We arrive in the small port of Napier. We cannot see the town from the dock, only hundred of logs and the usual containers stored along the dock. As we disembark we see a line of vintage cars dockside, their owners dressed in the period of the cars. This will all become clear once we reach town. A shuttle bus had us around the hill and into Napier in 10 minutes or so. We walk up the street into the main square.
At first glance the whole town has an Art Deco look and feel about it. Napier is spotless, all the building are well maintained, following the same theme, painted in contrasting pastel palet. We where both quite taken with the place. We find the tourist information and see the story of Napier in a diorama on the wall. The whole place was flattened in a catastrophic earthquake in 1931. We walk up to the local museum and get the whole story of death and destruction but also the rebuilding of the whole town, based on the Art Deco look. The historic vehicles on the dock all make sense now. As usual we enjoy a coffee and wander through a couple of antique shops.
We eventually catch the bus back to the ship, having enjoyed a memorable day in Napier.
We awake to a new day and a new port, Tauranga. This was the only port on the cruise we actually did a bit of pre-planning for. We have been quite happy with our decision not to do any of the ships ‘excursions’ and just take it as it comes. However the ships itinerary stated Rotorua (Tauranga), well a quick look at the map shows there no where near each other. So we arranged to hire a small car for the day as this was still significantly cheaper than an excursion. Looking at the travelling distances we thought a side trip to Lake Taupo may also be possible.
Following disembarkation we pick up the rental and where on our way to Rotorua. An easy drive later we are there, we park in the Main Street and head for a coffee. As we head back to the car we note the strong sulphur smell lingering in the air. I supposed the locals must be used to it. Anyway off again we follow the signs to the tourist center and park. It seems you cannot just walk through the place you must visit the Mauri Cultural Center first, so off we go. A Mauri guide shows us through the various displays in the exhibition. She talks about Mauri customs and traditions. We then walk through the field of boiling mud pots and steaming waters.
Bubbling mud and a nasty smell can only hold your attention for so long and where on our way to Lake Taupo. It’s less than an hours drive, we pass a thermal power station and several areas where steam can be seen drifting from the ground on our way. As we drive over a rise, we enter Taupo township and see Lake Taupo with the twin snow covered volcano in the distance further beyond. Without seeking to overstate the obvious, I think it’s one of the most beautiful vistas I have ever seen. Anyway we lunch on the verandah of a pub adjacent the lake, then head west to continue our sight seeing.
It is mid-afternoon as we wind our way across to the west coast of the North Island. We pass some avocado farms then we start to wind down hill toward the sea. Slowing for the odd hamlet, this area seem very quiet and a little isolated. The scenery is well worth the drive as we head north following the coast around bays and headlands. We pass several traditional Mauri buildings with large carved poles and canoes. Time is passing now and when we reach Otorohanga we turn north east a head back to Tauranga, getting a little worried about returning the car and getting back to the ship in time.
Needless to say we made it back with a comfortable 15 minutes to spare. Something of an adventure tail to share with our dining companions that evening.