Backpacking Pensioners travel blog

Aotea Waka at Patea

A Harley at Tawhiti Museum

A model of a Pa at Tawhiti Museum

A Maori scene at Tawhiti Museum

A few of the tractors at Tawhiti Museum

Waiting for the 3pm Glockenspiel Clock

Were for art thou

Down here again, you daft bat

Where are you now?

The Grand Finale

Sylvia’s Comments.

After breakfast we went to say good-bye to our fellow campers before setting off ourselves. It was an overcast day and we decided to visit the local museum which some people, over the weekend, had recommended to us. It sits in the main street opposite the 56 foot concrete replica of Aotea waka (canoe) to commemorate the arrival of Polynesian migrants to the area in the 14 centaury. The museum did not look very big and on entering we were met by a very friendly member of staff who gave us an introduction to the area of Taranaki and the museum itself.

With the help of a map the lady pointed out areas of significance we would come across in our travels throughout the Taranaki district. It seems there is a great deal of Maori history connected to one of the land wars that will be on our travel route, so with spots marked on the map to visit we went into the museum. The museum was just like Dr Who’s Tardis, it just kept getting bigger. It contained a lot of history of the area both from the Maori perspective and the European settler’s perspective, there were many items that were familiar to us from our childhood days which always seem to make you feel our age. One room was given over to the destruction of the old meat works building, earlier this year, by a large fire. Patea is a town surrounded by sheep and dairy farming, the meat works had stood on the river bank and close to the rail lines, ready to take the meat away to the markets. It had ended operations in the 1980’s, and like any small town, the loss of such a large employer had decimated the community. The fire seemed to have galvanised people into action as also in the room were designs drawn up by two different people to re-develop the derelict building into community and tourist facilities.

Whilst in the museum we could hear the rain battering down on the roof and were lucky to find a lull to allow us to return to the van without getting wet. Continuing on along SH 3 our next destination was Hawea, another farming centre, and the main town of South Taranaki. We are now in the Taranaki district where the cone-shaped peak of Mt Taranaki dominates the area. Not today it doesn’t as all we were seeing was rain and mist. It is difficult to imagine that this 2518m high volcano was out there somewhere, but we were assured that it was. In Hawea we had been recommended to visit the Tawhiti Museum, and today was very much an indoor day. It took us a little bit of touring around but we eventually found it.

This museum is owned by a private collector and houses a fantastic collection of lifelike, life sized models to sit amongst the many settings of country life on display. There is also a display telling the story of the land wars using miniaturised life like models. The large models were formed using plaster cast models of family, friends and local people, and the small models were developed from moulds. Touring around the different buildings we were directed to the ‘body shop’ where all the models are made. It is one of the most remarkable museums that I have visited and the attention to detail was incredible. Round the back of the museum in another big warehouse is a largest collection of tractors and lawnmowers that I have encountered. We spent a good couple of hours in this museum and could recommend it to any travellers in this area.

We left as the museum was closing and found it still raining. At Hawera we had to make a choice of routes, SH 45 which travels around the coast or continue on SH 3,the inland route. We chose the inland route and would return back to the area later to take the costal route. Tonight we would drive the short distance to Stratford, a small town situated on the junction of SH45 and SH3, and one of only three routes into Egmont National Park and Mt Taranaki. We found a camp site and a camp manager who had a friend whose daughter works at Dundee University, it keeps on amazing us how small this world is. We set up our van and got the TV switched on and the blinds up to avoid looking at the rain. The weather forecast for tomorrow is not looking good with severe weather warnings out for most of the country.

Tuesday morning and it is still raining and windy, the forecast is not good so we decide to stay here and sit out the storm. There is plenty we can be getting on with. After lunch the rain lifts and we decide to walk into the town to get some shopping. Stratford is named after Stratford-on-Avon and all the streets are named after characters in William Shakespeare’s plays. It is also home to NZ’s first Glockenspiel, or playing clock. These are common around Europe but this one is different as the figures are larger and does not depict events or interesting points in history. This clock is based on the Romeo and Juliet story and three times a day gives a rendition, to music, of spoken words from the play. No prizes given as to what words are spoken, that is too easy. We did our shopping and wandered up and down the main street killing time until the 3pm performance (the last of the day) and stood in awe and wonder at it. We were the only ones standing there and people driving past gave us some odd looks, but hey we are tourists after all. With all this excitement over we returned to the van. We still have not seen Mt Taranaki.

The news tonight was very sombre and told of the damage the storms had created. One gentleman and his horse had been killed by lightening above Auckland and in the Tongariro National Park, fairly close to where we are, a party of school children (teenagers) a teacher and instructor are missing. As the evening wore on further bulletins informed us that five bodies had been found, four survivors had made it back and two people were still missing. The party were out canyoning in the Mangatepopo River when a deluge of water flowed off the mountain and down the river they were in. The river had risen from half a meter to thirty six metres, a very rare occurrence.

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