Weekend travel notes: Taupo and Napier

Sunday, February 26, 2017


We arrive late at night, racing against time and the Friday after work traffic. The night sky is amazingly full of clouds of stars, like I have probably never seen before. As soon as we get to our Airbnb, I place myself on a bean bag on the deck, eyes set towards the heaven. Unfortunately no falling stars tonight.


Beautiful day in Napier for some wine education. Napier is the New Zealand equivalence of St Emilion in France. As always, we stop by Mission Estate. Mission Estate is the oldest vineyard here, from plants brought by the early French Marist brothers in 1830s. You get to taste a selection of around 9 different wines and also receive a wine glass as a gift. Not bad for $5. We learn that their wines are from grapes in Marlborough and Martinborough as well as the Hawke's Bay area. Some are hand picked and fermented in French oak barrels while others are machine picked then placed in huge stainless steel tanks for mass production. For a more rustic experience, you should head to Black Barn, where there is a market every Saturday morning and often outdoor concerts during summer. It reminds me of the MONA in Tasmania, Australia. We gladly take a quick dip in Lake Taupo where the geothermal black stony sand keeps the toes warm underwater, before heading back to our Airbnb for a bbq dinner and more stargazing. I think I catch a few and make quick wishes.


Last day of the weekend. We leave our modern Airbnb and arrive in the hot water park ten minutes' drive away. I sit in the happy medium where the hotter current meets the cold. An hour's walk takes us to Huka falls. The clear emerald-turquoise blue waters look inviting despite the numerous warning signs of strong currents. At the end of the track, it's tourists galore. Many are taking photos of the herculean mass of water falling, selfies with the fall behind their pouting lips, or just selfies with little interest in the falls. Back in Taupo central, we teach a little local boy how to play giant chess after lunch. It's more fun than playing for myself. I lose. Hurrying to beat the post-weekend Sunday traffic back home, trying to figure out the radio competition. What can the answer to the $45k question be?

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