Blog // Tales from the trail
- Total distance - 46 km
- Time taken ~ too long!
- Average wind speed - 14 knots
- Museums visited - 1
- Number of trucks - lots
Each time we mentioned this stretch of road to a Kiwi we were told, "you absolutely must go and see the Tawhiti Museum if you get the chance!". A former cheese factory situated just outside of the town of Hawera, in 1975 it was bought by Nigel and Teresa Ogle; starting out as a small private collection it now is a nationally renowned museum dedicated to local crafts and culture. Rumoured to contain numerous, carefully crafted plaster-of-Paris models providing a visual history of life in South Taranaki - which we had just cycled through a fair chunk of - we agreed, probably worth a visit!
Thus, rising at a respectable time, the sprouts managed to push on up the hill out of Ohawe camping ground, onto the highway and into Hawera in no time at all. Stopping for a brief stock up (and chocolate milkshake - a choc-up?) in the local supermarket and, finding we had phone signal again, we plugged in the Tawhiti Museum into Google Maps - only 5 km out of town and roughly in the direction we wanted to go in - perfect!
Arriving we were greeted by not only the museum itself, but a new exhibit on traders & whalers, a farm power hall (tractors and such like) and a bush railway offering rides on a scaled down, sit-on train. At the front desk we were kindly advised that we should check out the main museum first and if we had time/energy left we could buy tickets for the other attractions.
Wandering around the exhibits we were impressed by both the diversity of the displays and the attention to detail. Over the years they had certainly amassed a huge collection of items, with many full-scale replicas of charming past village scenes, all jam-packed with trinkets of all shapes and sizes. Not only that, visiting the model shop in the museum it was revealed that good old Nigel (a local ex-art teacher) and his team had crafted all of the museum's life-size characters based on real people; holding context as a key part of their work.
What we found most impressive however were the scale model 'dioramas' depicting massive scenes of historical importance from the region.
We could have quite happily spent several more hours at Tawhiti, however time was pressing on and after a brief coffee-and-cake-break at the "Badger Cafe" (a reference to the Wind in the Willows character), we felt it was time to hit the road again and push as far as we could down the coast towards Wanganui.
The wind however had other ideas...
After a small period of swirling indecision as we ran along a quiet country road from the museum, once we returned to the highway (and those dreaded trucks) the wind had made up its mind and it was now firmly in our faces. Hills seemed to get bigger and we began to dread the descents into the river-carved valleys, knowing a climb was awaiting us out of the other side - at least with mountains and passes compared to valleys we mused, you had the reward of the descent following the climb.
Making not much progress at all, by around 5pm we pulled up in the small town of Patea, which on closer inspection we found had a campsite. The decision (after very little discussion) was made to call it a day and get up early the following morning, rather than battle against the bracing late afternoon headwinds (>14 knots we later found out).
The campsite was located near the mouth of the Patea River at the estuary of which, long, stone breakwaters had been constructed to assist with the passage of local fishing vessels and, in the summer, provided a safe swimming area for the kids...as well as a scenic photo or two.
The sleepy campsite appeared to be missing its owner and after a brief chat with a resident of sorts (owner of a very static-looking caravan near the gate) he advised us that we should just pitch up for the night and square-up in the morning, or else there was always the honesty box behind the toilets.
Cooking up our evening meal, whilst glad to be out of the wind, we couldn't help but feel a little disappointed that we'd pulled up short of our target campsite. No matter how much we told ourselves it was the logical decision and the kilometres would be easier and more enjoyable in the calmer morning, they were still kilometres that weren't yet behind us. And thus we turned our attention to a hearty soup dinner, washed down by refreshing ale and the hope of a good night's rest to prepare us for the now longer-than-planned, push into Wanganui the following day.
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