Following our two-night stay at Whanganui, two weeks ago now (!), we meandered northwards to spend a couple of nights at Waitara Holiday Park with Marilyn and David. Although this was a paying spot, we sucked up the cost as we were keen to spend some more time in the company of our friends especially as they’d been so generous caring for NZAreandare while we were away.
I’ve had a fascination for Mount Taranaki since applying for a midwifery post in the UK spring of 1996 and buying countless books to ‘research’ the area. There was no ‘world-wide-web’ in those days to make it so easy! I recall reading about the magnificent maunga (mountain) and the fact that you could ski in the morning and lie on the beach in the afternoon. Living as I was, in Sutton Coldfield, North Birmingham, it sounded like a slice of paradise to me. When I heard over six weeks after the telephone interview that I’d been unsuccessful, I was cross about what I saw as a poor recruitment and communication process, but also terribly disappointed I wasn’t going to be making it to New Zealand – yet.
In July 2002, six years later, I’d found success and lived in NZ since October 2001. New Plymouth featured on my month-long-solo-tour-itinerary. Sadly Mount Egmont, as it was then known, was shrouded in cloud. I drove up to see a glimpse of her perfect snow-covered peak. But the blue-sky images from the books remained just that—images in books.
Last week I finally almost saw Mount Taranaki in reality – but once again the view was foiled by the changeable weather here! We stopped on the way as soon as we could teasingly see a bit of the mountain. Unbeknownst to us, the place we parked up at was steeped in history. It was a Ketemarae memorial to the ‘South Taranaki War of 1868-1869’ when Maori land was ‘confiscated’ and sold without consent to settlers. I’m sure it’s all far more complex than that, but that’s it in a nutshell as far as I can understand. If you’re interested in reading more, this website may help – http://newzealandwars.co.nz/land-wars/campaigns/south-taranaki-2/
From that snippet of mountain, we continued to Waitara and parked up in front of Marilyn and David. We saved $7 by not paying for power, but it was still $14 a night each. Not a lot of course. But when you’ve got used to free camping spots it hurts the purse! However we relished the flushing toilets and hot showers provided as part of the payment. The splendid location close to the black-sand beach helped too.
Almost A Full View Of Mount Taranaki
Barry and Marilyn headed off to explore New Plymouth, while I sat in the van and worked. You’ll find many fabulous images of his visit at the end of the post, in the slide-show. He did text me while away, to say the mountain had appeared. So I closed the computer and went for a walk – oh my! She’s so beautiful:
Later on we enjoyed a splendidly convivial evening – eating, drinking and playing six-handed rummy. We always share Andy’s blog post ‘Pride Comes Before a Fall’ when people ask for the rules. The following morning they taught us a new card game called ‘Five Crowns‘, which we loved. We’ll try and find one somewhere to buy so that we can play again with people in future. Marilyn and David have played it on WhatsApp with family members who live far away, which is a superb idea when you can’t get together.
The day after we arrived the weather turned wild again! The nearby sea was teeming with logs washed down from swollen rivers, and waves crashing onto the shore. Marilyn and David decided they were going to head home, so we contacted our next stop to head there. Within the camp and on the road outside, we spotted what looks like Yellow pohutakawa trees. Are they? Does anyone know?
Staying At The Crows Nest
Our next port of call was Mike and Carolyn Crow, who visited Barry on the boat in 2006 (we think it was that year!). I wasn’t there, but can’t remember where I was. I’d have been with mum, or Lisa and the boys. They played six-handed rummy with Heidi and Jackie, so we challenged them to a game. Carolyn initially couldn’t remember how to play, then thrashed us all convincingly! The following night they showed us another new card game – Sequence. We adored it!
The weather continued to be rather shitty the following day. Cold. Wet. Windy. You name it. Not unlike a British winter’s day actually! We stayed at the ‘Crow’s Nest’ for two nights, managing a short walk around Pukerkura Park in spite of the atrocious conditions. It had diminished a little to a few intermittent showers. Mount Taranaki sadly continued to hide away – until Friday 27th November when we left to travel to Taupo!
