In the morning we ask a Kiwi couple we have met, where they would recommend going. They say Napier so we head off to this famous art-deco town via wine and orchard country. We hope to get to the Gunn Estate winery near Hawke Bay at Hastings, so we head to the information place in Hastings. All over NZ they have signs posted with a single small i that you can access 7 days a week. They have every pamphlet imaginable for both islands and also serve as a travel agent for booking tours as well as ferries and accommodations. Unfortunately for us, the Gunn Estate is closed for the season, though. The gal does give us some information on places to go including a cheese place and a honey place.
We are surrounded by beautiful orchards as we find our way to the honey place. The apples are just being harvested and there is one called Pacific Rose which is the best tasting apple we’ve ever had. They are twice the size of any apple at home, red on the outside and white on the inside. They are hard and crunchy like a granny smith, but sweet and juicy like a Fuji. We buy them by the huge bagful for the rest of our time here in NZ. We also pass by little fruit and veg stands like you see in the Okanagan and can buy organic cauliflower, avocado, carrots, broccoli and potatoes, as well as pears and apples. At one such stand we cross the street to watch the sheep as they eat the detritus under the vines of the grapes. We do see this everywhere now, where the grapes are done, and the sheep are on cleanup duty.
We find the Araki Honey place and it proves to be a great science lesson. There are all kinds of interactive activities and microscopes as well as a live bee hive pressed between 2 panes of glass. They have tagged the Queen who is triple the size of the other bees. There is also a tasting station, where you can taste any one of about 10 different varieties of honey. The taste differs according to the flower that was used to get the nectar from. Some, like clover, are very mild, while others, like Tamarind, are much stronger. The average harvest from a NZ hive is 30 Kg of honey and for each kg the bees fly the equivalent of 3 orbits around the Earth. Each bee may make one teaspoon of honey in its lifetime. The most bee stings survived in one session was over 2200!!
We head off to the cheese place and see the process in action. There are hundreds of wheels of brie ripening in one room. We try all the different kinds, and the kids are even brave enough to try a mild blue – a couple of them don’t even spit it out! We also encounter feijoas for the first time. These are a small green fruit about the size of a small pair. Inside they have seeds like a guava which you eat and they are quite tart and slimy. They make feijoa jam and smoothies, but we pass. We stock up on some of the different cheeses as the kids now have much better palates for more obscure foods from all of the exposure from the traveling.
We leave Hastings and go up the highway winding through lots of grape country to the town of Napier. Yes, once again it is raining and we can’t find the campground. Luckily, we have put a SIM card in John’s Blackberry to communicate with our friends Ken and Shirley who have arrived from Gabriola to come sailing with us in Tonga. We phone the campground who give us directions that we never would have found otherwise. We do a fairly comfortable 2 bedroom house for the night complete with electric blankets!