Napier, New Zealand (18th Mar 2008)
Wellington to Napier
Driver: MarkDistance Travelled: 352.7 Km / 219.2 Miles
Accumulative Distance: 3720.2 Km / 2312.1 Miles
The entire drive to Napier took us straight along State Highway 2 and because there wasn't much to see along the way we made pretty good time and only stopped for a toilet break or two. We drove into Napier and were surprised to see there wasn't a cloud in the sky and the sun really was shining. The main reason we wanted to come to Napier was its reputation as the 'Art Deco City'. On February 3rd 1931 an earthquake and then a fire quickly devastated Napier's inner city. Out of the ashes grew Napier as it is today, an international icon of Art Deco style. Another reason we were keen to visit Napier was because a friend of Kara's, whom she used to know back home, lived there now and it seemed stupid to visit New Zealand and not drop in to say hello.
First of all we parked up along the esplanade so we could orientate ourselves with the city. The beach seemed to stretch forever but rather then it be beautiful golden sands it was completely made up of all different sized pebbles that actually gave the feet quite a massage when you walked on them barefoot. Mark had a quick shower for a bargain $1 while Kara perused the information centre to see what there was to do in town. Most of the information pushed you towards a 'Guided Deco Tour'but rather than pay to see this we set off on foot on our own to see what Art Deco delights the streets had to offer. We didn't really know what we were looking at but it was still nice to see all the buildings and to have another design jump out every time we turned a corner. The main strip is dominated by shops, as expected, and so takes all the attention away from the buildings themselves so we found it was best to wonder the surrounding streets where we saw The Daily Telegraph Building, the Deco Clock Tower and the Municipal Theatre. The afternoon was quickly passing, helped along by a reunion with Stu, Kara's friend from home, during his afternoon break during which time we all arranged to meet up for a drink later. We had some lunch in an Irish pub called Molly Malone's where Mark got a quick fox of premiership football while we both enjoyed some really delicious food.
We spent the latter part of the afternoon parked up by the sunken gardens on the beach front before finding our way to Taradale where Stu lives and where we would hopefully find a place to sleep for the night. Just as we were about to leave the city centre Mark noticed a street called 'Latham Street' not too far away from where we were so of course we had to go and check it out and get a picture of Kara in front of it! Taradale was only a short drive from the city centre and so we spent a little bit of time driving around to find the chosen pub for the evening and to scope out possible camping locations. We eventually settled in the library car park which also looked out onto a little park so we felt quite at ease sleeping there for the night.
As we weren't meeting Stu till half eight we went to the supermarket to stock up on a few toiletries only to come out with a $7.99 bottle of bubbly that's normally £15 back home. We realised how strict they are about underage drinking in New Zealand as when asked for ID and both producing our UK driving licences we were told they weren't good enough and were asked for a passport. Mark spent the next five minutes ransacking through the back of the van trying to find his passport that was buried in one of the storage compartments. Eventually he returned to the supermarket where Kara was still waiting and we were finally allowed our alcohol, not before they stamped Mark's date of birth on the receipt though! Anyway, as we didn't have any glasses and the plastic mugs that came with the van made the bubbles instantly disappear we ended up sitting in the front of the van, drinking out of the bottle whilst munching on cereal, not the classiest of times but still much fun.
By now it was eight thirty so we walked the short distance to Taradale's main strip and found the chosen bar and settled down to have a beer. Stu soon followed after he finished his football training and there we stayed for the next two hours, chatting and generally enjoying being out at night for the first time in ages. At closing time we set off to walk the short distance back to the van and Stu back to his house when three guys appeared out of Pizza Hut offering us garlic bread and chicken wings to which Mark happily accepted! We said our goodbyes to Stu, half thinking it would have nice to spend a little longer here, and because Mark now had the munchies set off in search of food but failed as even McDonald's was closed and it wasn't even half ten. So off we went back to the van and into bed, Mark's grumbling belly sending us off to sleep.