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Published: November 27th 2006
Mon 20th - Wed 22nd November
We arrived back in the town of Tua Marina on Sunday night where we previously stayed with a Dutch family to do some wwoofing. Seeing as the food and bed had been good, as well as a nice family to chat to, we had decided to ring them up again and organise another stint of work on our way past. 12 hours of gardening each was a small price to pay to relax for a few days in the sun and have a few nights sleep out of our van. Diane's cooking was also a luxury.
We left wwoofing on the Wednesday afternoon and headed to the Picton to catch the 7pm ferry back to Wellington. The journey passed without incident and we were soon back on familiar ground. Thanks to Alex's adventures around Europe before she went to uni we had arranged to spend the night parked on somebody's driveway. It was getting late, but we managed to make our way to the house of Grant and Marie-Therse, who Alex met on her European bus adventure. We met Grant when we arrived and had a good chat over a cup of tea
before hitting the sack.
After a remarkably good sleep in the van, which was on a slope on the driveway, we had a nice breakfast where Alex, Grant and Marie-Therese could catch up on times past and the obligatory photos were brought out which allowed me to see what they were chatting about. Leaving them in peace for the rest of the day, Alex and I had to head into Wellington for some provisions and some very important documents. We were finally going to have passports again as we headed to the British Embassy to collect our waiting passports - we'll have to look after these ones a bit better!
Having done all the neccesities we got out of Wellington and drove up the west coast to just south of a town called Levin. Here we found our camp for the night. One thing we hadn't counted on was the confidence course (or assult course) that was free to use, so we spent some of the afternoon enjoying the challenges and having a laugh. The end of the course was a huge Flying Fox which was a bit hairy as we wondered whether it would break
or not. Thankfully it didn't. The rest of the day was spent listening to the Ashes and trying to find a bar to have a drink for the evening which we failed at miserably.
We set off from Levin in the worst conditions that we have had driving yet. In fact, I think we were lucky to get Max out of the drenched field. We battled the wind and rain all the way back to National Park (the strangely named town) next to the Tongariro National park. We were looking for information on the Tongariro Crossing but the weather didn't look good for the next few days so we settled ourselves in the pub next door for 2.5 hours of cricket watching in front of the fire, while it continued to hammer it down outside. Although the Aussies had bat up a cracking lead, it was nice to see Ponting deprived and Gilchrist out for a duck. Hunger got us moving again and we made our way to a DOC campsite for the evening.
The alarm went off at 6.30 for us to do a weather check for the possibility of doing the Tongariro Crossing. A quick look out of the window confirmed it as a no go and we went back to sleep. Finally up, we started on our contingency plan of driving to Stratford, towards the west coast. It was a long drive, much longer than the 2 hours predicted in the atlas, consisting of twisting roads and the inevitable gravel section, this time 12km long. We stopped at the grave of a guy named Joshua Morgan, who died while surveying the route that we were taking in 1893. Hobbits Hole was another feature of the trip and was a bit like Homers Tunnel in Fiordland. Basically it was a 180m long, rather narrow, and not at all convincing on the safety front tunnel. Safely through we continued the journey and unofficially left New Zealand for a short time. This was due to passing through the self declared Republic of Whangamamona who declared themselves a republic, with president, passports, national day etc, in 1989. We even had to pass through border control going in and out of the republic, although this just consisted of an unmanned hut going into and out of the village.
We went straight through Stratford and out the other side, heading for the Egmont National park and Mount Taranaki, which was actually used in the film The Last Samuri instead of Mount Fuji. We had the pleasure at this point to be listening to the all too familiar England batting collapse in the cricket on the radio. We parked up in the national park and had a couple of really nice walks in the afternoon. The first was to Wilkie's Pools which consisted of walking through Goblin forrest and numerous stream crossings to reach the pools which were cut into the hard rock that the river passed over. The second walk took us to the Dawson Falls where we got wet due to the wind blowing the spray around. There was also the longest running hydro-electric power station to have a gaze at before we made our way to the campsite for the night.
The cloud had come down in the morning, spoiling our view of Mount Taranaki, and we made our way to the town of New Plymouth. We started the morning off with what we were hoping to be a gentle walk but after nearly half an hour of walking uphill we decided to give it a miss as we couldn't even see anything through the trees and low cloud. We parked up instead by the coast and followed the coastal path along the sea front. Thankfully the rain stayed off but the wind wasn't too helpful. We turned off the path into the town centre only to find most of the shops shut as is the tradition on Sundays. We did managed to find a necklace for Alex which will be her Christmas present. After a bit of a wander around the streets we made headed for the camp site. The camp site ended up being a bit out of the way and it turned out that we had the place to ourselves for the evening which was a really nice change as we relaxed in the living room.
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