Monday, 4 March 2013

Cape Kidnappers – Captain Cook wuz ere…!

Cape Kidnappers is a nice little spot at the southern end of Hawke Bay (named by Captain Cook after his hero Admiral Sir Edward Hawke), on the East coast. We know it, not only as the area of Cook’s first sighting of New Zealand (that was actually ‘Young Nick’s Head’ further to the North, named after the young seaman in the crows nest of HMS Endeavour who shouted the immortal words ‘Land Ahoy’), but also of a well-known wine producing region. 
NZ 'Watties in Hastings'. we thought there must be a connection with UK Heinz!
We passed many wine producers and it seems the thing to do is rent a bike and cycle to each of them, along the numerous cycle ways (maybe the police turn a blind eye to drinking and cycling!), as the many groups we saw (including what looked like a hen party) testified. The leaflet we got shows 35 wineries, including Linden Estate, Church Road, Moana Park, Hawkes Ridge, Elephant Hill and Stonecroft to name but a few.

Art Deco Napier
To get there we passed through Hastings (a little inland) and Napier (on the coast), two beautiful and very interesting towns built in 1930’s Art Deco style, Napier having the majority of its buildings in this style. The Art Deco tradition dates back to the almost total destruction of both towns in 1931 following a violent earthquake, with the rebuilding commencing within a year or two in an ‘over the top’ Art Deco style and continues today. 
They revel in the style and most shops sell at least something from this era, with the café’s decorated out accordingly, quite a few people in 1930’s dress and a few vintage cars offering tours. We took a self guided tour with a leaflet pointing out the most notable examples and had a thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours here.

Vintage car tour of Napier anyone? I say, jolly good!
Te Mata Peak
Hastings (left) and Napier (on the coast in the distance) from Te Mata Peak
Close by is Havelock North and the hilltop lookout of Te Mata Peak, which gives a great view of the bay, towns and inland over pretty scorched hills (water is in short supply here at the moment due to the driest summer for many years). Its good walking country, but we drove up (yes I know, it was a bit late in the day and dinner beckoned), had a stroll round the immediate peaks, took in the great views, looked wistfully at the amazing looking mountain bike track winding its way down from the summit (wouldn’t I like to do that!) and headed off to a strange, but acceptable beachside campsite (friendly, but very odd locals living permanently in caravans cum chalets and quite a few youngsters staying there while apple and grape picking – I feel old next to them!).

Cape Kidnappers
Cape Kidnappers was our target the next day (after visiting the Hastings Sunday market and Napier) and this involved an 11km walk along the beach at lowish tide and back again (22km round trip, plus a 30min hike up to the plateau to see the gannet colonies and a great view of the end of the Cape). It is possible to get a tractor ride, but this time we decided to get some exercise and set off at a cracking pace, which we kept up for the 4 hours it took us. Yes we were feeling it at the end, but the views and the gannets were fantastic (but also very smelly!). I was pleased to get to the plateau, not only to see the gannets and their chicks, but also to stand at the point Captain Cook looked at on 15th October 1769, when anchored in HMS Endeavour. 
From the summit plateau
It was the second stop on his first voyage of discovery, during which local Māori pulled alongside the Endeavour in a fishing boat and dragged aboard one of Cook’s crew, who was swimming in the sea. Sailors from Endeavour′s deck immediately opened fire on the fishing boat, killing two Māori, wounding a third and allowing the captured sailor to jump overboard and swim back. A disillusioned Cook gave the cape its name.

Cape Kidnappers (far distance) from the start of the 11km beach walk
Gannets & month old chick
Today we’ve driven 150km odd through the middle of nowhere to a place called Taihape, which is just South of Tongariro National Park, site of several active volcano’s and exciting walking! We’re leaving all that until after our house-sit next week and intend heading a little South to the Palmerston North area and the Kapiti coast for this week.

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