Road Trip: Day 5 - Taranaki-Whangarei

on December 31, 2014



It's been a BUSY day with lots of driving. We started the morning with a visit to an ancient Pa site. A Pa is the kind of fortified village the Maori used to build to live in and to find shelter from enemies. This Pa site was special because it is one of the few known ones that date back to the time before European settlers arrived. There wasn't much to see, but it is quite interesting to know that where you stand now people lived, ate, fought and died many centuries ago.

The name Tututuru Mokai means "place where heads where speared" which tells you a lot about the history.








Next we climbed up the Hawera water tower. Maybe not the best idea as we could both REALLY feel our calf muscles from 2 days ago when we hiked up to the summit of Kapiti Island. It was some 200 steps to the top, small and narrow.


I went up the water tower ($2.50, just enquire around the corner with the local tourism information) mostly hoping to get a better glimpse of Mount Taranaki. But the view was actually worse than yesterday ;-/ And it was so windy that you could barely stand let alone walk on the viewing deck at the top of the water tower. A bit disappointed :-(


From Hawera we had several options. We chose to follow the Surf Highway 45 along the coast. There's many scenic beaches with good rollers, ideal for surfers. We stopped at the little seaside town of Opunake and had a stroll along the former wharf and jetty. Beautiful scenery, now clear blue skies and lots of sunshine.

On the western most part of Taranaki stands Cape Egmont Lighthouse. I love lighthouses and Matt and I have already been to the one situated on the East Cape and up north at Cape Reinga. So we couldn't get past this one. Unfortunately it stands on private land so we had to look at it from the distance.


Lucky for us there is a replica which functions as a museum not too far away from the original lighthouse.




Entry is by gold coin donation. It's quite worthwhile. You make your way along several stories to the top and can read a lot of about the history of the lighthouse, ships that sunk in the area and about the region in general. The middle picture shows you a magnificent view of Mount Taranaki in the back of the original lighthouse. Maybe next time we come he will be a bit less shy.

This time, however, we got actually warned the weather was going to get worse rather than improve. And the locals were right. As we made our way further along the coast towards New Plymouth we stopped for lunch at the Stony River Hotel. We had just walked through the door when the power went off. The waitress told us it had been doing that for a while and at first she wasn't too sure whether she could actually serve us. But we were lucky, despite the power coming and going and eventually not returning at all the chefs were able to cook us up a delicious meal. I had the best ever seafood chowder *yummy*

While we were eating the owner of the hotel/restaurant came in - and fancy that, he's from Austria! Heimo and his wife run the place, they've been in the country for years and have travelled quite a bit. We had a good chat, got some travel advice and were made welcome and at home. Lovely atmosphere! If you are in the area you HAVE to stop and try it out!

After finishing our meal we were once again lucky I now own a smartphone... with the power gone the Eftpos machine was out, too, and I don't quite trust manual credit card machines. So I paid via online banking! First time ever in hospitality... The waitress also warned us to be aware of a hurricane that was building up in the region. I got quite excited, have never seen one... wouldn't see one today, either. As we progressed to New Plymouth the weather did pack up, but we didn't get more than strong winds and dark clouds somewhere in the distance.

We finally arrived in New Plymouth early afternoon. Matt really wanted to go to Paritutu Hill right on the coast.

In August 2012 three people died when rockclimbing in rough conditions. 2 teenagers, one of them an exchange student from Brazil, got swept off the rock. One of the instructors jumped into the sea to safe them but he was never to be found, either.

The rock is indeed quite impressive. It's more than 100m straight up. First you climbed numerous sets of stairs until you get to a little platform. From there on it's rocky terrain and only a chain to hold on to. Matt made his way to the top despite the fact we were both in jandals. I decided not to risk it. My feet were slippery as and with the strong winds it was hard enough to stand where I was. I love a good view, but I don't need to risk my life to get them.





After having a quick drive around New Plymouth we decided to head back to Whangarei tonight. Would have loved to stay in the area another day or 2 but with the weather not showing any signs of improvement it just wasn't worth it. After 5 days we were actually getting a bit tired and were ready to head back home. So instead of spending New Year's Eve in the bush we started the long journey back up north and made it to Whangarei just before midnight.

It's been a fantastic road trip and I hope that there will be lots more in the future =D

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