Sunday morning means one thing only when we are in Hastings – it’s time for a visit to the Farmers Market. The place was buzzing, so many others, locals and visitors alike, thought the same as us. Cars and a fair few motor-homes were all parked up under the trees and we found a spare space to park our 4WD once one of the customers drove away. The smells were divine. Robin couldn’t say no to a bacon baguette, and I waited patiently in line for a cup of coffee. The slight drizzle turned to rain so Robin rushed back to the car to collect our brollies.
So what else took our fancy - it seemed to be all about food! Two Danish pasties for dessert tonight, and a bag of lovely omega plums. Then there was the black pudding – guess what we will be having with our bacon and eggs for breakfast one morning soon. And just as we were leaving we passed another bakery and purchased a pie each for lunch. Steak and kidney for her, and steak, bacon and cheese for him. We had to assure the baker that we really did know that pies should be heated in the oven and not the microwave. The rain kept falling, so shopping done, we drove back to the caravan to heat up our pies for lunch. They were delicious too, just like homemade.
After lunch the rain had stopped and the sun came out again so we took a trip 10km out of town to visit the Pekapeka Wetlands. We have passed by this site so many times but always seem to be towing the caravan behind us so it was never convenient to stop. Pekapeka is the Maori name for the native bats which lived in a nearby cave, using the wetlands as a source of food. The wetlands have a very important part to play, filtering nutrients and sediments, and providing a rich source of food for birds, fish, and animals. They keep water on the land by acting as sponges, slowly releasing moisture back into the surrounding environment.
There were plenty of information boards telling of the history, decline, and subsequent restoration of the wetland area. Flaxes and bull rushes grew prolifically, towering over our heads – and we were several feet above swamp level up on the boardwalk.
We could just imagine that this is what the primeval slime and mud looked like from millions of years ago – wondering what creatures had climbed out of the watery depths to make their new home on land. The mud was covered in the foot prints of birds, and tiny breathing holes of little creatures living underground. Over 30 species of birds make their home here, but most of them must have been well hidden in the swamp during the heat of the day.
As we walked further along the boardwalk, the swampy water got deeper. A family of black swans quietly glided amongst the willow trees which used to grow here, and have now been cut down as the wetlands have been restored and replanted with native flora.
The construction of both the railway line and SH2 cut through the wetland, and it was common practice in earlier years to use places like this as a dumping ground for rubbish such as unwanted soil and building rubble, from the 1870s up to the 1990s. Material from the demolished old Mayfair and Pacific Hotels is left visible here, as a reminder of lessons learnt about how not to look after the environment. Let’s hope it is a lesson learnt and remembered. This is a very restful and peaceful area and the Hawkes Bay Regional Council are to be commended for restoring this area to it’s present healthy state. It was opened for public access in 2010 and we are pleased that we have now had a good look around the reserve. Well worth a stop if you are travelling by.
And instead of cooking our evening meal in the caravan we decided to drive back to get the best fish and chips in town from Hawkes Bay Seafood. There is a huge selection of wet fish available, from fillets, whole fish, crabs and shell fish. We ordered snapper fillets, garlic prawns and chips and ate them al fresco on the picnic tables in front of the shop. It was a great finish to a busy day.