Napier is an unusual coastal city, facing the Pacific Ocean. As is was rebuilt after the 1931 earthquake, the city features a art deco center, and a fair amount of art deco villas and houses in the suburbs. You can easily recognise those house as their architectural style really differ from the usual construction everywhere. The roof is usually flat, some corners can be curved, and you can spot decorative lines on the facades, three are common, but it can also be two.
When I arrived in Napier it was raining, Unfortunately for me, I left my lights on when I parked. Fortunately for me, Kiwis are very friendly and happy to lend a helping hand. I got lucky and found a bike shop open on Sunday late afternoon. I could borrow the wrench I needed to open the lid covering the battery, and then later re-charge the jumper-starter after it failed to start the engine the first time. They made sure the van started before everyone headed to their sleeping quarters.
After this unsuspected adventure, I relaxed in a series of hot pools under the rain, enjoying the view on the ocean.
Driving from Napier to Taupo is an easy 2h30, with the most beautiful part is the road along the Thermal Explorer Highway (SH5) and catching a glimpse of Lake Taupo at every other turn. The lake itself is as big as Hong Kong, so the view is pretty impressive to a novice eye like mine. The closer to Taupo I get and the more impressive the view is, with the view of Mt Tongariro, Mt Ngauruhoe and Mt Ruapehu covered in snow past the other end of the lake.
Taupo city center is quiet and pleasant, and has shops to provide visitors, trampers, fishermen, pounamu jewellery seekers, along with a few nice restaurants.
It is easy to walk from the city center along Waikato river, which is wonderfully clear and which colours are extremely vivid. You can go early morning to Spa Thermal Park along Spa road, follow the trail to a wooden bridge, change to your bathing suit and dip in the small warm stream joining the Waikato River. You can easily hop from hot stream pool to cold stream pool and enjoy some time under the scrutiny of passers-by.
You can dry up on the way back to the van and head for Huka Falls, further up on the Waikato River. Incredibly blue. Incredibly loud. Incredibly powerful. The clear blue of the water on the length of the falls is impressive. I've been told it is because of the high amount of oxygen present in the water.
A few people leave from Taupo early morning to do the Tongariro Crossing and return to Taupo in the evening the same day. It's a safe way to do it, but you also spend a considerable amount of time on the road.