The ‘TSB Bowl of Brooklands‘ you see above is where WOMAD is held annually in March. I’m reliably informed you enjoy stunning vistas of the mountain while listening to music, socialising and dancing. I’ll believe it when/if I see it! Maybe in March 2023? Maybe …
The tropical house was astounding – so many beautiful plants and flowers. I’m not sure why Barry and Mike looked so blooming miserable! I’d say they’re ‘grumpy old men’, but I know that’s not true. Maybe they just didn’t want to be photographed amongst the flowers?
Did I tell you that it was Barry’s ‘Big Birthday’ on Sunday? And that he had a big party on Saturday? I am now. He was, and he did. You’ll hear more about that soon, I hope. However, paid work is taking priority and there’s rather a lot of that just before Christmas which is bizarre but most welcome.
Barry’s posted a few more images of the delightful park and hot-house below:
New Plymouth is a pleasant place – but I far prefer the East Coast and the plentiful year-long Gisborne sunshine thank you!
A Fabulous Farmstay
On Friday 27th November, we left New Plymouth and drove to Taupo. Not the easiest of routes to be honest, and an almost four hours long circuitous journey. Enjoyable nonetheless. We didn’t stop anywhere, though, as our next host had made us lunch.
Vanessa used to work in the maternity unit at Gisborne, and I’ve known her since November 2001. Beginning in 2013, she and her husband Wayne, who I met for the first time, bought some land and built a house in Taupo. Here they run a small farm. We met hand-reared lambs – Floppy and Jill. Jack sadly died from eating something in the garden where he wasn’t supposed to have been!. A new horse arrived in the late afternoon, for her son-in-law, who was to be ‘introduced’ to the stallion in the next field. The hills were resplendent with sheep and cattle. Their fairly old Hunterway dog had recently birthed six adorable puppies. Surrounding the property were raised beds of fresh vegetables and fruit. It’s such a wonderful space to live in.
However, the challenge with such a brilliant way of living is that you can’t leave it for long! So it wouldn’t be much use to Barry and me who love to move around so much. It was gorgeous to stay for just under 24 hours, but we’d get restless if we couldn’t leave one area.
A Lunch Stop At Taupo
Taupo has never been on my ‘favourite places’ list for New Zealand. It’s a wonderful spot, with a huge lake (aka volcanic crater!). If you love fishing, boating, watersports, etc., this is the place for you. We don’t. The nearby Huka Falls never fail to impress, and I’ve taken many visitors there. Adjacent to the Waikato River there’s a secret natural hot pool that I’ve soaked in with my younger daughter Kim and mum and dad.
So there are a few fabulous things to enjoy – even for me! Oh yes, and you can see Mount Ruapehu‘s snow-covered-peak across the lake which is rather magnificent. Barry’s slide-show-shots do this far more justice than mine below.
Another major attraction is the ‘Lake Taupo Hole in One Challenge‘, which began in 1993 and is still going strong. I’ve never partaken, but it’s always fun to watch others putting balls into the water. Apparently, they average a win every two weeks. Though not the ‘big’ one of NZ$10,000. That had last been won at the beginning of August 2020. Unsurprisingly we only saw men putting furiously, with women cheering them on.
Each day thankfully a team of people scuba and snorkel to collect balls from the lake. You can see the red hole at the front of the floating platform – we suspect the ball must land directly into it—no bouncing whatsoever. To get a ball into either of the other two, I was informed it’d land on the sand.
It’s great entertainment if you ever get the chance to stop and stare in Taupo.
Heading Back To Gisborne
From Taupo, we headed back to Lake Tutira for a night, before returning to Sue and Hubert’s Mahia Bach for a couple of nights. Work was beckoning me, so sitting still and focussing was required. It was fine though, not a big hardship, as the weather continued its erratic behaviour. We slept in the camper van, just using the Bach facilities.
Another awesome ex-colleague popped by for another catch up while we were nearby.
A short walk away, and the beachfront crimson pohutukawa trees were blossoming – one almost in its full crimson glory. This was around 7.30 am when I went for an early walk. It looked like a splendid day. Don’t be fooled! By lunchtime, it was tipping it down again …
Barry’s Super SlideShow
Click on the first photo below and scroll through Barry’s awesome shots of these travels, inclduing his potter around New Plymouth: