After 2 weeks cruising around the south island it was time to see what the north island had to offer, we were warned that ‘it’s a little busier up there’, but then that is kind of like saying that Venice is a bit wetter than the Sahara desert.
We arrived in Wellington early afternoon so headed for the city centre and had a wander around. We didn’t have much time but what we did see suggested
that this would be pretty cool place to live, if bloody windy. I loved all the sculptures and art that was dotted around the place. I wish we’d had time to go in the cable car also, you always get an interesting perspective on a city when you view it from a high vantage point.
Our campsite in Wellington on the other hand was not so pretty, in fact it was basically a car park behind a motel. We also failed to find anywhere in thecentre to eat (have you ever tried finding a restaurant for dinner at 5pm?) which meant trying to get something when back at the camp site. We couldn’t face cooking for ourselves so decided to chance take out from the motel
restaurant. Not expecting much I was amazed when I was handed a tray with 2 plates on it! So off I tottered back to the camper van where revealed under the foil was some of the best food we have had on this trip. A duo of curries for me and lamb chops for the lady of the manor. Slightly surreal sitting in silence in a dark camper van in a car park eating it has to be said. Such a refreshing change and no way you would get food of this quality in a motel in England. Perhaps even sufficient compensation for the depressing site?
Tuesday was a big day for our New Zealand trip, my younger brother who lives in Auckland was driving down to meet us at Napier, we haven’t seen him for 18 months and he hadn’t of course met Matilda so all in all an exciting day. The drive from Wellington to Napier is classic New Zealand, that is a shortish drive that takes way longer than you expect. Our one stop on the way was in Norsetown where on entering the cafe to buy coffee I had the type of encounter that has been typical on this trip. The guy running the cafe had a couple of big sheets of black paper on the wall and was getting everyone who passed through and was visiting for the world cup to sign. Quite fascinating seeing all the nationalities and locations of people driving around just like us chasing after men who chase an egg shaped ball. The local people have really made the trip, always interested to find our where you’re travelling, what you think of the rugby and engage in some banter about how the All Blacks will choke again. Unfortunately I failed in my photographer duties and didn’t get a photo of the cafe.
Napier was a surprise, it felt more like Miami than New Zealand, mainly down to the prominence of Art Deco buildings. These were constructed when a big chunk of the town was destroyed by an earthquake back in the 1930’s. The clear blue skies and carnival atmosphere (the rugby was in town) further added to the allure. We however avoided the rugby crowds and headed out to sample some wine in the Hawkes Bay vineyard. Given the time it had taken to drive from Wellington we only fitted in a couple, great fun to be drinking with my brother again. Just like old times, including the banter (he’s definitely balder than me now!). Esk Valley was the pick of the bunch and apparently available in the UK which I shall be checking out on my return (Currently sat on the plane from Singapore so not long!). The rose they did was the most interesting for me, I’m really not a fan of rose, especially sickly sweet Californian stuff, but this was anything but. A blend of Malbec and Merlot grapes it smelled of fresh strawberries and had a wonderfully subtle flavour.
Also intriguing to compare the wines we tasted in Blenheim to those in Hawkes Bay, very different growing environment which in theory should produce different tastes from the same grapes. I think my taste buds let me down a little here so I’ll have to trust the expert opinions on the differences.
Our campsite for the night was right on the beach but other than that not that significant, it had grass though which was a step up from Wellington and the stars that night were spectacular with very few street lights spoiling the view. It was however the first and last time that we had to pay to take a shower, a slight piss take really when you’ve already paid £30 to park your van on a piece of grass.
Next stop; Rotorua and smelly pools of hot mud
P.S. having checked out the wine we tried to see if it was available in the UK it’s interesting to note that it’s cheaper here than directly from the winery. Bonkers.