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February 4th 2011 - Ness Valley

When we woke up the next morning we were very disappointed indeed as it was drizzling and there was a lot of low cloud, obviously we were not going to see Mt Taranaki yet again! We had breakfast and packed everything away then headed back into Wanganui to do a bit of shopping.  We were actually looking for a Whitcoulls, New Zealand’s answer to Borders or Waterstones.  Clive and I had both received a Whitcoulls gift card from Ann at Christmas and wanted the opportunity to spend them.  We managed to find somewhere to park down Wanganui’s pretty main street on a meter.   I say pretty because, unlike most of the towns which we pass through on our journey around New Zealand, this one looks like a normal high street and it is festooned with hanging baskets and lined with trees.  The majority of the towns we pass through look like something out of a Western movie and you really wouldn’t be surprised to see a horse tied up to a rail outside some of the shops and bars! 


Wanganui High Street


We soon found the bookshop and headed inside for a browse.  I ended up buying a lovely little Maori/English dictionary.  The Maori language is quite beautiful and very interesting and as a vast majority of the towns and virtually all the plants, birds and insects have Maori names I wanted to be able to understand what they meant, the book was exactly what I was looking for.  Clive ended up getting The Stig’s biography – I think I will enjoy readthat one as well!  One thing that surprised us both was the price of books over here, they are really expensive, at least double the price of books at home!


Having made our purchases we headed back to the van and set off once more on our wonderful tour of North Island.  Our only disappointment was that the clouds hadn’t gone away and we still couldn’t see Mt Taranaki, the whole reason for coming down to this area!  The clouds never lifted all the way to our next port of call, Opunake!  We knew exactly where the volcano was but it just wasn’t there! However soon after we arrived the clouds started to blow away from the sea and the sun came out. The volcano was still “not there” but the beach was bathed in glorious sunshine by the time we had got the van on our pitch at the campsite, which was right at the beach, so we decided to go for a swim!   The surf was fantastic, we had to be careful to swim between the flags on the beach as the Lifeguards were watching that area and it would be easy to get into difficulties in surf like this.  We had a brilliant time then made our way back to the campsite for showers and dinner! 


Great surf!


We had decided to have a barbecue.  Most of the campsites we have stayed at have communal barbecues, you just bring your meat and cook it on the barby when it becomes available. Luckily we decided to eat early so didn’t have to wait. We really enjoyed our meal, it made a nice change to have something hot as we normally tend to just have salads.


After  dinner Clive noticed there was something different about the air quality and he suspected the clouds might be dissipating so we quickly washed up, piled back into the van and headed off up the road from the campsite.  We had found a spot at the top of the village with a clear view to where we knew Mt Taranaki was.  We arrived a few minutes later and were delighted and thrilled to find the volcano in all its glory in full view!  Out came the camera and the I started snapping away.  The sun was going down rapidly and we decided to go on a mad dash to see if we could get a better view before the sun went too low.  We were rewarded with a wonderful view.  It looked amazing because there was still some cloud around the base and it looked as if it was floating in the sky! The only thing that could have made it better would have been a snowcap but as it is full summer and very warm indeed that wasn’t going to happen!


Floating Taranaki!



We arrived back at camp just as the sun was setting and I couldn’t resist taking a few more photos, it looked so beautiful and for a change, instead of being pink it was bathed in gold!


Golden sunset!


The following morning we left Opunake and set off for New Plymouth.  We were so glad that we had gone to look for the volcano last night because once again it was dull and gloomy and Mt Taranaki had disappeared, again! Almost the whole drive to New Plymouth was shrouded in the mist coming off the sea.  We finally arrived and were surprised to find that it was quite a large city!  There were high rise office blocks and high street shops  and a three lane highway running right through the middle! We decided to find somewhere overlooking the sea for a coffee and a TimTam!  TimTams are the most awesome chocolate biscuits ever!  They come in various flavours; original (choc biscuits, with choc cream in the middle and a chocolate coating); chewy caramel (the same but with a gorgeous chewy caramel filling); white chocolate (awesome – our favourite) and black forest gateau (our least favourite).  We found a lovely spot looking out to sea in a small car park. 


Great spot for a coffee!


We were soon joined by another car with a bloke inside eating a McDonalds, then another car with a couple in, both eating McDonalds, then a third car with a couple in, both eating McDonalds! We passed the McDonalds a few minutes later on our way to find a campsite!!  Obviously its where people come during their lunch hour!


We found a lovely campsite at the other end of New Plymouth with a fantastic view over the sea.  Once we were booked in we decided to go and explore New Plymouth.  We found the most amazing place, Pukekawa Park, adjacent to the racecourse.  We parked the van and went for a walk through this beautiful park.  It took me back to my childhood when I used to go to Scarborough with my parents and I used to nag them to take me to Peasholme Park, preferably at night!  The reason being that there were wonderful light shows there during the summer, there were gnomes and pixies and toadstools, all lit up amongst the trees and shrubs, it was a magical place.  Well this park has a festival of light during the summer too.  Unfortunately as we were there during the day we didn’t see them all lit up but there were all sorts of things like dragonflies and multicoloured balloons and fantastic chandeliers hanging over the lake, wonderful! 


