it wasn't a cable car in the ski resort sense but in reality a funicular railway, so wouldn't have been affected by the wind at all. It was good fun going up, particularly through a couple of tunnels that had psychedelic flashing lights.

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When we got to the top we went and had a look at the Cable Car Museum and we both bought wooly hats in preparation for the potentially colder weather in the south. With an eye to the time we then needed to go back down and make the 15 minute walk back to our hotel to pick up our luggage. The apartments were on the 4th floor so we were a bit concerned when we got there to find that the lift was being serviced. We walked all the way up and with the offer of help from staff prepared ourselves for carrying all our bags down the flights of stairs, but fortunately by the time we got to the stairs we could see that the lift was repaired so we were able to take the easy route down.

We had booked a taxi to take us the couple of miles or so to the ferry terminal and once there we checked in our large luggage and had a drink while we waited the half an hour until boarding. We paid a fixed amount to upgrade so that we could have wifi access (which I didn't use because it was making me feel queasy) and food and drink in the premium lounge. This cost us $90 for the two of us so was worth it just for the meal. We found seats at the front of the ship so we had good views of Wellington harbour as we departed. We were able to go outside on deck if we wanted to take photographs.

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By the time we had got clear from the North island we were about a third of the way through our journey so we then went and had something to eat. By the time we returned to the main lounge we were surprised that we were already starting to come into Queen Charlotte Sound passing many of the islands and bays that are characteristic of the area. It was a stunning sight and very different to the scenery in the north.

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Once we arrived and got off the ferry and collected our bags, a woman from our accommodation had arrived to pick us up. She told us that we had been upgraded to an apartment at another building (one we had rejected on booking because we were concerned about the stairs and the noise). She reassured us that there was a lift so getting our bags up wouldn't be a problem, and she hoped we would like the view. When we got inside we were delighted. Not only was it very luxurious but it had a large balcony with amazing views of the harbour and the Sound beyond.

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We were indeed happy and settled down to a relaxing evening, watching the sunlight fade over the bay.

Posted by Gill's Travels 15:29 Archived in New Zealand Tagged new_zealand picton wellington Comments (0)

Windy Wellington

Sunday 18th October 2015

storm 18 °C

We woke up to pretty grim weather this morning; rain and howling winds, the sort of weather that makes you want to curl up in your bed and not get out. This wasn't a very appealing or practical option. Not only would this be pretty boring but would mean foregoing the bus tour of Wellington that we had booked yesterday evening. Once we were up and dressed we had a quick breakfast and then made the short walk to where we needed to collect our tickets and catch our tour bus. There were quite a lot of Australian people on the tour who had come off a cruise ship and many of them seem to know each other now even if they didn't originally. Our driver Simon seemed very young and perhaps unfairly was at the receiving end of some jokes about his age and whether he was old enough to hold a driving license. However I got the sense that he could give as good as he got and there was quite a lot of banter between him and many of the people on the bus for the duration of the tour.

We started off by going up past the Parliament buildings including the Parliamentary Library

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and then we had a short amount of time to go inside the wooden Old St Paul's Church which has some lovely traditional stained glass windows and a quite unusual wooden ceiling. Having finished there we went to the Botanic Gardens stopping at the Lady Norwood Rose Garden and Begonia House. We had a short amount of time to have a look around and I particularly enjoyed the orchids of which there were more than begonias.

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There was also a waterfall and pond which we had a snatched look at. All of the time Simon was giving loads of information about the history and architecture of the City. This was all the more impressive when he told us that this was a part time job to help fund his degree in philosophy and Italian. Once we had been shown round some of the sights of the CBD we were taken to see some of the beaches and bays on the east of the city. The weather was still really wet and windy and this made the sea look really rough and threatening.

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Our final destination was Mount Victoria which is an undeveloped area in the centre of the city. The hill is 196 metres high with great views over the city. However with winds of 50kph, with gusts much stronger, it was hard to stand let alone admire the view. Wellington was certainly living up to its claim of being the windiest city in the world.

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Once the tour had finished we walked back to our hotel as it was pretty unpleasant walking out and about. I decided that I had a lot of emails and some work stuff that I really needed to catch up on, so I stayed back in our apartment while Nigel went to look around Te Papa, the National Museum of New Zealand. I had mixed feelings and it felt a bit as if I was missing out, but I was also a bit stressed about getting behind with stuff so it seemed worth the sacrifice. We had another home cooked meal which was a blessing as the wind was still howling outside. It hadn't been the best day, but fortunately we had a nice apartment with a view of the harbour and Wellington seemed like a nice place so I was hopeful of a better day tomorrow.

