I’ve been enjoying my time here in the North island but I was somewhat craving the sight of the sea. Originally, my very vague plan had been to travel down the West coast to Wellington, however I seem to have dismissed this entirely and found myself veering East, to the coastal city of Napier. The city was flattened by a devastating earthquake in 1931 and was subsequently rebuilt in Art Deco style, making it a really interesting architectural destination. Plus it’s the seaside so it’s just generally flippin’ lovely.
The coastal road through town is called Marine Parade, which is probably my favourite road name so far here in New Zealand (and I’ve seen a Piri Piri Road!). I took a stroll down the front to the Napier soundshell, a beautiful deco-style stage area surrounded by columns and at the end of a row of really pretty public gardens. Amongst the gardens is the Pania of the Reef statue, a really nice bronze figure based on the Maori story of Pania. The story goes that Pania heard the siren calls of the sea people and swam out to meet them. When she tried to return to her lover on shore, the sea people turned her into the reef that now borders Napier. I really liked the statue, I couldn’t tell you why but I kept finding myself returning to it.
As I mentioned before, the town was flattened in 1931. What stands now is a very architecturally unique town of Deco buildings and elaborate timber houses in the surrounding hills. Wandering through the town, you almost feel like you could be wandering through a period set for a film or something, the building fascades are so beautiful. We got a great glimpse of some of the residential plots on the evening that Lucy and I decided to climb upto Bluff hill lookout, to try and catch the sunset. The view was pretty nice up there, looking over neighbouring Ahuriri, rather than back on Napier. We also had a pretty great view of the port, which was weirdly compelling viewing, as they rushed to dock a huge container ship.
The weather was ridiculously good for the entirety of my visit so I headed down to the pebble beach to bask in the rays. I’m a fan of pebble beaches because sand is a nightmare and also I really like making pictures out of the pebbles (because I’m an arty weirdo, okay). In fact, on this occasion, I spent so long concentrating on making a whale shape in the stones that I managed to TOTALLY burn my back. It’s proving to be one of the perils of travelling alone; I need someone to put sun cream/ after sun on my back. Either way, lesson well and truly learned. I really wanted to go for a swim in the sea but it wasn’t a swimming beach; the currents are crazy strong, which was a shame.
I decided to retreat from the rays and sought the shade for the rest of the day. My evening shower revealed the sun damage to be worse than I thought and I felt pretty annoyed at myself for getting so burnt, dammit New Zealand!! I thought it best not to spend too much time in the sun the next day, instead choosing to bask in the heat from the safety of the shade in the sunken gardens. I spent the day reading and writing in the shade and honestly, it was so pleasant. Bare in mind, this has been the hottest day since I’ve been here, so it was 31 degrees in the shade still at 7PM. Niiiice.
On my last night, I decided to go down the the sea once more, to take some pictures as the sun set behind me, and to stare into the distance pretending to think about something deeper than pizza.