I am pleased to say that Keith was not disappointed. After a tranquil night we set off to walk to some hot springs, leaving the motorhome at the Tavern and we fell upon some mud baths which provided ample mud, air and loads of plop …. just what we were looking for!
The noise as the air bubble bursts in the mud is actually oddly relaxing … although still fairly smell!
After a wander back to find Ava and helpIng some South American damsels in distress … their hired campervan (if you can call it that as it was a death trap) had a flat battery so we push started it to get them going again, encouraging them to call the rental company as the tyres were bald, brake light wasn’t working and apparently the fridge didn’t work either and that was the second time the battery had gone completely flat…. not a good sign.
After we sorted ourselves out, we set off en route to Taupo where we stopped and sat by the lake to eat our lunch before having a wander through the town, getting coffee and a lassi and finding a butcher to get some meat for dinner over the next couple of days. Taupo was pretty much as I remembered it – fairly touristy and not a huge amount going on but it is a central hub for the area and any sports activities so it had some fantastic outdoors and bike shops.
We had decided to stop over at a NZMCA just by the airport which was lovely, spacious and peaceful…. until the morning at least when the first plane went up with parachutes at the crack of dawn – but to be fair they were few and far between. The location of the NZMCA site was great as, although on the highest point, it wasn’t too far to walk down to the lake where there was a lovely cycle path which enabled us to head out for a bit of an afternoon stroll to enjoy the sunshine before the night set in.
With the weather looking like it is going to close in on us after the weekend we decided to do a hop, skip and a jump over to Napier where we had planned to chill out for a few days and take in some of the vinyards. We headed for the NZMCA site which is just outside Napier and once again were pleasantly surprised as it was a lovely open, peaceful site not too far from the seafront… this time we were welcomed by a bag of lemons on the gate …. it would be rude not to, although we did only take the one! Boring as it may be we needed to catch up on washing so trekked into Napier and a couple of hours later were fully fresh and clean! …. why we chose here where the launderette is 5km away when most days there is one about 500m from where we park I don’t know !!
After a peaceful nights sleep and a nice morning run we set off into Napier to search out the Art Deco buildings and the Saturday market and although we didn’t find anything interesting or pretty yesterday whilst looking for the launderette, just a couple of blocks further on and we struck gold – A cultural town with lots of colour and style.
The market was like a farmers market where almost everything was organic and seasonal, with lettuce, broccoli, Avocado’s, Broad Beans and Strawberry’s to name a few bits currently in season over here and we even spotted some rhubarb! A taster market before the big one tomorrow apparently, so we only bought the necessities to get us through the night…. and 6 Advocados…
Back at the motorhome and we actually had a couple of hours to chill and relax in the sunshine trying to fend off the mosquitos by topping up the G&T levels (I’ll use any excuse but the little buggers have been doing their damage!) before enjoying a bit of Dijon Chicken on the Bar B Q for dinner.
We set off in the morning towards Hastings which is only 20km away, stopping at the Hawkes Bay farmers market en route to stock up the cupboards. The market was exceptional, almost like a small food festival in the UK with musicians and about 65 local producers selling everything from Wine to Milk and Cupcakes to Bacon Butties, thankfully the weather has been holding out and they were having a good morning so we managed to pick up some Asparagus, Lamb Sausages, Beef (for a chilli), Smoked Gem Fish and some kind of white fish (sorry John and Lorraine we are useless at remembering the Kiwi names!!), Grapefruits, Soft Cheese as well as some lovely Black Pudding …. certainly enough to give this weeks menu a bit of a helping hand! With dinner sorted for tonight we headed into Hastings for a look around, finding more Art Deco buildings to admire although it was a little bit of a ghost town in comparison to Napier.
We parked up at the Havelock North Club which has a small car park behind it that they allow NZMCA members to use – another really quiet spot just on the edge of the very pretty, yet quite affluent village/town of Havelock North.
For those of you unfamiliar with New Zealand, Napier, Hastings, Havelock North and Te Awanga are all in the Hawkes Bay Area which is one of New Zealand’s big Vinyard areas so we thought it would be rude not to partake whilst here and wandered up the road to find a couple of small producers to do some tastings!
