Mt Taranaki is hidden behind a thick layer of cloud. I guess we won’t be seeing the majestic volcano today. Mind you, with my hip still sore that’s probably a good thing because it reduces the temptation to go hiking.
We drive back to New Plymouth instead while our hosts go to their respective work. New Plymouth is the largest town in this part of the Taranaki. It’s little more than a village but the distinction between city, town and village is broad here in New Zealand with its tiny national population. But an artistic village it is.
Our first stop is an art gallery dedicated to Len Lys. He created the wind wand on the waterfront. It’s all modern art and I find it dull. Lots of empty space and random objects that someone has called art. I’m not sure that I agree that coloured rods scattered around the gallery is art. Each to their own. And the exterior of the building is worth visiting with it’s wave of mirror wall.
Puke Ariki is nearby so I hop over there next while Paul walks. It’s drizzling so there’s no point staying outdoors. Puke Ariki is a large museum that covers local and natural history. We borrow a wheelchair so Paul can push me around and rest my hip. We learn about the natural history of Mt Taranaki, which developed and collapsed many times over thousands of years. The display of Maori history is respectful. I think about the stories we have heard from white people over the years about the relationships between Maori and European New Zealanders. There is much myth in the stories that Maori were not dispossessed, for the display we read at Puke Ariki clearly shows a tale of dispossession. Downstairs is a brilliant display about bugs. It’s aimed at children but we have fun there. We play a game about attracting bees to the garden and dress up in insect costumes.
We drive back to Oaonui, stopping at all the beaches along the way. The black sand beaches are pretty. Sure, I’m not as likely to swim here as on a white sand beach but that’s just a trick of the brain. Funny how that happens. For surfers, though, this stretch of coast is a draw card with reliable waves. Every town has at least one surf shop and the beaches are all signed from the highway.
We stop at Cape Egmont Lighthouse. The museum is only open during the weekend and today is Wednesday. But the drive along the coast road is eerie enough to keep us interested. Eerie because the beach is strewn with massive boulders that can only have come from a violent volcanic eruption. In the wind and drizzle it feels like this could happen again any time, even though the last eruption was in the 1750s. A dilapidated house just adds to the mystery.
It’s late afternoon when we return to our Couch Surfing hosts’ house. Andrew and Sue are fantastic hosts with the perfect Couch Surfing set up. We cook a meal to share, eat together and watch some television between conversation. It’s been mother brilliant day in New Zealand for us.