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.
I wonder if you can guess those stories.
The answer is here.
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.
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.