Wednesday 11th October
After a 1 1/2 drive over the mountains to Napier, Jake, who sadly suffers with motion sickness was particularly pleased to arrive. We blew the cobwebs away and he started to feel better straight away as we parked right on the beach with a front line view of the ocean. Freedom camping again and it has given us the best views so far!
We played 'It' along the beach to Napier, which always means the children cover more ground without realising it. The town was ruined in 1930 by an earthquake and rebuilt completely in 1931. It is now the most complete Art Deco town in the Southern Hemisphere. We had dinner in a lovely iconic 1930's building and waddled back to our RV with full bellies once more.
We awoke the next morning to this amazing view. We found out afterwards that this is the best freedom camping spot in NZ and it certainly was for us.
We walked up the beach to a playground and lovely 1950's airstream serving great coffee and I wandered into Napier to see the buildings and visit the tourist information building. They really are extremely helpful wherever you stop.
We packed up the van after another chase down the beach and carried on to Mission vineyard and Te Awa where we had lunch. The 'cellar door' sampling is excellent as you get to sample 5-6 or their signature bottles.
We came back into Hastings where we checked in to another Top10 campsite for a swim and showers, use of a BBQ, wifi and to replenish water (and dump the contents of the loo!).
Friday 13th October
A local leaflet had information on a tour of a Tannery (where they process sheepskins into rugs, boots and merino wool into clothes) and NZ having 12 sheep for every person meant we felt we should visit. It was very interesting but Sophia hadn't realised the meaning of 'sheepskin' before and was a bit sad to learn that the sheep had to die for these products. Being the happy positive soul she is, when we explained the sheep was giving us meat as well, she has just said Thankyou to whichever animal she has eaten since!
Our next stop was the Atakari honey shop, for an education in bees, hives and honey making. New Zealanders are the worlds largest consumer of honey and we got to try a large variety of the honey they produce here. It was a great educational stop and we learnt that a worker bee only lives for 45 days (the Queen can live for 8 years) and will only make 4 teaspoons of honey in its lifetime. So Sophia has also said Thankyou to the bees when she's had honey as well!
After all that sweet stuff, we went on to climb Te mata Peak for a magnificent 360 degree view of the area. As usual we were puffing to keep up with Sophia who charged on ahead most of the way.
The boys decided it was a 'tops off' kind of climb. Like peas in a pod...
Black barn vineyard was at the base, so we stopped in there for another cellar door and lunch (it's THE vineyard to be seen in don't you know!)
On the way out of Hastings we went past Craggy peak, which is my good friend Libby's favourite, so it would have been rude not to visit their cellar door as well. The children stayed in the van playing Minecraft - great parenting 😬. They did have an awesome full-bodied red called Sophia that was bottled right there, but at $115 a bottle we stuck to the Sauvignon to take with us.
The Te Mata Peak forms the backdrop to the Craggy Peak Winery and is the exact shape of the top of every label.
Dave and I are delighted we can now taste 'black pepper notes' in Syrah which is the areas most popular red. I class us as experts for that!
After this busy day, we needed to cover some miles to get to Wellington by Sunday, so stopped overnight in Ekatahura, and a council run camp tht only cost $16! With a clean kitchen, hot showers plus free laundry it was our best campsite bargain!
Saturday 14th October
Onwards to mount Bruce bird sanctuary where we saw New Zealands only white kiwi plus parrots, eels and a Ka-ko-ka which made that exact noise! There was also a beautiful bush walk, New Zealand Redwoods (which we of course had to hug) and two tuaturas, amazing lizard like creatures that have been around since the dinosaurs. They are pretty useless - their only defence is to play 'dead' so they only survive in the wild on islands off New Zealand where they have no predators!
Then the Woolshed, a museum about sheep and shearing (the world sheep shearing championships were held here in 2012!) which was interesting in Masterton, a pretty town with a brilliant park the kids enjoyed.
Then on through Greytown (which looked quite well-heeled) and on to Martinborough for a Top10 which was exceptional - views over fields and lovely clean and new facilities. We walked into town for beer tasting this time and some supplies for dinner at the campsite.
Phew. A busy week indeed!