Multicoloured balloons in the park


However, in the daytime it was beautiful too, it was full of native trees and shrubs and therefore there were Tui’s singing their beautiful songs and Keriru (huge native pigeon) flying through the trees and their wings make an awesome sound as they fly.  There is a zoo in this park so we decided to go and find it but were stopped by a big fence and a man with a walkie talkie!  It turned out that the park also has a fantastic natural bowl which serves as a venue for concerts and that night Joe Cocker was due to give a live performance so all the animals from the zoo had been put inside closed doors in case they got frightened and therefore the zoo was closed! The concert was however thrown into jeopardy as Joe’s mother had evidently died the day before and it was unsure whether he would be able to go ahead with the concert.


The lake in Pukekawa Park


After meandering through the park we stopped off at the lakeside café for a coffee and a snack – I had macaroni cheese, it was divine!  On the way back to the van we went into the Fern Display area which turned out to be very cleverly disguised greenhouses or conservatories.  The plants in there were incredible and you could hardly tell you were under glass at all, it was all really beautiful. There were plants and flowers from all over the world, it was absolutely stunning.  There were little places to sit and just drink it all in, I managed to get a couple of photos of  Clive doing just that. However the first time he sat down the seat was all wet but I made him sit still while I took his photo!


Clive amongst the ferns


We returned to the campsite and had dinner then settled down for the night to the sound of the surf below us.


The next day we left Mt Taranaki behind us, still in the clouds somewhere!  We were continuing up the West Coast to a little place called Kawhia (Pron. calf –ear).  We had a lovely run and the scenery was absolutely stunning.  We stopped off for a coffee (and a TimTam!) at an amazing place looking out over an estuary, watching the tide coming in.  I also spotted a cicada which I had homed in on by listening to him singing.  This one is known as a Clapping Cicada because besides making a high pitched sound he also makes a clapping sound which is quite characteristic.  I actually never realised how many different types of Cicada there are!  Anyway, this one was very obliging and sat still whilst I took his photo!


Clapping Cicada


On our way to Kawhia we had to pass through the town of Otorohanga.  It is a very special place for one reason, it has a Kiwi house!  We have been there before, back in 2000 but couldn’t resist going again.  We got our tickets and went in through a little door in a dark room, it took a few moments for our eyes to adjust but then we could see the enclosures behind glass. Suddenly there was a rustling noise and we saw something moving in the gloom and then there it was, a Kiwi! They are the most adorable creatures, prodding the earth with their incredibly long beaks looking for food in the leaf litter.  Photography wasn’t allowed in the Kiwi house because flash photography would really upset the birds, however Clive’s iPhone can take photos in the dark without flash so he surreptitiously took a few without being noticed! 

Kiwi - how cute is that!


There aren’t only Kiwi’s at Otorohanga, there are many other New Zealand birds in enclosures outside so we spent some time wandering around having a look at them too but time was pressing and we still had a way to go unfortunately.  We nipped back into the Kiwi house to have a last look at them before jumping back into the van and continuing our journey. There will be more photos in the Gallery.


Finally we arrived in Kawhia and got settled on our pitch at the campsite.  There isn’t really much to say about this place, it was very quiet and not much to see.  Whilst we have been travelling, we have been eating mainly salads and every now and again we feel the need of something different.  I had been craving vegetables!  We solved the problem by having freshly picked corn on the cob for dinner, it was delicious.  We really didn’t need much else after that, they were quite big cobs!  So it wasn’t long before we settled down for the night.


The next day we took a little back road from Kawhia to Raglan.  This road was not metalled. There are lots of unmettled roads in New Zealand, some are better than others, fortunately this was  a pretty good one.  We were almost in Raglan when we noticed a sign off to the right  “Bridal Veil Falls 4Km”!   Clive asked me if I fancied going to have a look and I said yes! Sooooooooooo glad we did!  We soon found the spot and parked the van along with several other cars and campervans and headed off down the track signed “To the falls”!  It didn’t take us long to get there and we peered over a balustrade at a small stream pouring over a lip, it didn’t look much really! 


Short falls - taken from the top!


However there was a sign to the viewing points, one said it was 100 and something steps to the mid-point! We set off – my knees, being somewhat arthritic do not like going downsteps at all!  However I persevered and the view from the midpoint was incredible! There was also a sign which said “You are half way down – or, you are half way up”!!


Bridal Veil Falls from the middle viewing point

Clive asked me if I wanted to go any further, I did but my knees didn’t! However I was determined to see the falls in all their beauty so I gritted my teeth and continued to the bottom, a total of 227 steps – ouch!  It was totally worth all the pain and effort, the view was wonderful. 

Bridal Veil Falls from the lower viewing point


I took lots and lots of photos (trying to take my mind off the thought of having to climb all 227 steps back to the top!).  It really is the most beautiful waterfall.  Finally gasping and wheezing I arrived at the top step – I’ve never been so relieved in my life!  Oh but it really was worthwhile and I felt very satisfied with myself for having achieved such a feat!


