We have flown from Christchurch in the South Island to New Plymouth in the North. Named by the Cornish and Devonish immigrants who arrived on its shores in the mid 1800s, you can see that they didn’t look too far for inspiration when naming the place. As is evident across NZ, with names as familiar as any across the UK, with landscapes which also surprise in their similarity at times.
One of the main landmarks of New Plymouth is the Wind Wand, which is a 147-foot (45-meter) high sculpture.Designed by Len Lye, the sculpture is so sensitive to movement, that even a bumble bee landing on it will cause it to sway.
We had planned our next Workaway at a horse ranch, but that fell through and we find ourselves free wheeling through the North.
Our next stop was Wanganui, which is a small town on the South West shores. We stayed at a budget motel and these are a completely mixed bag over here. Many have very dated décor, fixings and finshes, but they are at least clean and comfortable and fairly inexpensive. This one was a bit dark and more than a little dated, but for only one night we could manage.
Wanganui has an under ground elevator that brings you up to the top of Durie Hill. The views get even better if you are willing to take the 176 steps of the war memorial, which I decided was worth the effort.
From here we decided to go in search of the elusive Kiwi, so drove further south to the Mount Bruce Wildlife Park. Whilst there were many other interesting breeds here, the Kiwi proved a shy old bird and the enclosure lighting (they are a nocturnal) made it near impossible to distinguish anything inside.
Heading on to Hastings in the Hawkes Bay region we stopped at another motel, this one in a bit better shape. There’s a lookout above Hastings and we took the half hour drive up the steep and windy road to see it and were rewarded with a fabulous sunset.
The next day we visited Napier, renowned for its Art Deco architecture. The town is by the shore and has a wonderful upbeat feel to it. Of course the sunshine would have helped.
After taking in the sights and having a coffee and snack at the St Germain café which could provide some sweet and savoury options for us, a rarity, I can assure you. We were able to see the many displays that were as a result of the The Art Deco Festival that was happening whilst we were there.
We decided to go to the Aquarium whilst in town. It has many rare and exotic creatures and a glass walkway under the Shark pool. The unexpected highlight however was a firm sighting of the Kiwi (not in any water I hasten to add), which had a well designed Kiwi house that was still dark enough for their sensitive eyes, but light enough for our not so sensitive eyes to see them. It felt like a huge plus, as somehow coming to the land of the Kiwi and not seeing one would have felt like a missed opportunity.
Kiwi are flightless, belong to an ancient group of birds such as the Moa’s (originally a NZ bird, but now extinct) and their modern day cousins the Ostrich and Emu. Their evolutionary journey into New Zealand is not clear, but they are not found anywhere else on earth.
Kiwi habits and physical characteristics are so like a mammal the bird is sometimes referred to as an honorary mammal. It has feathers like hair, nostrils at the end of its beak and an enormous egg. They are nocturnal birds that feed from the forest ground and lay their eggs in places like hollows of trees. They are under serious threat from the introduced predators such as Dogs, Cats, Possums and even Hedgehogs.
Most of the remaining population are in managed forests (meaning there is strict predator control) or in captive breeding programs. So as you can see, the sighting of one, even in captivity was a rarity.
From Napier we took the journey to Gisborne. The scenery changed from pastureland and rolling hills that would not look out of place in any of the British Isles, to deep gorges, mountains and tropical forests. Slow and steady is the only way to go as we cover 150km in about three hours.
Gisbornes does not have the beauty of many of the other NZ towns, but its one interesting fact is that it is the most Easterly town in NZ and therefore the first to welcome in the new day. Gisborne’s Kaiti Beach is the place where British navigator Captain James Cook made his first landing in New Zealand upon the Endeavour.
The other highlight for us was staying at a The White Heron Motel, which was a modern, well designed Motel, standing out as a beacon of possibility amongst a sea of mediocrity.