We started this portion of our road trip with the intention of finally seeing the Franz Josef Glacier that we missed previously due to storms, land slides, fallen trees and closed roads. However,
Cyclone Gita had other plans for us. So, as we headed off westbound across the south island we stopped in at Greymouth before scurrying north to avoid road closures.
We headed over to Greymouth on the west coast and were able to get in an excellent tour at a small local brewery, Monteith’s. However while enjoying their product we were informed of the weather forecast and advised to clear out ASAP the next morning.
Still had time to snap a photo of these great adaptations in the men’s washroom. Love the ‘Recycle, Reduce, Reuse’ mantra. Seemed only fitting for kegs to end up this way.
This local was not deterred by the increment weather. She was going up the beach in Greymouth.
North of Greymouth near Punakaiki there are some great interpretive walks out to these ‘Pancake Rocks”. Interesting despite the drizzle.
The roads here, and especially the south island, are fantastically entertaining to drive. Most rural bridges are only one lane, and where the topography is difficult they simply reduce the road to one lane as well. This section was a one lane segment literally carved out of the rock. No traffic control per se, other than a sign giving the end with the least visibility the right of way.
Before we left the south island our van had one more surprise for us. As we were stopped checking a map, we heard a muffled pop from the engine compartment, followed by billowing steam. Fortunately we were only 2km outside of the town of Murchison and were able to limp back to town without a radiator hose.
Other than the mechanic shop trying to convince me to have the engine dismantled to find the problem, (we managed to convince them to just replace the hose), Murchison ended up being a pleasant stop. A nice town to walk around and close enough to major centres for a hose to be couriered to us in time to catch our ferry to the north island.
There is no photographic evidence of our ferry crossing northbound. Due to the passing of Cyclone Gita the Cook Straits were very choppy with 3 to 4 metre swells. I was focused on my happy place and keeping my breakfast as opposed to trying to frame a photograph while being tossed about.
Our first goal as we returned to the north island was to explore a bit of the south west coast. The weather had improved dramatically and allowed us to get out walking and enjoy the towns along the way. This beautiful facade in Whanganui caught my eye.
While in Whanganui we walked over to Durie Hill. This 213 metre long tunnel into Durie Hill leads to an elevator that was first opened in 1919.
At the top of Durie Hill is this World War 1 memorial. It is free to climb, and from the top you are treated to a fantastic view of Whanganui and district.
As we continued up the west coast we unexpectedly came across an American car show ( Americarna) which apparently tours this area every year over this weekend. Quite a sight with literally hundreds of American cars on display over several city blocks.
Once we cleared the south island our luck improved as far as weather went. Our camping was very comfortable as we went north. This set up in Ohawe has a fantastic view of the ocean.
We were treated to a beautiful sunset from Ohawe.
The next area on our list was Mt. Taranaki. Due to oil and gas production in this region it enjoys the highest GNP per person in the country. However the reason we were there was to see one of the most symmetrical volcanic cones in the world. Taranaki’s 2518 metre height means it can be seen from nearly everywhere in the region.
The tourist centre, and one of the access points to the park surrounding Taranaki, is Stratford Upon Patea. They play heavily on the Shakespeare connection here.
The Glockenspiel usually has Romeo and Juliet come out and dance several times a day. However, because of the power disruptions caused by Cyclone Gita no one was dancing the day we stopped by.
We did a couple of short walks in the National Park surrounding Taranaki. It is truly mystical once you step into the forest and are surrounded by it.
Scenes like this greeted us repeatedly on our walks.
When returning to our campsite after Taranaki, we stopped in at Hollard Gardens. Unfortunately between the season wrapping up and the damage from Gita the most interesting thing was the insects interest in these flowers.
Our last stop in this region was New Plymouth. This is a port city that has taken the time and money to invest in some interesting art. It seems to be paying off. No tourists were coming to see gas plants or sports teams, but they were taking a look at the public art and museums, which were excellent. This 48 metre tall wand bends with the wind and is impressive to see.
It was closed when we passed by, but the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery is worth seeing even from just the outside.
A fun place to play with your artistic side.
Whether you walk, ride or drive, the Te Rewa Rewa Bridge is worth the trip. It is part of an excellent system of pathways along the shorefront of the city.
The variety of sights to see in this country is a bit much at times. Everywhere you turn there is something a bit different to enjoy. I am looking forward to the coming weeks as we push toward the northern end of the country.
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