Taking a Fast-Forward to New Plymouth

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16/01/08
Hello from the west coat of the North Island! Today I really did a day off. I took a bus from Wanganui up to New Plymouth. The ride was about 162km, which meant biking there and back would have taken at least 4 days, time which I simply can’t spare if I hope to be on the South Island by February. However, I did want to come up this way and take the time to check out Mount Egmont / Mount Taranaki. Yes, the second-highest peak on the North Island has two names. One is the Maori name, and the other is left over from when NZ was colonized. Nowadays, most people are referring to it as Taranaki, which I think is the better name anyway. Of course, there is more to this region than just the massive volcano which acts as a stand-in to Mount Fuji in the movie ‘The Last Samurai’. If you want to learn a little more, just read on, and don’t forget to check out my ever-so-useful map that I put together.

New Plymouth is one of several villages that are all around the base of Mount Taranaki. It is, however, by far the largest one, and acts as the unofficial capital of this province. New Plymouth is a significant deep-water harbour, so it does a fair bit of shipping between Asia and NZ, as well as Australia. As such, the economy here is pretty good, and there are some very beautiful houses, as well as a well-developed waterfront in the town. There are a number of museums, which I hope to check out a bit on Friday, and some parks as well. And of course, there are many different walks available for people to try their luck on.

Personally, I came for the main event. Tomorrow, I plan to get up around 6am, and hitch-hike up the road to North Egmont, where the main trail up Mount Taranaki begins. It’s about a half hour drive, but to get a shuttle out would cost about 40NZD return, and would only get there around 8am, and not bring me back till 4:30. The forecast calls for good weather in the morning, followed by clouds rolling in in the afternoon. I’d really prefer to get the mountain more or less to myself in good weather. They say you need about 5 hours up, and 3 hours down, but I’m sure that I can bag it in less than that. I’m hoping for 3.5 hours up, and 1.5 hours down. We’ll see though, won’t we? Either way, I still have to be prepared for almost anything, so I’ll have a bit of weight with me. I’m also climbing alone, although I’ve been told it’s not too dangerous, with the route fully marked. I’m sure some of the other climbs I’ve been doing are trickier. However, over 60 people have died summitting it, so I’ll definitely respect the mountain as I climb. Wish me luck. Once that is done, I’ll have summited all the major peaks of the North Island! Hooray. I doubt I’ll have as much luck in the South, with the major peaks being quite technical. After all, Sir Ed did his training on the peaks in the South Island for his Everest climb!

Hmm, I suppose I should try and talk up the trip to New Plymouth a bit. However, there’s not much to say when you’re on a bus, listening to music as the world passes you by. There were definitely some big climbs, but they mean nothing when you’re being driven. I booked a cheap bus, which only charged 38NZD return. It’s the White Star line, and I’d call it the equivalent of a Chicken bus in NZ. It was a very small bus, and quite old, with a driver to match. There were only a handful of other passengers, by the looks of it Kiwis saving a buck from the main bus line, Intercity. I didn’t strike up any conversations unfortunately, and the whole thing was pretty boring. The one thing it made me realize is that I couldn’t do that sort of trip for 4 months. You’d get everywhere too quick, and not know what to do with yourself. You also don’t get the feel for the terrain as much I suppose. However, being a practical man, this was definitely the right thing to do.

On the plus side, there was no shortage of stunning views of Taranaki on the way. So, even if the weather does turn sour, I was treated to something not everyone gets to see. Taranaki with cloudless slopes! Here’s hoping my morning journey will be equally beautiful. It would be great if I could see all the way to my friends Tongariro, Ngauruhoe and Ruapehu!

Once I got to New Plymouth, I did my standard wander around the city getting some provisions, as well as a tasty Ice cream. The shoreline is nothing short of fantastic, with the occasional crashing surf to watch, and a good boardwalk with people milling about. I have a feeling I’ll grab my big beer and have a stroll down there later tonight. This stretch of beach is known as Surf Highway 45. Due to Mount Taranaki, there is an almost circular land mass, which means that no matter which direction the wind is coming from, there will always be a good break somewhere within an hour of here. Of course, I’m no surfer, but it still doesn’t mean I’m not impressed.

That’s all for now from me. Shortish day with not a lot of excitement yet. After my climb tomorrow, I plan to head to the local park where there will be some live music as part of the TSB Bank Festival of Lights. Take care all, and here’s to another exciting adventure for ActiveSteve tomorrow!

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