Friday morning we loaded up the Nipple's tiny boot (John joking that at least you can fit a ham sandwich in there) and headed south to New Plymouth. Gawping as we passed by flooded paddocks and fields in the Waikato district with their surreal lines of fence tops peeking through or disappearing into the shimmering water.
At Ngaruwahia we noticed a small crowd with cameras standing around the railway river bridge, so we pulled up, grabbed our cameras and asked an old guy what was happening. A few minutes later we witnessed the passing of a steam train on its way from Wellington to Auckland. It was pulling the original carriages to mark the 100th anniversary of the opening of the main line and purportedly carrying our P.M. (Helen Clark). I took a rather shaky photo as the train roared past - it was a section of track with no fencing whatsoever, so you could stand as close as you dared to and witness the sleepers bouncing up and down quite a bit.
We took the alternate route through Otorohanga and TeKuiti and after a couple of minor diversions and an impromptu photo session with some rather good looking bovines we arrived at Richard & Patricia’s about 5.30. We had become good friends when they lived next door to us here in Auckland, and kept in touch when they moved to Taranaki four years ago. Part of their move involved giving up the fast paced city life (as fast as it gets in NZ) for a more leisurely lifestyle. They now grow a variety of fruit & veges on their 3 acres just outside New Plymouth, are certified ‘organic’ and majorly involved with the Taranaki Farmers market.
It had been many months since we had last visited (for WOMAD 2007), so much catching up was done over a delicious dinner courtesy of chef Patricia. A warm & spicy pumpkin soup, snapper parcels garnished with a range of home grown veges and a mouth watering parsnip mash was all washed down with a nice Shiraz. After dinner Richard taunted us with some Belgian music, some of which may have been a type of pseudo-rap.
Saturday saw clouds atop Mt Taranaki (formerly Mt Egmont) so after a leisurely breakfast we opted for a coastal walk. Starting from the city we went around to the port, passing beaches, new housing developments and closed down water parks as we weaved our way to & fro across the port railway line. Later we went to Pankawalla for dinner – a very bright & trendy curry house in town. The food there was great and the owners very friendly too. As we know from Auckland, Richard & Patricia are good at sniffing out the best eateries in town.
Sunday was still cold and windy. After a lie in we had brunch at a French café and walked around the Farmer’s Market where we bought some local produce then packed up the Nipple for the 5 hour drive home. Chatting in the car - refining our own 'escape to the country' plans. Just a small question of 'which country'?
Richard & Patricia at New Plymouth city waterfront: ... and having a rough ride near the Port....
Some of their pumpkins ripening in the sun: