Sunday, January 3, 2010

A Forgotten World

The weather has been a little more squirrelly these past days, so we’ve been planning later and later, making whatever decisions that allow us more options if the weather turns south in the next 12 hours.  Today, the decisions and weather sent us northwest towards Mt Taranaki (or Mount Egmont).  At 2518 meters tall, Mt Taranaki is a nearly perfect conical shaped volcano – but don’t worry, it’s last eruption was 1775.  There are three main routes to enter the national park and climb the mountain.  It is likely the only mountain in New Zealand that can be climbed with an 8 hour return.  The great part of it’s being alone is Taranaki can be seen from all directions far away.  Below is the view from the Hawera water tower.  The issue is being on western coast and completely alone, the weather can change dramatically and quickly.  Again, get your pictures while you can!
                                                                                         image To enter the national park, we traveled to the town of Stratford – named after Bard’s home on the Avon.  All the streets are named after characters from Shakespeare’s plays.  In fact, New Zealand’s only glockenspiel is in Stratford and the characters play out scenes from Romeo and Juliet.
 imageimage The Maori legend has it that Taranaki formaerly lived among the other male volcanoes in the central plateau of the North Island.  All the volcanoes loved the nearby mountain Pihanga who overlooks Lake Taupo.  Tongariro was the strongest volcano and claimed Pihanga’s hand.  But when Tongariro was away, Taranaki won her heart.  When Tongariro returned and learned of Taranaki’s love for Pihanga, a great battle ensued which Tongaririo won.  Taranaki was banished and headed west.  His tears for his lost-love are said to form the more than 300 streams that flow down the sides.
One of the streams creates Dawson Falls on the south side of the mountain.  image We were fortunate that Dawson Falls was on the one side that was having great weather when we arrived!  That cloud was forming a cloak right around the mountain.
imageBack to Stratford, we left via the Forgotten World Highway.  New Zealand tourism has set up a number of driving routes and if one is lucky, one can also find the guide to the route.  This one is from Stratford to Taumaruni for 155km on the central plateau following Maori trade routes and pioneer farm tracks.  Much of it is still untamed and all of it is quite isolated.  The views were magnificent.image imageThe hilarious part was the town of Whangamomona.  It was first settled in 1895 and held up to 300 residents, but a flood in 1924 sent most packing leaving about 30 behind to struggle.  Whangamomona declared itself a republic in 1989, complete with it’s own presidential election.  Billy the Goat was the President from 1998 until he died in 2001.  image There was a border control (although unmanned) and our passports were inspected at the hotel in the middle of town.                              imageimage  


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charlotte said...

Fantastic pictures! It must be great to see a real volcano, and those green mountain ridges look very lovely.

Life Looms Large said...

So beautiful and green! I love those giant ferns (or tree ferns?)

Even though 1775 sounds like a long time ago, in geologic time it's the blink of an eye!

Of course you're continents away by now, so no worries about the volcano exploding!