Archive for the ‘Napier’ Category

Or rather: Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturi-pukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu.


That’s where we went this morning, sort of on the way from Napier to Wellington. (It’s a bit off to the east and takes you through remote countryside far away from any petrol stations, but it means that you’re the only people there once you arrive…)

I remember seeing this place name in the Guinness Book of Records when I was about the girls’ age. It is indeed the world’s longest, and means “The hill on which Tamatea, the chief of great physical stature and renown, played a lament on his flute to the memory of his brother”. This was in the days before the G B of R got dumbed down and thinned out, and when it still used mysterious words like ‘protracted’. The name is one of the entries from the 1973(?) edition that has stuck in my memory all those years (along with that black-and-white photo of Robert Wadlow, the world’s tallest man), so it gave me an undeniable frisson to be there today. (I also vaguely recall it featuring in a song a few decades back…)


The name is simply an agglomeration of many basic Maori words, a very few of which we now start to recognise: there’s the man’s name in the middle, almost immediately preceded by his flute – koauau – (and we even saw this type of instrument later in the day). ‘Whenua’ is land, ‘tangi’ tears (or funeral) and ‘maunga’ mountain.


We’ll have to visit the French village of Y sometime, won’t we? (Which, incidentally, is twinned with Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.)

Pongaroa, one of our loo stops…
Pongaroa panorama

We pressed on apace, pausing for a sandwich lunch by Henley Lake, near Masterton. It had clouded over and we retreated to the car to finish eating once the drizzle worsened. Then on along the main road to Wellington, finding even worse weather as we hairpinned up and down the Rimutaka Range.

Lady TomTom got us to the Youth Hostel with little difficulty; the problems started when we attempted to park. Round the block a few times, and then we paused in the New World supermarket car park while we asked for advice at the hostel. We unloaded a bare minimum of items for our overnight stay and then left the car down on the waterfront, ten minutes’ walk away.

Wellington waterfront.

Our room has two sets of bunk beds to accommodate the four of us, sheets but no towels. The girls half expected their own TV, but this is their first Youth Hostel… We do get a sea view from our window, even if it’s a bit blustery and murky out there just now.

We walked along to Te Papa museum to see what we could cover in the two hours we had left before it closed at 6pm. It’s a vast, six-storey building and we only skimmed the surface of what was on display, but it’s certainly worth a visit (and it’s free). We began with their pièce de resistance, the half-tonne giant squid. This is only the second such monster ever caught – the first one exploded on surfacing – and there was a video loop explaining its capture, freezing, thawing and formalin preservation (giant squid go bad really quickly, it seems).

All things New Zealand are exhibited: sea life to bird life, Maori culture to settlers’ stories. Lots of interactive touch-screen educational activities, and plenty of objects you are actively encouraged to touch, feel, handle – so the girls were engrossed.

An interactive floor map of New Zealand.

A selection of koauaus, Maori flutes such as Tamatea played.

We stayed until closing time and then went in search of somewhere to eat. A street just around the corner from the hostel looked promising, but on closer inspection we ruled out each option: too posh, too greasy caff, too spicy, too cold (we needed something hot, so even Subway was eliminated).

Somewhat embarrassedly we resorted to Burger King, but their Midnight Feast deal turned out to be just right for our appetites. We commented that my parents were probably in a gourmet restaurant somewhere else in town.

As we were getting near the end of our chips, who should we see queueing at the counter but – my parents! They too had scanned the options on offer on the street and come to the same decision. Now Wellington is not exactly small, so we were astonished at this coincidence – and we could still have missed each other if our timing had happened to be a few minutes different. Anyway, we squeezed around one big table and caught up on the last few days while some of us had a quick dessert.

Afterwards, we went our separate ways; my parents to an internet cafe, and we back to our room – where I was pleasantly surprised to discover a functional wireless connection (even if we do need to pay $12 for 24 hours). So for the first time since the start of December we can connect our laptop and start to eat away at our backlog of tasks – hooray! Not that I have got to the stage of uploading photos yet, and it’s already approaching 11pm.

A 6.30am start tomorrow to get to the ferry terminal around 7 o’clock; we’ll probably get breakfast on the boat.

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No specs please…

We spent the bulk of our day at Splash Planet, a water park with bells and whistles. It only opened a month ago, and we’re most impressed with the facilities, the range of activities and the lack of overzealous health and safety restrictions; it’s safe, but not to the point of sucking out all the fun (e.g. the swings in the USA that were chained to the ground to stop them – er – swinging).

So both girls had the chance to drive a mini jeep around a dirt track – not just some plastic electric kiddy cart but a small petrol-engined metal vehicle with pedal accelerator and brake. Okay, the top speed wasn’t that alarming but a collision would have caused some damage to the bodywork.

Also a zip line starting from a fair old height – again, you are trusted to look after your children and make sure they play safely. (In our case, the girls opted out.)

We also tried a challenging round of mini-golf (Hannah got the only hole in one early on) and a ride on the little train around the perimeter of the grounds (and this provided the bells and whistles).

