New Plymouth

On my way to the bus stop in Palmerston North, I notice the beggars on the street who set themselves on me asking if I can spare some money for a pie! I am so glad to leave this town and gratefully jump on the bus to New Plymouth.

I have 48 hours in New Plymouth which isn’t much time to see everything, however I’m so unlucky with the weather that I there are some things I just end up not being able to do anyway. My one full day is the only opportunity to do a walk in Egmont National Park, but the weather on the mountain is atrocious so I decide not to pay for the expensive shuttle bus there. The sea is very rough as well, meaning I can’t do the boat tour round the Sugar Loaf Islands as they just aren’t running. Fortunately there is still plenty to do in New Plymouth, which I can now do at a more relaxed pace.

The local museum is fascinating with wide ranging topics, but all with the key theme of the local area. There is some history of shocking Maori wars in the area, local wildlife displays, Maori artifacts and information on the oil industry which is strong in the area. The Maori wars are shocking because they were caused by the white people stealing the Maori’s land. As punishment for the uprising the rest of the Maori’s land was taken leaving them homeless and forced to migrate elsewhere. It’s only recently that their land has in part been returned to the tribe.

The Govett-Brewster Art Gallery, is the best art gallery I’ve seen in New Zealand, and houses a lot of interactive art and film art. One video has it’s sound distorted so you hear the quiet things clearly while the usually louder sounds are muffled. They also have an archive of short films, adverts and cartoons that you could spend days browsing through. One piece of interactive art takes your silhouette and puts it into a moving picture so that you feel like things are sticking to you or falling down on you and burying you.

The coastline is spectacular, with the sea crashing in, and the Sugar Loaf Islands out at sea. There is a coastal walkway right along the coast here, which I follow South as far as the Port, then follow North far out of town. Not long after passing a bay filled with kite-surfers I am forced to turn back as heavy rain kicks in. Luckily it’s short lived and 10 minutes later I’m pulling all my layers off again as I overheat in the sun.

On my last day in New Plymouth I visit the gardens, Pukekura Park and Brooklands Park. They are so tranquil and beautiful I’m really glad I didn’t miss them. On finding the lake, I finally get my first close up glimpse of Mount Taranaki, a white dome poking above the rainforest. The gardens are in full flower now that we are into late Spring.

In Brooklands Park I find the Brooklands Zoo, a place I’m told is free to visit. Expecting more of a farm park I am surprised by the variety of animals on display – for free! I spend some time watching a merecat, who is on guard while the family sleep visible in a small house behind, looking rather cute.

Before leaving the gardens I visit the hot and cold houses, which are set up rather interestingly with tunnels between the different houses. The smell is amazing and complemented by a colourful display of flowers.

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