With this entry I’m closing my Blog. On Friday I’ve returned to Hamilton for the last time and tomorrow I’ll be driving up to Auckland to pick up my love from the airport (she doesn‘t arrive till Wednesday, but I can‘t wait that long!). It will be difficult for me to Blog from the road and I recon we will be quite occupied. So this is it; but I still want to report from my last little journey which I undertook to bridge the time between the end of the semester and Caroline’s arrival.
Taranaki is the name of a region and of a mountain (see top picture in the middle) on the west coast of the North Island. The mountain use to be called Mt. Egmont, the name bestowed upon it by Captain Cook. It is (almost) a lonely mountain is in the middle of a flat peninsula. There are a few smaller hills, all located within a straight line between the mountain and the sea. All these hills are (dead) volcanoes, the ones closer to the sea are the older ones. The tallest of these volcanoes (Taranaki) is the youngest one. Maori folklore tells of Taranaki having an affair with an attractive volcano by Taupo due to which Taranaki had a row with her partner (Mt. Tongariro). Mt. Taranaki had to flee and ever since it is located on the east coast. The trail it left behind is today the Whanganui river.
I met some people at the hostel who were keen on renting a car with me. On Tuesday we drove the north road up Mt. Taranaki and took a four hours track at approximately 1700 meters, just below from where the snow started. Unfortunately large areas were in the clouds -- the mountain appears to be like a magnet to clouds -- but we got some good views from a bit further down.
The next day we headed down the Forgotten Highway. It was a beautiful curvy road through hilly green nothingness. What a fun road to drive on! I’ve seldom seen an inhabited village as strongly haunted by decay as Oharu. The ringing of the school bell at the southern end of the village was one of the few things from which we concluded that people are still living here. We drove on. Halfway down the Forgotten Highway is Whangamonamona, the only Republic to be surrounded by New Zealand. A few dozen people live in the capital and about 200 people live in the Republic. Each year they celebrate Republic Day on which they elect a Prime Minister. One year they elected a Poodle (yes, I’m talking about the dog!) as a Prime Minister. We had some coffee in the pub and asked them where we could get our passports stamped. The Lady pulled out a sign and put it on the bar saying: “The passport office is now open.”
On Thursday I remained in New Plymouth having a go at surfing and trying some white bait. Surfing was really fun. I didn’t manage to stand up on the board (at least not for more than two and a half seconds), but I got a few good rides lying down. White bait is one of New Zealand's respectable fish, even though it supposedly has gotten considerably rare over the last century.
Half way to Hamilton I got off of the bus in a nest called Piopio. In comparison to the last hundred kilometers Piopio appeared like a busy metropolis to me. Six kilometers from Piopio is the farm on which Jonno (my flat mate) grew up. It is an idyllic place with the closest neighbors living a kilometer or two down the road. There are many medium sized farms in New Zealand as a result of trying to people the country (getting people to settle in New Zealand by giving them cheap farmland) and also much land was awarded to people for their military services in World War II. In comparison to Europe there is a high percentage working in the primary sector, and they manage to make a living off of it. Yet that farm (which appeared gigantic to me: it encompassed hills, a river with a waterfall and woods) was a small one. Jonno’s parents have cows and sheep, yet both of them also have teaching jobs.
There, that's it. Hope whoever followed this blog had some fun and didn’t get to board. I hope to see you soon (at the beginning of the new year).
E noho ra (farewell!)