Our New Plymouth hosts were the lovely Sutherland family who Ned had met on a Kayaking trip last year. We were only meant to stay two nights but we ended up staying five which I felt terribly uneasy about and kept hinting at Ned to say something but he’s not the type of guy to over-think situations like me. Thankfully I didn’t sense that we had over stayed our welcome and it was a delight to share dinner with the family each night and spend time with Mum, Sue, during the day. The weather was pretty shoddy since getting off the bike and we failed to get a glimpse of the Naki, that’s Mount Taranaki to me and you.
Despite the gloomy weather, Sue went out of her way to show us what a wonderful place New Plymouth is. On our first “rest day” we climbed Paritutu Rock in the wind and drizzle and took a walk around the Pukekura Park. Here we felt like we were out amongst the bush even though we were smack bang in the middle of the city. Ned wanted to take us to Mike’s Brewery, a cool craft beer brewery where he paid for us to do beer tasting. It was only 10:30am but I didn’t hesitate to get involved.
We then went to the love shack aka the Loving Hut, a vegan buffet I had read about online. I needed some goodness after Ned’s signature oily pasta and oily risotto he liked to cook for me, not to mention the lollies he kept on sneaking into our shopping basket. Men eh! Sue kindly cooked for us each evening and to my delight it was all healthy grub with the majority of fruit and veggies grown in their back garden. Delish! I baked a ginger date and walnut loaf for them all which went down a storm. My tummy was thanking me for all this healthy food. It’s hard to be nutritious when cycle touring, especially when if you’re lucky enough, have food given to you like we have.
A few people on our journey said we must see the summer light show at Pukekura Park but each evening it rained. On our second to last night we got lucky and were taken to what was a beautiful display of lights, it felt like I was in Asia or Disney Land. Both very different but each have a display of lights by lakes and gardens.
My reason for visiting New Plymouth was to climb Mount Taranaki and stay in Syme Hut. I didn’t realise that you can summit from the hut so I told myself that one of the two had to be given a miss. The Sutherland’s extensive tramping knowledge and sense of adventure showed me a route which would allow us to experience sunset and sunrise at the hut and then summit Taranaki and return on a totally different route. Perfect, if the weather would only co-operate.
The forecast looked grim and Sue gently reminded me not to get my hopes up. I was gutted and more eager than ever. Friday came and a small window of opportunity arose. Not only did the Sutherland’s lend us their tramping packs, they kindly dropped us to the Stratford entry point into Egmont National Park. Ned and I walked an hour through what looked like Narnia to Dawson’s Falls where the track to Syme Hut started.
We climbed for two hours up a muddy wet track with puddles up to my ankle. I tried my hardest to avoid the water but the inevitable happened and in the end I just sloshed on through. We reached Syme Hut in good time and tied our wet shoes and clothes to the hut support wires to dry them in the howling wind.
We enjoyed the most spectacular sunset which went on forever. Despite the wind we sat on the ridge overlooking the colourful clouds while enjoying a few glasses of red. It was 10:30 by the time darkness came and by 11pm we were both in a deep dream when all of a sudden a group of Czech walkers stormed in. What an earth were they doing walking at this hour? How foolish. Luckily they were reasonably quiet but I failed to return to the land of nod and spent the entire night feeling a little queasy after all that wine.
We woke at 5am to catch the sunrise but sadly it was hidden by thick cloud. Feeling a little worse for wear I went back to bed and stayed there until 9:30am. Poor Ned must have been bored out of his brain. I could tell he wasn’t overly keen to summit with the current weather but I was hopeful. To me it didn’t seem all that bad.
Luckily it did get better and Ned agreed to attempt it. It was Ned’s first proper tramp and first mountain summit so he was a little nervous but he stormed past me and was up there in no time. We summited in under two hours and was surprised to find a large gathering of people up the top.
The views were spectacular, especially the snow and volcanic rock beneath us. We stopped for a good hour up there admiring the view and talking to other walkers. It was here we met Richard, a 60-something local man who we decided to follow down. Richard got a bit disorientated and took us down the wrong way resulting in me having to descend a large patch of snow. I don’t know how he did it but Ned managed to ski down on one foot. I tried to follow and ended up grazing my bum and the entire back of my thigh on the ice.
Our descent was fairly good going, around four hours, and a lovely track. We took the longer, more scenic route on the Around the Mountain Trail. Ned and Richard discussed intellectual and somewhat controversial topics like Aboriginal culture, politics and policies in education most of the way down. I felt too stupid to join in but I was happily enough in my own thoughts. Richard kindly dropped us back to the Sutherland’s where we enjoyed a delicious BBQ with the whole family.
A massive thank you to the Sutherland’s and Ned for making this dream possible. Highly recommended for any adventure seeker!