New Zealand – Wellington, Manawatu-Wanganui, Taranaki

Our Interislander ferry crossing was originally scheduled for 13 July but a few days prior to our departure, we received an ominous warning that all ferry crossings would be cancelled due to a massive winter storm. Since making Interislander ferry changes was free, so we decided to err on the side of caution and depart the south island a few days early, preferring to be holed up in Wellington rather than Picton. Our Cook Strait crossing was smooth as silk, and we spent the entire journey top deck enjoying the pristine weather. Upon arrival in Wellington, we quickly made our way over to Evans Bay Marina, a free camp site next to the Zephyrometer. The weather quickly took a turn for the worse, and we soon found out that Wellington lives up to its reputation for being the windiest city in the world. Our time in Wellington was spent checking out several museums (don’t miss the excellent Te Papa Museum), seeking refuge from the rain at the public library, signing up for a free Parliament tour, and swinging by Weta Cave to see the hobbit. From Wellington, we drove north to Whanganui where the weather improved marginally. We climbed up Durie Hill Tower, hiked around Queens Park, and wandered all around scenic Whanganui before finally pulling into the RSA for a free campsite (with power included, what a gem!). Our first sunny day on the north island found us on the Whanganui River Scenic Drive, which was well worth the effort, especially Koriniti Marae and the Jerusalem church (don’t miss learning about Mother Suzanne Aubert). Next up was the Forgotten Highway, where we enjoyed spectacular views throughout, especially of Mt Taranaki in the distance. Unfortunately, by the time we reached New Plymouth, Mt Taranaki was hidden beneath a layer of clouds and another storm was moving in so we didn’t linger long here. Just enough time to check out the Te Rewa Rewa Bridge (looks like a fish bone), the Brooklands Park Zoo, and Puke Ariki Museum. The next morning, torrential rain was pouring down but we still tried our very best to have a full sightseeing day. First was a visit to the 1903 Gairloch shipwreck but after a near miss with getting our campervan stuck in the mud, we decided to skip it. Next, we headed over to the Cape Egmont Lighthouse, but heavy rain and gale force winds persisted all morning long so in the end, we reluctantly gave up on seeing anything else in the Taranaki region and made our way over towards Taupo. After spending the better part of a week in Taupo and Napier, we returned to the Manawatu-Wanganui district because it was farm time! Goodie had coordinated a farm stay in Rangiwahia with his cousin Rose and her husband Doug so it was time for us to get our hands a bit dirty. From Rangiwahia, we headed further south towards Masterton where we stayed a night with Anna’s lovely parents (Marion and Warwick) who showed us true New Zealand hospitality on a cold winter’s night. Then it was onward to the Putangirua Pinnacles, Ngawi (a small fishing village that has more tractors than people), Cape Palliser seal colony and lighthouse. From Cape Palliser, we drove up towards Castle Point Lighthouse where we were rewarded with a spectacular sunrise. Lastly, we finally got to see a live kiwi thanks to the Mount Bruce Wildlife Center. From here, we will backtrack to Hawke’s Bay, Gisborne and the Bay of Plenty for a few weeks before making our way up north.

