We arrived in New Plymouth to meet Jordy, Midla, Jo and Jude (you may remember that we met Jordy and Midla in Manta Ray in Fiji) to spend a few days with them. It was a hairy drive from Waitomo - through mountains and gorges and although it was only 100km or so away it took over 3 hours. We arrived a bit early-Midla and Jordy were both out so we entertained ourselves along the New Plymouth seashore. We walked along and found a rather bizarre art piece called the Wind Wand biult and designed by the famous New Zealand artist Len Lye. (only famous in NZ perhaps?)
Midla showed us around New Plymouth- the only place I have ever seen with sea and mountain in a few km of each other. She took us back to her house to be suprised when Phillip (also met in Manta Ray) appeared from the Kitchen. Midla and her house mates had organised a BBQ and party that evening, we met all their friends (most of whom were English! and/or cricketers!)
The day after Jo had promised to take us up the mountain (Mount Taranaki in Egmont National Park- not Eggplant Andy!) so Phillip, myself, Andy and our guide Jo hauled ourselves up the mountan for 2 hours. It was a pretty spectacular sight, you could see the entire of Taranaki, New Plymouth on the coast- and sometimes you could see the two other volcanoes in the area.It was a really clear day, the wispy clouds seemed to be only a armstretch away from us we felt so high up. We were lucky to see some flora that apparently only lives on Mount Taranaki (little white alpine flowers).
That evening all of the house (and Adam- Judes' boyfriend) took us to the local park. Every year they put on a display of lights and activities called the "Festival of lights". It was awesome, the trees, waterfalls, lakes, fountains were all lit up, laser beams dancing over the lakes and scaring the ducks! There was a 'Big Band' free concert under the stars which we danced and listened to. The park itself was enormous, it had a zoo and ampitheatre at one end and a cricket pitch at the other! Apparently some of "The last Samauri" was filmed here, Mount Taranaki a good stand in for Mount Fuji.
Adam took us (and Phillip and Jo!) to the zoo the next day- a very cute litttle zoo with a huge monkey enclosure, a sleeping (perhaps stuffed?) red panda, big scary birds with huge claws and the funniest farm animals. They had been sheared- the llamas were completely shaved within an inch of their lives except their heads which were big and fluffy! The ampitheatre is actually a music arena, with a stage and some pretty big named bands that have played there- UB40, REM and the Pretenders just three that I can remember.
We had such a good time in New Plymouth, we picked up the brochure "Emmigrating to New Zealand" and had already decided what house we wanted. (In the photos it is the blue one on the sea front that I'm standing infront of) But I'm sure we wouldn't have loved it so much if it wasn't for our fantastic hosts Jordy, Midla, Jo , Jude and Adam. Thnk you all so much for a brilliant few days, you should definately go into the homestay business!