We sailed through the night over rolling swells, from Tauranga to Napier, where we were towed into port by two tugs that just finished up a gig at Pixar— damn if these were not the cutest tugs you have ever seen!
Napier is a city reborn. On February 3rd 1931 at 10:47 am, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake devastated this area, killing 256 and injuring thousands. The quake lasted two and a half minutes— a lifetime— with aftershocks lasting weeks, one measuring 7.3 m. 10 days later. Imagine what these people experienced. Had it not been for the H.M.S. Veronica already in port and sending out distress messages seeking help, the tolls would have been much higher.
But if a silver lining could be found, the landscape and architecture in Napier changed forever. The once Ahuriri Lagoon had lifted almost three meters, creating 40 square km of seabed rising up in those two and a half minutes. The People could not be broken and with such forward looking optimism, rebuilt not only their city but their identity
Today, the once Ahuriri Lagoon is now rich in agriculture. Our excursion took us through endless apple orchards, corn fields, past vineyards— you name it. There is a good chance the Fuji apples you eat came from here. We toured though the city of Napier, rich in Art Deco architecture, its rural streets a quaint reflection of the time. Our guide mentioned that his mom has a home here and is a consummate gardener, and on occasion, digs up sea shells in her flower beds.
We toured through the shoreline of Westshore— a mix of industrial and modern— a weekend retreat of bars and restaurants along the water. There is so much to do here. The artwork among the buildings encourages sustainability and promotes environmental awareness. I could not get a picture of it, but on the side of one building was a full scale painting of a whale, filled from head to tail with plastic items of consumption.
But the star of the show was downtown Napier itself. From February 19th through the 23rd the city holds New Zealand’s largest Art Deco Festival— a celebration of its architecture, design and its people— a positive reminder of their rebirth. We have never seen a spirit like this anywhere we have been. I don’t think there was a single inhabitant that did not participate. It was a travel back in time as these images will hopefully show.
Even these images cannot truly capture the enthusiasm and excitement of this city.. or the genuine kindness of its people… or their optimism. But it was time to say goodby to Napier. Time to sail onward to Wellington.
And now.. more tugboats