Stuck in the 1930s

Once we had decided that Napier would be our next stop after Lake Waikaremoana, I looked it up in the tourist book I have. The inner city of Napier was all but destroyed by an earthquake in 1931 and it was extensively rebuilt afterwards resulting in most of the buildings being in the Art Deco style, much in vogue at the time. More interesting than the history was the map of the city, because Napier’s streets are themed. I don’t know if the streets were renamed after the 1931 earthquake but in any case, I was delighted to glance through the names and find street after street named after writers and poets; Shakespeare, Tennyson, Emerson, Browning, Dickens and Kipling to name a few. Not only has the city planner honoured writers, but scientists such as Faraday, explorers such as Shackleton and Hillary and politicians such as Lincoln and Gladstone. To walk through Napier is to walk through a Who’s Who of the 19th and early 20th Centuries.

There’s something special about Napier, something different from any other city that I’ve visited in New Zealand. It’s not just the Art Deco architecture that dominates the inner city though it plays a part. Nor is it the bright colours that are frequent bathed in the bright sunshine. It is both of these mixed with an overriding sense of ease and relaxation that permeates the air. During many of the days while I was there, it was overcast with occasional drizzle but some of the nights were clear with the stars blazing overhead and the roar of the waves drifting into me through the open window of my bedroom.

The ride to Napier was pretty much non-stop since Diarmuid didn’t want to stop the engine until we arrived at a garage where we could leave it. Of course before we could do that, we needed to unpack the car. Once we’d checked in to Wally’s Backpackers (which was a while as there’s nobody in the office from 13:00 to 16:00 and we’d arrived at 15:10), we ran up and down from our room emptying the boot and cars while the fumes from the exhaust continued to sputter into the air. With that done Diarmuid went in search of the garage recommended by the girl in the office. It wasn’t open but he left it outside for the mechanic to park the next day. We couldn’t leave Napier until it was fixed so I settled myself in for a few days.

The following day Diarmuid took me down to a market that was on down by the beach. There wasn’t much that really grabbed my attention, but it was fun just to walk around the stalls and look at the varied goods from vegetables, books, clothes and jewellery to general bric-a-brac. Walking back into the main city I was struck by how pleasant Napier is.

The shops in Napier all seem to have their own niche, particularily in the city centre where you can find almost any kind of product in their own shop. One that stuck in my mind is Plastic-Plus which sells plastic containers of all kinds from small plastic jars to gigantic laundry baskets.

Just around the corner from the hostel is an antique store which contains all kind of stuff but specialising in the Art Deco period of the 1930s. There were some fantastic old books including huge tomes on medicine and animals and a Household Manual by Dr. John Harvey Kellogg of Corn Flakes fame. Another display case contained old match boxes, lighters, cutthroat razors, pipes and false teeth.

I spent most of my time over the few days, hanging around the hosetl, occasionally making a trip to the local PAK’nSAVE. On one trip I picked up a bottle of wine but was asked at the checkout for some ID. “Huh!” I said, astounded at being asked, but seemingly it’s the policy in the supermarkets that if you look under 25, you’re asked for ID. Selling alcohol in supermarkets is only a new thing and a lot of kids have been going into them to get their alcohol. I also believe my scraggly beard didn’t help.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was released while we were there, so myself and Diarmuid made our way to the local cinema. It reminded me a lot of the old Adelphi Cinema in Dundalk, the seats had as little legroom as it did. After the film we were in the lobby when Ben strode over to us. He told us that himself and Jenn were in a nearby fruit farm picking boisonberries for around seven hours a day. Jenny then walked up and we updated each other on what we had been doing. Not for the first time, nor the last would Diarmuid remark that New Zealand is a really small place.

Since the internet was free in the hostel, I spent a fair amount of time adding photos to the gallery. Diarmuid added some photos of his walk round Lake Waikaremoana but for some reason the software didn’t agree with him and he pretty much killed the machine. I also organised my USB drive so I can more easily get my email. For anybody going travelling and like myself has a need to keep connected to the internet, an excellent website is which has customised programs to run off USB flash drives so you too can leave home but take your web and email setups with you.

There must be something contagious about fault starter motors. Four German girls who were staying at the hostel had to cancel their plans to do the Tongariro crossing as their car’s starter motor also wasn’t working. Our car meanwhile was fixed, so we packed up the morning after we got it back and set off for the capital of New Zealand, Wellington.

One Response to “Stuck in the 1930s”

  1. dude Says:


    i ran across your blog searching for an answer to the question:
    if i am in auckland and have no internet connection other than internet cafes, can i use a usb drive in these cafes?

    i know there are security issues for the cafes with people doing devious things with usb drives.

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