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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.


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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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)

Ebb and Flow

Wednesday 14th October 2015

sunny 18 °C

The weather this morning was still cloudy and a little overcast but thankfully better than it had been for the previous couple of days and we could see a little more of the Tongariro peaks on the far side of the lake. We prepared breakfast in our well kitted out kitchenette and then set off towards the Huka Falls for the boat trip that we had booked a couple of days earlier. Although the booking arrangements seemed quite vague at the time, our guide David was expecting us and as there was one other couple on the boat we were going to have lots of room to move around. David introduced himself and explained a bit about the dam which was just beyond our departure point and the river system below that. We then set off up stream and were told a lot about the flora and fauna of the river. We also went past a geothermal power station. The journey up to the falls probably took us about 45 minutes and I found myself full of anticipation each time we rounded a bend.


There was a hint when we were getting near as the water became a little more turbulent and David had to make use of both the engines on the boat in order to push against the current. Once around the final corner the waterfall was clearly visible in front of us. David expertly manoeuvred the boat much closer to the waterfall than I was expecting, giving us a great view.


It was quite an assault on the senses; the colour of the river was a bright turquoise blue covered in a bubbling white foam from the sheer force of the water. The nearer we got the louder the noise became until it was almost thunderous.


The boat was easily pushed back by the power of the water, but two or three times David steered it back in the direction of the falls. We were given plenty of opportunity to take as many photographs as we wanted before the boat was turned around for the last time and we made our way back up the river. At the start of the trip we had been told how the spill gates to the dam were opened regularly throughout the day in order that the cascades on the far side would, albeit temporarily, flow freely.


We moored up just in time to go and watch the water as it started to flow out from the dam and David had given us quite precise timings in order to maximise our chance of seeing the falls in full flow. Once there, we watched the pool's fill and the water flow at full capacity, and then after about fifteen minutes or so when the gates were closed the water reduced to its former level.


We had been keeping an eye on our watches and we made sure that we made our way up to the official lookout several miles upstream in order to watch David take his next group of tourists to view the Huka Falls. Not only was it interesting seeing the boat being manoeuvred from a different perspective, but it also gave us the opportunity to see the river above and beyond the base of the falls.


By the time we left the river it was approaching lunch and so we made our way to a nearby glassblowing workshop that both David and Peter back at our accommodation had recommended. Once there, we watched one of the glassblowers finish off a small vase and then we went into the cafeteria and had a delicious lunch. We then watched some more glass blowing after which we went into the sculpture garden to look at some of the larger objects that have been made by Lynden Over, the owner of the workshop.


By this time I had already decided that I would like to buy a small piece and have it sent home to England. After a lot of deliberation I settled on a pretty red scent bottle and once chosen all I needed to do was to pay and complete the shipping paperwork. Once we had finished at the glassblowing workshop we made our way back into Taupo and returned to our accommodation. Once there we had time to relax for a while and drink a cup of tea before going out again to walk by the lake. There were several places where small streams of steaming water flowed into the lake and also several places where the fringes of the lake had steam coming off.


All of this was a salutary reminder of the fact that Taupo Lake is situated in the crater of a dormant volcano. That evening there was a beautiful sunset over the lake and so we looked at this for a while before pouring ourselves a G&T which we drank whilst sitting in the hot tub. It was Nigel's turn to cook dinner, so he did this whilst I spent some time updating the blog. Once we finished eating we both settled down to watch a film.


Posted by Gill's Travels 01:00 Archived in New Zealand Tagged waterfalls lakes rivers new_zealand geothermal Comments (0)

Come Rain, Come Shine

Tuesday 13th October 2015

rain 18 °C

It was sadly time for us to leave the Tongariro area and drive to Lake Taupo. At 66 miles this was one of our shorter journeys and would only take us about an hour and a half. On the basis that we only had a short journey and couldn't check into our Taupo motel until 2pm, we decided to go back to the Tongariro National Park and have breakfast at a cafe near the visitor centre and the Chateau. Unfortunately when we arrived it was closed 'due to technical problems'. As we were getting hungry by this point we went back to the lounge bar at the Chateau in the hope of some food there.


They didn't have any brunch specifically but nevertheless we both found something to choose off the menu (I had a BLT and fries, not very healthy but filling). We sat there for quite a while making use of their wifi. They were very hospitable and didn't seem to mind us lingering. We got chatting to a some of the other people in the lounge. One group was an elderly couple originally from Scotland but had been living in New Zealand for about 50 years. They were there with their daughter who had been born in New Zealand. The other couple who were much younger than us, coincidentally were from Ipswich but travelling round the world for 6 months. I had heard the older couple's daughter trying to explain what the view out of the lounge bar window was like and so I went and showed them the photograph I had taken yesterday (which although not very clear was much better than today). The other couple then asked to see and soon we were all chatting.

Eventually we all needed to go our separate ways, including us who by now really needed to start the journey to Taupo. We said our goodbyes and got on our way. By this time the weather was getting worse with the visibility reduced still further, and then rain come in.


It was like this until we got over the range of hills separating Tongariro from Taupo. Once we got the other side of the ridge there was a viewpoint with great views of some of the lower peaks and those beyond the lake itself.


After taking some photographs we got on our way and very shortly were driving along the shores of Lake Taupo. The lake is very big, measuring some 21 by 29 miles with a perimeter of 120 miles.


