First off – yes, the city name is spelled two different ways! I had to look it up, because I kept getting confuzzled. http://www.visitwhanganui.nz/ explains it this way:
‘WHANGANUI’ AND ‘WANGANUI’
You may notice two different spellings of ‘Whanganui’, or ‘Wanganui’. Since the mid-1800s there have been two different spellings in use for the name of our area. The different spellings arose from the way in which local iwi pronounce the word ‘Whanganui’ (the ‘wh’ creating a barely aspirated sound), and the way in which European settlers wrote down the word as they heard it – ‘Wanganui’.
More recently, the name of our district was deemed by the Government to be ‘Whanganui’. This is why you will see the name of our city spelt with and without an H as you travel around. Either way – it is still the same place, Whanganui or Wanganui!
I will also own the fact that I totally took advantage of a very lazy Sunday morning here at Rose Cottage – but I did shower before noon – if barely. 🙂
A little on this lovely Air Bnb – I got it for 2 nights for less than $50 total and that is in NZ dollars, so about 37.00 – what a bargain. I have my own room with a lovely sitting area, and an ensuite bathroom with a fantastic rain shower – and MY OWN kitchen – like full totally stocked kitchen. That NEVER happens! My host, the lovely Kay is adorable, and just lovely to chat with as well – so triple bonus!
Once I shook off my laziness, I headed out to wander around. Being Sunday, and the winter, the downtown area was dead – there was a bargain store and a few restaurants open, but that was it.
I decided to start hitting the scenic route, starting with Virginia Lake, which I had passed coming into town, and was struck by the Gazebo. I wandered around the lake and the meandering paths – enjoying the swans, ducks, and the very cool, and very blue Pukekos – which are just fascinating bright blue birds. The lake was peaceful and the trails were the perfect place to just get lost. I could, and did, spend several hours just wandering around.
After wandering around the lake trails, I decided to check out the Winter Gardens, a little building up the hill – I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was so impressed. The flowers, the colors and the garden art just made me smile – and it was 100% free – always a good little treat. (and I might have gone overboard with the flower pictures, but the colors made me happy!)
After hitting the garden, I stopped in the little cafe – for my daily “what am I going to do without NZ flat whites” fix – and took a picture of the quintessential Kiwi cafe selection. There are some pretty unique kiwi cafe treats in there!
I sat outside as it got dark watching the people and the birds, until I was just too chilled, then headed back to my air bnb to plan my route for tomorrow – I have a short drive and no deadline for arrival in my next stop, quaint little Levin, so I am planning some stops and wanders.
This post is more days than I initially planned for a few reasons. 1 – I was driving – A LOT – from day 12 – day 15 I drove around 750 miles – on winding, curvy New Zealand roads – including a nasty accident laden rush hour in Auckland – I was in the city well before rush hour – but a nasty wreck caused me about 3 hours of sitting in traffic. 2 – due to some crazy winter weather some of my stops were shorter than planned, or didn’t happen at all – and 3 – with this post I will officially be caught up to today’s travels, which is pretty important because I fly home in a little under 3 1/2 days (but I don’t arrive in Atlanta for almost 5 days – the 19th will last something in excess of 40 hours for me – the thought makes my head hurt!)
Tuesday, July 11
On day 12 – I left Kohukohu, and the hospitality of the nuns – who I truly had an enjoyable time getting to know – they were fantastic hosts – and the location was serene and beautiful.
It had been too wet and rainy to really do laundry and expect it to dry for the next leg of my journey, so I decided to stop at a laundromat in Whangarei, and while I was there see if I could find a quilt shop for my Aunt who had sent me a request for some kiwi quilting supplies. I lucked out and found a laundromat where I could drop off my clothes, and a quilt shop as well.
In the quilt shop I found this cute table runner kit, that will fit in my suitcase, and hopefully will work for what Aunt Linda wants – they did have some really neat Kiwiana fabric – and it was a cool stop – and not one I would have typically made- but I am glad I did!
