A very unique way to tour the city!
Tuesday 1st March – the start of another new month – where does the time go to? We had finally arrived in Napier the previous evening at about 6.30pm after our enjoyable diversion to Gisborne. It had been a long day and to locate our motel we drove through the city centre, admiring the splendid architecture as we went. Hastings Street and the Bella Vista motel was quite easy to find – pretty central – handy to both the city and the beach. We booked in, dumped our bags and walked the few hundred meters back along the road into the centre to get a couple of takeaways. Then, fully refreshed, we sorted ourselves out and settled in for our 3 night stay.
Napier is in the centre of Hawke’s Bay and, given recent events in Christchurch, there is a tragic coincidence in that, on February 3rd 1931, the city was levelled by an earthquake and 258 people were killed. Napier was rebuilt in the art deco style and many of the buildings were especially strengthened to provide a better chance of withstanding any future earthquakes. Over the years many of the buildings have been renovated and restored and in
Row of six coloniel style houses
known as the 'Six Sisters' - built for the builder's six daughters
2007 the city was nominated as a World Heritage Site.
Back to Tuesday, after a “lazy” start to the day, we strolled to the Information Site just a few minutes away and there, parked outside, was an intriguing vehicle – a ‘Duck’! It was a large amphibious craft resembling a bus and was used to provide a unique tourist view of Napier. The next tour was due to go at 11am and as it was 10.30 already we thought we might as well join it (although, as usual, it wasn’t cheap). So we booked some seats and had plenty of time before departure for a look around the visitor centre.
At 11am we climbed aboard with the other passengers and off we went. The driver was obliged to explain some safety procedures as if we were on a boat and then told us a bit about the history of Napier. We went by a street of old railway workers’ cottages built directly alongside the rail track - in those days the workers just walked out of their door to be picked up to go to work. In due course we headed for the port where huge piles of
timber were awaiting export. Once there our ‘coach’ changed into a ‘boat’! We went from the port across open water towards the harbour and into the marina where our ‘boat’ exited the water and became a ‘coach’ again! We did a circuit of all the old wool sheds which have become trendy apartments and restaurants and then went back into the marina again for a more detailed cruise. We learned that much of the land around the harbour had been under water before the earthquake which caused the land to raise up. Back on dry land we were driven through the main ‘art deco’ streets and back to the visitor centre (known in NZ as the “i Site”). The hour’s tour had been fun and the driver had given a great commentary and we had had a great view of Napier so we were pleased to have done it.
We were having some lunch in a city centre café when, at 12.51 precisely, the whole of New Zealand came to a silent standstill for two minutes as we remembered the tragic happenings in and around Christchurch exactly one week earlier.
We strolled around the art deco streets and
later in the afternoon we drove to Hastings, Napier’s ‘sister’ city which is only a few kms away. By now it was nearly 5pm and shops were shutting up but we could see it was a very pleasant place and worthy of some more time being spent there. Back in Napier we drove to the lookout on Bluff Hill where we had views of the port, harbour and part of the city. Then we found the lovely gardens that run alongside the beachfront, amongst them the sunken garden and one that had the floral clock as it's centre piece. There was also a statue of Pania – the subject of a Maori legend which tells the story of how Pania was lured by the siren voices of the sea people and swam out to meet them. When she tried to return to her lover she was transformed into the reef that lies out at sea beyond the breakwater.
We’d enjoyed our day and, back at the motel, we ate some rolls we had bought earlier, eating them whilst sitting on the balcony watching the sun set over the roof tops of Napier. We looked forward to discovering more about
the area tomorrow.
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