We followed this shoreline round for about 25 miles before reaching our accommodation. We checked in and relaxed for a while, and then did some washing. We ended the day by having a gin and tonic in our semi-external hot tub and then we had supper and watched a movie. We really liked our home for the next couple of days, it was well fitted out and the owners Pete and Penny had given a lot of attention to detail. The location right opposite the lake was also a real bonus.


Posted by Gill's Travels 23:54 Archived in New Zealand Tagged mountains lakes new_zealand taupo Comments (0)

Hiking and High Tea

Monday 12th October 2015

rain 16 °C

We hadn't got any excursions or anything firm booked, but I was keen to explore the National Park a little more, and hopefully get some more views of the volcanic peaks. The weather forecast was predicting some cloud and possibly of rain. The visibility from The Tree House had deteriorated but we were hopeful that it might improve as the day progressed. After a relaxed breakfast we drove the 20 minutes or so to Whakapapa the location of the national park visitor centre and the starting point for many of the walks in the area.


A quick visit there clarified the distance and the grade of the walk we were wanting to do which would take us to the Taranaki Waterfalls. We were also given advice as to the pros and cons of walking the route clockwise or anti-clockwise (we chose the latter as this made the ascent more gradual). The walk started at the back of the rather grand Chateau Tongariro Hotel with the first couple of hundred metres on a road with lots of holiday/ trekking accommodation. We shortly descended into a valley and through the woods. The ascent the other side was gradual and after about a kilometre or so a sign told us that we were entering the lava flow (long since broken down and covered in vegetation). We crossed a couple of streams and as we did had glimpses of the volcanic craters.


Despite the fact that we were probably only a couple of kilometres from the visitor centre it felt very wild and remote, whilst the occasional other walker made it feel very safe and gave the opportunity to stop and chat for a few moments. After about 50 minutes we reached the top of the waterfall. It was a spectacular sight with views across to the Tongariro crossing to our right and to the top of the waterfall on our left.


We stopped and admired the view for a bit and took some photographs and also chatted to a couple with a young baby in a back carrier. The dad looked exhausted having just climbed up the steep steps from the base of the waterfall to the top. The baby didn't sound very happy either and was crying loudly. The mother looked slightly happier as she was bringing up the rear and only had herself to get up the steep incline.

We then started to make our way down the steps as we were going the opposite way round as the young family. It seemed very steep at first with no handrail to hold onto, so I was questioning our decision to do the walk that way round. However the gradient declined slightly after a bit and there were a lot of steps (well over a hundred), so in the end I was quite relieved to have been going down at that point. Near the base of the falls we got chatting to a young woman from Alaska who was hoping to do the 'Crossing' during her short stay in the area. I passed on what I had heard being said about the wether and conditions when we were in the visitor centre. All indications were that the weather was going to be very wet with poor visibility tomorrow. Also I understood that at this time of year the top section required ice axes and crampons, which she had experience of using having come from Alaska, although she didn't have any with her. I suggested she might be able to hire them, and we then we wished her well and we all went on our way, she a little faster than us. The view at the bottom of the waterfall was equally beautiful, and having looked at the photographs since, hard to get a sense of the scale of the thing.


We carried on walking along the track that had been clearly visible from the top, reaching another small waterfall a short distance away.


We then followed the river for a while through the woods before having to climb up quite a few steps before reaching open heathland again, with views of the peaks and towards the Chateau Tongariro.


We were getting a bit tired by this stage but with a last push we were back at the Chateau where we had booked a table for afternoon tea. After our walk we were pretty hungry so we pretty much polished off all the food we were served, although we decided afterwards that this was enough for the day and so didn't have an evening meal.


Once we had polished off our tea we went back to the visitor centre to have a more thorough look at the information there and I also checked out the status of the road that went up towards the mountain from the centre. I was told that it was metalled to the top and the woman checked the webcam and said that it was a bit cloudy but that there should be some visibility.

On that basis Nigel was happy to drive up the very winding Bruce Road to the top. As he drove it became obvious that the cloud was thickening and that we were unlikely to see any of the peaks. We could see a short distance when we got to the ski chalets and lifts, but the cloud quickly closed in and it became hard to see anything much beyond the end of the car and the odd patch of slightly grubby snow nearby.


We waited a while hoping that the cloud would lift again but it failed to do so and in the end we gave up and Nigel drove back down the mountain passed the lava field and the heather until we reached the visitor centre again. We continued driving north and then turned west and made our way back to our what had become our home for a couple of days. With no meal to worry about we just relaxed for a few hours. Just after 9pm I was sitting reading in the lounge and Nigel was in the loo when I felt the whole house judder. When he came out we both looked at each other in surprise and agreed that we had just experienced an earthquake. We researched on the Internet to make sure we weren't imagining things and to check out its magnitude. It turned out to be a 5.7 on the Richter Scale and a short distance from a place called Pongaroa, some 100 miles from where we were staying. It caused a bit of a stir for the rest of the evening and we couldn't but help keep checking for other seismic activity of which there was quite a bit that evening. Eventually we both got off to sleep and made it through the night safe and sound.

Posted by Gill's Travels 17:38 Archived in New Zealand Tagged waterfalls mountains tongariro volcano new_zealand Comments (0)

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