Monday, 21 January 2013

Gisborne Getaway Part I: The Road Trip

3 weeks of year-end holidays was a blast. It’s not something we’re accustomed to but it certainly did not take us long to get use to! We decided to pay our friends, Tim and Juliana a visit in Gisborne.

We were greeted with the warmest welcome at Tim & Juliana’s. The hospitality we received was off the charts, so good that it would have topped Lonely Planet’s number one by a mile.

Warm welcome to Tim & Juliana's
Gisborne is a small city located off the east coast of New Zealand. It is located on the north island and is about 7 hours drive from Wellington. Because of the way Gisborne is sheltered by higher terrain to the west, it gets heaps of sunshine throughout the year, especially summer. The climate is also generally warmer as compared to the rest of the north Island. Somewhat, like a sun catch area of the north island.

For our readers planning a similar road trip, we broke the drive up from Wellington to Gisborne into 2 phases which worked out very well for us. Phase 1 was from Wellington to Napier which took us about 4 hours. Apart from a 7 km no passing, bendy drive on State Highway 3 (SH3) along the gorge from Palmerston North to Woodville which can be tricky in wet conditions, the journey to Napier was an easy and pleasant drive. It’s quite interesting too, stumbling upon the towns of Woodville and Dannevirk along the way.

For those into antique and vintage collectables, there are lots of antique / 2nd hand shops along the main stretch of Woodville. For the food junkies like us, there is Yummy Mummy – handmade cheesecakes that everyone must try.  You can’t miss it as it’s just along the SH. They have an assortment of flavours and we went for the strawberry cheesecake. It was damn good.
"Their cheesecakes damn good."
In Maori history, it appears that Woodville was a traveller’s preferred rest point. We can understand why. Located at a crucial intersection between traffic from Wellington, Palmerston North and the East Coast, it’s the perfect rest spot. We had our first mini break at Woodville and you’ll be pleased to know that the public toilets are very clean too.

Dannevirk is a real interesting one. Coming into Dannevirk, we were greeted by numerous Viking posters that puzzled us. It turns out that there is a large Scandinavian influence in the area, dating back to the 1870s. Early settlers from the Scandinavian nations, namely Denmark, Norway and Sweden built their homes around the area. Today, there are many Kiwis in the area that have Scandinavian ancestry.

The climate seemed cooler and wetter, as compared to Wellington. We heard that this was the way the early Scandinavian settlers liked it.

"Is that a viking?"
"Why so many vikings?"
Farewell Dannevirk!
Scandinavian heritage was evident en-route to Napier.
We arrived and stopped in Napier just in time for lunch. Napier is the next biggest city after Palmerston North en-route to Gisborne. Our first impression of Napier was that it was quite a touristy area. There were lots of tour buses and visitors. There also seems to be an unofficial dress code for Napier. The locals were quite well dressed for New Zealand standards. The atmosphere was quite “chi-chi” or “atas”, which is quite uncommon in New Zealand. Frankly, we did feel a bit underdressed with our flip flops and casual tees.

There are several Art Deco architecture around the city that would make every photographers focal point.   

Napier, art and deco capital of New Zealand.

Napier 60s theme
Phase 2 was the drive from Napier to Gisborne that took about 3 hours. The drive from Napier to Gisborne is not the most pleasant. There are lots of sharp corners and narrow roads. The distance is a lot shorter but time taken was much longer because of the very tricky and windy bends along the way. You know you’re in for a treat when you find a bend named the Devil’s Elbow on the map. Ironically, there are also a lot of heavy vehicles that patronise the route and it doesn’t help when you have an impatient tailgater hounding you. It’s important not to feel pressured and go at your own comfortable and safe pace. Stop at the side and let the vehicles past you if necessary. Coupled with wet conditions, we navigated the course slow and easy and got there in the end.

The perfect stopover after the challenging drive was Morere Hot Springs, thanks to the hot tip from Tim. No better way to wind down from the endless windy roads than to soak oneself in a hot spring pool. It’s amazing how 30 min in the pool can rejuvenate the mind and body. “Feels like I just came out from a massage”, Gwyn.

"Everyone should stop over at Morere Hot Springs after the Devil's Elbow and that long drive"
"Hot spring effect better than V"

Re-energised, we made our way to Gisborne where we were met with the warmest of welcomes from Tim & Juliana. It proved to be the start of what would be a wonderful week.

For Gisborne Getaway Part II: Have bike will travel, click here.

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