It was time to move on from the TSB Arena to our next destination, the gardens of Pukeiti located on the foothills of the mountain. However as their carpark is not really designed for 11 motorhomes arriving and staying at the same time as well as all the other people visiting the gardens during the garden festival. They asked that we arrive after 3.30pm which left us the day to explore other things in the area.
With each of the group heading off almost in different directions Sarah and I decided to just drive and see what happened. Sarah pointed inland towards Inglewood but rather than take the main road we went on a bit of a detour through some rather narrow back country roads. It was actually rather an enjoyable drive getting the chance to look at some really nice farming country.
Inglewood is located about 20 kms inland existing mainly as a service area for the local dairy farmers but it’s also home to the Fun Ho! museum located in the local information centre and so with time to spare we decided to prop up the local economy and waste some time looking around the exhibits.
Started in 1935 by Jack Underwood Fun Ho! toys were made here in Inglewood until the company closed down in 1982 under the pressure of cheaper imported toys from Asia but for the time it was in business they manufactured thousands of toys that many in the motorhome community probably remember from their childhood.
Early toys mainly consisted of racing cars like the one shown above but over the years the product lines grew with these caravans part of the model range from the 1950’s and 60’s reflecting a time when motorhomes where a rarity perhaps.
The shelves are stacked with all sorts of different models all labeled from the years that they were sold and whilst I don’t remember personally playing with any of these (I came to NZ when I was 13) Sarah remembered some of the toys as ones that her brother would have played with.
A couple of moving displays including the train set inside the old Morris van added to the display although some of the cars on the moving beltline appeared to have maybe skidded off the road. In reality some of the moving displays needed a little remedial work but overall some interesting displays.
The second room contains the equipment for making the models which they still do today on an occasional basis making toys requested by collectors using the old moulds to retain the original feel. Overall we enjoyed the time spent here and if you have an hour or so to spare then it’s worth a visit to this museum.
Also worth taking in is the Inglewood railway station a category 1 heritage building that has been well restored by the local community and is sadly not open for public access but is a great photo opportunity.
Even though later on this trip we would be spending a night on the mountain that would be further around the mountain and we wanted to have a look at the visitors centre at North Egmont. At the entrance to the park is the old gatehouse where, back when it was built the gatekeeper was in charge of a oneway traffic system as the road was so narrow that you could only proceed in one direction at a time.
These days the road has been widened (just) to allow two way traffic although when you have a 9 metre motorhome it can still be a very tight squeeze round some of the corners. What we did find interesting was the potential fine of up to $100,000 for bringing your dog into the Park. No dogs allowed not even in your vehicle!!!
We made it up the road without incident arriving at the visitor centre to find an almost empty carpark and the weather closing in. Although it wasn’t really cold it was very much a case of get your raincoat on.
Entering the visitor centre we saw the multiple walks available deciding that after a wander through the centre that if it wasn’t raining too heavily we would take the 25 minute nature walk. First though into the centre which whilst full of good info proved terrible for photos with most of the displays so badly lit you couldn’t see anything (I think lights weren’t working) or so heavily lit that the reflection spoiled the shot. So apologies for the lack of photos here.
There is a Cafe in the visitors centre so those of you feeling less energetic or just wanting to take in the views over a good coffee and cake then this would be the place to make a visit. It is the only place on the mountain that offers this year round.
The nature walk starts out as a gentle boardwalk through moss and lichen covered trees towards the lookout which on a clear day would provide a great view both up and down the mountain sadly today with the extensive cloud cover the view was very limited. The path also takes you past this mountain hut that offers accommodation @$25 per adult per night. It would certainly be an interesting place to stay if you were planing to take one of the longer walks. Freedom camping is also permitted here.
I just love the New Zealand rain forest bush and this walk along the Nature Trail takes you on reasonably well formed if rather wet paths suitable for most levels of fitness passing through an absolute riot of foliage. The moss lichen and ferns seemed to be clinging to almost every available space. When you squeeze the moss what always surprises me is the amount of water that comes from it. If you multiply this by the amount of moss on the trees it staggers me how some of them stay standing from all the weight.
Back at the motorhome after the walk the mountain was doing it’s best to try and shrug off the cloud leaving the occasional glimpse of snow that you can sort of see in the above photo.
Finding ourselves still with time to kill before we could check into the next destination we came across Lake Mangamhoe as we headed back towards New Plymouth and the turn off to Pukeiti. Deciding that although it was raining it wasn’t too wet to do a bit of further exploring.
Heading out from the carpark the trail leads down towards the lake where when we saw these swans standing in the middle of the lake we weren’t sure if there was more water outside the lake than actually in it. Judging by how shallow it was I would imagine large islands appear in summer so it’s probably at it’s prettiest this time of year.
Deciding that we were already wet and what did we have to loose by continuing on we followed the track across a couple of swingbridges one of which was probably only a few inches above the waterline. Anymore rain and we would have got wet feet crossing it. From there the track starts to climb uphill towards a lookout.
It turned out to be a very nice if rather damp view from the lookout and you can see clearly the “mud island” in the middle of the lake from here. I wonder if this has been caused by wash off from the hills now that the pine trees have been felled making the land more unstable. We did briefly consider carrying on the trail but decided instead to leave that for another day and returned to the warm dry motorhome.
Sadly all this rain wasn’t doing the flowers much good but as we wandered back towards the motorhome we did come across this display from a couple of very pretty rhododendrons. The safari we are doing with the other motorhomers is all about visiting various gardens in the Taranaki region so this is another one that we could cross of the list even if it’s not an official display garden.
Back to the motorhome and time to move onto our intended destination Pukeiti Gardens which is reached by traveling Carrington Rd and if you are in a motorhome make sure you arrive from the New Plymouth end of the road as it is very very narrow if you arrive from the other direction.
Not long after we started along Carrington Road we came across Wayne and Rose, members of our group parked on the side of the road waiting for the clock to tick down enough for them to set off towards Pukeiti. Another 1 km up the road and there where John and Lorraine and not much further on was the third John in our group and his wife Rae. So soon we had a traveling convoy heading for the gardens.
You can imagine our surprise when the four vans in our convoy pulled into the carpark to discover most of the others already there. They had figured that with all the rain there wouldn’t be that many people visiting the gardens and there would be plenty of space in the carpark.
That evening happy hour became an inside affair with most of us squeezing into Wayne and Rose’s van where the hour just vanished and then back into our van for dinner and hoping for better weather the following day.
The following morning Margaret was celebrating a birthday so there was an early morning tea with the group with a quick bite of cake before everyone set off to explore the gardens but that’s a story best told in the next blog…
I never got a shot of Des and Mary Lee together with their bus as they left the safari before I started taking the photos as Mary Lee had a few health issues. We hope she is better now. The reason I chose to feature them in this blog is that they arrived after dark that night, missed the turn off and had to drive 7 kms down the very narrow extension road beyond the gardens before they could turn around. The gate keeper was kind enough to let them into the carpark well after dark. A good laugh in the morning for the whole party.
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