Hawkes Bay Area and Taupo

Trip Start Nov 16, 2005
Trip End Apr 11, 2006

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Tues. 14th Feb........

We left our sheep farm night stop and headed for Napier. We drove through Hastings on the way - it is known due to an earthquake in 1931 which completely destroyed the main street and killed 93 people. It had to be rebuilt and has many fine art deco and Spanish-American Mission buildings. We stopped there for coffee and then moved on to Napier. What a beautiful town that is! Lots of wonderful art deco buildings - Steve you would love it here! This week so happened to be Art Deco Week and there were guided tours each day at 10 am and 2 pm from the Visitors Centre - I did the walk and Catherine went to have her hair done! I also had a hair cut later - a really good salon. We had lunch in the Starving Artist Cafe - it was marvellous - they make really good salads. Napier is on the coast and has beautiful blue seas but the beach is awful - all grey gritty sand due to the volcano. This town was at the epicentre of the earthquake of 3rd Feb 1931 - 256 people died - and, has had to be completely rebuilt.

We could have gone on a Gannet Safari but we wanted to get to Lake Taupo by nightfall as we had not booked any accomm. in advance - how disorganised can you get! However, Napier was worth all the time we had spent there - a highly recommended place.

We drove on via Hawke's Bay vineyards, The Mission Vineyard (the oldest winery in the country) and Craggy Range Winery. Craggy Range has a 5-star restaurant but we had already eaten lunch in Napier so we could not put it to the test! There are dozens of vineyards in this area but we did not have time to try them all.

Our drive to Taupo was breath-taking - the scenery was wonderful and we were glad that we did all our driving in the day time - it would be such a waste to miss out on all the scenic spots along the way. The town of Taupo is on a beautiful lake and many of the hotels and accommodation are facing the water. We went to the Visitors Centre and were recommended a very nice hotel called Camellia Court - it was not on the main road but the advantage was that it was not noisy at night. Having checked in, we were told to go see the Huka Falls - they were spectacular - great torrents of water crashing down through a gorge into a whirlpool - not for the feint-hearted and not for white-water rafting unless you had a death wish! I took lots of photos and will upload one of them to go with this entry. On our way back we tried to have a drink at the Huka Falls Resort (rates from NZ$6000 per night - no, this is not an error!)but were told the bar was for Residents Only - that stopped us in our tracks - no champagne for us on Valentine's Day!

We also visited Aratiatia Rapids where the control gates open at set times each day and the dam flows into the Waikato River - again, another amazing sight - the water crashing over the rocks - we went up to a viewing platform and watched the sight. The gates are left open for 30 mins. and then closed again. Another wonderful day and a great place to stay - would recommend it.
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