After having had our “blobby” day at the Cape Egmont Boating club it was time to head off towards the next destination on our motorhome safari. Dave the safari leader had almost been insistent that a stop to view the Maui gas processing plant was on the must do list. So a few kms up the road we turned into what we thought was the correct driveway, as the signage is pretty bad, and lucked in.
The visitor centre is unmanned and not really much more than an industrial building but surprisingly it contains some really interesting information about the Maui gas platform. There are also a couple of scale models of the rig one of which is a couple of stories tall. So if you have 15 to 20 minutes to spare it’s worth making the stop to have a look see.
We then stopped off to use the facilities at Opunake which has a really clean dump station and great pressure in the potable water two things that every motorhomer wants when arriving at these places. From there it was turn left and head inland towards the Hollard Gardens our destination for the night.
Hollard Gardens is a large public garden just outside the small village of Kaponga at the base of Mt. Egmont started in 1942 as a private garden attached to the Hollard farm it has grown to now encompass 4.5 hectares and is now managed by the Taranaki District Council with free access to all.
The carpark here is not the largest and with 11 motorhomes parked here it was now seriously short of space so Sarah and I thought we would do the right thing and do our tour of the gardens on arrival and then depart early the following morning to allow access to others.
We started our tour around the garden in the area dedicated to the vegetable garden but not before ensuring that there was a rhododendron in the gardens to match Sarah’s rain coat. They really have done a good job of this here in Taranaki.
The profusion of colours in this garden are something that has to be seen and I don’t think we could have timed our visit to the area better than early November. The only grumble if there was one is that the Azaleas had finished flowering and with the rain what was left of them looked very sad. But there was so much else to look at that we didn’t really miss them.
I could quite easily fill this blog with photos of the plants and flowers to be found here but instead would rather encourage you to make the visit yourself. Ensure that you allow plenty of time as there is so much to see here and it’s quite easy to get lost among the plants with paths that seem to take off in all sorts of directions.
Further into the gardens there is a play area for children of all ages. It was here that we found the pair of stilts and the oversized chair. There is also a BBQ area where we would have had happy hour had the wind not been blowing an absolute gale.
It really is quite amazing to think that these huge gardens are essentially the work of one married couple who between them planted most of what you can see here. Sure the Council maintains and replants where needed but to think that on top of running a farm you could put the work in to produce this is truly staggering. These gardens out of all the ones we visited were Sarah’s favourite the one we both enjoyed the most.
The following morning we left heading for a couple of days at the NZMCA Park in Hawera there was some concern amongst the group as to the amount of space that might be available with Facebook posts over the previous few days talking about how full the Park was. Turns out we were needlessly worried with space available everywhere .
It was interesting to see the earth works underway for a housing sub division that is going to back onto the Park this is new since we visited last year and with the new road appearing to come all the way to the gate at park I wonder if some of the park might be lost for access even though there is an entrance at the other end of the road.
We knew it was only a short walk from the NZMCA Park into Hawera and as it was such a beautiful day we decided to wander into town and have a look around the water tower one of the main features of the town. First however was a detour through the King Edward Gardens the town park which is immaculately set out and maintained.
We spent a bit of time watching someone with a remote control boat that was powering up and down the boating lake. The operator told us that it was capable of around 80kph whatever speed it was going it sure made the ducks get out of the way quickly.
I had to include this photo of Sarah as a butterfly taken in the park. it’s the first time I have seen a mural like this that you can interact with. I am sure thousands of these photos have been taken.
As we wandered around the gardens admiring all the plants we came across the name plaque for a rose “my Mum” which made me realise it had been a day or two since we had called a great reminder. With Mum duly called it was into the thriving metropolis of Hawera (just kidding) but there certainly a buzz around the town.
Even though I am terrified of heights I agreed that we would walk up the local water tower all 215 steps to the top. For $2.50 per person paid at the I Site next door you are given the key to the door to be returned on completion of the climb. Strangely I didn’t feel as scared as I normally would and I think this is because the steps are inside the building.
Apologies for the quality of this shot of me but I had to prove that I walked up the stairs. I must say that I am glad that there where railings on both sides to hold onto it just made it so much easier doing the climb. Actually it’s a bit of a cheats climb as there are 3 landings as you work your way up so at no point in the climb are you looking down too far.
I didn’t however have the guts to do the final part of the climb that took you up a very narrow stairway to the external viewing platform and that was too much for me. Sarah however had no such problems and made it to the uppermost layer of the tower and took these shots. She’s such a brave lady!!
That evening back at the NZMCA Park we were treated to a glimpse of Mt Egmont you can sort of see it buried in the clouds in the photo above. Of course with the sun out there was somehow time for another happy hour or two. I know I have said this before but it has been really fun getting to know every one, they have all been so welcoming.
Dave our safari leader had us all booked into the Tawhiti Museum the following day before we move onto Stratford. This is a privately owned museum that has been put together by Nigel Ogle who over the last 30 years has designed and built it from scratch.
As you wander into the museum you are treated to a display of New Zealand in the 1800’s to early 1900’s. All of the people in these displays are actually modeled on real people from the area in the “body shop” located out the back of the museum. A real bit of fun which also caused a few gentle screams was the poor soul sitting in the toilet who gave quite a few people a fright when the door was opened even though they knew he was there.
On top of the entry fee you can take a short train ride ($6 each) which takes you through the bush with displays designed around the people who lived and worked clearing the forest and felling timber. Although the ride was a bit of fun we thought that the additional cost for the train was a little steep on top of the entry fee and really should have been included in the overall cost.
There is another ride called Traders and Whalers which is a boat ride and costs $15 per person. We didn’t do this ride but those in the group that did said it was the best part of the museum. So maybe we missed out here.
It wouldn’t be a rural museum without the obligatory collection of farming machinery and tools and whilst neither Sarah or I have ever been involved in farming I still find it fascinating to wander around these sort of displays. A couple of people in the group who came from farming backgrounds really enjoyed this huge hall of farming related stuff.
It’s not just the equipment that’s on display with these modeled displays of life in the farming community in times past. The level of detail in these displays is really something else and makes this museum stand out from others we have visited.
There is also a great display covering the Maori wars that’s well worth the stroll around. If after all of this you are feeling a bit peckish then call into the Cafe for a coffee and a bite and admire the characters from the Wind in the Willows or the model of the man looking out the window. All in all an awesome place that you should visit and one that should take you a couple of hours as an absolute minimum with some people taking a couple of days according to the man on the counter.
I should mention that we met Nigel Ogle at the counter of the souvenir shop and had quite a chat with him. A very interesting man to talk too. Turns out he was having the day off model making and just enjoying being on the counter. He told us that they were soon to open a replica 1905 street scene and he’s been working really hard on that. I am sure it will be well worth visiting.
From here we are moving onto Stratford and then onto a night on Mt. Egmont all of which will be covered in the next blog.
To view the places we have visited click here to see them on Google maps. You can click the links to read the blog about that area.
To view the ratings for other places and camps we have stayed click here
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