Down Under - Winter/Spring 2009 travel blog

Napier estuary overlook

National Tobacco Building

Taradale Town Hall

deco home

close up detail

deco McDonald's

flower

sheep skin factory

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sheep skin factory tour


We enjoyed Napier so much, we decided to stay another day. We feel so lucky to be without a definite itinerary and to have the freedom to spend more time on things we really like. There’s only so much you can glean from reading a guidebook; nothing like seeing a place for yourself.

Although downtown Napier has the highest concentration of Art Deco buildings, they are sprinkled throughout the area. We took a driving tour to seek some out. The Art Deco McDonald’s was a real treat. It served American type coffee along with the loving attention to detail that typifies the Art Deco movement. Tobacco used to be grown in this area and the National Tobacco Company building was richly decorated with grapes, roses and bull rushes. The interior was equally sumptuous, especially for a building constructed during the Depression.

When the great earthquake occurred, Napier was on the sea coast with a large body of shallow water behind it just deep enough for sailing flat bottom craft. The earth in this swampy area was lifted over six feet and created a huge new flat area for new post earthquake construction. We drove to the cemetery where a memorial honors the 101 victims that were buried there and overlooked the farmland created from the estuary drained by the quake when all the water there ran back into the sea.

There was much more deco to see, but the sheep skin factory was also on the itinerary. The factory buys the skins after the sheep are slaughtered for meat and processes the skins on site into everything you can think of to make a sheep skin into. Some of the pelts are trimmed closely for footwear and even the trimmed material is saved and used to insulate homes. The skins are tanned, skinned, colored (sometimes) and combed into beautiful fluffy pieces.

Then we hit the road for Rotorua, a city noted for Maori culture and thermal areas. As soon as we neared the town the sulfur fumes became more and more apparent. More on that tomorrow.

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