On Friday morning we woke to the sound of rain pounding the van and discovered, for the first time, the pain of walking to the shower block while the real shower is ongoing outside! We headed east with pretty poor driving conditions over the mountains, back to the much drier east coast. Docking in Napier around lunchtime we wandered around this fantastic town, that was rebuilt in the Art Deco style after a 1931 earthquake. We felt like we had been transported back to 1930's Hollywood, or maybe, more accurately for us, Hollywood Studios in Disneyworld! We both loved the style of signs and reckon they would look awesome at home!
After spending the afternoon in Napier, we drove down to Hastings and parked up in the Hastings Top10 Holiday Park, our plot for the next couple of nights. After some laundry we cooked in our campervan for the first time! It was very exciting, well, as exciting as making Mexican food in a van can be!
On Saturday morning, we were picked up by Ian of Prinsy's Tours and after collecting a Swiss German family (mother and 2 sons) we headed off to our first winery of the day, the Linden Estate. We began by walking down the aisle of a wedding set up for Kim and Dan (we met neither) but agreed the setting they had was fantastic. We joined Carrie, on her last day working for the company, who took us through 7 wines (4 red and 3 white) and a sparking non-alcoholic red grape juice. Katy's favourite wine was the Sauvignon Blanc, with her enjoying it so much, she picked up a bottle to take with us.
Our second stop, Church Road, was a stunning villa style building that wouldn't have looked out of place in Spain or Italy, as well as being our lunch stop (much needed for the now tottering Katy). After placing an order for the sharing platter we joined Alastair, tasting 8 wines (4 red, 3 white and 1 dessert wine) before enjoying our lunch. The very mustard prawns were probably our least favourite dish but everything else was as good as it looks and tasted even better.
Third stop, Trinity Hill, and we sat outside on a bench (hoping that the sun would more than threaten to come out from behind the clouds) and went through 6 wines (3 red, 2 white and 1 rose). This selection of wine was probably our least favourite of the day, although Craig enjoyed them more than Katy.
Ash Ridge winery was the fourth stop of the day and we enjoyed sampling 6 wines (3 red, 2 white and 1 rose) with Lauren from Teeside. Craig's favourite of the day was the Pinot Gris which is now chilling in the van fridge beside Katy's bottle of Sauvignon Blanc.
Our last winery of the day was Askerne Wines, where we were greeted by Gideon and a departing Hen party! They thought Craig's name was Scott (Ian had said he is a Scot) which seemed to be a good thing for the bride who was ticking off a list of things to find on the hen. Gideon was from London and was an absolute character and great fun, as he took us through the 13 wines (5 white, 5 red and 3 dessert)! We staggered back to the van and made our way to the final stop of the day.
The driver took us to the summit of Te Mata Peak (cheating, as there was a walkway) where we got to enjoy beautiful views of the wine making region and out over the ocean, with the next stop east being Chile!
We were dropped off at 17:30, both feeling the effects of a long day, and after some relaxing and some food we went to bed hoping for no hangover in the morning.
With thankfully clear heads we drove south to Wellington with only a lunch break in Palmerston North to break up the 4 hour journey. We also had to deal with a lot of road works on the way down, which was surprising on a Sunday. Once we arrived in Wellington we parked up in the car park of the Capital Gateway Motor Inn that had been converted into a campervan park. We had a relaxing afternoon and made some plans for our time in the South Island with a showing of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince as the evening entertainment before bed.
The next morning, we got the bus into downtown Wellington and Craig once again made Katy climb an extinct volcano to get views of the surrounds. The ascent to Mt. Victoria took half an hour but the views were beautiful. (Answers on a postcard, special shout out for the correct answers to those that can identify the film and scene the last photo is from).
Descending into Downton we followed the Lonely Planet's sculpture walking tour which took us around some interesting sculptures (some, less so). Lunch was spent at Grill Meats Beer and, after some more exploring, got a very busy bus back to the van.
We spent some time reading our books and watched Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 before an early night to get the ferry in the morning to the South Island.