Posted by Gill's Travels 02:13 Archived in New Zealand Tagged sea cities new_zealand wellington Comments (0)

Heading to the Capital

Saturday 17th October 2015

storm 16 °C

As I expected the time we have been away seems to be gathering pace and our days in the North Island are coming to an end. Today we are off to Wellington, literally our last port of call before we sail to Picton on Monday. We had a lovely leisurely breakfast in the hotel, more by virtue of their relaxed but attentive service, than any reluctance on our part to get going. We then booked an excursion for while we are in Wellington, loaded our luggage into the car and did some final checks on the route we needed to take.

By the time we got away it was just before 11am and it was warm and sunny, perfect for the four hours driving we had ahead of us. I did the first leg which was pretty straightforward through pleasant countryside with fields on one side and a cloud topped range of hills on the other.

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We passed through several towns, some more attractive than others, and again there were signs that Spring was on its way. After just under two hours Nigel took over driving and shortly after the scenery became a little more dramatic as we drove through the Manawatu Gorge.

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We stopped for coffee and continued until we reached the short stretch of west coast we would be passing on our way down to Wellington. Nigel suggested a short detour to look at the beach and so we left the main highway to go to Paraparaumu Beach. The weather had deteriorated considerably during the day and it was very overcast and windy when we got there, and the sea looked very rough and threatening. The greyish sand was littered with wood as was Napier Beach, a result of the lumber industry combined with poor weather.

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I was curious as to whether people are allowed to collect the wood as there were some lovely pieces of driftwood, not that we could take advantage of this. We returned back to the main road and continued south, hugging the coast for a short distance at Pukerua Bay. Here the sea looked even more threatening and the big waves seemed to be crashing on the shore only metres from the road. This would have been a really scenic spot but the view was somewhat marred by the crash barriers designed to keep the lanes of heavy traffic apart.

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Once we had crossed the short bridge across Porirua Harbour we were almost in Wellington. The weather continued to be cold, overcast and windy, in total contrast to what we had left behind in Napier. We found the hotel reasonably easily and checked into to our room. Once we had brought all of our things up in the lift we needed to return our hire car. The depot was nearby and on our way back we bought some food for the next two days from the supermarket. Once back we could settle in properly, have a cup of tea followed shortly after by a G & T and then a home cooked supper. It was nice to shut the cold out and hope for better weather in the next couple of days.

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Posted by Gill's Travels 01:43 Archived in New Zealand Tagged sea new_zealand Comments (0)

An Art Deco City Rises from the Ashes

Friday 16th October 2015

sunny 20 °C

Although we had seen quite a number of the Art Deco buildings in Napier, I was looking forward to seeing more on the tour we had booked for today. Before that we had a filling cooked breakfast at The County. We weren't being picked up until just before 11:30am so we had plenty of time to catch up on emails and Facebook first thing. Our guide for the tour was called Evelyn and she was incredibly enthusiastic and knowledgable when it came to the history and architecture of the town. She started off talking about the earthquake, measuring 7.8 on the Richter Scale, that struck Napier at 10:47am on the 3rd of February 1931. Tragically it wasn't just the earthquake that did the damage and resulted in loss of life, but the subsequent fires that spread from a couple of chemist shops in the town. When the earthquake occurred large areas of coastal land rose including Ahuriri Lagoon, which was lifted more than 2.7 metres creating 2230 hectares of new land on which Hawkes Bay Airport, housing and industrial developments and farmland are based today.

Not only was much of the town centre flattened but 256 people died. Evelyn retold many of the human stories of that day, some tragic and others funny like the man stuck in rubble who urged rescuers to remove his leg. When they questioned whether this was necessary he pointed out to them that it was wooden! A lot of the timber Edwardian buildings up in Bluff Hill survived, it was the brick buildings that were most severely damaged and because this was early in the life of the Hawkes Bay area, some were new or nearing completion. Rebuilding took place very quickly and the favoured style because it was quick and relatively cheap was Art Deco. We were shown many examples in the town including the theatre, the old newspaper office and the tobacco factory as well as many shops.

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After we had seen some of the town centre buildings we went up to the top of Bluff Hill from where there is a great view of the port and lumber yards.

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We also went to the residential areas near the Westshore and were shown some of the best examples of domestic Deco architecture.

