The Happy Camper: the Russians are coming...

“For us, Napier is a nightmare,” writes Sean Farrell after the van’s first epic leg of its World cup journey.

French rugby player Aurelien Rougerie walks along the beach in Napier.
French rugby player Aurelien Rougerie walks along the beach in Napier.
Image: Christophe Ena/AP/Press Association Images

IT WAS A bit of heavy night in Taupo so getting Cian the campervan back on the road this morning was a siege.

It all started so well; we popped into the Hilton looking to watch Italy beat Russia, but instead caught the end of a meet-and-greet session with our own national team.

We managed to snag Declan Kidney into a photo; in classic Kidney style he spoke freely without saying much.

We congratulated him for Saturday, he smiled and said “well, I’m glad you’re enjoying it anyway” before checking that we were all getting along cooped up inside the van.

From there we flagged a taxi.

It already contained three Australians but there were ample seats to spare and we all headed into Mulligans (I know, you travel all this way just to go to an Irish bar.)

We order separate rounds of the same beer, and end up sitting at the same table. A quiz is on. The separate rounds of Tui’s pale ale merge seamlessly into one, pints turning to jugs, jugs into common ground. We never quite manage to learn their names or win the quiz, but they were great craic all the same.

Hard yards

This morning’s journey to Napier was my first long drive on this tour, it was an epic one.

Initially, the road arrows straight for five and six kilometres at a time. Not on a flat plain, but loping up and down over the foothills. Just as countless Bruce Springsteen songs about roads begin to form in my head, the trajectory changes and snow is visible beyond the forest.

Hills turned to mountains; fifth gear is useless to us now. We crawl up and up the great big pile of rock we had admired from afar. Cian grunted and roared his way toward the summit where the sign welcomes us to Hawkes Bay, time to give third gear a rest.

This is wine country, and we had heard that this was one of the more affluent parts of this rugged land. We are more interested in drinks made from hops and barley and, on a Wednesday evening, we find Napier with about as much life as a 24 hour petrol station.

The town is spread over a wide distance and we make the mistake of setting out in search of a bar by the waterfront to watch Japan play Tonga. After traipsing around for close to an hour, we find one restaurant; busy thanks to a large group of Wallabies supporters. Aside from that there are a number of chippers, one or two sleepy hotels and a whole lot of darkened windows.

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The boys ‘scouring Napier’ on their arrival.

Napier has retired for the night – perhaps they were all on the lash in Taupo last night too.

Though it is perched right on the coast, the bay ensures that the city is shielded from the elements. In the dark, were it not for the bobbing lights in the distance, it would be hard to guess how close you are to the Pacific. Napier is quite likely a gorgeous place to be if you are looking for luxury, if you know where you are going and have a car to take you there.

For us, Napier is a nightmare.

Check out Sean’s postcards from the edge here>

All the RWC news and reaction is lined out at our mini-site>

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