Destination: New Plymouth

Monday, July 01, 2013

New Plymouth in the South-West of the North Island is a corner one doesn't normally think to go. 'What is there to do in New Plymouth?' my friends asked, when I told them I was going down there for the weekend. Turns out, heaps. Though tourism isn't their number one on the list - dairy farming and fishing are - if you like the outdoors there are plenty on offer. 
I did not know this before I went down. I only had one goal in mind - to see and trek a part of Mt. Taranaki/Egmont. Mt. Taranaki is a sacred mountain to the Maoris with great mana, or prestige. It is a moving mountain to them and has a love story behind how the mount got to the little corner away from all the other mountains in the centre of the North Island. Mt. Taranaki used to be amongst them, too, until one day he fell in love with the wife of Mt. Tongariro. They had a huge fight where Mt. Tongariro's tip was chopped off and landed in lake Taupo and Mt. Taranaki got a massive wound on its side. Mt. Taranaki was dismissed and moved to its present site, all alone - leaving a trail of tears behind him. 
The Maori people do not climb Mt. Taranaki out of respect and there are no maraes, or meeting houses, between Lake Tekapo and Mt. Taranaki because they believe Mt. Taranaki will one day return to his brothers and so they do not want to get in the way. 
I am not Maori so I was able to enjoy being up on Mt. Taranaki, a lovely lush dormant volcano. Last erupted in 1755, it is predicted to erupt every 500 years, so... we are safe for another couple of decades yet. The best time to trek up is in the Summer, because the weather conditions in the Winter are not the best. There's lots of rain, and snow and ice, so you better be prepared with the proper gear and clothing. Due to the time constraints and physical limitations in the current season, we only went up for a three hour round trip. There were plenty of snow along the way. 
In the town of New Plymouth, I loved its clean modernity. In 2008 New Plymouth was voted the best town to live and to work in the world, by the UN. I could picture myself living here for a year or two, to enjoy the quiet easy going atmosphere, saving up without too many distractions. If I lived here, I would run/jog along the Coastal Walkway every day...

Enjoy the awesome murals...
Enjoy the art scenes around town, such as the contemporary artwork by the famous NZ artist Len Lye, this one a posthumous piece being the wind wand
more of which are at the local art gallery. There are also a free museum as well, housed in the same building as the visitor information centre. At the moment they are also having an exhibition on photographs that is quite enjoyable with all the family portraits over the ages, added with the interactivity of being able to vote for the best one. 

If I were to come back to New Plymouth in the future, I have a list of places to try out. One is this lovely tea/cafe place whose decoration was so pretty, S and I couldn't resist the temptation to take a photo of the china plate collection on the wall.
Another is Marinovich's seafood restaurant, just around the corner from our accommodation, Ariki backpackers. Ariki is pretty much the closest backpacker from the central city, the shopping mall and the bus stop. Though on weekend nights it gets a little noisy from all the kareoke singing in the bar underneath, the staff are friendly and the facilities are clean and quiet. We were recommended Marinovich's twice during our two days in New Plymouth, once by the Ariki staff and another by our guide to Mt. Taranaki. Apparently Marinovich's has good fish and chips and seafood chowder, two things I asked for specifically. Unfortunately Marinovich's does not open on Saturday lunchtimes nor on Sundays, at all. 
Instead we staved off our hunger at other local places. First, Lush in the shopping centre because it looked friendly from the outside, though it was more posh inside,
and Kathakali because it looked to be the only crowded place on the evening before when we were going past. Either the New Plymouth residents are huge fans of Southern Indian cuisine or it was just really delicious. Both, we decided.

The road to and from New Plymouth was long six-hour bus rides from Auckland. 
Though the view was beautiful, my bum did get a bit sore. Better sore than stranded, however. Since with S, never a trip goes by without some mishap on the transportation. When we were going to Sydney we missed the plane, so had to buy another one way ticket on the spot. When we were going to Ranglan we had our own car, but we made so many detours that we were delayed on getting back to Auckland by a few hours. This time, we missed the return bus by two minutes. TWO minutes. The only bus of the day. Lucky for us, a saviour of a lady came to the rescue and drove us to the next bus stop in a nearby town, racing after the big white Nakedbus. So glad to be home after the adventure. 
Did you know:
- That part of Tom Cruise's Last of the Samurai was filmed on Mt. Taranaki, because apparently it resembles Mt. Fuji?
- Mt. Taranaki has a small ski field, though best for the completely beginners and completely experienced's
- Apart from trekking, there are also many surf breaks for those who prefer the waters

Happy July, everyone!

*Thanks S for providing me with most of the photos on this post.

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