2011 February 9 – Day 35 – Napier, New Zealand

The ship did not dock in Napier until noon so we were able to have a more leisurely morning.  It was fun to watch the captain back the ship into it’s port slot.  Those navigators know their stuff!

The pamphlet we were given with information about Napier says, “On Tuesday, February 3, 1931, Napier was struck by a disastrous earthquake.  Measuring 7.9 on the Richter scale, the morning tremblor leveled the town.  What was spared was lost to fire and the more than  500 aftershocks that struck in the following two weeks.  More than 250 people were killed, many struck by falling building ornaments and gargoyles.  Clean and simple Art Deco design was selected for the rebuilt city.”  The building code still follows the Art Deco simplicity and Napier is famous for its beautiful preserved buildings.

In keeping with the 1930s theme the ship was greeted by costumed locals with lovely antique cars. Napier is located about half-way down the east coast of North Island.  Hawkes Bay is a renowned wine-producing area and the area has breathtaking beaches, including the three-mile long Marine Parade.Napier is a major port for commercial and cruise traffic – obviously wood products are a major export. As is normal for us we chose a tour that took us into the countryside.  It took about an hour to reach the Waimara area and the Hakikino Preserve.  These lands have been protected and administered by the Māori people for generations. We were driven to Te Hakikino fortress, which for hundreds of years served to protect the Māori.  Before the bus arrived we had to select a ‘chief’ to represent us and there was a ‘speech and singing’ welcome and our chief and the guide had to provide the appropriate response to show we came in peace.  To enter the  Arch of the Ancestors we had to first be approved by one of the home people and a gift offering was presented and accepted by our chief. The busload was divided into smaller groups and we all rotated through areas where we were told about flax weaving, and musical instruments, spiritual stones, medicinal plants and weapons.  We were shown the eel pond where eels are raised for food.  The Waimarama Culture Group told stories and sang songs and demonstrated dances.  It was a really interesting tour with some very welcoming people.

No eels for me, thank you.As always there was an opportunity to shop for the crafts.  I, very uncharacteristically, bought something that was purely a beautiful thing that had no purpose.  I usually buy place mats, or spoons, or hot pads; things I can use when I get home.  My paua shell purchase was just because it was beautiful. Paua is the most colourful shell in the world.  It is a species of abalone and is only found off the south island of New Zealand.  Collection of the shellfish is strictly controlled.  It has been used as a food since ancient times,  All of the white outer coating on the shell is sanded off and the beautiful colours are exposed.  The shell is used for jewelery and to decorate many other craft items. (And it just sits inside the mesh bag in a drawer in my dining room.  But, when I open the drawer to get something I often pick up and admire my paua shell.)

Before we left the warriors demonstrated the famous Māori Haka in which the young men pounce and posture and slap their chests and stick their tongues out to look fierce for the enemy. We had a wonderful afternoon and so enjoyed the gracious hospitality of the Māori people and all of the information about their traditional ways of life that they shared with us.  It was a great day.

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