Oaonui to Whanganui (Manawatu-Wanganui, New Zealand)

Our stay with Andrew amd Suzie has been so relaxing. The past two nights have felt like we were staying with relatives, not strangers who opened their home and lives to us. We’ve played with their big boofy dog, petted their cats, shared meals, swapped storied and watched some tele.  I’m almost sad our stay has to end yet excited about what lies ahead.
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Andrew recommends Dawson Falls on the slopes of Mt Taronake. He also gives us a tip about where to park to reduce the distance to the falls given my injury and the wet weather.
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Te Rere o Noke (as the Maori refer to Dawson Falls) drop 18m off a cliff formed by volcanic activity thousands of years ago. The path leads through an almosy fantasy like forest with gnarled trees, glossy green moss and black soil. I definitely must come back to New Zealand to hike some more. The falls are equally magnificent. They are loud and rough.
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We continue our drive through the farmlands between Mt Taranaki and the sea. There are odd mounds everywhere that look like the remnants of an eruption. I’ve never seen this kind of landscape before so it intrugues me.
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New Zealand is far more rural and isolated than I had anticipated. Red tin sheds and old houses dot the landscape.

Stratford appears as if from nowhere. There are no distance signs in New Zealand to announce the approach of towns. An art gallery is the main attraction for the town. It’s a groovy place with some gorgeous pieces. We buy two pottery monks.
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Eltham is a short drive away. The art gallery is closed when we arrive so we walk through a nearby garden.  There’s a wall of toys accompanied by a faerie chapel and castle. It’s adorable. The toy wall and garden was created after a local found a toy on her garden and placed it on a wall in the garden. The toy garden grew as more people placed toys there. Today, the founder’s ashes are housed in the faerie chapel. The art gallery is open after our walk. It’s a lovely collection and we buy some prints.

Our next stop is Hawera where there is another gallery and also an art school. The art world is in safe hands. We buy some paintings and the artist happens to be onsite. She signs the works.

It’s raining now and Cyclone Cook is racing towards Whanganui where we will stay tonight.  We’re not concerned though. Checking into Dolphin Townhouse we are greeted by our friendly Air BnB host. She has left us a wealth of local information, including the timetable for the local cinema. We have the townhouse to ourselves so can cook a meal, relax and sit out the storm.

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