© NZPocketGuide.com
© NZPocketGuide.com

Cruising Down the New Plymouth Coastal Walkway

© NZPocketGuide.com

42 Days on the Road

After days spent along the Forgotten World Highway surrounded by mountainous terrain, we’re now in New Plymouth, a coastal city in the Taranaki region with the ever unmissable view of the volcano, Mt Taranaki. Because it’s been so long since we have spent some time be the sea (by so long we mean, less than a month as you are always by the sea in New Zealand), we are heading on the renowned New Plymouth Coastal Walkway today!

Admittedly, we have a late start this morning waking up at 7am… We’re just feeling too cosy with the electric blanket on in the Ducks & Drakes Backpackers. Plus, we spent way too much time by the fire in the living area last night. We expect it to be too cold to get out of bed but when we do eventually move our lazy asses, the sun is out and damn, you can feel the difference in temperature by the sea! It feels almost like summer again.

A ridiculous road sign

Work done, tea and coffee drunk, we head out onto the streets on New Plymouth. We want to start the walkway from the Port, which is at the southern end of the 12.7km walkway and work our way up to the Te Rewa Rewa Bridge, so we cut through a few streets to get there. Most of the streets follow a gridlock pattern so it’s difficult to get lost.

Once at the Port we notice a Department of Conservation Marine Centre. The only way to describe it is like a bus stop with a 360-degree image of New Plymouth’s surrounding ocean. It is like an information board on steroids informing about the marine wildlife in the waters of the Taranaki region.

Further along the walkway is a huge road sign pointing to a ridiculous amount of places. At first we are looking at it, sort of taking it seriously, like: “Oh yeah, the Forgotten World Highway IS to our left… yes, yes… very helpful…” But when we realise the sign is also pointing to the likes of “Zombie Walkway…”, “Big Wave Territory” and “Predicament”, it becomes clear that this sign is a big old piss take. Got to love that Kiwi banter!

Rockpool scramble

The walkway is completely made from concrete and remains the same width the whole way along the coast, and, man, everyone is using it. There’s cyclists, longboarders, joggers and walkers taking advantage of the walkway. However, when we see the opportunity to cut a huge corner of the walkway to cross a sections of shallow rock pools below, we take it. The Coastal Walkway was just not coastal enough! We practically want to be IN the water!

Tiny mussels, snails, shells, seaweed, seabirds… It’s all going on down here in the rock pools at low tide. Although scrambling over the rocks actually makes this Coastal Walkway mission a lot longer than it needs to be, we’re happy to get “off the beaten track” for a while. That’s the great thing about the Coastal Walkway, getting back to it is pretty easy, as it has heaps of access points.

A trippy piece of art

A bending red pole in front of us catches our attention. It can only be the Wind Wand we’ve heard so much about! Although there’s lots of little sculptures along the walkway, this huge Wind Wand is the one that steals the show. Now, Laura, being a travel writer and researching about various things in New Plymouth, had read that the wind wand is “kinetic art”. From a distance, however, it was not moving what-so-ever. Is it meant to be manipulated by the wind, like the name suggests? Laura is scratching her head, and actually kind of getting annoyed that it’s not moving.

Stood underneath the Wind Wand and gazing up at it, however, gives a pretty trippy sight. The wand appears to be moving due to an optical illusion.

“Does that look like it is moving to you, or am I just really dehydrated right now?” Laura asks Robin. Robin, who is an arse, doesn’t reply in an attempt to make her believe she is crazy… which she is…

Breaking wave bridge

So the sun is setting right now and we have about 4km to go until we reach the Te Rewa Rewa Bridge! We power walk this next section, passing a small section of rugged white cliffs, the famous Fitzroy surf beach, a scenic golf course, some rugby grounds with an amazing view of Mt Taranaki just behind it, and a holiday park until we finally get a glimpse of the white Te Rewa Rewa Bridge.

The bridge crosses the Waiwhakaiho River with heaps of estuary wildlife like seabirds and ducks. The bridge is said to either be inspired by a breaking wave or a whale’s skeleton. Either way, the positioning couldn’t be more perfect, as its design frames Mt Taranaki in the distance. (Something we only see for a second before a thick fog of clouds completely wipes the mountain out of the view). Nevertheless, we have fun taking stupid photos of the bridge. (Please refer to the said “stupid photos” above).

Hitchhiking when you are unaware you are hitchhiking

Daylight leaves us pretty quickly and now we are keen to find an alternative route back to Ducks & Drakes, mostly because Robin is complaining he is hungry and he ate all the nuts and cranberries we had in our backpack…

10 minutes later, Robin is complaining too much to the point where we are looking for a bus to take back into town… Robin signals the bus driver at a bus stop aaaaand, the bus driver doesn’t stop… Which is understandable because Robin looks a bit crazed right now, but surely stopping at bus stops is part of the bus driver’s job description.

Screw it, we keep on walking. A car pulls up next to us.

“I saw you guys signalling for the bus, do you want to go into town?” the driver says. Yes, we do! So hitchhiking is more effective than the buses in New Plymouth apparently! We have a quick chat to the guy who works for the district council before thanking him a million times once we are back at the hostel.

Ducks & drakes & drinks

Robin finally stuffs his face with toasted sandwiches (the quickest thing to make). We have a couple of beers with Brett, one of the hostel-owners, and he’s invited us to do a couple of things with him throughout the week including going to a themed art event at a barber shop later in the week and go record a radio advertisement tomorrow night. Sweet!

Tomorrow, we are kayaking to the Sugar Loaf Islands just off the coast of New Plymouth. See you then!

Ever wondered what a Wind Wand looks like?

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