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Published: March 31st 2012
New Plymouth:: Taranaki
There's so much to do for visitors to New Plymouth and Taranaki and yet because it is a terminus, the end of a line- west coast of the North island, many tourists don't go. The weather was brilliant for the 3 days we spent here.
Day one was spent on the coastal walkway that runs for 10 km stretching from the Port to Bell Block. We headed off past the port to climb Paritutu, one of the spines of lava pushed up from a volcano, then hit the sea quite literally in a lifeboat sailed by Happy Chaddy to explore the other two spines at sea : the Sugar Loaf islands dated to 1.75 million years. Paritutu proved too much for me, the stairs end and a rope guides your climb to the top,. We settled for the lovely views two thirds of the way up. Happy Chaddy was some character. Walking past on the way to Paritutu we noticed him taking out several classes of children about Primary 4 age and thought we'd go later on. Jiminy Crickets! Two and a half metre swells bigger than the boat crashing into the rocks (Sugar
Loaf islands) while Happy Chaddy's CD played shanties that he sung along to, the boat rocked and surged around the swell and I prayed that we'd make it back to dry land as the next wave slooshed us in the face!) It was great but I'm still recovering. I'm so glad I wasn't the teacher on board with the kids, apparently at it's roughest the kids had spontaneously burst into "We all live in a yellow submarine!"
Day two, we were on dry land, middle of town visiting the Pukekura Park, New Plymouth's amazing Botanical gardens, Brooklands Park TSB (Taranaki Saving's Bank) Bowl of Brooklands and Brooklands zoo! In 1876 A large (149 hectare) Botanical Park was created on the outskirts of the city of New Plymouth. Within this park was an area of swampland that nevertheless formed a natural amphitheatre, and in 1955 the site was developed to create the Bowl of Brooklands. The Botanical gardens has a fabulous fernery with fern houses carved down into the ground and topped with glass houses. The zoo contained a variety of farm animals, exotic birds and primates. All free. Interesting fact about NZ: We haven't come across a lot of birds
here, dissappointing as we expected to see many varieties. The explanation given across the land is that stoats and possums introduced by early settlers to kill off the rabbits they had introduced previously had eaten and predated upon the birds and their eggs. But in the Puke Ariki museum there are reports of early settlers arriving in Taranaki and being severely disappointed at the lack of birds in the area, only small birds like the saddleback and stitchbirds which aren't big enough to make a tasty meal. Hmmm
Day 3 was the highlight of our trip, a walk up the sides of Mount Taranaki itself. This majestic volcano (2158m) sits in the middle of Egmont National park and has around 60 rivers running off it. Approximately 125 000 years old it is the park's most recent volcanic peak. Last erupting around AD 1755 the mountain is now considered dormant.
Local Maori believe Moung (Mt) Taranaki once stood with the other mountain gods: Tongariro, Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe in the central North Island. Nearby stood the lovely maid Pihanga with her cloak of deep green bush, and all the mountain gods were in love with her. What had been a long, peaceful
great views fom the top (if you can climb up!)
existence for the mountain gods was disturbed when Taranaki could no longer keep his feelings in control and dared to make advances to Pihanga. A mighty conflict between Tongariro and Taranaki ensued, which shook the foundations of the earth. The mountains belched forth their anger and darkness clouded the sky.
When peace finally came to the land, Tongariro, considerably lowered in height, stood close by Pihanga's side. Taranaki, wild with grief and anger, tore himself from his roots with a mighty wrench and left his homeland.
Weeping, he plunged recklessly towards the setting sun, gouging out the Whanganui River as he went and, upon reaching the ocean, turned north. While he slumbered overnight, the Pouakai Range thrust out a spur and trapped Taranaki in the place he now rests,
When covered with a veil of mist and rain, Taranaki is said to be weeping for his lost Pihanga. But for now the mountain stands amid its own cloak of deep green bush, a majestic icon for the region. Already well known for its unpredictability, Mount Taranaki may some day provide a spectacular challenge.
Taranaki often impedes the flow of weather being the only massive object the clouds
Sugar Loaf islands
named by Captain Cook
meet on their way across the country. We had lovely weather, bright sunshine with a cooling zephyr from the coast (similar to the weather in Britain that same week) But 2 weeks before storms raged in Taranaki blowing rooftops off houses, schools were shut and powerlines brought down causing millions of dollars in damage.
New Plymouth is a city ( we'd call it a town of 52 000 people). It is the Aberdeen of New Zealand, exploring and producing oil, natual gas and petrochemicals since the 1870s. The other industry is dairy farming. William Hulke walked the first Jersey cow, Jenny from Marston to Taranaki, 250 km and began the dairy industry in 1876, then wrote a book called 'Golden Rules for Buttermaking'! (The Puke Ariki Museum is an excellent place to find out the history of the early settlers from Cornwall and Devon)
What a great place!
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