With our lockdown almost over, Kerry and I got busy organising the trip to New Plymouth we had planned months before we’d heard the word Covid. Now were were in level 2, the government was urging Kiwis to travel within their own country; to help kick-start our local tourism industry, which had suffered with the border restrictions to overseas visitors. New Plymouth is within the Taranaki province (the Naki to Kiwis) and has many attractions. The most famous being its superb mountain; a mountain I’d only spotted from a distant road, or when I’d flown over the cone capturing a terrific birds eye view in a photo. Meaning always to go and walk around the foothills – sometime. That time had arrived!
I was keen to take the coastal road which ducks inland from Hamilton. Rain was forecast to be heavy, but we were undeterred, as we were running in a new car; all auto wipers, and safety features galore. From Otorohanga (famous for the kiwi house), the road follows the Waipa River valley through to Te Kūiti. A good place to stop for a snack and coffee. There’s a turn south-west through the greenest farmland we had seen in a while, and we cross several ridges before following the Awakino Gorge, heading towards the coast and tracking around the Taranaki Bight. It sure is beautiful, with thriving pōhutukawa both sides of the road, but when the route steepened around the slopes of Mt Messenger, the rain bucketed down. I found myself clutching the seat as we navigated the hairpin bends. But it was worth it; the rain easing as we descended to the Mimi river, catching glimpses of the baches and small communities dotting the banks of the river mouths as we joined the coast near Urenui. On to New Plymouth and the motel where our walking companions were waiting.
The first day was cold and rather wet, so it was a ramble around the city, and a long and leisurely walk, albeit a damp one, around the wonderful Pukekura Gardens. We decided to go walking on the mountain the next day, as finer weather was forecast. It is only a 35 minute drive to the Egmont North Visitor Centre, run by the Department of Conservation. On with walking shoes and other appropriate gear, as the mountain is renowned for its changeable weather patterns. Not that we were climbing the tops you understand, but even a lower track can turn dangerous as the weather can change suddenly.
There is good information inside the visitor centre and the signage outside marks each route clearly. We were told the weather would be fine until late afternoon, and to expect snow overnight. I was pleased we weren’t staying the night in a trampers’ hut. Brr.
We decided on the Veronica Loop Track to start with, and would assess how we all felt about doing more later on. It was truly lovely walking up the steps with native ferns, mosses and trees on both sides.
We stopped often to ooh and ahh over each glimpse of the mountain, and talked with other walkers along the way. It was brisk in the shade and gorgeous in the sun, seeing us remove our jackets often. That’s me with the water bottle by the way.
We were pleased to see many Kereru, our native pigeon above our heads, such big birds with a wonderful whup whup of the wings when in flight. They are a brilliantly coloured deep green and white and their sound unmistakable. I just love them.
I was the one who chose not to climb higher (old knees syndrome) and mucked around on lower ground for a while. Not that it was any hardship with the views of the mountain simply superb at every turn. Back to New Plymouth and the planning begins for day two of our trip. I take myself off to the coastal boardwalk before dark descends and capture the last rays of the setting sun. Nice one Taranaki.