After the Quilt Shop, and while I was waiting on my laundry, I explored Whangarei a bit, and grabbed a little lunch. I found a Hundertwasser inspired sculpture – which is apparently the beginning of a museum they are working on in the Northland.
With that, I bid adieu to the lovely Northland, picked up my clothes from the Laundromat, and headed south – hoping to hit Auckland by 2:30. I actually hit Auckland by 3:00 – but the traffic was already abysmal – so I jammed out to Pandora on the parking lot that was the road I was travelling on.
Once (finally) clear of Auckland, I headed to my destination – a lovely little holiday park in Te Aroha. I checked in, and was shown to my lovely little cabin – and thankfully arrived in time to take advantage of the nice spa pool in the park – just what I needed after the LONG drive I had. It was a crystal clear night – and I loved just looking at the stars while I relaxed, and was even joined with some fellow American travelers, and we exchanged travel tips and destination ideas. All in all it was a lovely evening – and I could have stayed at the park much longer than the one night – I mean, how cute was my cabin?
Wednesday, July 12
The next day I got up and headed to planned stop 1 – Wairere Falls – I got about 5 minutes down the 2-hour long track when it started sleeting on me – and no matter how great my jacket and rain coat are – I am just not a fan of scrambling over icy rocks on a trail to see a waterfall, so I decided it wasn’t meant to be – and the group that was ahead of me did the same – when I was getting back in my car at the lot a couple came back out of the track and said that we made a good choice – the visibility at the falls was so bad you really couldn’t see anyway, and the rocks at the upper path were already frosty – yuck!
What I should have seen at the falls would have been the North Island’s tallest waterfall – which would have been cool, but I definitely think I made the right call.
My next stop, after several hours of driving was just to stop at a quick overlook – to see the Blue and Green lakes – two lakes beside one another that look different colors due to mineral deposits on their beds (the pictures don’t do the colors justice, by the way).
A few minutes from the 2 lakes, I arrived at my next destination, the Museum and Archeological Excavation site of Te Wairoa – a city that was buried by a devastating volcanic eruption of Mt. Tarawera in 1886.
The museum starts by taking you through the horrible events of that night, and then you are able to visit the excavation sites where they are still uncovering parts of the village. The amount of dirt and ash that buried the village is massive. The stroll through the land was beautiful, and it was easy to see why people had chosen to make their home here – in the shadow of Tarawera. They uncovered many interesting things – including a cellar full of some of the rarest and most expensive spirits of the day – as they were preparing for an event in town. Feel free to look through the pictures, but know that there are a few things that may need a trigger warning – the devastation, relics and stories are a startling reminder of the power of mother nature.
My next stop was a quick one, just to check out some cool thermal activity on my way to Lake Taupo. At Waiotapu I saw natural hot springs, that people just pull off of the side of the road to take a dip in – I passed on the dipping myself – 1) because the water was kinda gross looking, and sulpher-y – and I didn’t want to smell like that for the rest of my drive (and the warning signs do little to help with the gross factor, btw), and 2 – there was a bus full of school children from some sort of school holiday camp in the stream – which certainly didn’t scream relaxation to me.
But, what was cool, was my next stop, the bubbling mud pools – they were fascinating!
When it starting spitting rain I decided to continue on – and head to my next stop, Huka Falls. Huka Falls was amazing – but it really didn’t fit my definition of “falls”, however it was a CRAZY fast moving river – one which generates a fair amount of hydroelectric power. In the summer they run a jet up the water – talk about a rush!
Then I journeyed on to Lake Taupo and checked into my Air BnB for the next 2 nights, explored Taupo and had dinner.
The cold had certainly arrived, and there was sleet and snow (at higher elevations) for most of the night, which meant that most everything was shut down the next day (including roads leading to the East, where the weather is just not pretty – I am so thankful that my next stop is West!).
