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  • Writer's pictureClaire

15/03/24 New Plymouth to Lower Hutt

So the bed was comfy, absolute result. What wasn’t so good was the heavy rain that started not long after we shut down for the night. Mildred was soaking, bless her, and she was surrounded by Daffy and the boys, all quacking away angrily at her. It was still raining at 0630 so we decided that the best option was to get on the road after a quick swill and find somewhere for a brew. Good plan! As we pulled out of the site the perfect volcanic cone of  Mount Taranaki was just about visible in the distance, surrounded by  fluffy low lying cloud and dirty black skies behind it bringing more rain. It’s the youngest of three volcanos in the area and last erupted 350 years ago, so many people believe it’s overdue a blow out.  At 2518m high, it has its own unique micro climate. It can go from brilliant sunshine to total white out in minutes, and a combination of this, steep icy slopes and sudden drop offs it has claimed the lives of 80 people. It is one of the most climbed mountains in New Zealand and has some easy walks. The more adventurous walkers and hikers should only attempt some routes on January to March. All are advised to inform the parks manager of their intent to hike and route. 

Our direction of travel took us to the pretty City of New Plymouth, it’s the 10th largest city in New Zealand with a population of around 90,000.  It’s another city that hold attraction for surfers, the black sandy beaches and crashing waves has them coming here by the hundreds. It’s very picturesque, and has no high rise ultra modern shopping centres and just lovely long streets with cute little houses and shops either side. It’s not far from Lucy’s Gully, which is a huge Canadian redwood forest, but the weather was so bad we gave it a miss, which is a shame, because the leaves have started to turn and it might have been nice to see them in all their splendour. Gruesomely the beautiful woodland was the site of a murder of a German hitchhiker in 2005. Her body was found by a local jogger and her assailant was caught after leaving DNA at the site.  

From New Plymouth we followed the Surf Highway through vast agricultural areas, until we got to Whanganui. We really liked this place. The Main Street was probably twice as long as Monmouth high street with shops either side. Again no buildings of more than 2 or 3 storeys. It reminded us of an old Wild West town. All the shops were modern, but the outside looked origional and colonial. There were lush metal arches over the Main Street. I think they’d look fabulous with tiny fairy lights!  They were ok as they were, but fairy lights improves everything! We had a coffee in the cactus club cafe, which claims to be the oldest cafe in town. The coffee was good so there were no complaints from us. It was really busy, and people were queuing to get in, so that says a lot about it.  

We found a phone shop, and I needed a new charging cable for my phone, and while we were in there I got me a selfie stick, ha, look out there’s going to be LOADS of selfies from here on out!  It doubles up as a tripod as well. I’m so excited!  With my new purchases tucked into my bag we made our way back to the car, and went to find a garage to top up the fuel. The self service stops are much cheaper than the ones with the forecourts and shops with goodies for selling to gullible people like me! 

With a full tank the journey continued, and we came to Bulls. Everything there has a pun on the word Bulls. The police station was called constabulls. There were also big black bull statues in random places. Coffee shop to get you moooving. I can’t remember them all, if it hasn’t been raining, we would have walked around and located all the silly stuff. But no coats, and having to sleep in the car with damp clothes held no appeal . I’ve been before and Morg and I drove around hunting for the signs, which was amusing to my little brain. A few km on from there was Sanson, a potential place to spend the night, however we are obviously still thinking Australia in terms of distance, and it’s far from that! NZ is so much smaller, but the map is the same size which is what confuses me.  In the morning we are catching the ferry to South Island, so we wanted somewhere close to the ferry terminal. We stopped in Johnsville for some food supplies, more coffee and waited for a response from a lady about air BnB. She was located 5 minutes from the terminal and supplied breakfast as well. We had a brew, and when we’d had no reply I began to look for other places to stay. Being a ferry terminal and port you would think there would be loads of camp sites close by. Nope, there are three for NSC and two of them are car parks with a trek to public toilets. In the end we booked in to a Camp ground in Lower Hutt. It’s the opposite side of the harbour to the ferry port, and about 20 min drive to get there.  I began to wonder what I’d booked us into, we were right next to a huge sports complex and there were hundreds of kids doing sport there being encouraged by their parents.

The site is a top ten site, and has a combination of self contained units, powered Campervan sites and unpowered tent and van sites.  We parked up as close as possible to the facilities. I did get a bit confused and wandered into a self contained hut thinking it was the tv and kitchen area. Ooops! The facilities were spotless and the showers boiling hot, which as it was a big chilly were very welcome.  The sun had shown its face just after we left Sanson but within 20minutes of parking up, the sky went black the wind picked up and the rain came back with a vengeance. We just managed to get the bed out in time without getting soaked. There was a young couple trying to put up a tent, so we watched them from the warmth and comfort of the car. Si put Mildred into the shelter by the toilets, she was out of the way but was also dry bless her. We left her outside the van initially, with the umbrella over her. Once the wind picked up, that was the end of the umbrella shelter, it turned inside out and the spokes all bent out of shape. It’s now in the bin beyond saving!  

Much Love

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