|After our dreary hike along the Tongoriro Crossing, the Mystery Machine drove us through the evening past Lake Taupo (which is actually the top of a volcano filled in and still active) to Napier- the Art Deco city of the world. We secured a 'backpackers lodging' at a campground, which was basically two sets of bunk beds and a kitchenette- definitely upscale from our tent, and ate some salad and ramen for dinner- so nutritious!
We learned a bit about the town's history before we ventured in- and we struck gold with the date we chose to visit Napier! Feb. 3, 1931 marks the occurrence of the biggest natural disaster- and most catastrophic, for New Zealand- an earthquake registering somewhere around 8 on the Richter scale occurred just under Napier at 10:46 am, and killed around 265 people. Before the earthquake there was quite a bit of water surrounding parts of Napier, but after the earthquake a huge chunk of earth was forced up by about 7 or 8 meters- thus expanding the amount of actual land in the city. In fact, the campground we stayed at used to be under water. As a result of this terrible event, Napier was rebuilt in the 1930's and became full of the Art Deco style.
So, we were very fortunate to see the 75th anniversary of this event as it was remembered in an outdoor auditorium near the beach. Prime Minister Helen Clark was there to say a few words- you'll see the picture of her- and the church bells were rung, a couple cannons were fired, a prayer was spoken, and a hymn was sung. It was intriguing to see all the people gathered- some were dressed in 1930's attire- one man was dressed as Charlie Chaplin- complete with the dilapidated umbrella.
We really felt the strength of New Zealand's size- meaning that as a whole, this country is very close knit and we were impressed that the Prime Minister made an appearance- it seemed so 'approachable'- there weren't huge brigades of security, no pomp and circumstance- just a group of people wishing to recognize a difficult time in their history. The band that played was even a local school band.
After a couple hours wandering around the streets of Napier, we once again boarded the Mystery Machine and headed south to Martinborough, a little winery town that the Swiss couple we talked with in Rotorua suggested we stay in. It was definitely a little town (pop= 1500) and while we didn't get a chance to tour any wineries we were lucky to be around for the 'Martinborough Country Fair' that apparently over 25,000 people go to. It was essentially a large craft fair with around 400 stalls and similar to what we have seen in the New England towns. We were amazed at how many people lined up at 9:30 in the morning to eat 'hot dogs'- similar to a fried pig in the blanket- there's no bread, just a crumb coat dipped in tomato sauce and served on a stick. (We're not too keen on them.)
Next stop Wellington!