After the the Waitomo Caves we set off cross country to Napier on the east coast of the north island, passing over several small mountain ranges. The first dropped us out in Lake Taupo, a well known tourist spot. We drove into the town for coffee and found it to be very touristy and not to our liking despite the beauty of the lake and surrounding mountains. We continued on across a plain before entering the mountain range that separates the plain from the east coast.
There we saw some of the damage caused by Cyclone Gabriel in mid February of this year. It was the costliest cyclone in the southern hemisphere causing more $11B in damages and 11 people died. The highway was not completely open and there were many traffic light controlled single lane sections with washed out bridges. The amount of mud was just astounding. Poking up from the mud were cars, trucks, homes, vineyards, and train tracks. Where the tracks weren’t covered in mud they were wildly bent in strange shapes. This took upwards of an hour before we reached the east coast. We’ve never seen anything like it.
Napier, which had been flattened by an earthquake in 1931, was our destination. It was rebuilt from fresh plans and in the fashion of the day which was art deco. So today there is this fabulous small city with the core of the town all in art deco architecture with street signs in art deco font. Our hotel was the Art Deco Masonic in the centre of town overlooking the South Pacific Ocean. We were so happy with our hotel and the surrounds that we stayed three nights rather two as planned. We took a walking tour that gave a great history of the town and some of the more prominent structures.
The next day we did small group wine tour that was tons of fun and included meeting a retired All Blacks rugby player who now owns a small winery. Happily we were provided with some food. We saw some more cyclone damage during the drive to the wineries. We had a long drive back to Auckland on Friday to catch our flight home that evening.