I guess we have been lucky so far, sunny days and hot afternoons are not the norm in New Zealand in the winter. Last night, as we drove towards our campsite on Ohawe Beach we could see Mount Taranaki just a few miles away standing proud of the surrounding landscape with its snow-topped peak glinting in the late afternoon sun, it was not to be the same sight that greeted us in the morning.
Soon after snuggling down into our nests, Jamie in the little space above the driving cab and me at the back of the van in the space where the table was (we alternate nightly), it began to rain. The wind got up and wobbled our nests and the pinging of raindrops on the outer casing grew louder. It was an atrocious night to be out. Luckily, rain stimulates sleep in me, not so in Jamie, but I think he eventually did fall asleep. No one was tempted to visit the toilets some 50m away near the cliff top! Even plan ‘B’ which incorporated baptising the rear wheels was not employed.
We eventually stirred into life around 8.30am, made coffee, visited the toilets and had a shower (loads of lovely hot water). It was still raining but not as fiercely as during the night. After a short trot down to the beach we set off optimistically for Mount Taranaki. Well, it was there the previous evening but it had disappeared completely now, but our Satnav would find it.
As we cannonballed down the main highway the full brunt of the storm hit, knocking our little van from side to side and testing the windscreen wipers to their limit. We pressed on with fingers crossed, hoping that it would quickly blow over. It did not. We reached the lower slopes of the volcano and began to climb the heights along a single track road that twisted and turned at every occasion. The road was slowly becoming a stream. Meeting no-one going up or down we eventually reached the plateau where in 1940 a small landing strip had been laid out for small rescue aircraft. We parked up against the toilet block, the only visible feature as it was just rain and grey 10m in every direction. The wind was driving the rain horizontally and our insignificant craft was bouncing up and down on its little wheels. First Jamie attempted to leave our vehicle, returning in seconds completely soaked. Thinking I was on the sheltered side of the RV I attempted similar with the same result. We thought we would hang on for one hour and then if conditions hadn’t improved (we had planned to do this mountain!) we would drive on to New Plymouth.
As we settled down to sit it out my mobile received a text from the NZ Met-service. They informed us that the rain will cause rivers and streams to rise rapidly and cause flooding and slips. I guess that was a hint that Mount Taranaki was about to disappear under the waves. In 2nd gear we floated back down the mountain to a small hotel we had passed earlier and had coffees and watched the rain bounce down outside next to the comfort of a log fire.
We continued on in the rain to New Plymouth. Parking alongside the beach in the centre of the town, we had a wet wander around the shops before ducking into a large shopping mall and having lunch. We found the museum as we were searching for the tourist information office and spent a pleasant dry hour or so looking at the displays.
Story: In the early 1800’s a British ship was wrecked off the coast. All the crew scrambled ashore safely but a local Maori chief kidnapped the captain’s wife and children. The Captain and crew eventually escaped and made their way to Australia. The wife and children were (supposedly) rescued by another Maori chief (I think they were sold). The captain returned with a warship and recovered his family and then destroyed the Maori tribes in the area. This story was given as an example of the first European aggression against the Maori. Now surely that is a Maori perspective? Surely attacking a shipwrecked crew and kidnapping women and children is an example of Maori aggression against Europeans? Or am I reading this incorrectly?
It was still raining when we visited the cinema to check the times of films for our evening entertainment and also when we checked into our campsite for the evening, which conveniently was next to the beach in the centre of town. The rain didn’t let up while Jamie took a short walk and I wrote this blog. We spent an afternoon playing cards and drying our rain coats with a portable heater.
The film we watched that evening was Alien: Covenant. It had all the suspense of the first Alien film but suffered from being a little too predictable, particularly the twist at the end. It was still raining when we returned to the camping site via Dominoes Pizza. Hopefully, tomorrow will be better.