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2 Waiheke Weekender
It's been a year or
two since I've been
to Hawkes Bay.
I've always had a
soft spot for this
region -- it has that
delightful art deco
Napier city with
cafes and a hand-
ful of hit and miss
For some reason
I usually gravitate towards Havelock North --
it's contained and cute, with a lovely intimate
cinema and some interesting boutique-style
shops. There used to be an outstanding wine
shop but alas it is no longer, taken over by one
of those large liquor chains that lack imagina-
tion and verve.
I sometimes fear that the entire country will
be taken over by a series of major franchise
chains that will take a fight to the cheap and
mildly cheerful in an attempt to attract the
maximum number of customers. Like anyone
else I like a bargain but I have learnt a salua-
tory lesson over the years -- very often some-
thing classic and made of quality is a much
better investment long term than something
which turns out to have a very limited life span.
I still wear an overcoat purchased in London at
a sale in 1994...Yves St Laurent, not normally
on my radar but a great buy bargainwise that
has stood the test of time and has paid for itself
many times over, although at the time it seemed
expensive even at half price. (Alas, as is often
the case, I digress).
Hawkes Bay in many ways reminds me of
my beloved Waiheke. Obviously it's wine coun-
try, but also it has that 'slow down you're here'
attitude and tucked away in the hills and valleys
are artisans and creative creatures who respect
the land and enjoy living simply. I envy their
ability to be at peace with so little and survive
frugally. Hawkes Bay people don't seem
overly consumed with keeping up with what-
ever it is we're supposed to be keeping up with.
The 'Joneses' have all left for more stressful,
The Bay has a strong connection with
Waiheke when it comes to wine. What works
well on the island usually
works well here too. It's about
climate mainly; Hawkes Bay
has a reputation for extended
sunshine hours and Bordeaux
style varietals, syrah, char-
donnay and some European
grapes do particularly well,
as they do on Waiheke --
Montepulciano for example.
In the late 1970s I co-host-
ed a telethon in Hawkes Bay
and the community spirit
was quite astonishing -- it's not necessarily a
wealthy area, lots of people are on welfare -- but
per head per capita Hawkes Bay raised more
money for children at risk than any other part
of the country.
There beats a heart of optimism here --
there's a pulse, a soul, a willingness to connect
and rediscover the genuine importance of being
a community. Not all, but a lot of residents take
a good deal of pride in their homes. The gardens
are lovely and whether the site or sections are
large or small considerable care and attention to
detail seems to be the order of the day.
Lots of interesting colourful trees and shrubs
with swathes of bright and breezy fowers, roses
seeming to really fourish here and the region
is blessed with the right soil conditions in a
splendid climate. The locals tell me that they
have an amazing diversity of soils, from the
alluvial gravelly sub-soils deposited over many
years by rivers and creeks, many of which no
longer exist, to stony silty areas great for plant-
ing grapes, along with the loamy clay deep and
fertile areas especially suited to orchards.
From the air on a clear day Hawkes Bay
looks like a patchwork quilt of sleepy rolling
hills partially covered in vines. Maybe it is the
gentle terrain that creates such an appealing
environment and a pace of life so far removed
from big city madness and hysteria.
I couldn't live here however. Living on
Waiheke you do get used to those fabulous
beaches and a constant feeling that if you can't
see the sea at the moment, you soon will as you
turn the next corner. The sea adds a dimension
of tranquility and excitement that you simply
don't get when the land seems to roll on forever,
no matter how pretty it all is.
For many years Hawkes
Bay has laboured under a
reputation for being a tad
about landed gentry and
the horsey set being quite
common. Sour grapes if you
ask me. I have over the years
been at the odd high-tea-
pearls event, and they've been
utterly lacking in the pomp
and pretense that is supposed
to descend on such occasions. Often they are
organised by hard working committees (usually
women) and are designed to raise money for
worthy local causes -- so good on them, they
could easily spend their leisure time playing
tennis or purchasing polo ponies.
Parts of 'The Bay' are also reminiscent of
the South Island, especially those areas between
Queenstown and Arrowtown where all those tall
autumnal trees play with dappled light so loved
by landscape artists.
There is a distinctive underclass here in
areas like Flaxmere and some of the satellite
suburbs of Hastings. High unemployment and a
strong gang culture have existed for some time,
but by and large everyone goes about their own
business. Also, as you drive past what was the
Watties Homestead and is now a boutique hotel,
you are reminded by all the Tremain Real Estate
signs that this region produced one of the great-
est All Blacks of all time -- Kel Tremain.
I hope to visit again soon; it's a pleasant
weekend getaway and there's nothing wrong
with being a visitor to Hawkes Bay.
A visitor to the Hawkes Bay
For many years Hawkes
Bay has laboured under
a reputation for being
a tad snooty...derisive
comments about landed
gentry and the horsey
set being quite common.
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Hawke's eye view
Last week's feature on heritage fruit
referred to the 'Matiatia peach' as a
colloquial name for casimiroa. It is actu-
ally the name of a distinct variety of peach.
We apologise for any confusion.
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