30 January 20
Posted at 9:30
It’s been a few days since I posted so I’ll try to get up to date working backwards. It is now evening of 30th January, (I still find it amazing that means early Thursday morning in UK). We are staying in a studio apartment with an amazing view in Oakura, just outside New Plymouth. New Plymouth is the biggest town by far that we have stayed in/near so far, but having said that it is small by UK standards. When we first went into town it struck me as big and ugly but having been here for three days I have warmed to it as we have got to know it.The view from our studio Oakura
Today has been excellent as what had been a couple of days of light rain turned, unexpectedly into blue skies and sunshine dawn till dusk. We have spent most of the day walking the coastal path that runs the length of New Plymouth form the port in the West to way East of the Waiwhakaiho River. The path is 14km long and is smooth concrete or wood decking all the way. It is great for cycling, scooting skateboarding or walking (tramping as the Kiwis call it). Today there was every age group on every conceivable bike or board or feet. The locals thought it was heaving but believe me there would be less people using such a path in Margate in mid winter (in the unlikely event such a facility existed there. So it was pleasant and to us not crowded at all. There were some strong winds for which we were thankful as the sun was hot and strong. The winds brought out the para-surfers who were amazing. New Plymouth and the surrounding area is known as Taranaki thanks to Mount Taranaki (a live volcano although it last erupted in 1755) which is 2518m high and boasts 200km of walking tracks all in the centre of Egmont National Park, today being so clear and with strong winds meant that the whole mountain was visible, an unusual occurrence. Therefore we walked as far as Te Rewa Rewa bridge, a cleverly designed and constructed bridge which forms a sort of twirl that you can look along and see Mt Taranaki through the vortex, luckily as today was so clear I was able to capture photos like this.Te Rewa Rewa Bridge with Mt Taranaki in full view
Yesterday was dull and wet (still nice and warm though) we had decided to have a lie in and then as the day was to get clearer take a drive to the 1000m point on Mt Taranaki were numerous walks from 2 or 3 days down to 40 minutes can be taken. Although it was bright at sunny in New Plymouth at 100m it was mostly dense cloud looking up. We did a 90 minute or so walk through mystical forests of lichen and ferns and untouched bush but alas no chance to launch the drone and photograph the mountain. We may give it another go tomorrow morning subject to the weather.
Before coming to New Plymouth we were south of the national park near Wanganui on a farm stay for three nights. My big expectations mentioned in the last post did not let me down, we loved it there. Not only was the accommodation, as mentioned, superior to what I had expected, the whole experience of being at such a rural location but only 15 minutes from the town, Wanganui, was ideal. The farmer and family were away on holiday themselves which was nice as we were totally isolated, just with the animals, but in some ways we had lots of questions to aske them. High on the list was how was the farm viable? We knew they are a British family who emigrated twenty years ago but why choose this exact spot? It is 40 hectares of what does not appear to be prime grazing land. It is very hilly and much of it covered by light pine forest. It is called Tamerton Stud and seems to specialise in miniature Herefords. So you can assume they breed and raise miniature Herefords and certainly there we some there but few enough for us to get to know each one personally. There were also three Aplacas (they were lovely) about 20 or 30 sheep and a dozen or so hens. At some time of the year there are apparently ducks but we didn’t see any. So we decided it was a real bit of the Good Life as opposed to an industrial farm and we felt comfortable with our romantic view of it all.
Alpacas Tamerton Stud
We went into town a couple of time for a coffee and human interaction. A small but amiable town, which like many towns here in terms of the shops remind us of Stevenage New Town Centre in the nicest possible way, just the shops with single storey pavement cover over the shop frontages. (I know it paints a horrible picture but just try to imagine Stevenage being a nice laid back place.) I’ll stop there! Anyway in all other aspects other than shop front design NZ towns are nothing like Stevenage. God I wish I hadn’t started this.
Moving on, we have good Kiwi friends, Andrew and Debbie, who you’ll hear more of in future blogs, for now suffice to say Andrew and I worked together for nine years in the UK and we have visited them each time we have been here. Andrew had mentioned to me that his father was born and brought up in Kai Iwi which is just west of Wanganui so on our last day there we decided to take a ride out and find Kai Iwi following a drive up the Wangui River Road.
Wanagui River Road
Well we soon found Kai Iwi, lucky we didn’t blink, and I guess we felt a little let down, we saw a couple of the population which cannot be more than 30ish in total but at least we could tell Andrew we had been there and hopefully he would feel good about that. I had seen a sign to Kai Iwi beach so suggested we took a look. We thought is would be a kilometre or two down the narrow twisty road. We passed what looked like the entrance to a campsite and proceeded. I guess time seemed to pass by and we weren’t really thinking until the metalled road turned into a gravel road which meant we kicked up clouds of dust . We were crossing farmland but getting no nearer to the coast which was about 500m to our left. We came to a cross roads (well a cross gravel tracks) with a left hand turn signed something or other beach (not Kai Iwi) and a farmer type bloke hairing up the right hand track on a quad bike. I suggested taking the beach road, Marilyn said let’s turn round, I looked in my mirror and saw a cloud of dust racing up behind us. I suggested we best go straight on and did so. The track go narrower and the dust cloud behind us got closer when I could see it through the cloud I was creating. My instinct was to go faster to try and get clear air but the cloud behind kept with us. This nonsense continued and intensified until we must have been 20km or more from Kai Iwi. Eventually the following cloud tailed off and as he did so we found we were heading for the ocean albeit on top of a cliff. We came up a steep incline to a flat grassy patch on fenced off from the cliff edge. We parked and got out and stared at the magnificent views out to sea and down to the black beaches. Dust cloud arrived and parked alongside us. Out got an elderly bloke with a moustache and wearing a baseball cap. His car was quite beat up. He stepped over the short fence and looked out to sea. I said hi and nodded and that was it. Norman, as I shall call him returned the hi and burst into a conversation that although highly informative may well be still going on. Hence Norman either for Norman Nomates or Norman Knowitall. Ten minutes later with just a few ‘Oks’, wows’ and ‘reallys?’ from me Norm had covered the historic flax industry that existed in this area in olden times, when workers came down the beach from Wanganui on horse back to strip the flax, adjusting the working day to fit the tides. The railway that existed here joining the milk railway, highest climb in the country requiring two engines and travelling from Napier to Wanganui. Then the Maori/British battles that took place in the fields to our left, 23 British soldiers buried there and countless Maoris (they buried the dead at night you know and never marked the graves) I often come across bones over there and bury them again he said. He switched from one topic to another and whenever I got a word in he picked up on the topic. I told him we were off to Taranaki, that’s due an eruption any time now he chirped. Marilyn indicated she was bored stiff and we should leave, I found it difficult to get away but as Mal walked back to the car I sort of indicated I was off. Norm followed, “Ah an Arcadia”, he said “what do you think of it?” “ great” I replied, “sat nav a bit iffy”. And in I got, opened the window and bid Norman goodbye. As we departed I could hear him saying “they build them in South Korea and America, Arcadias in America I think. I’ve got a Mazda myself but use that old banger on these gravel, well crushed sea shell tracks……
We retraced our route reminiscing Norman and what was he all about. When we got back to the ‘camp site’ turn we realised it was actually the track to Kai Iwi beach which turned out to be more lively than Kai Iwi itself. We took some photos and then headed back to the peace and tranquillity of the farm.