Thursday – July 13
The weather also meant that my boat trip the Maori Rock Carvings on the Lake was cancelled, so I ended up with really nothing to do for the day. The only places really open in town were, oh darn, the Mineral Spas – so I looked online and scored a cheapo day pass for one of the spas and went for a nice soak. Not a bad plan B, if I do say so myself. The other thing this unexpected weather allowed me to do was get caught up on my blog, and finish my reapplication to continue as a part of the Microsoft Innovative Educator Experts group – so I went ahead and knocked that out as well (which I needed to do, as it is, in fact, due this week!).
Friday – July 14th
This morning my first stop was the wharf to see if the boat trip I was supposed to go on yesterday was a go for today, before I headed out of town. My expectations were low, because the weather wasn’t great – better than the previous day mind you, but still questionable. I also knew that unless others were booked they would not take out the boat just for me – not that I could blame them there.
It wasn’t looking great, but then a group of 5 called, and wanted to go out. That pushed us over the minimum and the captain said, let’s roll. Now – the weather cleared quite nicely on the boat, but there were some pretty crazy waves. Fortunately, I did not get sea sick, but the poor family of 5 was not as lucky – and I felt pretty bad for them.
The rock carvings were neat, though and I was glad I got to see them. Mind you these carvings are not ancient (but they are older than I am!) LOL!.
We also got to feed ducks off of the back of the boat – which was cool – even if they didn’t always just bite the cookie – I had one give me a nice beak-ing on my finger!
This video shows the boat movement during some of the worst motion – and I aimed high to spare you all from the vomiting people – but, I take no responsibility for your sea sickness if you choose to watch it. 😉
As soon as I was back on terra firma I set out for my next destination, New Plymouth. The drive was pretty easy, but unfortunately I was reminded of why you take out car rental insurance when a rock was kicked up at my windshield and gave me a nice crack. I am sure it will be fun dealing with the rental car company and the insurance process across the Pacific, since I return the rental car the day before I leave the country. Oh well – life goes on.
I stopped at the 3 sisters trail – unfortunately, the tide was too high to safely make it out to the rocks.
I made it to the West Coast in time to catch the sunset – so it was a great way to end the day.
My Air BnB for the night was quite cozy, and I watched a movie with my hosts before heading to bed.
Saturday July 15th
I slept in a little this morning, because I had a relatively short drive planned, and two little walks I wanted to do, but I was in no rush for the day.
My first walk for the day was the Potaema Walk to the swamp, which promised great views of Mt. Taranaki. I got to the trail head, and wasn’t even a few minutes down the trail when I reached a massive downed tree – the diameter of the tree was almost as tall as me (no short jokes needed, btw), and totally covered the path, with no safe way to go around, so I turned around, and when I got back to my car called the Department of Conservation to report the blocked trail. (and yes, that is snow. . . )
Moving on, I headed to my next stop in Egmont, the Dawson Falls Center, where there is a great track that not only gives stunning views of the Taranaki region, but also takes you through a Goblin Forest. However, that was also not to be, as I got to the road leading the last 6 KM to the trail head only to see the dreaded “Chains Required” sign. Since my rental car does not have chains (and honestly – this Southern Girl has no business driving on those roads chains or no chains) – I had to put this in the loss column. . .
But hey – check out this cool camper I saw on my way:
At this point I was going to be several hours earlier than I had told my host for the night, so I sent her a message asking what the earliest I could check in would be – and she said she would be ready for me at 4:00 – so I headed on – taking a nice long coffee stop along the way – and then going ahead and knocking one of my plans for tomorrow off my list, this crazy underground elevator – built in 1919 as a commuter option for folks from Durie Hill to reach the City Center.
The elevator itself is accessed via a long underground tunnel.
Stepping on the elevator is a step back in time:
And it is a bumpy, shaky ride that shows the age of the elevator.
At the top, you can climb the spiral staircase and get some pretty amazing views:
After this, I was able to check into the Rose Cottage – what a great place to spend the next 2 nights, and I just love my host, Kay.
I will probably share more about Rose Cottage in tomorrow’s post.
And that my friends is all – I am caught up, and there are probably only a few (at most 3, probably 2?) more blog updates live for you from New Zealand – then I am back in the US!
I guess I need to start planning my next adventure! 🙂