It was a long day – a 500km trip to Napier and back on the big white bus. The happy band of 60s Up members met bright and early, climbed aboard and headed north. Our morning started out fine and sunny, but the closer we got to the Manawatu Gorge, the worse the weather behaved. Once safely through the gorge we carried on to the Black Stump Cafe in Dannevirke for morning tea. Situated in the main drag, parking was at a premium, and Peter the bus driver had to park the bus around a corner or two at the railway station. Oh dear – by this stage the rain was falling in a continual down pour. We raced around to the cafe, trying to dodge the rain drops, but that didn’t really work, and we arrived damp and dripping. Obviously we arrived at just the right time, as out came a plate of date scones, straight out of the oven and smelling devine, Robin’s favourite. Can you guess what we had for morning tea?
Arriving at Napier, the iconic Norfolk Pines seemed to welcome our bus full of intrepid explorers as we drove along the Marine Parade. The first trees were planted in 1888, with more added over the years. Noted for tolerating salt-laden winds, these hardy trees have thrived.
Norfolk Pines along Napier’s Marine Parade
Lunch was at the Napier RSA Restaurant, and after a little confusion with two large groups arriving at the same time, we we soon settled in our respective tables and got down to the serious business of eating lunch. And very tasty it was too, with plenty of choice from the hot buffet, plus dessert and coffees. We would certainly return here for another meal next time we are up this way.
Lunch at Napier RSA
Fully fed and watered, our next stop was to the National Aquarium of New Zealand along the Marine Parade. Everyone disembarked and made their way inside, but as we had been there very recently, decided to explore the waterfront instead. There was one less sea creature to view, as Inky the octopus had just made a daring escape when it broke out of its tank, slithered across the floor, squeezed down a 50-metre drainpipe and disappeared into the sea.
Parked outside the Aquarium
Is that Inky, the missing octopus?
Artist Alan Strathern's sculpture “Trawlermen”, dedicated to the commercial fishermen who toil at sea, came about because of a long term overcharge on a power account, of all things! The story goes like this. In 1973, the Municipal Electricity Department discovered that over many years it had overcharged for power supplied to New Zealand Cement Holdings Ltd. The financial tangle was unravelled, and the upshot was that the cement company and the power authority agreed to donate $10,000 of the overpayment to the Napier City Council to fund an artwork. The life-like bronze was originally in the forecourt at the Hawke's Bay Aquarium which opened in December 1976 at the southern end of the Parade. It was later relocated to its present site adjoining the aquarium in 2002.
Trawlermen, by Alan Strathern
Further along the Parade we came across a rather innovative way to teach youngsters the rules of the road. The Junior Bike Track is designed for children to ride their bikes in a safe environment. Inside the safety fences is a mock road complete with speed bumps, give way and stop signs and traffic lights to teach children road safety skills.
Junior Bike Track to teach road skills
The cold wind was blowing the cobwebs away, and the rain was threatening to fall, so we made our way back to the aquarium to check out the gift shop and wait in the cafe until boarding time. Here we spotted a Bearded Dragon looking rather ferocious with his spikes and claws as he disdainfully looked out at us looking in. These reptiles live on insects and can live to the grand old age of 14 years.
Our time in Napier had come to an end, and we all climbed aboard once more for the long drive home. The return trips are always much quieter, we have noticed, and soon the bevy of grey heads was gently nodding as the motion of the bus lulled quite a few 60 Up members asleep. It had been a long day, but a good one, as usual, and we finally arrived back in Levin at 6.30pm.