from Wanganui to Auckland

SUNDAY, 27th November

Three sisters were leaving Wanganui on the same day as I was and when they had found out that I was going to Auckland, the younger ones had offered a lift to Hamilton and I could catch a bus to Auckland from there. I changed the booking on Sunday morning and was free to go with 2/3 of ‘Three Musketeers’.

Before B. got on her bus back to Wellington, we went to the Castlecliff Beach with black sand

Then B. went south and we took the north. Beautiful views along Whanganui River Road.

Raukawa Falls

We stopped for lunch in National Park

Te Kuiti, “the sheep shearing capital of the world and is host to the annual New Zealand National Shearing Championships”. The statue is 7 meters tall and weighs 7.5 tonnes. Three time capsules were sealed inside the statue in 1994 and are due to be opened in May 2024, 2054 and 2084.

Going through Otorohanga was like blast from the past. In September I saw real kiwis in the Kiwi House.

Near Hamilton airport we stopped at a strawberry farm and bought fresh fruit and strawberry ice cream for dessert. I had enough time before my bus to visit one of the sisters’ house and had delicious dessert. At 6 pm, I jumped on the bus to Auckland and in the evening I was back in Te Atatu at my friends’ having late dinner.

Being back in Auckland meant that those were my last days in New Zealand, but my mind wasn’t ready for that yet.

lazy Levin and windy Wanganui

WEDNESDAY to SATURDAY, 23th – 26th November

Porirua was my first stop of my ‘farewell parade’. I didn’t want to ‘waste’ my last week in New Zealand on going somewhere new and seeing more places, which after a while they might look all the same. I wanted to meet people who had been helping me during my stay and meant to me a lot.

I knew that C. from Levin worked in the morning, so I took a bus from Porirua to Levin in the afternoon. Until then I was helping D. in her garden. I’d love a life like this. The weather wasn’t nice and the rain made us go inside, but I loved digging in the dirt. We had some last pierogis for late lunch and then D. dropped me off to the bus stop.

One hour later I was taken over by C. in Levin. There’s not much to say about what I was doing there for the next two days, apart from spending time with friends, going for walks (the weather was very good!) watching tv and playing Skip-Bo. It was another home away from home.

On FRIDAY, I left Levin and went to Wanganui. I know I’d been there before, but it was one of those things I had to do and go back to that place. On a bus, which was from Wellington, I sat next to an elderly lady. When we started talking, she asked me where I was from. I told her that I was from Poland and she said that she had a friend whose mum was from Poland. They were neighbours and they both were members of a floral club. I remembered that D. from Porirua was a member of a floral club, too, so I asked the lady if her friend’s name was D., and she said, YES! Then I said, D’s last name and it was the same person! What were the odds?! I know that New Zealand is a small country and it’s quite normal to meet a friend of a friend, but I didn’t know it’d happen to me after spending only 3 months!

B. was going to Wanganui to meet up with her two younger sisters who live in Hamilton. They try to see each other every year and every time in a different place. This time it was a place where they grew up together. When we got off the bus, B. introduced me to her sisters who had just arrived by car. They offered taking me to my hostel which I accepted gladly, because it was quite a walk, although closer than last time. I stayed at Tamara Backpackers Lodge, which I really loved and can recommend to everyone.

We exchanged phone numbers and off they went to their hotel. I wasn’t sure if I was going to meet them again, but I had told them that there would be market near the Visitor Centre by the river next day.

It was late afternoon when I left my bag in my room and went for a walk along the river. It was busier than the last time I had visited the town. I did small shopping and then had dinner back in the hostel. I tried to work on my blog, but I was getting tired and sleepy and noticed that I was having some depressing thoughts, because of my last days in New Zealand. It was 7 pm when I took a nap till 9 pm. When I woke up, I thought there was no point getting up, so I fell asleep again and woke up at 9 am next morning.

Things looked much better when I got up next day. I met an Israeli guy at breakfast who was the biggest LOTR geek I’ve ever met and we talked about his passion almost till noon. I was afraid I was going to miss the market, but it was still on when I got there. It was the election day, as I was later reminded, so it was open longer than usually. On the way I passed Whanganui Riverboat Centre and I met the guy from “Waimarie” who I talked to when I took the trip on the Paddle Steamer last time. I actually wanted to thank him for the conversation we had had, because he had asked me some good questions I couldn’t forget. He was surprised with my thanks and we had a short chat. Then I went to explore the market.

Look at those motorbikes made of bottle tops!

Something I didn’t expect to see at the Wanganui market

And guess who I met there? Three sisters! They were happy to see me too and the rest of the day we spent together. First, lunch, then a visit in the Sarjeant Gallery. I liked Marian Maguire’s works which is a mixture of Greek and Maori art.

a snap on the windy hill with a Christmas tree in the background

Then Whanganui Regional Museum, which I enjoyed as well. After that we went to Durie Hill and I went on the Elevator Tower.

Then the sisters or ‘Three Musketeers’ as they called themselves (mind you, they were ladies in their 60s, 70s and 80s!) took me to Cooks Gardens, Virginia Lake and after we bought Chinese for dinner, we went to their hotel room to have a ‘party’, which was dinner when they made me feel like I was surrounded by three grandmums. B. was throwing some food from her plate on mine and the rest of them were making sure I wasn’t hungry sticking cake, chocolate and nuts under my nose every minute.

We watched the results of the elections. I squeed quietly when I saw Hayden East being interviewed on TV. I had met him in Wellington after Fabulous/Arabia concert. He’s a musicians, but he also studies politics. He was supporting left wing, but unfortunately, The National Party won the elections.

