New Zealand 2005

Journal 6– Free travel to Wellington - Napier

2/23/05

Gallery 3 Gallery 3Yesterday, four of us (Katie, Leanne, Susanah, and I) got on a bus headed for Napier, located in Hawke's Bay on the eastern coast of the North Island. We arrived in town around a quarter past five having changed lodging arrangements, in the morning, from a cabin in a holiday park to a bed & breakfast at a highly discounted rate. Robin, the woman who runs the b&b, came to pick us up.

The house is a good ways out of town, but Robin is giving us rides when we need them. Anyway, we are directly on the beach - I can look out any number of windows and watch the waves roll and crash in (I'm not looking now, but I can still hear them, big waves tumbling over themselves). The beach is one of dark rocks, smooth ones like the "river rocks" you'll find in packages at Pier 1 ready for a candlescape. Tons of these smooth stones lay across the stretch of shore around the bay. It's beautiful.

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Today was amazing. When the last time I've had a day as wonderful as today was, I don't know. So relaxed, so smooth, so calm, so worthwhile.

We got up around eight and made our way onto the beach, where we stood in the smooth stones and water, watching the waves crash in. There's a steep drop a little ways out where the waves tumble and crash before foaming up the shore. We took photos of the shoreline, of Napier around the bay, of waves and of each other standing in front of the waves.

After breakfast, a bit after ten, Robin came back from the course she teaches and drove us into town. She showed us around some, took us up to a cliff where we had a great view over the city, bay and surroundings, then dropped us off at the info center, right by the main shopping area (which is all brick-paved, footpaths and roads).

We walked around for a little while and ate lunch at Thorp's Coffeehouse. (Note to self: a short macchiato is really short. Go for long.)

For NZ $10 each, we visited Marineland - like a toned-down version of Sea World, and much better for it. We got within a few feet of New Zealand fur seals, sea lions, otter, little blue penguins (that is actually what they're called - they're the smallest sort of penguin), and gannets. There were very few people around before the two o'clock show, and one of the workers brought a one-year-old baby fur seal - named Mr. Bo Jangles - out in front of the ropes, which were all that blocked us from the dolphin tank - two ropes strung around as a fence. Anah and Leanne got to pet "Mr. Bo," but he was apparently grumpy and snapped at Leanne, so the trainer calmed him down and took him back to his temporary habitat.

The show itself was mainly of two common dolphins doing jumps and a few tricks (if they felt like it), plus a bit with a fur seal. It was very laid back and felt more focused on introducing us to the animals than on impressing us with fancy stunts, which was a characteristic I much preferred to the (relative) flashiness of a place like Sea World.

We grabbed supper at Rosie O'Grady's after lounging a while at shaded tables in front of a cafe. It was fish 'n chips all around - nothing too much, but mine with a drink still managed to cost $17. Restaurants are expensive in New Zealand, I've noticed that everywhere. It was good, though, and I think we all enjoyed the atmosphere for something different.

After eating, we had almost an hour before Robin would pick us up, so we went down to the beach; I cannot emphasize rightly how beautiful it was. Waves crashed and foamed and the water took on a pale blue-purple metallic luster, with the sun sinking, curtained by clouds, behind us. I can see why it has the feel of a place where people with plenty of money congregate. (Is it actually a "rich" haven? I don't know, but there have been a lot of nice houses, nice buildings, I've read that its popularity is growing as a travel spot, and so on.) It is beautiful.

~ Nicki Hoffman

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