We piled back into the van and resumed our journey to Raglan, which didn’t take very long at all and we were there by lunchtime.  We found the campsite and got the van all settled in then we went for a walk back into town.  In order to reach town from the campsite one has to cross an estuary via a bridge. This bridge is very popular with locals and visitors alike for jumping off into the river below!  We spent several minutes watching these foolhardy folk climbing onto the balustrades and leaping off into the water below! 



Raglan town is lovely really, it has a very happy atmosphere somehow, probably because its full of holidaymakers!  There are lots of bars, café’s, restaurantsand interesting shops.  We decided to popinto the oldest looking building, the hotel, for a wee drinky poo and to watch he world go by.  In the afternoon we decided to go for a walk as we wanted to go and look at the fishing boats at the wharf.  It was actually a lot further than we anticipated but it was a pleasant walk and we finally got there.  There were lots of people fishing off the wharf itself but unfortunately no fishing boats coming in, we had forgotten it was Sunday! 


Raglan Wharf


There was a pottery at the end of the wharf and I went in to have a look round.  There was some lovely stuff and as Philly’s birthday was the following week I decided to get her a nice piece of pottery. I ended up choosing a lovely green oven to tableware dish which had a swirl in the centre and reminded me of a Koru.  It was very carefully wrapped up by the potter himself!  He informed me that ithad only come out of the kiln the day before! Newly hatched!!  Interestingly he explained that they were currently in temporary premises as about 9 months ago there was a fire at the wharf and the beautiful old colonial building that housed their pottery went up in smoke! He explained that it is now going to be rebuilt in the original style to restore the wharf to its former glory.


On the way back from the wharf we passed a pub!  Well, it was a lovely evening and we were thirsty so we sat outside looking at the sea sipping our drinks for a while before returning to the van! A little later in the evening, after we had had dinner, we decided to have a walk down to the beach to watch the sunset - how romantic!  We were suprised to see some guys fishing using a net!  Clive had a chat with them, they were all Indians and have been in New Zealand for seven years and love it here, well who wouldn't!  They had managed to catch six flounders already, which I spotted in a bucket!  It was quite interesting watching them fish in this way but they didn't have much luck whilst we were watching, the only thing they netted was some weed!

Flounder fishing


The following day, Monday, was very overcast, it had been raining all night and was still drizzling on and off.  We decided to stay put in Raglan for another day and just relax. Finally the rain stopped and in the evening we walked up into town again to find somewhere for dinner.  We ended up at Costa Pizza!   They had various sizes of pizza and there was a semicircle template on the menu giving the sizes.  We both decided the Extra Large was far too big and settled for the Large – big mistake!  They were huge!  I managed to force mine down, it was absolutely delicious, Clive was totally defeated by his, which had even more topping than mine!  So, totally stuffed, we waddled back to the van and bed!


Whilst we were in Raglan I was on the internet checking my Facebook page and there was a message from Lindsey – she had tripped over a broken paving stone in Clevedon which had resulted in a broken a bone in her left hand and she now had a plaster cast on half way up her arm!  Oh dear!


We left Raglan on Tuesday morning and headed back to Auckland, we arrived at Lindsey’s soon after lunch.  There she was with her arm in a pot, bless!  The plaster cast came right down to the tips of her fingers and she couldn't use the hand at all.  Needless to say she had been told not to drive!  The other problem was that her glasses had flown off her head and been run over by a car when she fell!  All in all she was in a bit of a state!  We unpacked all our stuff from the van and moved back into the house, Radar was very pleased indeed to see Clive!


The following day I drove Lindsey into Papakura to look for some new glasses.  It was the first time I had driven anything at all for quite some time, let alone a van!  However I coped but didn’t drive at my usual speed, I took things rather sedately in fact – not like me at all!  Lindsey finally chose some really nice glasses and her rather dishy optician got her all set up with an amazing piece of kit which measured the frames and her eye movements and plotted it all on a computer, very clever indeed. He referred to it as "Peter Jackson Technology"!  She just has to wait for them to be made now!


That evening it was Pub Quiz Night so we all piled into Lindsey’s van, Clive drove, me in the passenger seat and Lindz in the back with Radar!  It was only to Clevedon though where Mary was waiting for us and she drove us into Howick for the quiz.  We didn’t win!  We did have a good time though, it was great to see everybody again.  It was also Philly’s birthday!  However, we were waiting to celebrate it properly on Saturday evening.


Thursday and Friday passed fairly uneventfully except that I drove Lindsey back to the A&E department to see the doctor again.  He decided the pot could come off and he put her a bandage on instead.  We then went shopping to get some vegetables and spent quite some time just browsing round the Asian (Oriental) shops, amazed at the incredible variety of produce that was available, some of which we had never seen nor heard of before!  We came home with some potatoes and baby Pak Choy!  We returned via Philly’s house to swap vehicles as Clive didn’t fancy the idea of driving into Auckland on Saturday with Lindz in the back of the van, its not really safe and certainly can’t be legal!  So I got the chance to drive Philly’s lovely little Mini Cooper S convertible home to Ness Valley!


Next instalment very soon – I promise!










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