This weekend we took a trip north east from Wellington to the Mount Egmont/Taranaki region of New Zealand. Organized, as ever we left work at Poriru about 4:00 and headed north on the number one throughway expecting our early start would avoid the traffic. The throughway ended about 5 kilometers later with a traffic circle; we spent a half hour getting through that bottleneck! Another 45 minutes of 30 kph traffic and we hit another traffic jam. This time we were (fortunately) about one kilometer behind a head on collision that killed one person and injured several. This occurred on a winding piece of two lane road with no significant shoulders. The ensuing collection of emergency vehicles completely blocked the road -- apparently this is common -- and after a half hour wait we returned to Wellington for the night, arriving about 7:15.
An hour later we continued on our way (breakfast was excellent) and about 10:30 we arrived in Wanganui. On the way we passed Bulls, near which is located the Royal New Zealand Air Force Museum -- need to go back there. Wanganui is about 2 1/2 hours total driving time from Wellington in good traffic conditions.
The highways are generally narrow, two-laned, and very windy in hilly areas. the area from south of Levin to Bulls is a very productive, generally falt, farm area with good vegetables, fruits, berries etc. From Bulls to Wanganui, the area is more like the foothills of the Red Deer area in Alberta with rolling hills, and grain farming. The less arable land was generally devoted to sheep raising.
Wanganui is a relatively large city on the banks of the Whanganui river (the spelling difference is correct). The city is at the mouth and the river extends inland for about 250 miles, most of which is navigable. It is the area in which the battles between the British and the Maori fought for possession of the land in the 1850-60's, something we will need to explore in more detail on a future trip.
We had coffee in Wanganui -- barely drinkable at $2/cup. We noticed signs for a paddlewheeler excursion up the Whanganui, but had just missed it and had to push on to Mount Egmont.
At Hawera (ha==breath, wera==hot), about 90 k's east of Wanganui, turned north towards Startford. Soon we could see Mount Egmont. This mountain was so named by Captain Cook in 1770 when it was observed from the sea. The mountain is named Taranaki by the Maori and its legends form an important part of their cultural traditions. We went north to Eltham and then turned east again to Kaponga (==a tree fern) and gained a closer view of Taranaki
At Kaponga we turned north to Dawson Falls which is in the national park. This forms one of many base points for walking excursions to the mountain
The photograph below is of Christine's trusty bearer as he trudges behind on the ascent.
At a pool, which was the initial destination of our trek, Christine had a short recess. It was here that I offered her to the volcano god Taranaki as an appeasement to protect the New Zealanders from another eruption. She was rejected -- not sure if it was because we didn't get to the lip of the volcano or because she wasn't sweet enough. Although rejected by Taranaki, Christine was blessed. Here we see her in a ritual foot washing ceremony. (Note the halo effect created by Taranaki's blessing)
After descending the volcano we made our way to the coast. On the west most coast of New Zealand, is a cape with a picturesque lighthouse. Taranaki is visible from here but is out of the angle of the photograph.
The next morning at 11:00 we were back at Wanganui waiting for the boat at the Wanganui city dock. We had a delightful four hour trip (cost $20 NZ) up the river and back -- a distance of about 8 miles each way, with an hour' stay at a spot where we had lunch in a pub garden. (Charlotte the pig was in a compound next to the garden and did all the necessary recycling). I ate a lemon from the lemon tree in the garden and the locals thought I was mad.
Improving on my skills I became helmsman of the Otunui. The Otunui is a 1908 diesel powered paddlewheeler. Captain Vance gave a running commentary on sites along the river, which is the historic Maori gateway to the interior. I strongly recommend the trip to any in the area.