First stop was Red Barrel which is a tiny producer with only 2.62 Hectares of vine … a real ‘micro-boutique’ vinyard. The owner of the Piku Izakaya Japanese restaurant (which currently sits at the front of the vinyard as it is moving into Havelock North next July) did the tasting with us and he was not only generous but also took his time to explain each wine although he was also managing the tail end of Sunday lunch. The wines we tasted were a mixture of Chardonnay, Rose, Merlot and Syrah – all delicious and it is fair to say that both the Chardonnay we tried were exceptional.
Moving on from the Red Barrel, we headed slightly further down the road to the Black Barn which is also small (although not as small as the Red Barrel) but certainly understands the words ‘diversification’ and ‘marketing’. The wine was obviously the core product but over the years they have grown to do Weddings, Conferences and Events in their restaurant and amphitheatre as well as offering 18 properties for accommodation to rent. The Cellar room is just behind the restaurant which opens out onto the vinyard and the valley, a beautiful setting to relax, have a glass of wine or two and perhaps a bite to eat.
Unfortunately, although the setting was lovely we were a little put off by the staff. The tasting was paid for – which wasn’t an issue – but it felt a bit lacking in detail and passion which you kind of want from a small producer who is trying to get people to buy his/her wares. Needless to say, we drank our wine and headed back to the motorhome to settle in for a quiet night.
In the morning, after a quick shop to top up our market produce we headed over to Te Awanga where we parked up on the beach in the nature reserve, looking over towards Cape Kidnapper listening to the waves crash down just a couple of meters away from us.
Not too bad …. it was dry so we headed out to see if we could find any Gannets – as that is apparently what Cape Kidnapper is famous for – but within fifteen minutes the skies had opened and we were in for a pretty wet walk. We didn’t find any Gannets as the tide was high so we couldn’t walk around the cape at all, although we probably wouldn’t have gone much further considering the weather and time anyway. So we found somewhere to stop to eat our sandwiches whilst the rain held off for a few minutes and then headed back to the vineyards to do a bit more wine tasting.
The closest was Te Awanga which is a mid-sized vineyard but still family owned. As we headed up the driveway the rain got heavier and heavier so our presence was felt as we walked through the doors looking like slightly desperate drowned rats despite the fact that we had our waterproofs on. They were very welcoming though and the Cellar Bar was warm so we tasted five different wines, learnt a bit about their vineyard and process and chatted with a couple of the locals before buying a bottle of wine and moving on 500m up the road to find the next Vineyard.
We ended up spending quite a long time at Te Awanga so we had managed to dry off a little and things were looking hopefull as it was only spitting slightly when we left. Unfortunately we only got half way down the drive before it settled in again, leaving us damp, although not quite as damp, for our second tasting of the day.
Clearwater Vineyard is quite a different set up, rustic and welcoming and a good family run feel coming through. We got a good tasting of six different wines between us along with a bit of history – all in all a good tasting session.
Not particularly wanting to leave as it was torrential outside we hung around, looked at a few articles and fell upon a book of all the Vineyard dogs obviously put together by someone who had way too much time/money but quite amusing all the same! When the other set of clients left we decided to take our leave too and were pleasantly surprised that the rain had eased slightly, enabling us to make it back to the motorhome without getting completely drenched again. The original plan was also to go to Elephant Hill Vineyard for a tasting as well as for dinner but we were put off by the prospect of the restaurant being too formal and possibly a little protenscious so cancelled but still planned to go for a tasting, however as it happened our time ran out (they closed the tastings at 4pm) so we settled back in the motorhome, cooking dinner with the waves thundering down near by.
The waves and the rain gave us a good concert through the night …. it felt a little like the battle of the proms although I think the waves had the staying power at the end of the day as we woke to clear blue skies and sunshine again, although a little crisper.
Today was a long drive (in our terms ….. actually only 240km) as we wanted to get to a place called Plimmerton which is just outside Wellington so we can spend the next couple of days exploring the city. We found another NZMCA site and the station is five minutes walk away with trains into the city every half an hour …. so we are all set to explore tomorrow.
Plimmerton itself is a pretty little coastal commutertown which we managed to enjoy in the sunshine this afternoon walking along Sunset Boulevard.
Don’t forget if you want to visualise where we are you can have a look at the map on Travellerspoint by clicking here