“The journey is the destination”
So the next day (14th) it was onto Route 5 from Rotorua all the way down to Napier on the Hawkes Bay coastline. The approach to Napier is all through industrial estates which doesn’t do the place justice. It has a nice promenade and the main high street is all art deco buildings. It felt too big for us to camp in so we drove onto Hastings, after having lunch by the sea. Hastings was deserted! We popped into the i-site to enquire about accommodation and wine tours and she told us everyone was at an annual ‘Blues, Brews and BBQs’ festival just out of town. So that explained it, but it still felt eery and empty town centre on a Saturday. The festival also meant everywhere was booked up. But we managed to get a pitch at a lovely campsite in Havelock North called Arataki Holiday Park. It was amongst farmland, was quiet, really sunny with a pool and crazy golf! After pitching our tent we headed straight for the pool…was nice to be swimming again after doing it everyday in Fiji.
The next day was wine tour time. We got picked up by Janine from A1Tours at 10.30 in her air con people carrier, which was a relief as it was a scorcher of a day, and took us to our first winery called the Mission in Taradale. It was a lovely spot- tree-lined drive way to a grand manor house overlooking fields of vines. The house we discovered used to be by the river in the valley, but it kept on getting flooded. So back in the day, the owners cut the house in half and transported it using a steam-powered vehicle up the hill, fixing it back together and here it still stands. The house was made of wood, not brick, obviously! They also have an open air concert at the Mission every year in February which attracts people like Rob Stewart and Lulu to perform. It sounds awesome, so if you’re in Hawkes Bay in February go see it! So to the wines! We tried 3 whites and 3 reds and 1 champagne. The champagne was my favourite…naturally! After taking a sneaky peak at the old chapel which was all laid out for a wedding reception (it looked lovely!) and walking the grounds, it was back in the car to our next winery called Church Road, still in Taradale. This was a smaller winery and as soon as we got in we were ushered over to the receptionist computer to read about the crashed cruise liner in Italy. After gorping at the crazy pictures and muttering how stupid the captain was, we tried some more wine! We tried 3 Chardonnay’s and 3 reds. Wow the Chardonnay’s were good- none of the overly oaky, yellow stuff that you get at home. These were smooth and creamy and yum! Why do importers stock such crap Chardonnay’s in the UK?!? We purchased one bottle from there, but this paled into insignificance compared to another couple who were buying boxes of wine plus a couple of Champagne Magnums thrown in for good measure! That got me and Janine gossiping about the circumstance and reason all the way to her parents B&B (who own the wine tour business) for lunch. We had made sandwiches which we ate in their garden, but the mum brought out cold drinks and various cakes for us too, which were lovely and made us felt looked after!
After lunch we were joined by 2 others- a mature Scottish couple who raced yachts and had plenty of funny stories to tell! We all laughed our way to the next winery called Moana Park. It was a vegetarian winery, so no meat or fish products go into the making of the wine. I was amazed what wineries put in their wine to ‘bulk’ up the grapes- yuk! Better not to know the ins and outs I say! Here I got to taste a rose. But they don’t call it Rose, they called it ‘Vin Gris’…it was Rose and nice all the same! We then headed to the Salvare Estate which is one of the wineries in the Ngatarawa Triangle. Now this winery was really lovely, surrounded by vines. We tried whites that just slid effortlessly down your throat, fruity reds and another Rose (yey!) and to end an iced wine that they called a Frappe Vino which was to die for! After a refueling (stomach lining) cheese board we were off again to another winery in the Gimblett Gravell area of Hawkes Bay. Oh a bit of explanation on Gimblett Gravell…it was waste land essentially, the old river basin with soil which was mostly gravel. But a guy chanced it and started growing vines on the land. Turned out it was ace grape growing soil as the stones in the soil warm up in the day and stay warm over night so the growing continues for longer each day, producing bigger and juicier grapes! And we ended the day with an ace winery called Vidal back near Hastings. The manager earlier in the day had been hosting some GB importers so there were loads of ‘yet to be released’ wines on the tasting table as well as the usual ones. We must have tried 12 wines there and the server Sam was really good fun too. Hedd bought 2 bottles of Riesling- one to keep and one to give to Ceri and Pork who we were staying with at Whangamomona. So the day ended at 5.30pm and we got dropped back at our campsite. We managed to heat up some tea and play a round of crazy golf (I lost terribly) before falling into our tent ready for bed!
