In search of the Lonely Mountain
11.01.2014 - 13.01.2014 20 °C
Rotorua - New Plymouth (297km/185m)
Getting up early was becoming less and less of a chore, who knows maybe we will be able to keep this up when we get back to the UK and have to go to work (Hmmm, haha!). All packed up and on the road by 08:30, it was another straight forward 4 hour drive (along more winding roads through more incredible scenery) to New Plymouth.
Our (my) usual organisation had gone wrong (largely because we are having to survive without wifi) and we arrived in town with no clue where our hostel was and not really remembering the name! After a quick stop at the i-SITE who thankfully knew “Ducks & Downs” was actually Ducks & Drakes Motel we were back on track. The motel/hostel was really cool and quirky with loads of vintage furniture which had been painted in funky colours.
Dumping our bags we decided to go off to explore Pukekura Park, the towns Botanical Gardens/Cricket pitch. The town is currently celebrating their Festival of Lights which runs from December - January, so our picnic lunch in the sun was interrupted by Mr. Fungus, allegedly a children’s entertainer with the tagline New Zealand’s Loudest Mime (yeah, that is what we thought too!). He was crap and not at all meant for kids with no one in the audience laughing. We made a swift exit to explore the Coastal Walkway along the foreshore which was housing an art exhibition of stone rock carvings. This was great as we got to see the artists actually at work using angle-grinders and what looked like a dentist’s drill to carve out really intricate details. As it turned out most of the sculptors were staying in our hostel and came back covered in rock dust each night.
From here, after a quick stop back at the i-SITE to make the most of their free wifi, we treated ourselves to a much needed coffee (something we have not done in weeks!). Feeling rejuvenated, we decided to explore the Puke Akiri Museum, which had a really cool exhibit about the history of surfing in the area. We had not realised when we booked to stay here that New Plymouth is one the top surfing destinations in the world, so it was really interesting - we even got to play at riding a surf board simulator - although we were both terrible, major wipe out each time!
By 21:30 it had finally turned dark enough for us to go back to Pukekura Park and explore the Festival of Lights. We arrived to a very packed park which was beautifully lit up with ever changing colours. They also had a variety of entertainment on from music to performances, so while we walked around following the light trail we had the sounds of the band in the background. The trail started with an area painted using UV paint and black-lighting, so when you walked under wearing white you got to shine too. As we weaved our way round the two lakes we saw fountains, waterfalls and even rowing boats lit up. By the time we finished it was time for the Highly Flammable, we squeezed as close to the front as possible (along with all the kids) so I could see and watched an entertaining fire show.
Up at our now usual time of 07:00 we had a large breakfast (cereal and toast) ready for our hike up Mt Taranaki. It was only a short, but very steep twisting drive to the DOC visitors centre. We popped in to ask which walk was best, especially as we haven’t got all our usual walking gear with us. We opted for the 4 hour hike which would take us half way up, as the summit walk would take 8 - 10 hours and wasn’t worth it in the cloud and drizzly weather (we couldn’t even see the mountain).
After a very steep but enjoyable climb (apart from the part where had to walk up a 4WD track, which I swear was at a 90° angle) we stopped for lunch.
Luckily as we stopped the sun came out and the clouds parted for a few minutes so we were able to see the peak.
Deciding we were feeling fit we joined three walks together and descended it warmer weather to reach the bottom, as the clouds were again starting to clear from the peak.
Thinking that maybe we would be luckily and get that the must have shot of the lonely mountain, we stayed at the bottom watching the clouds move around the peak giving us occasional glimpses of the top.
After a hour of waiting (I know that sounds crazy but the sun was shining so we didn’t realise) we drove into town.
New Zealand isn’t as good as South East Asia (believe it or not) at offering free wifi. Most hostels charge and at $2 for 30 minutes or $5 for 100mb we normally go without. However we needed to book some accommodation and catch up with emails so we headed to the library, this is the best discovery we have made, it’s free to use the wifi (unlimited) they have places to charge your laptop (some hostels struggle with this too, often have one socket for 8 people) and it’s comfortable. Now I wouldn’t normally bore you with this but it was here I lost something very important. The charger to my laptop! Which I didn’t discover till I was back at the hostel and the library was closed. Nick very kindly ran back down hoping to find someone still there and the hostel rang them leaving our details in case they found it. Thinking we shouldn’t panic as we can go first thing in the morning before driving to Wellington we settled in the TV room watching Despicable Me.