29/30 November 2016
29.11.2016 - 30.11.2016
Another blue-sky morning in Napier - Tom departed early for work, lots of calls to make on way to Wellington. I took a more scenic route south, through wineries and farmland - clues to the better climate in the available crops: avocados (or avos, as generally called here), nectarines, oranges, lemons, kiwi fruits (of course!). Weather started closing in - here we go again... Temperature plummeted, very wet, but suddenly the wind was the problem - so strong I was struggling to hold the motorhome on the highway. First the concern was being blown into the barriers, but then it became being blown over. Speed down to 50 kmph (approx 30mph) on main highway. Rang rental company helpline for advice, also in case handover should have included rules such as "Don't drive in high winds". Useless input = drop your speed to 80 (from 90)!!! Also said they'd never had one blown over, my call whether to continue or not. Now roadsigns warning of strong winds on mountain-pass, but trucks still going, so I followed their lead. It could have been a lovely drive, and was still quite spectacular, but I was quite busy gripping the steering-wheel to avoid being blown into the side of the gorge while negotiating the hairpin-bends at 25kmph. The good news - I wasn't driving the company's first vehicle to be blown over, although that was almost a surprise... It was some of the toughest driving I've ever experienced, and that's saying something. Happily the weather was clearer in Wellington.
Arrived at distinctly mediocre campsite approx 20km outside the city - but biggest and most splendid reception I've ever seen, and the bathrooms/showers are the best ever. I've also been interested to see all sites provide a fully-equipped kitchen for campers, usually along with a dining area and lounge, as well as a laundry, including iron etc - much more than I've seen in any other country.
Tom was happy to go into the city for the evening, so I had my first look at "the-disaster-waiting-to-happen". "Windy Welly" = officially the world's windiest city - is undoubtedly an attractive city, "nestled between a dazzling harbour and a striking amphitheatre of pretty tree-lined hills", the capital and second most populous urban area of NZ is ranked 12th most livable city in the world and "the coolest little capital in the world" - and built on a major, active fault line... The latest big earthquake (Kaikoura) has left many buildings damaged, many more closed off still awaiting inspection, several to be demolished - and a lot of people much more nervous than previously. The city looks small viewed across the bay on approach, but feels much like any other when amongst the buildings, although there is an interesting mix of old and new, and I love the prevalence of public works of art. Bitterly cold, strong wind forced us indoors in to the Belgian Bar for a delicious meal, before returning to camp.
This morning, after Tom left for work at 0730(!), I relocated us to a site as close to the harbour as possible for our early ferry to South Island tomorrow - actually it's a motel carpark with electric hook-ups, but it serves a purpose. Another wet morning with very low cloud, I donned my most touristy outfit = walking trousers and shoes, an anorak (of sorts) and backpack and caught the bus into the city. Cable-car up the hill to the Botanic Gardens, hoping for great views over the city on the walk back down - didn't happen, but I enjoyed the walk anyway. People jogging all over the place in their lunch-breaks, pleasant wander along the waterfront, takeaway lunch from busiest and most-generous-portioned healthy-food salad/sandwich shop = Kapai. Met Tom later to visit the renowned Te Papa museum and its absolutely stunning Gallipoli exhibition with the most amazing 'sculptures'? 4x life-size models of soldiers, perfect in every detail - incredibly moving. Excellent dinner at Crabshack on the waterfront - so busy. Then mild trauma of Tom's phone completely flat battery, so no way of summoning Uber for taxi for RTB... But we found the bus stop and made our way in the old-fashioned manner safely back to our 'carpark'.
Tomorrow South Island and Tom keeps telling me I ain't seen nothing yet re scenery. I'm looking forward to it, not that North Island has disappointed.
Quick tutorial on working on your basic Kiwi accent - substitute all 'e' sounds, usually for 'i': eg jit-lag (= jet-lag), fince (= fence); igg (= egg); or 'ee': eg reegister (= register), veege (= veg), first learned when I thought I heard a man order a chicken and peach pizza... Tom pointed out it was chicken and vege - actually more logical from the spelling of vegetable than veg... All good fun - and good night x