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The trip finished back in the town at our hotel, one of the few buildings in the centre that survived pretty much intact. In the afternoon we drove south of Napier towards the town of Hastings and up a famous landmark Te Mata peak. It is 399metres above sea level and affords great views of the Hawkes Bay area. We stayed there for quite a while admiring the view which stretched as far as the Tongariro peaks. Below us we could also see some farmers rounding up sheep and cattle of their farm using a quad bike alongside the more traditional sheepdog.

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The road to the peak was very steep and a popular place for both runners and cyclists so Nigel had to be very careful on ascent and descent. Once we had finished admiring the view we drove back to Napier.

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Once there we went and had a closer look at couple of the buildings we had seen from the outside in the morning and then we went to a wine centre over the road from our hotel where we were able to try sniffing a large range of aromas and do a tasting whilst watching a film of the wine growers describing their wines. Afterwards Nigel and I chose a bottle each to purchase.

We had booked a table at the hotel restaurant for an evening meal so we went back to the hotel and relaxed for a while (I had a quick nap) and then after getting ready we went down to the restaurant. The food was lovely but what was great was the waiters knowledge of wine and we had three great recommendations including a delicious dessert wine. We then went to have a quick look at the Tom Parker Fountain named after its benefactor and inspired by one similar he had seen whilst on a trip to Bournemouth. This is illuminated at night with coloured lights and it was quite a spectacle to watch.

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It was a great finish to a fascinating day and we retired feeling chilled (and a little squiffy).

Posted by Gill's Travels 16:30 Archived in New Zealand Tagged landscapes buildings new_zealand napier earthquake art_deco Comments (0)

Bits and Pieces

Thursday 15th October

semi-overcast 20 °C

Yet again it was time for us to move on, as today we were leaving Taupo and driving to the art deco town of Napier. After breakfast we packed up our belongings and loaded them into the car and were soon on our way. Before we drove any distance we had decided to go and have a coffee at L'Arte Gallery and Cafe that was known for its brightly coloured almost Daliesque mosaic sculptures.

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We had a quick look round the gardens and photographed some of the interior themed sculptures and I bought some small ceramic flowers that was thought would look nice in our garden back home.

We then started to make our way towards Napier. The highway ran through a forested area and in places the trees had been cleared and we saw a number of large lumber lorries loaded up with wood. After about twenty minutes or so I realised that I had left my camera battery and charger back at our accommodation. Rather frustratingly we must have been on one of the longest stretches of road in the whole of New Zealand without a place to pull in or turn around. Fortunately after about 10 minutes or so we found somewhere where it was safe to do so, and we made the journey back to Taupo and the motel. As if to try and make the additional journey worthwhile, when we arrived back in Taupo we had the best view of the Tongariro volcanic peaks than we had done for several days. We took the opportunity to park up by the lake for a few minutes and admire the view before collecting my things and returning back the way we had come.

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Once we got beyond the point where we had turned back, the road started to become more winding and hilly. Having looked at the map we were aware that there was a waterfall at some point about halfway between Taupo and Napier, but we were not quite sure where this was. When we saw a sign marking a scenic viewpoint we decided to stop anyway. The view exceeded all our expectations, with wooded hills almost as far as the eye could see, and before us a large and noisy waterfall cascading over an escarpment.

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We stayed for quite a while and had a quick snack and then got chatting to a couple of young German guys who had been in Christchurch but when now travelling around New Zealand and then continuing on to Australia.

Eventually we decided that we really had to leave this beautiful spot and resume our journey. The road continued to wind its way between the hills passing near to yet another National Park.

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Eventually we were able to see the Pacific Ocean in the distance which signalled that we were nearing Napier. Once we arrived at the outskirts of the town, the trusty sat-nav got us to the hotel despite the fact that one of the nearby roads was closed. We checked in and Christine on reception proudly told us that we had the best room in the house and when we were shown upstairs, despite the fact that the hotel had a slightly faded opulence, we were pretty impressed.

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We settled in and had a refreshing cup of tea and then we decided to go and have a wander around the town. We walked down to the seafront and saw a rather disappointingly grey volcanic beach littered with debris from the lumber industry. We walked through the Marine Parade Gardens and then wandered up several nearby streets full of lovely Art Deco buildings.

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We had decided on the grounds of economy to have a takeaway that evening but were not able to find anywhere near the hotel. A bit of research on the Internet revealed that the best place to get fish and chips was a short drive away, so after a while in the hotel, it was back in the car. Once we had bought dinner we parked up overlooking the ocean and ate our delicious portion of fish and chips.

Posted by Gill's Travels 02:12 Archived in New Zealand Tagged new_zealand taupo napier Comments (0)

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