Friday, November 29, 2019

New Plymouth has a Lot to Offer!

Three Sisters

Prior to our 10-day road trip through New Zealand's North Island Rich combed travel guides and websites to find dozens of points of interest and hikes.  We put them all on Google Maps and planned a meandering route down the West coast and back up through the middle trying to connect-the-dots.

Yesterday we were rolling down a coastal highway when we caught sight of one of the outdoor attractions. The Three Sisters are large rock formations sticking up out of a beach next to tall white cliffs.  They are located at the mouth of a river that empties into the ocean.  Lucky for us it was low tide and we were able to make our way along the river to where it emptied out onto a broad open beach.  It was a beautiful spot.  The sun was getting low in the sky and the quality of the light was amazing.





Rich thinks this rock and it's vegetation looks like Trump's profile
The beach was a fine black sand that was seeded with mica or quartz.  The low sun angle made it sparkle like diamonds.

The river bed near the parking lot had sand with a grey/blue hue.  It was pretty when the sun hit it.
It was a nice walk out, about 10 minutes to get there.  We were fortunate to be there at dead low tide so we could see the whole beach.  The water started coming in as we were there and in certain areas it was making cool washboard patterns in the sand.


The river bed had black sand that looks likes oil in this photo.
I took this from the highway above.  The 3 sisters are to the left.

As we got closer, we found the formations were quite a bit larger than they appeared from the highway.  Those are large trees on top.  The hole on the right goes all the way through.  You could drive a bus down the tunnel.
The other side of the hole in the rock.
To get a sense of size, Rich is standing near the opening.

A full view of The cliff on the left can be seen below.

This is the cliff behind 3 sisters, They are just off screen on the right.



This large rock was just sitting on the beach, as though it fell out of the sky.
Yay New Zealand!
This is standing in front of the large rock on the beach looking at the cliff. 
Hole in the rock is in the center.  The large rock is in the foreground.
There is an expanse of beach behind hole in the rock.  The cliffs in the background are across that beach.
I'm standing at Three sisters looking across the beach.  The ocean is to the left.
You really get a sense of size seeing the people next to the rocks.


I love hearing and watching the sea birds.

Caddy and her balls!   She usually holds 3 at a time.
Leaving the Three Sisters we headed down South to the coastal town of New Plymouth where we stayed at an AirBNB.  Our host had a sweet old dog named Caddy. She is a beautiful and mellow 13 year old golden retriever. She puts up to 3 tennis balls in her mouth and brings them to you, but she won't fetch them. She just likes to show them to you!

I took a few shots out the car window of the countryside we passed through. Rich claims that I lean out the window with my tongue hanging out. I haven't done that yet but I might! The scenery is a jaw-dropper.


The journey is as nice as the destination.
We really liked New Plymouth. It's a college town with a somewhat hipster vibe. It resembles Boulder Colorado in a lot of ways. It's the gateway to nearby Edgmont National Park and Mount Taranaki, a volcanic mountain that looks like Mount Fuji. In fact, the Tom Cruise movie "The Last Samurai" was filmed right here.

Paritutu Rock

The next morning we checked out an outdoor attraction from our guidebooks. Paritutu Rock sticks right up on the coastal edge of New Plymouth like a little Matterhorn. It looked rather daunting from the parking lot but we could see people working their way up the side. Hey, if their Moms let them do it, we'll probably be OK too. It was quite a climb, steep and a little rough at the top. It was mostly climbing up interlocking boulders. As you get closer to the top it gets nearly vertical and there is a chain you must use to pull yourself up. We kept talking about how unlikely such a thing would be in the liability-conscious USA. It was obvious that local authorities had taken pains to remove all the loose rock from the path. Gotta love those Kiwis!

When we reached the top we found a great view of the whole area and a stiff breeze that knocked us around a bit. We were looking right down into an abandoned power plant. Which was interesting.....to us.

Approaching the rock.








The power plant is in the center and a lumber shipping facility to the right of it.

It was a little bit windy!

The power lines leaving the plant.
Waves crashing on the rocks to the left of the power plant.
There was a little tour boat going around these rocks.

