Taranaki part two

DSC05709One of the things we are learning about travelling in a bus is that it is quite easy to just head off to a destination without to much of a firm itinerary for once you get there. Though I do think this is definitely something I will grow to love, the sense of freedom and flexibility, it is not something I have been used to the last four years since having a child to consider. Travelling has been quite carefully planned to ensure the most enjoyable trip and holiday for everyone involved. But the theory is in the bus that we can decide at any point in the day that we have had enough and simply find a spot to park up for the remainder of the day. This was our first time putting this in to practise as we woke at Okato domain with no firm plans for the day.

Over breakfast we decided that a visit to Pukekura park was our first stop as Oliver had been such a star on our big day of travelling he deserved to do something he would enjoy. Pukekura park is a huge gardens in New Plymouth, it has walking and cycling tracks and is also home to the Brooklands Zoo which was what we were going to check out. We arrived to the pleasant surprise that the zoo was free to enter and once we got Oliver past the playground in the center of the zoo we began to explore all the exhibits. There was a petting zoo area with all your standard farm animals, several different types of monkeys, meerkats, otters and a free flight aviary with several types of parrots. We spent several hours playing and watching the animals and with all the picnic spaces provided and huge gardens surrounding the zoo you could easily spend a whole day here with your family.

Wanting to check out part of the coastal walkway next we headed to the Waiwakaiho River mouth. The coastal walkway is 12.7kms of pathway that stretches from the port on one side of New Plymouth right through the city itself and quite a considerable distance along up the coast. It has several points of interest along the way and one of them is Te Rewa Rewa bridge which crosses over the Waiwakaiho river.

DSC05686DSC05719The bridge they say is supposed to resemble a wave or a whale skeleton, both of which I would say it does, it also in my opinion is quite beautiful. The large metal structure with its gorgeous curves somehow appears delicate against the rugged wildness of the coastline it sits beside. We spent the remainder of our day wandering the beach and playing in the river when we needed to cool off. Deciding that this spot was far to beautiful to leave just yet we stayed in the reserve beside the lake you drove past to get to the river mouth.

DSC05708DSC05699This coast is very different from where we live in the bay of plenty, our beaches are all soft golden sands and waves that beg to be swum and played in. The sea is rough on this coast, the waves crash and warn you to be wary of their power, there are rocks and miles on miles of black sand and driftwood. But in all that wildness and energy there is beauty and they are beaches you could roam and explore for hours on end, always finding something new the sea has brought in or the waves have altered.

The next day we decided to head down the surfers highway with the goal of ending up in Hawera for the night. We stopped at a replica lighthouse that holds the old light from the Cape Egmont lighthouse, well worth a stop for the views from the top of the lighthouse alone. But very interesting with lots of information about the history of the lighthouse and how the light works. And for a few dollars you can turn the light on and watch it work for a few minutes.

After lunch at the pub in Opunake it was a short drive on to Hawera. The joy of small towns is finding ample parking close to the supermarket and the laundromat handily situated right across the road so we can restock on groceries and clean the mountain of washing we seem to have produced in just a few days. Yet again a taste of something that will become part of our everyday lives once we are travelling full time.

This nights camping spots has to be my all time favourite in the bus so far, a spot called Waihi beach reserve just five minutes drive from Hawera. It is just a parking lot at the top of the cliffs with a track that leads down to the beach below. But we got the prime parking spot with an uninterrupted view out to what looked like an endless expanse of ocean. The beach itself is another rugged beauty, stark cliffs, huge boulders to sit on and bathe your feet as the tide went out – really all you could ask for on a hot summers afternoon. And in the morning when I managed to sneak out of the bus before anyone else woke and headed for a morning stroll along the pathway back towards Hawera I was finally treated to spectacular views of Mt Egmont, gorgeous sunrise showing her off in all her beauty not a cloud in sight. Unfortunately by the time I got back, cleaned up and breakfast sorted the clouds had rolled in again and not a picture taken to share. Selfishly perhaps this moment feels all the more special because it was mine alone, my husband and son sleeping blissfully, to wrapped up in how gorgeous it was to think of whipping my phone out for a quick snap.

