Monday, 29 April 2013

Travelling South to Christchurch

27 March
We left Auckland a bit later than anticipated after a fairly stressful pack-up. Stewart and Miranda came to say goodbye and collect the keys, and I was sad to be leaving our lovely Auckland flat. We made good time and stopped at the Huka Falls to stretch our legs a bit. This is the point where the great Waikato River begins its journey from Lake Taupo down to one of our favourite spots, Sunset Beach at Port Waikato. Strange to think we were swimming there only a week ago.

Enormous Lake Taupo. Hard to believe it's the crater of an extinct volcano
We rang Anne to let her know we were close by and arrived about 7pm at Julie’s house where they’re staying until their new home is ready. Their belongings had only arrived a day or two ago so we knew we would be able to see the house but not stay there. Great to see them again and very kind of Julie to put us up for two nights in her lovely home on the outskirts of Napier.

Mike with Anne, Andy, and their friend Victoria in front of their new house on top of a hill
28 March
So, Napier being the Art Deco capital of New Zealand, we decided to do the official walking tour of the city which took us round the most prominent buildings of that era. It’s an interesting story: Napier was pretty much just a hill town and a port, unable to expand because of surrounding swampland. The earthquake and subsequent fire of 1928 completely destroyed the town but raised the surrounding land considerably enabling the new city to be much enlarged. Architects from Auckland Uni were brought in and builders and craftsmen from all over New Zealand arrived to re-build the city, it being the Depression with little work elsewhere. It was the end of the twenties and early thirties so of course the entire town was designed in the Art Deco style and the Art Deco Trust was founded in the 1960s which helped preserve this heritage.

A&A lent us their bikes and it was great fun to cycle along the sea front north of the city then back down through the sheep fields past the airport and home to Julie’s. We went to meet up with A&A at their new home for a picnic later. The house is high on a hill, south of Napier, surrounded by about 30 acres of land. It’s mostly pine with lots of citrus and olive trees, not to mention a fig tree and a pomegranate bush. Their young friend Victoria also joined us for a lovely picnic outside in the front garden. Julie’s lemon drizzle cake has to get a mention here as the best ever, and I have the recipe now . . .

Napier is rightly proud of its many Art Deco buildings

29 March
Breakfast together then we set off for Martinborough which is just north of Wellington where we’ll catch the ferry. We have plenty of time so make a stop at the Mt Bruce Wildlife Reserve, where we see lots of kakas at feeding time. They don’t seem to take any notice, or have any fear of humans, and happily swoop around your head after food. Martinborough itself is a big wine growing area now and we stay at a pretty little place called the Old Manse. The hosts plied us guests with local wine and nibbles so we were pretty well oiled even before we went out to eat.

What a beauty! The kakas at the Mount Bruce Wildlife Reserve were not remotely interested in people and flew all around, their wing tips brushing our heads

Great statue on the quay in Wellington. He looks as if he's about to surrender himself up to the sea
30 March
We set off early for Wellington and visit the underground Saturday market we’d been to before after a good stroll down by the waterfront. The Interislander ferry departs at 2.30 and dolphins see us off outside Wellington harbour. It’s a good journey across Cook’s Straits especially weaving down through the Marlborough Sounds towards Picton where we dock around 5.30. Our ‘Art Deco’ Apt in Picton is a bit of a disappointment, but we have a pleasant evening eating at a restaurant we  knew from our stay here the Christmas before last.

Entering Marlborough Sounds, the ferry weaves it's way towards Picton through the maze of islands and fjords

31 March
Set off in drizzle, the first rain we’ve seen in ages. Immediately we’re driving up and over high hills to get down into the huge Marlborough wine-growing region. As we travel south the sun comes out and the scenery down the Kaikoura coast is stunning. We stop at a wild beach at Kekerengu with a terrific cafe/restaurant. It’s one of those great beaches covered with driftwood, and brilliant sunshine is sparkling on the surface of the water. The sea’s quite rough and the most fantastic shades of turquoise and blue, a good place to stretch your legs.

Sheltering in my driftwood wigwam at Kekerengu north of Kaikoura
The beach at Kaikoura, wild sea and sky

This road south is squeezed in between the mountains of the Kaikoura range and the sea, and it’s a pretty dramatic. We spot occasional seals on rocks and stop at Kaikoura for a fish and chip lunch. It’s a busy seaside tourist town popular for its whale and dolphin trips, with a seal colony just outside but we only spotted one big seal, well disguised as it sun-bathed on a flat expanse of rock. We wandered on the rock ledges marvelling at the enormous swathes of seaweed rising and falling with the swell of the sea. From here on the road continues for a while in between mountains and sea, and it’s not too long before we arrive in Christchurch and our little motel on Riccarton Road.

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