Tuesday, 26 December 2017

Taranaki Trip (part 4)

Last month, we had a holiday in Taranaki, from 12 to 19 November. After three days in New Plymouth where we did quite a lot of biking, we had a couple of days in Eltham, where we did bike a little but did mostly other activities. Here are the links to Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

Day 6 – Lake Rotokare

Today we drove to Lake Rotokare, where there was a track right around the lake, that we thought we might be able to bike.

John initially thought that we could bike there, but I read that it was 12 km from Eltham, so we decided to check it out by car first. Which turned out to be a good decision, as some of the road was quite up-and-down, and some bits were quite steep.

Lake Rotokare is a small landslide-dammed lake. The land around it is a scenic reserve, surrounded by a predator-proof fence. We had to drive the car thorough two gates – having to wait for the first gate to close, before we opened the second one (button operated). Though we had at first thought we could bike around the lake (the leaflet had said “marginal” for bikes), we decided to start walking. Again, a good decision, as apart from the first 600 metres, which were up to “wheelchair standard” (according to the website), it was not bikeable at all. Well, a crack mountain biker might have thought it OK, but we didn’t.

The first 600 m of the track were “wheelchair standard” (photo by John)

These first 600 m offered good views on the lake, and led to a floating platform, from which one could have a good view over the water.

Nice views of the lake (photo by John)

A floating platform on the edge of the lake

It was a 4.5 km perimeter walk around the lake. A very pretty lake, surrounded by bush. The bush was beautiful, lots of tree ferns, kahikatea, nikau palms, supplejack and lots of varieties of small and medium-size ferns. And lots of bird song. The track was narrow and soft underfoot, boggy in places, and on boardwalks in others.

A narrow track through the bush (photo by John)

Ancient roots

There was a lot of this plant, but I can’t find out what it is called (photo by John)

Moss-covered roots

Lots of tree ferns …

… and epiphytic ferns

In some places boardwalks helped to avoid boggy spots (photo by John)

More epiphytic ferns (photo by John)

It was rather a longer walk than we had anticipated. It took us about two hours. We found out later that the lake was T-shaped, and much bigger than we thought.

After our long walk, we felt ready for lunch, so we headed back to Eltham – to its one and only café. We had a bit of a walk around the Eltham main shopping street, before heading back to our cottage.

The Coronation Hotel has a cheerful colour scheme (photo by John)

Three mosaic murals – The one on the left is of Chew Chong, who established the
Jubilee butter factory in Eltham in 1887, the first such factory in Taranaki 

A mural on the police station

We went back to the cottage to leave the car, and unload the bikes for a ride around the delights of Eltham. It really is quite a nice little town.

Our cottage in Bath Street, Eltham (photo by John)

At the end of Bath Street, where it met King Edward Street, there was yet another mural, occupying two sides of a windowless building, which made it look as if the street continued into the distance. Very clever.

The mural at the end of Bath Street (photo by John)

Just around the block, we found the Fonterra cheese factory which seems to be the raison d’être for Eltham. When I mentioned to a friend that we were going to spend a couple of days in Eltham I was told “Make sure you visit the cheese shop, they have some great factory specials”.

The Fonterra cheese factory (photo by John)

The Cheese Bar. While I went inside to check out the bargains, John got a passer-by
to pose by the sign (photo by John)

We cruised around the back streets. It was very pleasant, quite warm and sunny, and nice quiet streets. An interesting town hall, lots of “character” houses and cottages, but also many 60s and 70s nondescript houses.

“Eltham, Proud of our heritage” (photo by John)

The Town Hall (photo by John)

A pretty character cottage (photo by John)

We rode about 10 kms, and on the way back, we stopped at the Cheese Bar, to get some cheese for our dinner’s cheese toasties, and a little tub of ice cream each. Then we hurried back to the cottage, before they could melt. In our hurry I nearly got myself collected by a car, as I was turning into our street! How stupid – in a place where the traffic density is about two cars per hour!

A brief stop at the Cheese Bar (photo by John)

After having our ice creams, we went into Stratford for a look around. Stratford is named for Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare, and many of the streets are named after characters from Shakespeare’s plays.

