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Published: March 6th 2017
IMG_1482" Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore" Andre Gide
Coffee stop and catch up with Tish and Scott
Breaking camp in a campervan is a lot easier than the car and tent troops one sees in all camp parks. Once again Sue and I were stowing stuff before heading out of yet another camp when Sue exclaimed " OMG...just look at that". Like a dutiful lapdog I looked up and gazed over our little fence and there it was. Some blonde bloke applying suntan lotion to his slim, blonde girlfriend. Nothing unusual about that except she was starkers to the waist. My stowage operations slowed down to a crawl as these two blissfully went about the rubbing process. With that perky little picture in mind, we drifted back onto the road heading back to Taupo.
The start to our day was to be a little different in the sense that we had made contact with Tish Birchall who happened to be in Taupo and we met her and her man, Scott, at a lakeside coffee hang out. Tish was very much part of our early 1970's gang in Durban, post Natal University days. She and Brian had moved
Typical mountain pass scenery. Spectacular!
to NZ some 20 odd years ago but sadly Brian passed away a few years back. He was a very special person and great friend to many of us and probably one of the naughtiest guys I can recall from those heady Durban days. It was really good catching up with the two of them. They were travelling around North Island for a period of four weeks with bikes and golf clubs in tow. Given the cycling opportunities and myriad of golf courses we had seen, I couldn't think of a better way to spend a month touring. They live in Christchurch but we will miss them as we leave on 30th March, a day before they return to their home.
With Sue firmly in command of directions, we set off for Hawke's Bay with Napier our destination. I won't rattle on too much about the scenery one encounters on the road other than to say it is stunning. Rarely is one travelling through countryside that doesn't draw one's attention. Rolling green hills dotted on their flanks with many cows and sheep, interspersed with low range mountains covered with impressive pine and indigenous trees. Some of the passes traversed
Napier steeped in a bit of a time warp...amphitheater on the beachfront
are breathtaking with deep gorges and fast flowing rivers scouring their way through at the base of the mountain ranges. The quality of farmland is exceptional and this got me thinking and inevitably "googling".
Here is an interesting fact....NZ exports in 2015 were valued at US$24.3bn whilst Australia's was valued at US$31.9bn. Given the size of Oz and it's 6 times greater population, this statistic provides an idea of just how much agricultural production takes place in NZ. Interestingly SA is not listed on the 25 country list reviewed. The distance to Napier was relatively short and 100kms to the south east of Taupo we entered one of NZ's premier wine and fruit growing areas. After checking in to the Napier Kiwi Park camp park, we set off to explore the city of Napier. This proved to be interesting to say the least! Before commencing a description of this city it is only fair to the good people who live there to mention that the town was obliterated by a devastating earthquake in 1931. A decision was then taken when rebuilding took place to do something very different. So, the modern day Napier could easily be a large town in
Not a captivating site....the beach that is!! Grey stones abound.
the UK circa the 1950's. Distinctly Victorian architecture in art deco style with it's own amphitheater and beach front lay out similar to what I recall from Durban in the 1960's. But it is enchanting all the same. Bluff Hill is located on a fairly high hill overlooking the harbour and provides a panoramic view across Hawke's Bay and up the coast to the north. I don't think beachgoers would by choice flock to Napier as the beaches are all covered in small grey stone. No sand in sight.
Our one night stay in the camp park mentioned was uneventful apart from a karaoke evening about 200m from our camp spot. We took a walk down there largely to see where the very strange howling sounds were coming from and there it was...a whole bunch of grey nomads doing their best (or worst) to sing 60's and 70's songs with words rolling across the screen in front of them. My one and only karaoke attempt and rendition of "Hey Jude" on a trip to Vietnam years back could never be worse than these dudes.
Back on the road the next morning provided an opportunity to take stock of
Museum in the background and a bit of Wellington harbour.
time in NZ thus far. This was day 14 and to that point we had covered some 1025 km traversing North Island. The south of North Island was now in sight as we crossed from east to west once again through never ending farmlands dotted here and there with small towns no doubt existing on the back of agricultural endeavour. Palmerston North was one of the bigger towns on route and is one of the main University centers in the country. A bit of perspective on the size of North Island. From the top in the north(Cape Reinga) to the bottom (Wellington) is 865 kms whilst the widest point east to west is about 437 kms. Although our 300km journey to the west coast was long, it pales in comparison to some of the distances we cover in SA. Once the ocean was again in sight along the Kapiti Coast, good old Google Maps directed us effortlessly to another camping park in Porirua which was chosen in view of it's 30 minute proximity to the ferry junction in Wellington. Right alongside this camp is a steep hillside with a walkway by name of Colonial Knob. Given the intriguing name we chose to walk it not realising just how steep it was. With Sue huffing and puffing and my gentle coercing and encouragement we summited about an hour later. Once again a great 360 deg vista with numerous bays and hillsides defining the boundaries of the suburbs surrounding Wellington. Something I have observed throughout our time in NZ is the distinct lack of bird calls or small animals scurrying about. The indigenous forest on this walk was about as pristine as any we had encountered thus far. But, it was eerily quiet. One of the underlying causes of the problem are invasive predators and one in particular...possums. These were introduced to NZ in the early 1900's for their fur but they now have an estimated population of 70 million which has decimated birds and vegetation. There is a massive campaign underway to exterminate as many as possible but given that huge number one wonders....
Apart from the ferry journey we need to make to South Island, Wellington needed to be explored given that it labels itself as "The coolest little capital in the World". That's the hip kind of cool although one bloke in the camp park said that their three week summer had just ended so maybe weather cool applies as well. Grey, cool and windy for our time here. The Wellington Museum was superb and if there is a better museum anywhere on the planet, I want to see it. Incredible displays of fauna and flora, Maori culture and a chilling recreation of the Battle of Gallipoli in 1915 where thousands of NZ and Oz soldiers lost their lives fighting the Germans and Turks. We also took the opportunity to visit the Weta Studio set up which has pioneered digital technology for movie production and was responsible for creating and producing "Lord of the Rings" and "Avatar". There is no doubt NZ punches way above it's weight when one considers their agricultural industry, sporting prowess and creative capacity not forgetting all done with a small 4.5m population.
Tuesday 7th March awaits when we undertake the 5 hour ferry boat journey across the Cook Strait. The wonders of South Island lie ahead.
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