Nevertheless, it was a great day which I hadn’t planned. Days like that are the best.

W(h)anganui

MONDAY & TUESDAY, 26th & 27th Sept.

I booked a hostel in Wanganui, because I couldn’t go to Napier. There was a RWC game on 27th and the YHA was completely booked. And I didn’t want to spend 9 hours again on a bus from Hamilton to Wellington, so I split my trip to Welly going to Wanganui first, which is like in the middle of the way between New Plymouth and Wellington.

Why Wanganui? Because I hadn’t been there yet and it was on the way to Welly, where I wanted to arrive on 29th the latest, because of The Phoenix Foundation concert.

Wanganui (or Whanganui, although almost every road sign points to Wanganui) is a bit smaller than New Plymouth and isn’t the top tourist destination; at least not in this time of the year. The bus we were driving was old, stinky, very slow and the speakers were broken, so we couldn’t hear what the driver was saying. I think the air condition was broken too, because it was airless and as soon as got on, I felt sick. Maybe I was starting to get sick of travelling by bus in general?

I was trying to sleep through the journey, but some sights were impossible to ignore and we were driving slow enough to take my camera out. We were going down along the western side of Tongariro Park this time and I could see the other side of Mt Ruapehu (you remember, Mt Doom from LOTR).

Ruapehu is on the far right.

On this side of the park, there were many little towns and villages out of which the largest was Ohakune. The town is known for Carrot Festival in October and there’s the Giant Carrot. Unfortunately, I didn’t see it and later I read in Ruapehu Press, that it’s been painted black with hope to attract more tourist. I love New Zealand. 😀 I think I’ll have to go and see it then before it’ll be repainted back to orange. 😉

The road was getting steeper and one time we were driving like 20-30k/hr. The driver told us that in Reatihi we would change the buses, so there was hope that we would reach our destinations before the night. The new bus was newer, stronger, faster and with a working air condition. But the windows were very dirty and now I’m a little sorry I didn’t take any photos when we were driving Whanganui River Road. The views were stunning!

I arrived in Wanganui after 5 p.m. The town was really pretty, but totally quiet. There was almost no one on the streets. I wondered if it was because of the last day of the Festival of Glass, which I saw the banner of over Victoria Avenue and everyone was somewhere in the centre of the main events, but really, I couldn’t hear anything. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a ghost town. It was just so peaceful!

When I found my hostel (quite a long walk from the Transport Centre), I suspected it would be just me in a dorm room, but when I got back from a shop, there was one more girl. She was from England and was trying to book a tour on the River, but everything was either still closed or working just at weekends, because it wasn’t the right season yet. I didn’t have that pressure, I just wanted see the town and see what happens. Clive, the guy who ran the hostel, suggested her to book a tour with the mailman, so she did. It cost her $63 and she had to get up before 7 a.m. Anyway, I spent that evening cultivating bad habits from Hamilton, i.e. watching TV. I really enjoy staying in those small towns in almost empty hostels and having time just for myself.

The next day, after lazy morning, I went to explore the town. My hostel was by the River close to Dublin Bridge. I crossed the river and went along the bank through Kowhai Park towards the town centre.

Park

I wonder if you can guess those stories.

The answer is here.

Pumpkin barbeque.

Swings. Shame on you, Levin!

[edited to add] the dinosaur slide! (for H. 😉 ) The Flinstones were very cool.

I wanted to go to Durie Hill lookout, but I thought you could get there only by car and I didn’t see the way for pedestrians so I turned back and crossed the river on City Bridge. I heard the whistle of a paddle steamer on the river and walking into the iSite, which is on Taupo Quay right by the river, I saw an information that the steamer cruise were to be at 1:30 p.m., so I had only half an hour if I decided to go. At the Visitor Centre, I took a map and the key to Putiki church ($2 for the church and $20 deposit), but I didn’t go there straight after that. As I said, the whistle caught my interest, so I went to check out the paddle steamer “Waimarie”.

The trip cost $39 and it was one hour up the Whanganui River and one hour back. Someone made a nice video of his visit on that boat. “Waimarie” runs on coal, so the smoke reminded me the smell of my hometown in autumn, when people start heating their houses. Probably this is how it smells now, when the weather is getting colder. Amazing how certain fragrances can bring some memories. I guess I’m a nose person. (derailing: this is one of my favourite scenes from the movie “Perfume”; sorry it’s in Italian, but the last minute is the most important).

Back to the boat.

I was hoping to see more hills, which I saw the other day from the road, but when the bank started to be more interesting, the boat turned around and we were on the way back to town. Luckily, the company of a crew member eased my disappointment and Wanganui will always have a special place in my heart thanks to that meeting.

From “Waimarie” I went to see Putiki church. Outside it was nothing special, but the inside was impressive. There are three or four churches carved like that in New Zealand.

It was getting late, so first I went to give the key back and then I went to Durie Hill, because I had found out that there was an ELEVATOR! 😀 First I had to walk through the tunnel

And the elevator ($2 one way) took me on the top where was War Memorial Tower and 176 steps to the lookout deck. I read that on clear day you can see Mt Taranaki, Mt Ruapehu or even the South Island. It wasn’t that clear that day.

Wanganui town

I can vaguely see Mt Ruapehu in this photo, right where that tower is on the left.

I took the elevator down, although you can walk down the hill, but I was tired. The streets were almost empty again, because it was after 5 p.m. already. I didn’t have time to visit any of the galleries or museums, but that was all right. The weather was too nice to stay indoors.

I think I’ll have to come back to Wanganui to try the best coffee in town in Rapido Espresso House. I didn’t have time to do that either.