The view to the South




New Plymouth to the South

Mount Taranaki


The photo below is not ours.  The overcast skies and low clouds blocked our view of Mt Taranaki.   We really wanted to hike some of it's highly-rated trails despite the disappointing weather.  So we got a few supplies and headed that way.  



A circular tract of land surrounding Mt Taranaki was sent aside over 100 years ago and it's quite visible from space.  As we entered the National Park the transition from farmland to forest was abrupt.  So abrupt that it's a spectacle all it's own.  We were driving through grassy farmland then suddenly there's a mature forest with 100 foot high trees blocking the road.  The road continued into the forest but it was like nothing we had ever seen.  It was like a tunnel cut into the side of a green hillside.  We pulled over to stare at it.  



We continued into the park, driving through a magical tunnel of trees.  The road was single-lane with a wider patch every so often for cars to pass.  Like so much of New Zealand, we were on our own.  We only passed one car on the road.

Mount Taranaki: New Zealand's Mount Fuji


The transition from farmland to national park is obvious from space. 
The drive up to the park was through a tree tunnel.
After about 20 minutes driving through the green tunnel up the side of the mountain we arrived at the trailhead and visitors center. It was now drizzling. We stepped out of the van and it was freezing cold. It felt like the temp had dropped 20 degrees and the wind was blowing like crazy. What a difference the elevation made. Both of us were dressed in shorts and t-shirts. We quickly put on our jackets and I dug out a pair of fleece leggings. We started having second thoughts on a hike. On the short walk over to the visitor center we were buffeted by 30 mph gusts. When we walked out it was even more dark, cold and miserable so we reluctantly agreed to skip the hike.


The Second Power Station of the Day

We jumped in the van and started heading back down the mountain.  About a quarter mile down there were a couple of trail entrances.  One was to a waterfall and another was marked "Power Station".  We looked at each other.  "Power Station?"  "Up here?"  We had to check this out!  We followed a little path to a small building with a historical plaque on the side and plenty of windows to peer inside.  It was a turn-of-the-century hydro generating plant.  Incredibly, it housed one of the first General Electric DC generators.  Thomas Edison was in his prime when this thing was made!  Interpretive signs and plaques told us it was a second-hand unit from the US that once powered the cable cars in Wellington.  After that it was installed at the park to power the nearby visitors center.  There's a claim on the Internet that this is the world's oldest generator in continuous use.








Rich was quite tickled over the old plant with it's vintage switchgear and mechanical governor.  After figuring out how everything worked we headed back to the van.

When we got back the road we picked up the good camera and started hiking to a waterfall that was just a kilometer away.  As soon as we were 100 feet into the woods we just stopped and said: "wow".  It was a scene right out of Lord of the Rings.  Every surface was covered with moss and ferns.  The green tapestry was amazing.  Rich was way down the trail before I stopped shooting photos and caught up.

Lord of the Rings forest



The leaves of ferns are called fronds and when they are young they are tightly coiled into a tight spiral. This shape, called a 'koru' in Māori, is a popular motif in many New Zealand designs.
Koru
So cool!


Further up the waterfall

We carefully hiked down a steep trail to the base of the falls and found a group of young Asian girls giggling and snapping photos.  They were staging photos that made it seem like they were drinking the entire flow of the falls.  They were quite enthusiastic about taking my photo doing the same.  One of them took my camera and shot some photos while the others giggled, applauded, and nodded.  They were so sweet and cute.  I had them take a photo of Rich and I.  Unfortunately the photos were all blurry.   Oh well, we've got the memory!

Grabbing a quick drink after the hike to the falls





After an amazing day on the road we drove through the countryside to a lovely airbnb place on a lot of land amongst the hills.  As we approached the driveway there were 2 sheep in the middle of the road.  Somehow they had gotten out of the fenced field where we saw all the other sheep!  I walked back down the road to try and chase them back inside the fence but they just ran from me.  I told the airbnb host and they said it is typical.  The sheep get out a hole in the fence and the owner never fixes it.  I hope the sheep don't get hit.  I heard some pigs while I was chasing the sheep and found a pig pen with 2 cute pigs in it.



Baaahhhhaaa


One of 2 cats at the airbnb.

Oink Oink

To view all photos from 3 Sisters and New Plymouth click Here
To view all photos from Mount Taranaki Forest click Here




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