Hastings/Whakatane/Auckland

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

New Zealanders would like to see some rain, as it is very dry here, but we appreciated another beautiful day on March 4th.  We left Wellington and drove to Hastings in about 4 hours.  We checked into the Clansman Motor Lodge and then went out exploring.  Nearby Te Mata Peak provided great views of the area.  We stopped at the Te Mata Winery and sampled some red wines.  Then we drove to a winery near Napier, the Mission Estate Winery.  It is said to be the oldest winery in New Zealand and was established in 1851 by French Catholic missionaries.  At first they only made wine for communion and for medicinal purposes (the man pouring for our tasting said they were sick a lot).  Now they make a lot of wine but unfortunately it’s not marketed in the U.S.  We continued on to Napier.  Both Napier and Hastings were destroyed in 1931 by an earthquake and were rebuilt over the next few years.  One of the planners for Napier had seen art deco elsewhere and decided to rebuild the city using that style.  It really does make the city unique and attractive.  Hastings was rebuilt after 1931 with streets laid out using the American block system.  It is the only city in New Zealand planned in this manner.  We had a good dinner at The Lone Star Hawkes Bay restaurant near the ocean.  We had seen “green-lipped mussels” on menus for weeks but had never tried them.  Barbara decided today was the day.  They are very large but quite tasty.  We finished our sightseeing with a drive up Bluff Hill Domain for some nice views of the Napier area before returning to Hastings.  The drive from Hastings to Whakatane on Monday, March 5th, took much longer than we expected but was very scenic.  We stopped in Gisborne for lunch.  This town claims to be the first city in the world to see the sun each day.  There is a very nice beach with statues of James Cook and Young Nick, the cabin boy who first sighted New Zealand on October 9th, 1769.  This was Cook’s first landing in the country.  We were just south of Opotiki on Highway 2 when we encountered a herd of cows on the road.  Several big trucks were in front of us and several cars behind us when the cows ran all over the highway between the vehicles.  They must have been more startled than we were, and one of them kicked our car and left a big dent in the left front fender! We speculated that it might be a “mad cow” and decided it was another bad “fender bender” as it did about as much damage as the bus had caused on the other side.  We wonder if the people at the car rental company will believe us when we return the car tomorrow.  “Kicked by a cow? We haven’t heard that one before.” We arrived in Whakatane (the wh sound is pronounced like ‘fk’ and it takes a little practice to pronounce these Maori names).  We checked into the Crestwood Homestay, met our wonderful hosts Jan and Pete and talked computers and travel most of the evening.  By comparison, we had a boring day today, March 6th, our last full day in New Zealand.  We took a flight out to White Island, which is an active volcano.  We flew at about 1000 feet in a four-seater plane for about an hour.  We had heard that the volcano was very active a few weeks ago, but nothing much was happening today.  We left Whakatane and had a leisurely drive to Auckland, where we checked into Number One House B & B.  It’s a unique place, right under the Harbor Bridge facing Auckland from across the harbor.  The house is 100 years old and we have great views of the city from our room.  We’ve spent 32 nights in New Zealand at 24 different accommodations and drove about 4,800 miles.  We wouldn’t change much if we had it to do over again.  There were places we wish we could have seen, but it would have meant 5-7 more days of travel.  We saw so much and loved everything about the country.  The scenery is spectacular, the people are friendly and the weather was wonderful, usually 65-75 degrees during the day.  You do get used to driving on narrow, winding roads while sitting on the right side of the car and keeping it on the left side of the road.  We are beginning to think that roundabouts are more efficient than traffic lights.  It must be time to go home! But first we’re going to Tahiti for a 10 day cruise.  We hope to keep up the blog, but it depends on internet access on the ship.  If we can’t continue, we’ll publish when we get home.  We do miss our family and friends and have included a photo in this section of our daughter Anne and grandson Henry.  We don’t miss the snow.

What we’re missing in MInnesota

From Te Mata Peak near Hastings

Art Deco Napier

Art Deco Napier

View from Bluff Hill Domain

Beach at Gisborne

Statue of Young Nick

Herd on the road (Hwy 2) - south of Opotiki

Herd on the road - right out Barbara’s window

Ohope Beach

From Crestwood Homestay - Whakatane

From Wharf Shed restaurant - Whakatane

Mermaid on rock in Whakatane

Sunset in Whakatane

Flight to White Island

Flight to White Island

View from Number One House

Auckland from Number One House B & B

© Jay Deitch 2020