Chapter 6 - Rotorua to Napier, Masterton & Martinborough

16 Feb 2013

We were up at 6.00 am and left the Novotel in Rotorua at 8.00 am for a long day of travelling. The day started off very overcast with a lot of mist which meant very poor visibility initially, although this cleared after a couple of hours and yet another glorious sunny day ensued. We really have been incredibly lucky with the weather! We drove through the Wairakei Steam Valley, a Hydrothermal Power Station, where steam from the thermal area is driven along enormous long metal pipes into turbines to generate electricity.

We had a brief stop at Huka Falls, where the fast moving Waikato River has carved a 15m wide, 10m deep channel near the start of its journey from Lake Taupo some 425 km to the sea just south of Auckland. Lunch was at Lake Taupo, Australasia's largest freshwater lake.

Next we drove into Napier which had experienced a huge earthquake in 1931 which devastated the original town and dramatically altered the surrounding area. The town was rebuilt in 1930s Art Deco style, and Napier is now considered to be unique, nowhere else in the World has such fine examples of Art Deco buildings. Originally we had been scheduled to stay in Napier overnight but our arrival would have clashed with a huge Classic Car Event taking place in the town. The event had attracted hundreds of vintage vehicles and huge crowds of people, many of whom were dressed in 1930's clothes and were looking fantastic. We had an excellent guided walking tour of the town and were able to soak up the festival atmosphere.

Plan 'B' having been adopted we drove a long way further south to the town of Masterton in the Wairarapa and checked in to the Copthorne Hotel for a two night stay. We had been travelling for over twelve hours, Paul had done a sterling job, and we were all pretty tired on our arrival (it's very tiring this holiday lark!). However, after a very nice and welcome buffet supper our energy levels rose again and we managed a couple of hours in the bar chatting to others of the group before retiring to bed.

17 Feb 2013

We left the hotel at 9.30 am the next morning and drove for about an hour before stopping for coffee at Greytown, a small and very pleasant town on the way to the vineyard we would be visiting later in the morning. The day was overcast with a cold, southerly wind (equivalent to our northerly wind) and most of us were feeling quite cold, particularly me (no surprise there then!). The hot coffee was very welcome and with our bones now warmed we set off for the Murdoch James Estate winery in Martinborough. The narrow road leading up to the estate was a bit of a challenge to our coach, particularly on the corners, but Paul was quite calm until he tried to cross the bridge just before the entrance and realised that the weight of the coach was too much! He had to reverse and take the coach across a small stream - it was not the easiest of routes. However, we made it to the car park and were greeted by Noel (who emigrated from Harrow thirty four years ago and has never been back) who took us all on a tour of the vineyards and told us all about the wine making process. He talked us through the various stages, showed us the grape press and the large fermentation tanks and then took us down to the cellars where the wine was kept in French oak barrels until the Chief Wine Maker decided it was ready. It would then be taken down the road to the bottling plant. The vineyard is now owned by a Chinese consortium which has poured lots of money into it, and not unsurprisingly, most of the wine now produced is exported to China. Sadly it is not yet available in England. As a consequence Mike bought a couple of bottles of the Single Vineyard Syrah and I have it on good authority that it was an excellent wine! Whilst we were in the vineyards and the cellars we were able to taste the five varieties of wine produced by the winery, all of which tasted delicious - me and five glasses of wine, even small ones, well, you can imagine! Luckily we all then went into the dining area and had a wonderful three course lunch, with another large glass of wine included per person! Needless to say, most of mine was donated to Mike.

Back on the coach most of the group had a bit of a snooze on the way back to the hotel, with the rest of us being entertained by Paul and his stories. It was a quiet afternoon and evening - Mike watched the cricket and I went down to the bar with my Kindle, eventually to be joined by several of the group and we whiled away a few hours there before retiring to bed.

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