Next morning (16th) we were up and out of the campsite by 10am. Stopped off in Hastings to buy Hedd his 3rd pair of sunglasses of the trip (this time we bought him a strap for around his head so fingers crossed it will be harder for him to lose!) Then headed back up route 5 into central north island to Taupo. After trying a few places which were full, we ended up at All Seasons Holiday Park where we went about pitching our tent. But alas both our main poles snapped at a crucial join in the centre of the tent. We were kind of expecting this as the join was showing stress fractures early on in the trip but we hoped they wouldn’t actually snap! We taped them up the best we could and erected the tent anyway. It didn’t look too bad…just instead of a curve at the top, there was point! Hedd got pretty angry, but I rang the company up straight away to explain what happened and that it wasn’t because of us being rough and ready with it. So we will see what the owner called Jackie says…
That afternoon we went exploring the Taupo area. Taupo is famous for its massive lake, good weather and views of the Tongariro volcano and we went to a really good viewpoint off Huka Falls Road which has info boards telling you the Maori story of the mountain range which forms the backdrop to the lake. It goes something like this….Mt Pihanga was a woman and the surrounding mountains all fought for the love of this woman. There were many wars, but in the end Mt Tongariro won. And that is why the mountains are all placed where they are…all posturing towards Mt Pihanga! We then headed to a place called Craters of the Moon which was a 45 minute Geothermal Walk ($6). The walk took us through geothermal land of seething earth, hissing fumaroles and steaming craters. It was a nice walk in the sun but we weren’t over-owed by it. But its history is quite interesting. Craters of the Moon isn’t an old geological landscape, in fact the thermal area sprang up in the 1950’s when near by power station withdrew hot water from deep within the field, causing the water level in the deep reservoir to drop and the remaining water to boil more violently, producing more steam. Large quantities of this steam were able to escape at the Craters of the Moon….so just another classic way human’s have impacted on the environment in pursuit for energy! The craters still erupt from time to time…the last one being in 2002, so this potential danger contributed to the experience…and perhaps made us walk a bit faster around!
We then ended the day with a visit to Huka Falls which is a super blue waterfall. The falls are a 100 meter basalt crevice channeling the Waikato River into a frothing aquamarine frenzy before spilling the torrent over a 15 m ledge into a bubbling pool. It is a really cool sight- the water looks thunderous but as you look at the water dropping you can see sun beams in the spray coming off the crashing water which is really pretty. Plus this sight was free- yey! The next morning we packed up the tent and headed to Taupo Bungy to try out their Cliffhanger bungy swing. But alas Hedd wasn’t allowed to do it because of his back. Determined still to do something adventurous, Hedd has found a thing called the ‘Flying Fox’ down near Tongariro so will check that out instead. Onwards and upwards….
Hawkes Bay and Lake Taupo in a snapshot:
- Weather= Hot and sunny- yey!
- Food= Soup/ beans on toast etc and Hokey Pokey ice cream (vanilla ice cream with honeycombed pieces)- another Kiwi cuisine speciality ticked off…yum!
- Drink= Rose Wine from Salvare Winery
- Number of swear words used when the tent broke= Lost count!
Hedd’s words of wisdom:
To rent or to buy, that was our dilemma in Auckland. We decided to rent, so that we would get high quality camping equipment. This was the sensible option as the weather forecast was bad. Well it was definitely the wrong option as our tent poles, which had been showing stress fractures and cracks early on decided to snap. Add to that the fact that we didn’t even use the stove we rented as all the places we stayed had kitchen facilities, then it would have been so much easier and cheaper to buy what we needed. If the broke we could have thrown them away at the end, instead we are now trying to get some compensation back from the rental company…i’ll let you know how that goes!!!
We did however have a great time in Hawkes Bay on a fairly private wine tour, just the two of us in the morning and then just us and a Scottish couple in the afternoon!! Four brits drinking wine in the southern hemisphere heat, recipe for disaster, but we managed to behave ourselves. Mind you my head was a bit fuzzy after 6 wineries and multiple tastings!! I even managed to buy a bottle of Dry Riesling at the last winery. The best wine I ever tried was a Dry Riesling from New Zealand at a wine tasting in London, I don’t remember what it was called and am on a mission to find it here, or find something better. This wasn’t quite as good but was close. The search goes on….