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We haven't been able to escape Wellington very often since living here, but when we do we really have to make the best of it! After our excursions to Tongiriro and Mangaweka, we decided that our next trip should be to the famous Art Deco city of Napier - flattened by an Earthquake in the 20s. Interestingly for those from Brentwood, Napier was named after Sir Charles Napier. The same Sir Charles Napier for which a pub in Brentwood was named.

Saturday 5th June

Sunrise before departure

Morning: After learning from our previous excursion that Europcar were a bunch of idiots, we hired a car from Budget again. For the 3rd hire in a row, we'd ordered a manual transmission car only to be provided with a bloody automatic. It pisses me off no end that no hire company in Wellington can seemingly provide a manual gearbox. We set off on the road and headed towards and past the City of Lower Hutt. After the Hutt Valley, Route Two heads over the Rimutaka Range of mountains on a very dangerous, winding road. The locals speed up and down this road at ridiculous speed. We were a little more circumspect

Once over the Rimutakas, you emerge in the open expanse of the Wairarapa. This is supposedly the least visited region in the North Island. There are several pleasant, small towns in the area, including the famous Wine town of Martinborough. However, we were just going to drive on past these towns to the Northern Wairarapa.

Our first stop was the Department of Conservation reserve of Mount Bruce. The scenery of the reserve is as with most regions of New Zealand, very pleasant. The reserve incorporates some dense native bush and some very rare wildlife.

Feltface! This is a North Island Kokako. Jenny calls them plastic-face because of the blue wattles that it has, which look quite plastic like. The Kokako is quite rare these days, and has a very nice lilting song. There is a South Island Kokako which has orange wattles, but is presumed extinct.
This is a Takahe. There are 3 of these at Mount Bruce and only about 200 left in total. They were presumed extinct until 1948 when some were found in the barren, bleak wilderness of Fiordland. It may not look much, but this is a very big bird. Its about the size of a Canada Goose. Tarka the Takahe
Campbell Island Duck This is a Campbell Island Duck. Once again, this doesn't look much, but is a very rare flightless duck. Ever heard of a duck that can't fly?

Afternoon: We had a cup of tea and coffee at Mount Bruce and listened to a short presentation on the Takahe while we drank. However, it was soon time to move on. From Mount Bruce, we decided to head off the beaten track into the sparsely populated Tararua Region. For about 100km, you pass through only a couple of very small villages. For example, the village of Alfredton seemed to be a couple of farm buildings! The reason we took this route was in order to pass the place with the longest name in the world, Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateaturipukakapikimaungahoronukupokaiwhenuakitanatahu which means "The Hill on Which Tamatea, the Chief of Great Physical Stature and Renown Played a Lament on his Flute to the Memory of his Brother". Although the place has a very long name, its a bleak barren hill. Nothing's there!

Great place to stop! This hill has a very, very long name. Pointlessly if you ask me though! Though I'm sure the people who named it thought otherwise - and who are we to argue?

Well, as you can see for yourself, there wasn't too much to see so we were soon back on the road. After another 50km on the non-beaten track, we finally arrived back on the main road at the little town of Waipukurau. We stopped here for lunch - it was a very late lunch. Thankfully, by this time we were only about 60kms, or an hour or so from our final destination of Napier. Before reaching Napier, we drove through the nearby city of Hastings. Interestingly, 4 members of my work indoor cricket team come from Hastings! It seems that Wellington is the place to relocate to if you're from there. We only stopped off to go to the Tourist Information Centre, which was closed. So, we soon left to drive the final 20kms to Napier. We arrived in Napier by about 5pm, which was just before the local TIC closed. We had a quick chat with the staff and found out that the walk to Cape Kidnappers and the local Gannet colony that we'd intended to do couldn't be done due to the tides being wrong. Oh well! We soon found some other things to do, so we went to our hotel and dropped our gear off before heading out for dinner. It took ages to find somewhere to eat, and it was disappointing when we did.

Let's all go down the Strand, 'ave a banana! The view from our hotel room. Past the car park and the trees you can just about see the beach and then the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean. If you swum East from here, you'd next hit land in Chile. Well, okay, you'd never get that far, but you know what I mean.

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