Sunday, 11 December 2011

New Zealand Tour. 28th, 29th & 30th September 2011. Wellington to Kawhia and food for free!

The only plans for this week were that we had to be in Auckland on Saturday for the England v Scotland Match, so basically we were heading North. But what route should we take? It was a choice between heading for Napier , Taupo or go the long way round New Plymouth. Andy wanted to visit Wanganui, so the New Plymouth Route won. We left Wellington early and it was a very pleasant drive on the SH 1 and SH 3 to Wanganui.
The town of Wanganui is located on the banks of the Wanganui River, the town looks like it was once a boom town, it has a lot of very historic looking European buildings, but the town had an air of faded glory, rather like many of the towns found in the North of England, old centres that once were the home of the of the coal mining and textile industries. The Whanganui River is a dominant feature and a restored paddle steamer The Waimarie was just pulling out into the river as we arrived. The museum dedicated to the history of the restoration of the paddle steamer was very interesting. There also looked to be a lot to do in the Whanganui National Park, walking, canoeing and jetboating were all on offer. The area looked very interesting and once more we wished we had more time to spend getting to know yet another part of this fascinating country.

Wanganui Art on its Art Trail...its the river.
We headed to New Plymouth, driving through lush farmland, the sheep of the South Island seemed to have been replaced by Cows on the North. New Plymouth is located on the Tasman Sea and overlooking the town is Mount Taranaki, a massive cone like dormant volcano. As it was quite late when we arrived we booked into the first Campsite we found, The Belt Road Seaside Holiday Park. This basic campsite had grassy stands overlooking the Sea, a kitchen block, toilet blocks, a BBQ area and was in easy walking distance of the town, we just chilled out in the van after the days driving.

The next day the skies were clear revealing Mount Taranaki in all its glory, it was spectacular. Following the SH3 we headed to Tongaporutu to see the ‘Three Sisters' Rocks and Tongaporutus boulders, but the tide was in when we got there...bad timing! And the walk we wanted to do was ‘closed for lamming’ it was a shame as the area still looked great and gave us a glimpse of what we were missing! At Awakino we turned inland to the Waitomo Caves where once again I was underwhelmed by a 'Major'  tourist attraction.
The Waitomo Caves, the area has many caves to visit, you can go Black Water Rafting in the caves, we chose to visit the cave that offers Glow-worm Trips. In the Waitomo Glowworm Caves a silent boat gilds across the dark cave with just the light from the Glow-worms above, that bit, the Glow-worms’ were good, but the caves were over hyped and rather disappointing. Also no photos allowed, so sorry no pictures!
After leaving Waitomo we drove on the Te Anga road and visited The Mangapohue Natural Bridge Scenic Reserve, this was a good antidote to the mass tourism found at the caves. We followed a short track that led over bridges and suspended wooden walkways to a stunning limestone archway, then over muddy fields to giant oyster fossils. A little further along the road are the Marokopa Falls, again a walk through rainforest to the falls with only us in attendance..magic.
Campervan at Kawhia Beachside S-Cape
In my book NZ Frenzy, North Island by Scott Cook I had read that the West Coast had a ‘Hot Water Beach’ at Kawhia and after a long drive along a narrow and very winding road we arrived at Kawhia Beach. The tide was out and according to the book the hot water is located at the surf line. You could smell the sulphur and the black sand was hot in places, we dug with our feet as we had forgotten a spade! At this point a 4x4 pulled up and asked if we needed any help, unfortunately the Guys did not have a spade, but we got chatting...about Rugby & the World Cup, and they offered to take us in the 4x4 along the beach to Aotea Beach to gather mussels. The drive along the beach was a lot faster than it would have been if we had gone by road, and we spent a fascinating afternoon gathering Green Lipped Mussels, as large as my hand, with the local Guys.
Driving back into Kawhia, a beautifully located town, as its on the edge of a large sheltered lagoon called Kawhia Harbour we found the Kawhia Beachside S-Cape, a campsite undergoing renovations. It was great, the large kitchen block was so well equipped that I had no problem cooking the Mussels for our tea, and the showers with their free hot water were just what I needed. So once again, after an eventful day, it just goes to show that the best things in life really are free.