When we say ‘wellie wanging’ we mean gumboot throwing (wellie being what we call them in the UK!). Taihape promotes itself as NZ gumboot capital, marks it with a giant corrugated iron sculpture of a gumboot at the entrance to the town and holds gumboot throwing competitions once a year on their Gumboot Day, which happens to be this Saturday 9th March. Although we’ve left Taihape now we won’t be too far away to return if either of us are any good at it. To find out, it’s possible to borrow a ‘competition standard’ wellie in the nearby i-site, read the rules of throwing and take yourself off to the wellie throwing area, which is a high fenced off area next to the station and railway line.
I’m usually not very good at this sort of thing (I was crap at cricket at school), so waited until the coachload of visitors had had a go and left and then had a go. My first go cleared the high fence and landed on the platform next to the railway line! Scrabbling up the bank to the platform to retrieve it a railway official walking by suggested he would close off the line while I practiced if I would like (how embarrassing!). Anyway my next goes were at least inside the fences (just) but nowhere near far enough. Jackie had a go and although hers were at least in the right direction she was well short of me! We decided not to bother returning on Saturday!
Instead we went to Ashhurst and the Manawatu Gorge, where a river, railway and road cut through a narrow gorge together. Jackie also found (from the internet) a small area of climbing in the gorge as well, but this turned out to be a small crag below the road, straight up from the river. We checked it out by pulling into a layby, climbing over the crash barrier and scrambling down (very steep over long grass, straight towards the river!).
|The rope traverese|
A couple of thin steps onto some rocks led to a rope anchored to the wall, allowing us to move over to where the climbing was. There were about 6 bolted routes from fairly easy to quite hard, but they all looked as though they hadn’t been climbed in a long time, covered in lichen and weeds. They went straight up to road level, belaying either on some top anchors, or directly from the road crash barriers. As it was fairly late, we decided we would return the next day and drove to the other end of the gorge to look at another area, which turned out to be very similar, but a lot harder (the river was very deep, so if you fell off you’d just get wet – deep water soloing!). We’d also read about a 10km walk through the gorge, which I quite fancied doing so we went into nearby Woodville to ask at the i-site. The very nice lady (called Tricia) told us about it and offered us the services of her partner, Rob, who would drive us to one end, allowing us to do a linear walk back to our van. We could do the walk in the morning and climb in the afternoon we thought.
|View down into the gorge from one of the lookouts|
Jackie takes up from here: We did a gorge walk today which sounded better than it was, we could have been anywhere, in trees, didn't see the river except for brief glimpses, there was even a lookout which appeared to be somewhere entirely different, no sign of the gorge at all! There was a good look out from the top of the earth slip that had closed the gorge for 18 months, it's only been open again 6 wks ish. We gathered this from the bloke (Rob) who picked us up in his van to take us to the other end, so we could do a linear walk. He obviously felt a bit guilty charging us $10 each for 7km through the gorge, so asked us if we'd been up to the wind farm, which is big and was the first in NZ.
|View from the top of the landslip that closed the road for 18 months|
We hadn't, so he took us, and interesting it was too, over 'the saddle' well almost, as he ran out of diesel! Rang Trish, his partner/business partner, depending on whether she said it or he said it, who we'd met in the i-site the previous day and got the number from, she didn't know the number of 'Ivan' either, so he had to ring directory enquiries, got 'Ivan's' number, and rang him begging a favour.... he was very quick to respond arrived with a little can and off we went. He decided to fill up first in Woodville, well we weren't going to argue, but then he drove into the gorge and forgot to drop us off! This is a new fledgeling tour business he's started. Don't think he's going to do too well!
|A picturesque bit of the walk|
It’s a shame, he was a nice guy (trying to get a business off the ground in his late 60’s), but he hasn’t quite got it together! We wouldn’t have missed it for the world though, Ivan arrived with a big smile on his face and, afterwards we told Rob this will be brought up at all future dinner parties they have together! As the walk took us just over 3 hours and we were rather late in starting (due to Rob), we decided not to go climbing.
|A Weta Jackie spotted outside our van (it was very dark at the time)|
We spent last night just at the park in Ashhurst, next to the cemetry, which was fine, cheap, with power but no kitchen, so had to cook in the van, went out for a quick walk after dinner and, on returning to the van found two ladies trying to census us, so we are officially recorded on the 2013 census! They do a census every 5 years in NZ they told us, the last one was due in February 2011, just as the Christchurch earthquake hit, so it was abandoned until now.
Today we planned to go back to the gorge and do the climbs and then drive up through Pohangina river valley, possibly doing some short walks there. Trisha in the i-site in Woodville said ‘if you do nothing else at least drive through it, it’s lovely’. We crossed the climbing off the list when clouds rolled in and it started to drizzle (not sufficient to end the drought though), so we decided on the drive only. It was quite pretty, but nothing special, so we did the circuit she suggested then drove into Palmerston North city to have a look round. John Cleese had visited this place some years ago and apparently remarked ‘if you want to kill yourself but lack the courage, I think a visit to Palmerston North will do the trick!’ The town responded by naming a local rubbish dump after him.
|What do you think of this picture? I call it 'art'!|
The city was OK, a bit harsh of John Cleese we thought, but it also wasn’t anything to rave about. Lots of gear shops and we could have spent loads of money in the Kathmandu store, who were having a sale, but resisted! Now we’re in Levin, further to the South West and in a great little campsite. The owners, who have 2 children and a third on the way, have bought it as a lifestyle choice and its spick and span! We like it here, but don’t think we can stay another night as it’s now Thursday and we need to be in Wanganui on Sunday for our housesitting assignment!