The wild and spectacular southern coast of the North Island is easily accessible from Greytown where we are staying for the next 4 nights. Our little cottage , Country Bliss, really is bliss. Very clean, comfortable with pristine linen, a full kitchen and convenient laundry. Everything we could want. Our drive from Auckland is via Taupo where we spend 2 nights at our favourite, Kinloch Country Lodge. Of course Tammy, our wire haired dachshund is with us and she is always welcome at Kinloch. A coffee by the lake at Kinloch’s Tipsy Trout, proves excellent and lunch at Replete in HeuHeu Street , Taupo is good as always.
A lengthy drive on day 3 via the desert road which is very closed in and raining heavily with no sign of Ruapehu. Coming down off the Central Plateau the rain quickly clears as we come into Taihape and lunch at The Brown Sugar Café. This café has been here for many years and the quality of it’s fare consistently maintained. There's also a delightful collection of gift items for sale and browsing. At Vinegar Hill we take an easterly direction towards Fielding finally arriving at Greytown around 4pm after passing through Masterton and Carterton. Greytown with its 19th century appearance is a little contrived when you look closely but full of charm with some very good cafes, especially the French Bakery, our venue for morning coffee each day we are here. A lot of the retail is not open every day but if, like us you are around for a few days most can be investigated. Some exclusive stock can be found in Greytown, from clothing and antiques to childrens’ toys with generally original brands not readily available everywhere. Our best purchase is a pair of genuine Jane Horgan mugs. Hand made in England and embossed with Dachshunds. Expensive, but wow!
Our day for Cape Palliser treats us very kindly with blue sky and puffball clouds so we set off armed with sandwiches and coffee, but not before a brief interlude at the Greytown French Bakery where we enjoy excellent coffee and fresh made Danish pastry and custard doughnut. We hear there are 250 odd steps up to the lighthouse and after these treats we might need to do them twice! Its 20kms to Martinborough where the road to Cape Palliser and Lake Ferry branches off. Lake Ferry is a most interesting geographical feature being, what I would describe as an estuary lake. Huge banks of coarse shingle are built up all around the shoreline. The wind is fierce and bitingly cold, yet there are some hardy surfers in wet suits bobbing around in the offshore waves which are quite large. I suspect that for today the wave action is really mild and could be quite frightening given strong on shore storm conditions. The high shingle banks are evidence enough with plenty of storm driven driftwood about too. We don’t bring Tammy out in these conditions as she is so low to the ground and detests cold wind. Back in the California and off to Cape Palliser about 40kms away. For the isolated location the road is good but not fast driving. It winds about the foreshore cliff, at one place the cliff rising on the left of the road looks quite unstable and liable to slippage at any time. We keep moving. The little fishing township of Ngawi is quite close to the lighthouse and is a gem itself with the famous lineup of rusting bulldozers which are used to negotiate the rough shingle, towing large fishing boats. Very picturesque. Just around the corner is the lighthouse and the precipitous 250 odd steps to reach it. We settle Tammy with treats and water, negotiate the rough path to the base of the steps and up we go. The steps are wooden, well made and solid, but narrow with a handrail on one side only, definitely single file. Vertigo challenged people should not attempt these and that tummy feeling we all get when looking down from a height sets in about half way up. Keeping our eyes on the steps we make the top with a healthy heartrate increase. To say it is worth it is an understatement as the view 180 degrees all around is something. The California, way down in the carpark looks like a dinky toy. 20 minutes or so on the small platform around the lighthouse then back down, down, down. Just on this side of Ngawi we find a great spot for lunch, down on the waters edge and quite sheltered. We have a good appetite after our climb and our mound of sandwiches soon disappears. A few hundred metres on towards Ngawi a seal colony basks on the rocks and frollicks in the foaming sea. At first we think there are only 1 or 2 but we soon pick out dozens, large and small, all more or less the same color as the rocks. Their soft grey colored snouts offer the only contrast. A quiet run back up to Greytown and Country Bliss.
Lunch at the pretty two storey Martinborough Hotel is the highlight of the next day which we had been looking forward to as we know from a friend that the hotel recently changed hands and the new owners are making strenuous efforts to lift it’s profile. Our happy experience proves they are. After lunch, which we enjoyed on the small outdoor patio with Tammy, a quick walk around small Martinborough which has some interesting retail and a couple of average looking cafes, we drive south again to investigate Lake Wairarapa. It’s not much to look at having a dead brown/green appearance. The road half way down the western side is reasonably scenic. We choose not to continue all the way down to the coast and Ocean Beach as we imagine this would be similar to our Lake Ferry visit the day before. Comfortably back at Country Bliss by 4 o’clock we light the small fire as the temperature seems to have plummeted. The little fire is really efficient and there is plenty of dry firewood in the nearby shed. A good nights sleep brings us to our last Wairarapa day which by mid morning is bright and sunny. The French Bakery, as usual is our first call. Excellent coffee and a couple of their fresh pastries. Some internet investigation tells us that family owned and run Margrain Vineyard in Martinborough may be just what we are looking for. Margrain is a little ‘shabbie-chic’ and quite charming. Very busy and we are lucky to find a sunny outside spot where we can be quietly with Tammy, not bothering anybody. Our lunch is delicious, the Margrain pinot equally so and we reluctantly take our leave a few hours later.
Leaving Country Bliss and Greytown around 9:30 on the road north and then east to our Redcliffe Homestead 2 night stay in Taradale. Coffee and pastries at the French Bakery first of course. We briefly stop in both Carterton and Masterton, finding a great spot for lunch in the latter. Envy Catering is a large café/restaurant opposite the park, really busy and professional. We pull into Redcliffe in Springcomb Road about 4 pm and are greeted enthusiastically by Sue and Brian’s 2 blond labradors, Sophie and Zara. Tammy quickly settles down with the 2 labs as they have met before. Redcliffe Homestead is a lovely old villa set in pretty gardens and restored in period style with excellent B&B accommodation. We have a handsomely decorated large room with superb linen, French doors to a small secluded verandah and a private luxurious ensuite. Tammy is not allowed in the room so we settle her in the hall just outside the door. That night , after a few growlings she accepts this and settles for a quiet sleep. Sue is cooking dinner tonight and she prepares a breadcrumb and parsley encrusted white fish oven baked. Crisp roast potatoes and a yummy fresh coleslaw, finishing off with a pear and dark chocolate crumble topped with ice cream. Delicious and making me hungry a week and a half later. Redcliffe has other guests for the 2 days we are there and it is interesting to meet the Adelaide couple. We have visited and liked Adelaide so we have plenty to talk about.
Our Hawkes Bay day is mainly occupied with lunch at our favourite winery, Clearview at Te Awanga, near Cape Kidnappers. Our many visits to Clearview have never disappointed and today is no exception. A walk through CBD Napier completes our day with a coffee at Ujazi café. This café is a Napier institution. You haven’t visited Napier if you haven’t visited Ujazi. Another Napier icon is Chantal Organics, just round the corner from Ujazi. It has expanded enormously over the years and now has an organic café and everything organic for sale.
After a very good Redcliffe breakfast we take our leave of Sue & Brian, Sophie and Zara driving north via Taupo to home in Auckland. The bonus is the perfectly clear view of Ruapehu and Ngaruahoe, set in a blue cloudless sky at the southern end of Taupo and another visit to Replete. The only other comment we can make about this long but uneventful trip is the over 3 hours from Hamilton to Auckland. All due to interminable road works which are obviously a long way from finishing.