While the “sail in” to this town in Hawke’ Bay was industrial and not very pretty, the town itself more than made up for this. Doug and I had two different tours today, and because they didn’t begin until after lunch, I took the shuttle bus into the town to get a quick look around before taking off on my tour. I’m glad I did because we didn’t have time upon our return to do more than a quick drive-through on the way to the ship.
It was Saturday here in Napier and so many people were out enjoying the sunny day. In addition, there was a bagpipe contest taking place along the garden areas down the main street in Napier – Marine Parade, which goes right along the ocean. There is a statue here that draws many tourists – it is similar to the Little Mermaid in Copenhagen. It is called Pania of the Reef. Maori folklore has several different versions about this maiden, but in essence she fell in love with a Maori warrior and then was lured back to the sea by the siren voices. When she tried to return to her Maori lover, she was not able to and became part of the reef, where today you can sometimes hear her crying for her long lost lover.
Napier is also known for its great art deco architecture. These newer buildings were the result of the 1931 earthquake which leveled almost the entire city. It had to rebuild quickly and inexpensively. It utilized the art deco style to rebuild with a simple, streamlined look using mono chrome colors in 2-3 different shades. The Empire State building is an example of the art deco look.
I will describe my excursion and then Doug will write his up. We both really liked our trips a lot. Mine was a 4 1/2 hour excursion called Cape Kidnappers Station and Gannet Safari. It was truly an outdoor, nature experience driving through beautiful countryside to see these gannets (they are a member of the Booby family – we’re talking birds here!) This was a ship’s tour, but they booked through a company called Gannet Safaris. This is the only tour group who can take you to the place where the gannets are found. And Cape Kidnappers is at one end of Hawke’s Bay and is one of only two known mainland gannet colonies in the world. Most are off-shore on an island. These Cape Kidnapper gannets can be here because they have no predator here. This picture shows the cape on the far side of the Bay from the area around Napier.
To get to this cape, we drove along the coastline and through two small towns – Clive and Te Awanga. The scenery was magnificent. We saw lots of grapes growing for the wine that is made here – mainly very good Sauvignon Blanc. We went through what we would call farm land, but because the farms are so large, they are called stations here. Cape Kidnappers Station (the name came from an event with Capt. Cook when he was here) is a rugged coastal property of 5,000 acres with ocean boundaries on two sides.
Our guide, Jo, was an older woman who was so knowledgeable about the area and the gannets. And the reason why is that her brother owned this particular station until he sold it a few years ago to a man from the USA called Julian Roberts. I want to Google him when I get home to learn more about him. According to Jo, he is most responsible and wants to only improve the land – not let it be taken over by tourist companies, etc. As you might guess, she had wonderful stories. She comes to the station every day to hike and walk her dog and just enjoy the beauty.
There were lots of cattle and sheep on the stations and so our caravan of three little mini-busses had to open and close fence gates along the way. On one of these stations there is a beautiful lodge called The Farm at Cape Kidnappers. We only passed by it and its golf course which is ranked 27th in the world by Golf Magazine. [Rob, if you thought the views from the golf course in Kapalua, HI were great, you’d be amazed at this one! I bought you a postcard to show you.]
We made a stop on the way at a spectacular cliff top with panoramic views of Hawke’s Bay. Most of the drive was drier farm land with lots of paths made by the cattle and sheep across the pastures, so this sight was even more amazing. In addition, Jo told showed us where the land had become “scarred” from a recent “weather event” where the water rose to flood levels and took out many trees and plants.
As we neared the peak where the colony of gannets are, we saw this outcropping where more gannets live. I’m including it because I thought it was a dramatic setting. If you look closely you can see the large mass of white birds (gannets) on the flat rock before the outcrop.
But the main colony was just around the bend. It is the largest and most spectacular mainland nesting place of gannets in the world with about 20,000. These birds are mainly white with black on their wings and tails and distinctive black eye markings below their pale gold crown. Here we saw both adults and young with adult birds swooping above and before making a “crash landing” dive to rejoin the group. Many of these gannets will die because of bad landings. We also saw some pairs preen and perform the dance of the gannets’ recognition ritual. Here is a baby chick. The chicks have white, soft downy feathers to start that then turn a speckled black and white before becoming the adult white. We spent about 2o minutes here just watching these wonderful birds – and the view over the water was a great backdrop.
It was hard to leave this sight, but we had to board our bus again for the return trip to our ship. Back at the Gannet Safari office, we stopped for some tea (at least that is what we were told the stop was for.) When we got there, there was a huge table laden with all sorts of sweet desserts and fruit to eat along with the tea. They even had kiwi juice (green, of course!) which was actually better looking than tasty. It really hit the spot!
Before being dropped off back at the ship, we had a mini driving tour of the town of Napier to see the art deco buildings. I only wish we had more time here to see all the sights and enjoy the little town.
Back at the ship, there was a display of vintage cars and couples in costume bidding us farewell. That is where I met up with Doug again, so we enjoyed this visual of cars and dress together! There were about half a dozen of these little car scenes! Great fun.
While Tauna enjoyed the trip to view the birds, Doug visited a local Maori tribe to learn about their background and culture. The tour began with a discussion of the man who, as chief of the Waimarama tribe, signed the peace agreement with England for the Maori to share the island with the British and for the English to share the benefits of western tools and knowledge with the Maori (thus bringing about the dual culture life that exists now in New Zealand). As it turned out, the guide was the great grandson of this very chief! This personal history gave the tour a particularly authentic and interesting backdrop. (By the way, the facial tattoos that chiefs wore had nothing to do with superstition, religion or adornment. Rather, it was a public display of the lineage and social rank of the person—one side of the face showed his father’s family status and the other side displayed his mother’s family status.)
When we arrived at the village, we were greeted with a warrior challenge (were we friend or foe?). We were deemed to be friendly, so we were allowed to enter. There we were greeted with a welcome speech and song, which we were expected to respond to in kind—which we did. There were demonstrations of dance, use of weapons, song, and food preparation. We learned that the Maori warlike aggressiveness was aggravated by the marginal living conditions they faced years ago. Simply stated, if a crop failed the village had only one way to survive; they had to steal the food of another village. Without that source of food, the first village would certainly die. So, there was continual conflict and fighting among the various villages/tribes.
The stories and demonstrations were extremely interesting and informative. Their hospitality was deeply felt. The family ties and cultural celebration of the past along with their embrace of the present was inspirational in the way that they presented themselves. It was one of the very finest tours I’ve ever experienced. The three hour round trip drive was across quite beautiful landscape (although it appeared very dry due to the recent lack of rainfall).
Upon return to the ship, this tour also included a short tour of Napier to show the seaside and Art Deco building structures that have become a trademark for the city. All in all, this was an exceptional day in a most charming and pleasant town.