Day 166: We’re Halfway There

Sat. 26th January 2013

Trolls from The Hobbit at Te Papa museumAs close as we can tell (without resorting to Excel), we are now starting on the second half of our trip – we have fewer days ahead of us than behind us. We have mixed feelings about this but we have incredible memories of the first half and can only hope that we can match that going forward. We certainly haven’t halfway finished enjoying ourselves!

Floating crane in Wellington harbourAs we stayed in a hotel in the centre of Wellington, we treat ourselves to a cooked breakfast in a nearby cafe – we were too tight to stump up hotel rates for breakfast, but probably ended up paying about the same anyway. We have a car booked to get us around the North Island but we’re not due to pick it up until 11. That gives us a bit of time to walk along the harbour front just enjoying the warm sunshine and the sights on offer.

Interactive map of New ZealandThe Te Papa museum is one of the major attractions in the  city. Given that it has a whole range of exhibits spread out over 3 or 4 floors it deserves much longer than the hour that we are able to allocate to it. It is like a combination of the Natural History and Science Museums in London – including the skeleton suspended from the ceiling (a whale in this case). There is also a giant interactive floor map of New Zealand – when you stand on a trigger square, a video plays on one of the walls.

Earthquake damper in foundations of Te Papa museumThere are a huge range of subjects covered by the museum (including the obligatory characters from The Hobbit) but it seemed appropriate that we covered the ‘Awesome Forces’ exhibit on Tectonic Plates and the impact of the movement of the plates. Since we arrived in Peru, almost every country we have visited has been seisomologically active and prone to some combination of tsunamis, earthquakes or volcanoes. One of the highlights was a simulator of a house set up to demonstrate what it feels like when an earthquake strikes – not good! The museum also had stairs going down to part of the foundations to show the earthquake dampers, big, layered rubber blocks, that means that the building stays put when the ground shakes.

Our wheels for the next five daysWe really could have stayed much longer here but we have something over 320km to drive today to Napier on the east coast. No doubt there will be scenic distractions en route and we want to do a bit of sightseeing when we get there, so we really do need to crack on. We get a Toyota Yaris in the car rental firm lottery. Very much OK – all the space we need and surprisingly quiet and refined. It certainly is very different to the van – for one thing, it does more than just get louder when you put your right foot down!

Beautiful Art Deco facades on the buildingsNapier is in the heart of Hawkes Bay which is one of the other major wine growing areas in New Zealand. We would dearly have liked to have spent a day on bikes doing a wine tasting similar to the one we had in Blenheim. Indeed we find that one of the local cafes does a picnic lunch where each of the courses is paired with a wine tasting at one of the wineries. Ah, if only… Instead, we have to settle for just a single tasting at the Pask winery on our way into Napier. The climate in Hawkes Bay is warmer and drier than in Marlborough and so they have more emphasis on red wines here. We come away armed with a bottle of red wine for our friends Naell & Dan who have offered to put us up for a night when we get to Auckland.

Top floor beautiful - bottom floor, not so muchThe other thing that Napier is famous for is the Art Deco architecture of many of the buildings in the city centre. Napier’s boom time was clearly in the 1930s (its easy to pretend to be knowledgeable when many of the buildings are dated!). All along the main street, the buildings are in Art Deco style – though some are preserved better than others, and too many have only preserved the top floor with the ground floor looking like the usual high-street horror story. Whilst we do feel a bit rushed – and a little jealous of the groups having guided tours – it was well worth the walk around.

I just can't get enough Art DecoHopefully, we won’t be quite so rushed tomorrow as we can get an earlier start – though this is probably just wishful thinking as we also have a lot to pack in. We just have time to reflect on another day of real interest and variety over a glass (or two) of Hawkes Bay wine (well, it would be rude not to as we are here!) All in all, a really good way to start the second half of our trip.


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