Road Trip – Days 2 and 3 – Hawkes Bay

I woke up early in Dannevirke, and hit the road to head towards Napier.

My first, rather long detour (quite appropriately, actually) was to the longest place name in the world, a hill called Taumatawhakatangi­hangakoauauotamatea­turipukakapikimaunga­horonukupokaiwhen­uakitanatahu. The locals call it Taumata, as you can imagine that spitting out that whole name would take quite a while.

It is roughly translated as the The summit where Tamatea, the man with the big knees, the slider, climber of mountains, the land-swallower who traveled about, played his  puterino (flute) to his loved one, a brother who passed away. If you zoom in on the picture you can read the story there.

After this, I continued on my journey through the lovely and scenic Hawkes Bay – passing through lots of farm land and wine country.

I made a few stops to admire the landscape, then checked into my hotel in Napier – which was quite lovely.

One stop was just to capture this crazy hedge:


Once I was settled in at my hotel and ready to explore, I headed to the Bluff Hill Lookout, which promised views and a lookout over the port. The wind was fierce, and there was a bit of rain, but I did manage to get a few pictures and not blow away. On a prettier day,  I could have watched the works at the port for hours, I think.

I left the lookout, and descended down into the town of Napier, an Art Deco style town, due to an earthquake that decimated the town in the 30’s.

I decided that I would stroll along the boardwalk, and just see what I could discover, as there were gardens and other features along the way.

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Once I had had enough of the cold, wind and rain, I grabbed dinner and headed back to the hotel.

The next day was my Hawkes Bay wine tour. I was picked up early in the morning, and had the tour guide to myself for the entire morning.

We started by heading up to Te Mata peak – which gave lovely views of the Hawkes Bay region – in between the foggy cloud cover – unfortunately, most of my pictures are after the fog rolled back in. The hang glider launch points made me laugh, and terrified me at the same time. I will do lots of things – but I am pretty certain I AM NOT that brave!

After that we headed to our first winery, Black Barn – which had a phenomenal Riesling – I am trying to save it to bring home. . . We will see. . .

I love the scenery of wineries!

The next stop was my favorite winery of the day I think – but that maybe because the lady running the tasting thought I was “charming” – it is totally the southern accent y’all – and gave me extra to taste – which panned out, because I made sure to find out howto buy their wine back in the states, and got a little bit of wine to take with me as well.

After this, I got to go to the Arataki Honey company store, which had tasters of different types of honey, as well as cool displays on the process for getting honey in New Zealand – the science teacher in me enjoyed it very much! Also, I had no idea there were so many unique honey flavors! Wow!


After the honey store, it was time for lunch, at a winery – y’all – they know how to do a yummy spread at the NZ wineries.

After lunch we picked up some others to join the tour, all Brits here for the Lions Rugby tour. They were a fun bunch, and it was nice to chat, compare travel notes and laugh along with them as we tasted wines the rest of the afternoon.

Around 5:00 I was dropped off at my hotel, and obviously wasn’t driving anywhere, so I ordered a pizza and relaxed for the rest of the evening in my hotel room (and watched Survivor NZ).

Going to the South Island – but not really South!

My first trip to the South Island began this morning with a crossing on the Bluebridge Ferry. The ferry left at 8:00 AM with check-in at 7:15. Julian was kind enough to drop me off, so that I didn’t have to walk, uber or do the bus with my luggage, which was so helpful. Ferry check-in was very straight forward and easy, and before I knew it we were boarding the boat.

The ferry crossing between the North and South Island can be quite “spewy” in the words of my Kiwi friend Rachel, and I was concerned that would be the case this morning, however, I wanted to cross the strait by ferry at least once, so here I went.

Fortunately for me, it was a GORGEOUS day for a boat ride, and I didn’t even need to worry about any motion sickness.

This was indeed the gorgeous crossing it had been hyped up to be. You start the crossing by viewing the beauty that is Wellington as you exit the harbor, then you head to the South Island to the little port town of Picton (which isn’t really south of Wellington, btw), deep within the coves and islands of Queen Charlotte Sound.


Once you cross the open water, you are rewarded with views of cliffs, rocks, mussel and salmon farms, and just stunning unaltered water views. It was fantastic.


Once I arrived in Picton, I caught the shuttle to the ferry terminal, then retrieved my bags and checked into the hostel. It was in a good location, was clean, and would definitely work for a few nights – sadly – the “spa” was out of order, but I think I will survive.

The Hostel

I had pre-booked a wine tasting in Blenheim for the afternoon with NaClachen wine tours, and it was indeed lovely. We visited several wineries, and I appreciated the regional variety in the Marlborough region wines. I am finding that each wine region in NZ has a distinctive style – and I am relishing trying them all.