Torrential rain hits Wellington so we quickly find indoor activities to pass the time Maori carving; Te Papa Museum Te Marae, Te Papa Museum's contemporary meeting place Whale tooth necklace; Te Papa Museum Skeleton of a kiwi, showing the massive size of an egg in relation to the mother's body; Te Papa Museum Robby checking out a pre-historic giant nautilus; Te Papa Museum Shark wall mural (to promote anti-shark finning awareness); Wellington Fish sculpture in Frank Kitts Park; Wellington Bird scultpure on the City to Sea Bridge; Wellington City to Sea Bridge; Wellington Old Public Trust Building; Wellington Beehive Parliament building; Wellington Wellington welcome sign Cave troll versus Robby; Weta Cave Hobbit feet; Weta Cave Museum Gollum "my precious"; Weta Cave museum Becky getting stomped by a troll outside Weta Cave Mural at Levin Adventure Park The Dutch Oven in Foxton! It must have a different meaning in New Zealand, ha Māori ceramic on display at the Whanganui i-SITE Visitor Center Durie Hill Tower; Whanganui View of Whanganui from the top of Durie Hill tower Sarjeant Gallery; Whanganui Downtown Whanganui Art Deco movie theater in Whanganui George's fish and chip store; main street Whanganui Looking down over Whanganui River Road from Aramoana Summit Pepara Church, Koriniti Marae; Whanganui River Entrance to Koriniti Marae; Whanganui River Meeting houses (wharenui) of Koriniti Marae Closer view of the meeting houses; Koriniti Marae Painted kowhaiwhai detail (traditional red/white/black patterns brought from Polynesia hundreds of years ago); Koriniti Marae Canoe mailbox; Whanganui River Region Driving the picturesque Whanganui River Region Landslide along Whanganui River Road Jerusalem settlement, a tiny and isolated village on Whanganui River Road Jerusalem Church. We learned about Suzanne Aubert, a Catholic sister who became fluent in Māori and started an orphanage in Jerusalem, New Zealand St Joseph's Church altar; Jerusalem Image from the book "Before They Pass Away" by Jimmy Nelson, on display at Jerusalem church Waterfall; Whanganui River Road Rugged scenery as we drive towards the Forgotten Highway Mount Ruapehu Giant Moa in driftwood; a town icon in Taumarunui Fence detail on the Forgotten Highway Sheep; Forgotten Highway Hobbit's Hole (Moki Tunnel); Forgotten Highway Driving through Hobbit's hole Decrepit farmhouse; Forgotten Highway Stunning scenery on our drive through the Forgotten Highway (linking Taumarunui to Stratford) Signpost for Whangamomona, its own republic and an autonomous entity seperate from New Zealand; Forgotten Highway Complete with its own passport stamp, the republic of Whangamomona also has its own post office The republic of Whangamomona Whangamomona hotel, the only sleeping option in the republic In no time at all, we've zipped through Whangamomona and are now back in New Zealand territory; Forgotten Highway View of Mount Taranaki; Forgotten Highway Lovely scenery as we drive along the Forgotten Highway Another view of Mount Taranaki as we drove towards Stratford. Sadly, this was the best view we'd get of the volcano because cloud cover obscured our view later in the day Glockenspiel in Stratford Te Rewa Rewa Bridge, designed to resemble a breaking wave/whale skeleton; New Plymouth Meerkat; Brooklands Zoo in New Plymouth Eclectus parrot checking out his reflection in Robby's camera lens; Brooklands Zoo Lady Amherst's Pheasant; Brooklands Zoo Megalodon shark model (the size of a bus) hanging in the Puke Ariki museum; New Plymouth New Plymouth street art New Plymouth town clock tower next to the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and White Hart Hotel Shoes hanging on the fence; near Three Sisters Rock Formation Mountainous road leading to Rangiwahia Little white church No trace of snow despite a recent winter storm; enroute to Rangiwahia Becky and Zane get settled in at Rose and Doug's farm; Rangiwahia Becky and Bella waiting for Doug to shut the gate; Rangiwahia Farm Stay Delicious pumpkin soup for dinner Becky and Zane bundled up warm for a cold day on the farm; Rangiwahia Zane enjoying his first sheep riding experience thanks to a little help from Goodie; Rangiwahia Farm Stay Stopping for a tea break; Rangiwahia Farm Stay Golden Pheasant; Rangiwahia Robby feeding the chickens; Rangiwahia Farm Stay Future All Blacks fan Zane plays with Robby Warwick and Marion serving up a yummy lamb roast for dinner; Masterton Selfie with Anna's awesome parents Warwick and Marion - thanks for the hospitality! Historic Burnside Church; Pirinoa Sheep farm; Pirinoa Drive to Putangirua Pinnacles Panorama of our hike to Putangirua Pinnacles Shell fossils embedded into the rock; near Putangirua Pinnacles Putangirua Pinnacles, used for the "Paths of the Dead" in the Lord of the Ring - Return of the King movie Becky dwarfed by the Putangirua Pinnacles Robby riding a tractor in Ngawi, where tractors outnumber inhabitants! Ngawi painted tractor Driving to Cape Palliser's seal colony Fur seals; Cape Palliser Rocky coastline near Cape Palliser Road leading to Cape Palliser Lighthouse 250 steps leading to Cape Palliser Lighthouse Cape Palliser Lighthouse Yield to penguins for the next 30 km; Cape Palliser Sheep in a cave; near Ngawi Free campsite at the Castle Point car park Sunrise at Castle Point Castle Point Lighthouse, built in 1913 Coastal view from Castle Point Lighthouse Auckland green gecko; Pukaha Mount Bruce Wildlife Center Tui, one of New Zealand's native birds; Mount Bruce Wildlife Center Manukura, the famous little white kiwi hatched at the Mount Bruce Wildlife Center. We were amazed to see that she is about the size of a bowling ball! North island kokako, the most engaging and interactive bird at the Mount Bruce Wildlife Center Kaka, a native New Zealand parrot Robby feeding long fin eels at the Mount Bruce Wildlife Center Tui brewery, NZ's most iconic brewery; Mangatainoka foto gallery lightboxby v6.1

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