Day 8
March 17th, 2011 by

[Written by Haywood]

On our original itinerary today we would head to the Tongariro Alpine Pass for two days of long hikes including one 8 hour hike up two mountains. Somehow this idea seemed to make a lot more sense in the US than it did here for two big reasons. Firstly, because of how the roads work it was actually fairly circuitous to get there from New Plymouth. Secondly, neither of us had hiking shoes, jackets, or backpacks necessary for this particular hike. Having met a few people that had hiked the pass it became a little too clear that we were overestimating our abilities and resources. The pass is supposed to be beautiful, but we decided we needed to scrap it and save our time for another trip. So instead we decided we would make a slower decent towards Wellington, spend an extra day in Wellington, and head to Dunedin a day early.

Most of mornings of this trip we have woken up with the sun and gotten out on the road as fast possible so as not to waste daylight, but this morning we relaxed. We caught up on emails, read our  books in the hostels solarium, and of course made this new plan. When we finally did leave New Plymouth it was around 11am and we had a general sense of the day, but no sure idea where we would end up for the night. Our first stop of the morning was a large hill called the Paritutu Centennial Park in New Plymouth. It is incredibly steep and there is a metal chain to hold onto which allows you to  pull yourself up the mountain. Our Father would have been afraid for our lives. At the top there is a nice view of the ocean and power plants – which is sort of a strange combination, but fun and a really good workout!

Driving out of New Plymouth we drove around yet another New Zealand Mountain called Mt. Egmont which is supposed to be one of the more dangerous mountains to climb due to the lack of visibility at the top. This region is called Taranaki and today they were having a holiday. This meant we saw a lot more people on the road than we had previously and as we were going down the highway there was a police road block and they were breathalizing all of the drivers.  Don’t worry, Taylor’s result said NO ALCOHOL. We thought this was a bit odd at 3pm on a Monday, but I guess since it was a holiday they were worried about people drinking and driving.

The rest of our drive mostly consisted of Taylor pulling off the road every time she saw a sign for the beach. So, there was a lot of walking around new beaches but eventually we got to Wanganui where we decided to stop. Wanganui is about half way between New Plymouth and Wellington and was at one point an influential New Zealand town

Wanganui is a bit different from most of the other cities we have been to in New Zealand. While still close to the ocean, its main attraction is the Whanganui river that runs through the city and used to be part of a major shipping area. The buildings also are less beachy and more what we are used to in small town east coast America – cute little town center lined with trees. We decided to soak up the end of the sunlight by going on a bike ride down the river and through the city on bikes provided to us by the hostel. While not the most ambitious of days it was still enjoyable and beautiful.

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