From here we started to slowly head home, we had one gloriously sunny day to explore Hawera a bit more and then the rain came back. So we took the scenic route home along the forgotten world highway to Taumarunui and then passed lake Taupo, we spent a few nights at DOC campsites along the way to break the travelling up as much as we could. Even more than ever we are longing for the day we head off, these little snippets of travel just confirm to us what we have hoped for. That this is going to be an amazing way to travel and we long to experience it without the time constraints and rush of a short little week long holiday.

Taranaki here we come!

With the first of february looming and knowing that we would be without our bus for at least a few weeks while it had its renovations done we decided on a weeks long holiday in the Taranaki region before that happened. It would be our longest trip in the bus to date and we would also be away on my birthday, brilliant timing really.

Keen to break the travelling down up a bit we set off after Wayne finished work with the goal of making it to a place called Lake Whakamaru. We had dinner on the way and arrived to find a very large tree filled campsite beside a lake with stunning views across the other side of the lake. Oliver was keen to explore so we crammed in a swim (for him) and a walk along part of the cycle trail that passes by the campsite before bed.

The next day was my birthday and we woke to rain on the roof of the bus and clouds that promised a very wet day. So it was an early start to our days journey and the decision was made that we would cover a lot of ground in the rain and make it all the way to New Plymouth. Our first stop was a little town called Piopio, we stretched our legs down the main street and found a charming little art gallery/gift shop to kill some time in. This of course isn’t of much interest to a four year old boy (or his father!) so the next stop needed to include a bit of adventure. Wayne had a spot in mind that he had driven past many times when he used to travel for work but never had the opportunity to stop at.

Not long after we came out to the coast we found it, the three sisters and elephant rock. We arrived at lunch time and on reading the signs realised it was a walk you could only do at low tide as you had to walk along the edge of the water. Deciding that the tide was on its way out but still had a long way to go we settled on having our lunch and a play on the small beach by the car park instead. But after an hour had passed and we watched how quickly the tide was receding we re-thought this plan and decided to just get in our togs, give the tide another half hour to go out and go for it. Most of the ten minute walk around the water was only knee deep so definitely safe. We got to a point where we could see the beach just around the corner and thought our plans may be foiled as the water looked to get considerably deeper. But a few metres through water just above my waist and we were at a delightful little sea cave.

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DSC05618Once we had explored that it was just a short wade through waist high water to the beautiful black sandy beach. Strewn with drift wood and rocks, turbulent surf ahead and high cliffs gouged with small caves at the base to the side, it was a wonderful beach to explore and hunt for treasures as we made our way around to the three sisters.

DSC05643It was just a short and easy walk around to where you could see the three sisters and elephant rock and with the beach all to ourselves it only added to the sense of adventure and discovery.

DSC05656The three straight pillar like rocks are the three sisters and the rock shaped like an upside down v is the one called elephant rock. Maybe it was the rain or our imaginations working very well but while we were there we all could see a vague resemblance to an elephant like creature. Something I now fail to see in any of my photo’s, but for a brief moment on the beach it was there! So we headed back exploring more on our way and enjoying the relative calm and much lower water to wade through on our way back.

DSC05626It was a pleasant drive through to New Plymouth from there and that night as we settled in for a night of freedom camping at the Okato Domain we all agreed that this is exactly what we signed up for when we brought the bus. The time and opportunity to share these little treasures with each other, to explore and enjoy the beauty our country has at pretty much every corner of the road. And to expose Oliver to that sense that he can step off the footpath, wade through the water and find a beautiful little spot hidden just around the next bend. To top off a pretty amazing 36th birthday the clouds lifted briefly off Mt Egmont and we got a glimpse of the beautiful Maunga before bed. This holiday I knew already was going to be everything we had hoped and more.

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