There is a glockenspiel clock tower in the main street, where life-size figures re-enact the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet three times a day, with the words coming from loudspeakers. Quite “cheesy” actually.

The Stratford clock tower, with “Juliet’s balcony” (photo by John)

In the early evening, we had a great view onto Mt Taranaki from our cottage (photo by John)

Day 7 – Tawhiti Mueum in Hawera

On our last day we visited the Tawhiti Museum in Hawera.

We drove into the town centre for a walk around. John said that though he lived in New Plymouth for many years, he had actually never been into the Hawera town centre. Being Saturday, many places were closed. Banks, op shops, bakery cafés, dollar shops and the odd empty shop, was the impression I got.

Some nice old buildings … (photo by John)

… and a stylish modern one. The façade looks like a tukutuku pattern (photo by John)

We took a look at the water tower – quite an interesting construction, with little balconies on several levels. There was a sign on the door, saying people could go to the top, but it was 215 steps to the top, a 10-minute climb, and a warning not to do it if one had health issues. Tickets could be bought from the i-site nearby. 

The water tower

Needless to say, we didn't want to go up, but we did have a browse around the i-site and picked up lots of leaflets and info. The attendant was very helpful and gave us a map and some ideas about where we might bike. But it was very windy, so we didn't bike anyway.

Guess who? A poke-your-head-through board at the i-site
(photo by John)

So on towards the Tawhiti Mueum. I had been wanting to visit this museum for several years, but it is only open Friday to Monday, and every time we’d gone past it had been the wrong day. It is a fascinating place – the history of Taranaki depicted in dioramas and full scale models, and lots of historical artifacts – and all the work of one man, Nigel Ogle.

The Tawhiti Museum (photo by John)

The beautiful dioramas illustrating Taranaki history are supported by painstaking research
 (photo by John)

Nigel Ogle created the life-size models, based on real people (photo by John)

Smaller dioramas illustrate early Taranaki farm life (photo by John)

After about an hour looking at the displays, we went to have a coffee in the attached café, called Mr Badger’s Café, after the "Wind in the Willows" story.

Small dioramas showed scenes from "Wind in the Willows" (photo by John)

We went back and spent another hour or so looking around the displays. We decided not to take in the “Traders and Whalers” experience as that was another $15 apiece, and John was getting tired.

A re-created village (photo by John)

The Weaving Studio was open, but there was no weaving going on that day (photo by John)

Day 8 – Going home

The only thing worth mentioning about our drive home, was our stop at Foxton.

There has been a full size replica Dutch windmill – De Molen – in Foxton since 2003, but the Ngāti Raukawa iwi and Foxton's Dutch community have joined to build a multi-cultural centre, Te Awahou Nieuwe Stroom. This centre, combining a library, a resource centre, a museum of Ngāti Raukawa, and the Oranjehof Dutch Connection Centre, was officially opened just the day before we stopped there.

We had lunch in the attached café, The Dutch Oven, which has yummy Dutch food on the menu. I was delighted to be able to have “kroketten” – a couple of croquettes filled with veal ragout, served with mustard on slices of white bread. So yum!

We were there too late to take a ride in the horse-drawn tram, as they were about to take the horses back to their stables, but its presence evoked memories of my childhood. I remember the “paardetram” (horse tram) waiting outside our school for the children whose homes were on the farms outside of the village where we lived. It was not strictly speaking a tram, as it did not ride on the tram rails, but had ordinary tyres. I used to feel quite envious of those kids – I just had a bike to get to and from school …

Taking the horses back to the stables (photo by John)

The horse-drawn tram (now without horses) and the windmill (photo by John)

We visited the Oranjehof  – the Dutch part of the complex, and I had a lovely browse, telling John about some of the items on display. Like the Dutch kitchen and living room, which looked just like the one my grandmother had, with a rug on the dining table, and a coffee grinder with a handle that my Oma would allow us kids to turn. And a cabinet with pipes, even with a packet of tobacco, just like my Opa used to smoke. A great trip down memory lane.

After that, it was an uneventful drive home. It had been a pretty good holiday.

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