After the wine tour, they dropped me back at the hostel, and I wandered around the very small town of Picton, enjoyed a waterfront dinner and sunset, and headed back to the hostel to chill and plan my day for tomorrow.

Tomorrow, I am taking a Mail Cruise (where they literally deliver the mail to the residents in the coves) but have some time before that, so I believe I will take a little journey to Bob’s Bay (about a 30 minute tramp along the Picton harbor entrance.

Rainy Rotorua

When I got back from Hobbiton, I grabbed lunch – being adventurous, I went into a Korean restaurant – and the menu was mostly in Korean, with some minimal translation – so I ordered a pork dish – which ended up being a “cook at your own table” pork dish, which was really cool – it came with 6 different sides (kimchi, cucumbers, eggplant, etc) – It was quite delightful, and I was glad to have taken the chance.

After lunch, I decided I would take a wander through the Government Gardens and Heritage Trail in Rotorua, then make the trek around the Sulfur Lake Path to check out some thermal activity.

The walk started out cloudy, but quite nice.

I stumbled upon the Sculpture Trail – neat art – cool descriptions. I tried to find the program online, and failed, but there is a pdf of the descriptions below the collage for those of you that like to look at art work and their descriptions.

Sculpture Trail Descriptions

After finishing the trail I checked out flowers, buildings and thermal pools:

As I continued around I found a lovely trail beside the lake, and found more beautiful scenery on the lake, until, those clouds broke open, and I mean, wide open. I was already wet by the time i could get my rain jacket on, and I was a good 20 minute walk from the gardens at that point. I was DRENCHED. I was afraid that my poor shoes might never recover – but after some baking soda and sunshine, they do seem fine, which is good when you are living on 4 pair of shoes for 6 months, by the way!

I made the most of the wet walk, enjoying the secluded path and thermal activity – I was already soaked, so why rush back now?

When I got back to the hostel, I decided that I would soak in the hot tub at the hostel – after all – I was already drenched, right?

So I changed into my swimsuit and enjoyed the spa for a bit before showering and heading to bed.

The next morning I had a pretty flexible schedule, so I looked on this Book Me site for something to do, as it was dreadfully dreary and rainy, so outside activities had very little appeal.

There was a Gondola Ride, Lunch and wine tasting that had a bit of appeal, so I decided to take advantage of it.

I looked up the Rotorua bus system, and figured out when and where I needed to catch a bus to across town, then checked out of the Hostel, and they graciously agreed to let me store my bag for the day, since I was taking the overnight bus at 11:00 PM back to Wellington. I just had to come back by 7 to get my bag.

I arrived at the Skyview Gondola, and pretty much had the run of the place – the Luge and BMX track and other outdoor activities were closed, so there were not many people hanging out up top – but the views were gorgeous, even in the rain.

I had lunch, explored the stores (mostly tourist-y – but check out the crazy cool Jelly Belly “artwork”), then had a tasting of wine from the different regions of New Zealand.

After that, I went back to the Hostel and hung out in the lounge for a bit. I got my bag at about 6:00, and because I had to have internet for a conference call at 7:00, and no longer had Wi-fi at the Hostel, went to the McDonald’s (or Macca’s) to connect and work while I waited for the late bus, because there was not a place to hang out at the bus stop.

While at McDonald’s I connected with the NZ Microsoft Innovative Educator Network’s monthly conference call – and had a chance to introduce myself and tell them about my inquiry project. It was a great call – and it was so nice to connect with them all – and they have given me some great places to visit and schools to see.

Once the call was complete I still had a few hours, so I continued to work on stuff until I thought it was time to head to the bus.

The bus stop was well lit, but I was glad there was another lady waiting there with me that time of night, a women who had been visiting her children in Auckland and was headed home to Wellington. Pretty soon we were joined by another girl, a sweet younger girl from Switzerland. The three of us sat on the bench and talked about mostly New Zealand and our respective journeys, and it was nice to have company – as we talked we came to realize that the older woman was not on our bus, but a later bus to Wellington – due to an issue with her bus company, they dropped her off of one bus, but her second bus was significantly delayed, and she was going to be waiting until at least 1:00. . .by herself. . . in the dark, and she was already pretty cold and bundled in her blankets. The Swiss girl immediately  said no, no no – we are putting you on the bus with us. It took some convincing, but we were able to get her to give us her whole name, and we booked the ticket for her to be on the bus with us. It was such a small gesture, but it warmed my heart that 3 women, traveling alone, from 3 different continents shared that brief bond, and I felt so much better knowing she was safely at her destination – not sitting at the bus station.

After that the night bus was uneventful – I slept on and off, and we arrived in Wellington at 6:30, at which point I was not feeling motivated to walk home, or even do the bus thing to Aro Valley, so i got an Uber, went home, and crashed for a few hours before I went to a special event at Te Papa – which I will tell you about later!