Wellington, New Zealand
Another big miles day and another shift to the south – as far south as we can go without falling in the water. Glad that is over and there’s a couple of days without much driving – hopefully none at all tomorrow. There’s a heck of a lot of empty space here in NZ. For someone who likes camping or with a motorhome(*), it would be brilliant. For someone like me who doesn’t stray too far from the nearest latte it’s a big country!
(*) not seen a single caravan here so far.
We started the day in Napier with a brilliant blue sky and the sun bouncing off Hawkes Bay – it was mighty chilly out though. First thing was a drive up to Bluff Point, which overlooks much of Napier city. The views really were outstanding. Looking back the way we had come the previous day it was possible to see snow on the tops of some of the mountains – not sure if they were ones we’d crossed or ones further east, but a reminder how quickly the weather can change here. The morning warmed up as we descended back into Napier and took the walking tour round the central business district (as they call downtown) to look at the Art Deco buildings. As I said yesterday, Napier was badly damaged by an earthquake in 1931, and many of the buildings were rebuilt in the Art Deco style. Somehow they have survived and remain to this day. With pedestrianised streets it makes for a very elegant town centre.
But we had to get moving again – a lot of clicks to cover today and nice weather to do it in. Back out on Hwy. 2 south for an hour or so, we stopped in a little one-street town called Waipawa for lunch. Even a little town like this had a couple of upmarket cafes and some antique shops. Our cafe had it’s own little garden growing herbs and lemons. These little towns vary from the seemingly affluent like Waipawa to some that have little more than a ‘Hotel’ (fancy name for a traditional pub) and are full of empty shops. One town just seemed to consist of closed cafes and shops – now what’s that all about in the middle of a Wednesday afternoon?
We put on some big miles – I stuck the cruise control at 110km/h and just steered down a pretty straight road as we knocked off the towns down the centre of North Island. Dannevirke (big Viking theme going on there), Woodville (sent me off the main road on a fools errand through the town centre), Masterton (a bit obsessed with sheep IMHO), Greytown (looked very nice actually). Then somewhere between Greytown and Upper Hutt (presumably where Jabba lives) we ran into a mountain. Every day I say, bloody hell this is unbelievable, as we hit a road that swoops and turns like the best biking road of all time. Wendy asked why we never see any motorcycles, since these roads would be flooded with them in the UK. Just then 10 big BMW police bikes came the other way, one after the other, and they were definitely having a ball!
Safely over the mountain we descended further into Upper and Lower Hutt and then Wellington. The road became a motorway and we passed the docks where we have to pick up the Picton ferry at silly o’clock on Friday. I had looked up the directions to the hotel the night before. Most places have a list of street names, turn left, turn right, sort of instructions. Not ours – “The motorway flows into Wellington and Oriental Bay is well signposted. The Copthorne Hotel is a large building on Oriental Parade near the Te Papa museum”. All very Zen, eh? But we found it with only one slight missed turn when in true Kiwi fashion they decided to place a single signpost at the last possible minute on a four-lane road junction.
The hotel is stacked up on one of the hills overlooking the harbour. To reach our room we have to ride the lift to the 7th floor, then cross the restaurant lobby and take a different lift up another two floors. The car, luckily, is valet parked behind the hotel somewhere on the 7th. I’ll let them fetch it down when I need it again! The room is not small, but seems small after last night’s vast suite in Napier. The view from the balcony over Wellington harbour is stunning though. We’ve taken a walk along the harbour and though the town for tea. I am quite excited to find that the Te Papa (Our Land) museum is open until the dizzyingly late hour of 9pm tomorrow night. And it’s free, so we just have got to visit. Tomorrow we explore Wellington further. Tonight we’re doing some laundry.