I'm not sure what we will do in Broken Bow when we can't spend the morning sitting in a coffee shop until we're finally ready to start the day at 11 am (or sometimes noon). Even though the winter here is quite temperate it is still pretty cold in the morning so we've taken to relaxing until the sun breaks through the clouds and begins to warm up the air. It makes me wonder if we can convince the clinic to only keep afternoon hours.
Drove from Taupo to Napier after a few hours in the coffee shop. The drive was quite pleasant and sunny as the Hawke's Bay region gets the most sunshine hours of any part of the country. A severe earthquake in 1931 knocked down all of the buildings in Napier and thus the rebuild created the Art-Deco capital of New Zealand. This area is also the New Zealand wine country. We spent most of the day walking around the city of Napier enjoying the good weather.
A morning that we rose early and surprise of surprises spent a few hours in the coffee shop. Drove to Hastings and checked in to The Rotten Apple Backpackers hostel. Not to put to fine a point on it but this was our worst mistake of the trip. Sure, we got a much needed shower and a place to do laundry but the place was run down and frankly smelled horrible. I should have invoked the "on paper we're rich, let's stay somewhere that doesn't smell like feet" rule, but we've been trying to live well within our means and so I mistakenly made the booking. Unfortunately this was beneath our means.
On the bright side today we got to meet Andrea, Allison, and Ava. Andrea was nice enough to show us around Hastings and Havelock North. We toured to Te Mata peak and to the Arataki honey factory. Also enjoyed a delicious round of apple ciders at the local cider house. The Hawke's Bay area is prime real estate for growing orchard fruit and, more recently, grapes that are made into wine.
After our fun afternoon our hosts were still gracious enough to take us out to dinner. It was great for Shaleah to finally have someone besides me to interact with and we both appreciated their wonderful hospitality. Ava is probably the best behaved 18 month old I've ever met, although maybe all kids in New Zealand are like that.
Wine ride. Although I don't partake in the sweet nectar of Bacchus as it were, I really enjoyed today. It was the first time we did a road ride on our bikes and we traversed over 30 km riding from winery to cheese factory to winery enjoying the sun and fresh air. It was very tiring but quite worth it.
After the ride we ate a delicious dinner at Andrea and Allison's house (they put on an excellent facade of appearing to not be sick of us yet) and Andrea made a delicious lemon meringue pie. It was nice to not be strangers in a strange land for a while.
Maps can give you a false sense of security. If you look at a map and there are only, say 5 trails it appears relatively straightforward. The other problem with most maps is that, being two dimensional, they don't really tell you what sort of insane incline you might be mountain biking down at a point when your brake pads probably need replacing.
Today's outing to Te Mata peak suffered from this debilitating combined map disease. The map only documents about 10% of the actual trails on the mountain and it doesn't grab you by the shoulders and shake you violently while yelling, "This might be too steep you uncoordinated bastard!" I enjoy walking, and I enjoy mountain biking but I don't enjoy hiking while pushing my bike. That is most of what we did this morning. Our saving grace being a nice gentleman who gave us directions and the always beautiful New Zealand countryside.
After a minor setback we traveled down the road to Masterton sheepishly ignoring some nice hikes because a fatigue factor has set in. This is not to be construed as complaining about a vacation which involves zero responsibility or deadlines but it can be tiring to do cardiovascularly intense activities almost everyday of a five week overseas excursion.
We ended up in Martinborough where we enjoyed a nice meal in the restaurant at the Martinborough Hotel and retired to the van.
Cold morning but quickly warming and becoming quite temperate. Early morning spent at the "dairy" which is sort of like a convenience store and cafe combined. Here, for the first time I stumbled upon a decent proposition for internet access. A single computer set up with free access and a container simply asking for donations. We gladly "paid" more for this internet because I appreciated the concept more than the $4 per hour we'd been paying at most internet cafes.
After this set out for Schoc Chocolates in Greytown. They have interesting and delicious combinations such as Strawberry, Black pepper, and milk chocolate, but it's probably not worth the $9 per bar that they charge. Anyway, we followed our chocolate fix with a drive down the coast and a hike to The Pinnacles which afforded our first views of the south island of New Zealand. We've decided not to visit the south island for two reasons. One, we're cold. Two, we only have 9 days left and we still haven't finished the north island.
Next stop on the itinerary brought us to a lighthouse on the coast and a local seal colony. I was able to get quite close to the seals and shoot some video footage until the camera ran out of battery.
Hotel evening with much deserved showers and a walk along the beach. We're nearing the end and it is starting to set in but we're remaining optimistic.
Today's goal was to bike the Rimutaka incline trail. I guess you could say that we accomplished that, but I walked my bike along a good portion of it. The trail follows the old Fell Engine railroad that used to traverse the Riutaka Range from the Wairarapa region to Wellington. The ride actually wasn't unduly strenuous but it rained some of the time and because it was about 1000 meters above sea level we got very cold as we descended back towards the start of the trail.
We did get to bike through a couple of tunnels and luckily our "torch" didn't run out of battery. And, even better, I only fell once because the trail was quite easy. After Rimutaka we drove to Wellington and walked around the city. We'll be spending a few days here and the weather should be wonderful.
Visited the Te Papa Museum (official museum of New Zealand) but we didn't finish all of the exhibits. Then we traveled to the Parliament building, took a tour and sat in on the parliamentary session. It had more of a city council feel than the government of a nation, but then again they're only governing 4 million people.
Wellington has some really great looking (and tasting) restaurants and we're trying one called Kai tonight. It is billed as a Maori fusion restaurant. Normally I would make fun of pretentious fusion restaurants but it came highly recommended by our Lonely Planet guidebook so I'm looking forward to it. The museum is open late tonight so we may go back through some more exhibits. Also bought tickets for a play for tomorrow evening. Should be fun.
The restaurant turned out to be a great experience with the owner playing the guitar and leading all of the diners in a Te Reo Maori language sing along. We had a wonderful time up until the point that our food arrived and Shaleah's chicken turned out to be essentially raw. It put a real damper on the evening.