Then we got down to the serious business of splashing around in the water. Heated indoor pools, an everlasting river, numerous water slides ranging from the sluggish (i.e. I ground to a halt half way down) to the rip-the-glasses-from-your-face raging torrent. Indeed, I thought that my specs were gone for good until Kirsten donned her goggles and located them on the bottom of the outlet pool. (At least this mishap justifies the spare pair in my rucksack.)


But the girls’ favourite activity was drifting around the infinite stream on piles of big floaty foam pads – and being entertained by my inability to maintain any balance on a flimsy purple dolphin.

After a good six and a half hours there under an unusually cloudless sky we returned to our accommodation via a New World supermarket where Kirsten replaced the shampoo and shower gel that we accidentally left behind at the farm (we’re usually good at remembering everything) and bought some tasty pastries for breakfast tomorrow.

We’ll aim for an early getaway in the morning, given our longish drive to Wellington. We all regret not being able to spend more time in the Napier area, a whole week preferably, because it has a bit of everything – the seaside, the countryside, fresh fruit and veg, wine, good shopping…

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We had a very lazy start to the day with breakfast after 9.00am, which was then followed by some last minute packing.

Hannah and Ellen wrote a lovely thank you note to Colleen for showing them the calves and the sheep and for letting them milk Star.  At the end of their note they each wrote down six names for the little black calf and they were absolutely chuffed when Colleen picked the name “Blackberry” off Hannah’s list.

Colleen then said a quick farewell to us as she had to rush down to her son’s farm nearby to hand over a birthday present for her eldest granddaughter, after which we also decided to make our way towards Napier.

The SatNav worked out it would take us nearly three and a half hours, but that time was reduced considerably as we were driving down the gravel track and by the time we reached the main road 20 minutes later it indicated it would only take us just over two hours!

The drive went very smoothly, apart from being stuck behind slow lorries on a very windy road.  There never seems to be much traffic on New Zealand roads and the scenery is just so stunning you don’t mind too much driving a little slower.

Shortly after 1.00pm we arrived in Napier, parked our car and went in search of lunch and i-site (information centre), in that order.  We had lunch in a little cafe where the girls each chose burger & chips (neither could finish their plate), Tim opted for a huge BLT and I had a triangular tortilla slice with ham, sweetcorn, courgettes, etc; small but extremely filling.

We decided we would like to have a look around Napier first before heading out to our accommodation.  We found the i-site just around the corner near the sea and enjoyed a little walk around the centre.  Tim had picked up some leaflets, one in particular was about shops & cafes in Napier and the girls and I spotted a very interesting shop called “Humbugs” – an old fashioned sweet shop.  After a lot of umming and ahhing the girls finally settled for a small colourful lollipop, Tim chose some vanilla fudge and we also bought a large tub of old fashioned hard sweets (to last us over the Christmas period and to be shared with grandparents!).

Art Deco Napier.

Attention to detail.

Napier seafront.


Sweet little girls.

Before heading back to the car we popped into Farmers, a large-ish department store which had a special offer on where only today everything was reduced by 20, 30 or 50%.  Worth having a look then!  Tim came up with the brilliant suggestion for the girls to choose an outfit for the festive season and they both settled for a very colourful skirt and beautiful t-shirt.  Hannah also chose some knickers and I found a nice sleeveless crumpled top (I won’t have to bother ironing it!).

Born to shop.

The time on our car park ticket was running out so we returned to the car and drove to a Countdown supermarket to get some juice, cereal, sausages and bread before finding our accommodation.  The instructions were a little vague and when we reached the corner of Riverbend and Bledisloe streets Tim and Hannah got out in search of Riverbend Family Lodge.  No luck, so Tim gave them a quick call, only to find out that we were parked pretty much opposite them.

Greg, the owner, welcomed us and introduced us to Tess, the noisy dog, before showing us our two-bedroom bungalow.  The girls immediately loved the place as they found a massive trampoline right outside our front door.  They were on it straight away, only to come off for supper and then they were back on it.

As Tim and I were unloading the car I suddenly heard my mobile phone ring.  I’m not used to people phoning me on the mobile so it always takes me a while to realise where the music is coming from!  It was John (Tim’s dad) to let us know they too had arrived in Napier and could we meet up for supper.  The girls were over the moon when we told them and Hannah immediately went inside to put on her new clothes.

It was such a pleasure to see the grandparents again and to finally catch up properly on their New Zealand news.  It won’t be long now before we see them again as in three days’ time we’ll be catching the same ferry from Wellington to Picton to spend the festive season together.

We let the girls spend more time on the trampoline instead of writing their diaries, we’ll see if they can catch up tomorrow.  Unfortunately no such luck for us grown-ups.  As we don’t have internet access again (!) we can’t afford to fall behind on the daily blog entries, we’re already two weeks behind with our photos.  Apologies again to our readers, we will do our best to upload theem as soon as we have a chance.

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