Leaving Rotorua, we took a somewhat circuitous route to Wellington. The most direct route would be south to Lake Taupo and then straight on to Wellington. We decided to head east to Napier on the coast, and then turn southwest - a couple hours extra, but worth it, as Napier was completely rebuilt in the Art Deco style after an earthquake in 1931. We drove as far east as we could - literally, and we parked on the promenade on the shores of Hawke's Bay. It was grey, moody, windy...and absolutely breathtaking. The black beach and vibrant blue water were incredible.
I wanted to shop a bit, so we walked through town - another good tip that I don't use often enough - ASK THE LOCALS. We asked a lovely shopkeeper where she would recommend we go for a quick bite to eat; the shrimp salad sandwiches, cupcakes and L&P at Heaven's Bakery were just what we needed. So, so good.
Actually L&P was one of our favorite parts of New Zealand. We bought our first liter at a countdown after driving through Paeroa itself and having several WTF moments followed by utter bewilderment at what this L&P stuff actually was. Advertisement was plastered so liberally across Paeroa and its outskirts that we were sure it must be alcoholic, but no, it turned out to be a pleasingly quirky lemon soda.
I even brought a glass L&P bottle home with me to use as a vase; we were stopped at security in Auckland..."Excuse me ma'am, it seems you have a bottle of something in your rucksack...oh, it's an empty L&P? You're all right - it's world famous in New Zealand!" The security lady was actually quite happy that I had developed a love for their national drink.
After leaving Napier, I slept for a little bit, waking just in time for the harrowing ride into Wellington itself. The Hutt Valley is no joke - for many, many kilometers, the only thing between us and the distant valley floor was a few inches of steel or worse, some shrubbery. Kiwis tend to take these curves at about 60mph (even in construction), so...with my feet firmly pressed against the dashboard and a bloodless grip on the seatbelt strap, we went for it. And arrived in Wellington a bit more proud of our driving prowess.
|North Island countryside|
|Not the best exposure, but one of my favorite pictures...|
|Napier Marine Parade|
|This was my favorite road sign. I was never exactly sure how the car made those tracks. But...point taken.|
|just go for it...|