It was time for something a little more sedate after that, which was just as well as our next destination was the pretty little art deco city of Napier, lodged squarely in the middle of Hawkes Bay wine country. Jusht the tickhetttt.....
The town of Napier was levelled in 1931 by a huge earthquake that, perversly, helped the region become what it is today. The earthquake raised the sea bed by 5 metres, freeing up large swathes of land for development. The almost mediteranean climate coupled with the soil characteristics, made it a perfect place for wineries. We wasted no time in booking ourselves up for a wine tour the following day, electing to go with the aptly named "Vickys wine tours", surely a good omen.
We were greeted the following lunchtime by a rather slow moving old lady who was to be our guide and, worryingly, minibus driver for the afternoon. There were only six of us on the tour, all from the UK. In fact, an older couple sat behind us lived in a small village just outside Newbury. We had travelled thousands of miles across the planet, were now about as far away from home as one could get, and here sat behind us, were people who probably shopped at the same Tescos we did. After picking up the final couple of the day, Helen (our blue rinsed guide) launched into her pre-practised "Napier history" commentary and seemed to be enjoying herself to such a degree that she barrelled through a set of red lights, completely oblivious to the beeping coming at her from all angles and the ashen-faced looks of horror and mystification coming from her passangers. This was supposed to be a relaxing tour!
Winery number one was the Mission estate winery, apparently New Zealands oldest, where we were greeted by a young lad who barely looked old enough to drink himself, never mind offer up in-depth wine knowledge. Nontheless, he clearly had his "Game face" on today, and gave us a detailed and very informative spiel on each of the seven or so wines we were tasting. We were suitably impressed. Our memory of each subsequent winery after that got a little hazy due to the volumous amounts of grapes we were partaking of, but we did remember that at the second winery the woman who greeted us had a truly monsterous and comical buffon. At the third winery, we slowed things down a touch and were treated to some cheese and biscuits. Never one to pass up a free feed, Dunc proceeded to snaffle a heroic amount of crackers and cheese. So much so that when there were two slices of a very pleasent Brie left, our guide - without even breaking her sentence we may add - wrapped them up and handed them straight to a grinning Dunc, while Vickie held her head in her hands and cursed her gluttunous boyfriend. Winery number 4 brought a change of tastes, as we sampled Kiwifruit and Boysenberry wines. By this point, Vickie was getting a touch the worst for wear, and her tastebuds were either becoming highly attuned or completely defunct. She took on the air of a young Jilly Goulding as she confidently announced that she was getting "Whiffs of hangovers", "Aromas of Christmas cake" and, most oddly "Sundays with the Finlay family". It was time to go home, but not before our guide ignorantly hoved straight through another red light. We didn't care as much by this stage though.
An early start was required the following morning as we were heading to the capital city of Wellington, some 350km away. There followed a slightly unventful day, punctuated by a fish and chip lunch in a small farming village, costing us a mere 50p each, and a brief stint in a traffic jam on the mountain road just outside the capital, where we alleviated our boredom by putting a DVD on and happily watching away until the traffic moved once more.
Campervan accomodation around Wellington is rather sparse, so we were chuffed with ourselves when a phone call and some negotiation presented us with the opportunity to stay in a nearby motel car park for a mere 5 pounds a night, giving us free use of the facilities (including swimming pool, satellite TV and Spa) while we were there. Our high spirits were only slightly dampened when we were temporarily cornered by a crazy bearded, slightly insane fellow resident, who waxed lyrical to us about seafood and if we liked popcorn, all the while pulling some most unsettling facial expressions to convey his fondness for said foodstuffs. All the while, Dunc couldn't help but think that this bloke was the spitting image of David Bellamy, and his fascinated stares probably were only serving to egg the man on in his banality.
We awoke to a smug feeling on Monday morning when we noticed droves of besuited business types striding across the motel forecourt, clearly heading to a conference of somesort within. We fought off the urge to charge in and ask everyone in the room how their weekend was, and what they had planned for the next few months but figured that we didn't want to abuse the currently very pleasant Kiwi hospitality quite yet.
We decided to take a trip into town to explore the capital, and found a very agreeable city awaiting us. Everything was central and - barring the Department of Conservation office - easy to find, and the whole area had an air of confidence and welcoming that we both found very beguiling. After procuring our ferry tickets for the following days trip to the south island, we headed to the national New Zealand Te Papa Museum. An enthralling couple of hours were spent experiencing small earthquakes, staring open-mouthed at the skeleton of a humpback whale, giggling at a cheesy replica of a glowworm cave and generally amusing ourselves with the host of interactive displays on offer. Most impressed, we checked out the funky little Cuba Street area in search of second hand bookshops, before deciding to head back out to our Motel (well, car parking space) for a spa and a swim.
Wellington had somewhat stole our hearts as a rather nice place to while away the time, and we couldn't help but notice the amount of shoe shops. Despite not being able to find anywhere that sold wellies (probably a very wise government policy to prevent bad gags from UK tourists), we were definitely fans of the place.
One thing we couldnt help but notice though, was that everyone had kept telling us that the South Island was even more fun. As we boarded the ferry, we wondered what that area could do to top the enjoyment New Zealand had afforded us so far, but couldn't wait to find out.