For such a small country (New Zealand is about the size of Colorado in terms of area), there sure is a lot of “nowhere” here. Our drive from Taupo to Napier was almost entirely human-free – deep mountain passes, green rolling hills and large swaths of land reforested after failed sheep farming attempts. (Of course they used non-native trees, but then they do end up with a great forestry resource this way.)
One of the things Napier is famous for is its Art Deco architecture – nearly the whole city center is built in that style, as an earthquake in 1931 completely flattened the city as well as the neighboring town Hastings. We decided in light of this we should stay in the Art Deco Masonic Hotel, which happened to overlook the Pacific Ocean (hello again). Handily enough, the Masonic was only a little ways down the street from what seems like New Zealand’s only Indonesian restaurant. Long time readers will know what this means: RIJSTTAFEL TIME. And all was well with the world, because a delicious feast is always welcome.
The other thing Napier is famous for (or really, the larger region of Hawke’s Bay) is… wine! We had decided long ago that we needed to do a biking wine tour in Hawke’s Bay. Excellent choice, past us. We picked up the bikes and a map at Ash Ridge, then biked through some vineyards to Sileni where we met the effervescent Anne. In addition to some great info, Anne also hooked us up with some effervescent wine – week 39, check. We then hit Alpha Domus (aviation themed with a poor understanding of the classical languages) and Abbey Cellar (incredibly modern yet classical archecture, great cheese board). Pretty quickly we realized that Hawke’s Bay syrah is phenomenal. By the time we finished at Ngatarawa (na – TAR – a – wa) and Ash Ridge, we had somehow accumulated 2 bottles of syrah, a smoky pinot noir, a reisling, a sparkling sauvignon blanc, a chenin blanc, and a gewurtztraminer. Whew! (Thankfully for us, domestic flights in New Zealand have no restrictions on liquids… or really any security apparatus at all. Cheers!)
We finished up our adventure in Hawke’s Bay with some more natural attractions… Te Mata Peak and a brief walk towards Cape Kidnappers (home to incredibly cliffs, incredibly loud birds, and an incredibly luxurious lodge – maybe next time?)