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Thursday, January 12, 2012

Kiwis, sheep and vineyards

There are two different types of Kiwis in New Zealand:  the bird and the fruit.  New Zealanders call themselves Kiwis and I haven’t found out yet which variety of Kiwi the nickname comes from.  My guess would be the bird, as they clearly love the species, which is rarely seen in the wild.  They do have several places where Kiwis are protected, including the Kiwi Adventure Park we saw in Rotorua, also at the National Aquarium in Napier, and at a nature preserve near Wellington. 

Ben and Marley love the Kiwis and bought a stuffed bird they have named Waku, I think it’s from one of the tribe names from Survivor sometime back.  And while we haven’t seen Kiwis in the wild yet, we’ve seen plenty of sheep.  Large herds of sheep dotted the fields as we drove from Napier to Waikanae Beach north of Wellington, where we are spending the last two days of our time on the North Island.  I was going to try to stop and take a picture of the sheep but I think everyone pretty much knows what they look like. 

One thing I wish I would have been able to take a picture but couldn’t due to the busy highway we were on was sheep wandering through vineyards. That occasional vignette combined two of the most prominent features of the middle part of the North Island.  Napier is in the heart of Hawke’s Bay, which is home to many vineyards.  The mild, frost-free climate makes for excellent grape growing conditions and the wineries advertise all over the place.  The woman we rented our cottage from in Napier suggested going to one called The Mission, so we took the 15 minute drive to an area called Taradale to check it out. 

It’s a beautiful building nestled into a hillside that was once a seminary.  The weather co-operated again as we had a cloudless sky with comfortable temperatures as we were guided to a table outside, close to the building under a patio umbrella.  We arrived with no reservations for lunch, which I didn’t know you would need, but once outside, you could see where the people with bookings were seated.  There were a handful of long tables in a lawn area with about a dozen people seated around them, plus some four-tops also out on the lawn with a nice view of the impressive building and the views of the valley where the grapes were grown. 

Being at a winery, we had to get a bottle of wine, which was very good, but not as good as the food.  We all agreed our meals were the best ones we had by far so far on the trip, and the prices were reasonable for such quality.  Annie had the fish feature of the day, (can’t recall the name but it was deeeee-lish!) and I had the prawns, which were possibly the best I’d ever had.  After lunch we wandered around the grounds and inside the building where they had wine for sale and pictures of the history of the property.  They’ve had some big outdoor concerts there in an area just to the left of the building where there is a natural ampitheater.  Rod Stewart played there in 2005 (I wonder if he played the same song twice like he did when I saw him in West Virginia in the mid 80s?) according to a newspaper article on the show that was on display there.  Sting also apparently played there as well at some point. 

With it being such a pretty day, we headed back to the cottage to grab swimsuits for the kids, and went back to the beach at the Napier waterfront.  Ben and Marley had an absolute blast playing in the waves and on the beach.  They are a lot of fun to watch as they run around on the pebbly surface, scampering into and then out of the water as it washes ashore. 

After about a half-hour to 45 minutes, it was getting near dinnertime, so we gave them a ten minute warning to wrap things up.  That time was cut about in half as Marley was sitting down on the edge of the water, waiting for another wave to wash over her when Ben started running toward her from behind from further up the beach close to us.  Ben likes to jump over things and you could see this pending disaster coming almost in slow motion.  With no firm surface to plant a foot and get up into the air, he didn’t even come close to clearing his sister, firmly hitting the back of her head with his knee.  That got some serious tears flowing from Marley and Ben repeatedly said he was sorry.  We packed up our stuff and headed for some public washrooms at the I-site tourist information center so we could change and grab some dinner at a nearby restaurant that featured some tables outside. 

It was shortly before six when we went into the washroom area where they had several shower areas and changing areas.  The woman who was working there clearly wasn’t all that happy to see us, which we figured was due to the fact that it was almost time for her to go home.  When she saw that Ben and Marley were all wet, she asked in a somewhat horrified tone how they came to be in that condition.  In the back of my mind I was thinking “does she not know that there’s an ocean about 100 yards from where she works?” but instead of asking that, I said the kids had been playing in the water.  She was stunned and said rather indignantly that they shouldn’t have been doing that due to the dangerous riptides that apparently, according to her, were responsible for a drowning recently.  I assured her that we were watching the kids closely and made sure they didn’t go into the water much above their ankles.  I should have asked why there weren’t any signs advising people of the dangers of the water, but that would have meant lengthening my time on earth in the presence of this unpleasant woman, so we got the kids cleaned up and headed across the street to dinner.  Since the locals won’t do it, I will:  Stay out of the ocean on the beach at the Napier Waterfront.  And if you’re looking for free parking on the main road there, called Marine Parade, there are some spaces just south of the waterfront area by some backpacker hotels and across from the skate park that don’t have any meters on them.  You’re welcome.

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