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2020 - SNZA - Day 11

Another beautiful day greeted us as we pulled back the curtains today. We decided that the Hotel Breakfast seemed quite expensive so just had a cup of tea in our room before going for a stroll to the nearby New World supermarket. For less than the cost of the Hotel Breakfast we bought enough food for Breakfast, Lunch and more.

Back in our room Karen was very happy with her fresh Croissant with Egg & Bacon, whilst I had a Bacon & Cheese Swirl and Twist. We both finished with a banana and another cuppa.

After checking out we finished loading the car and drove the short distance to Mount Victoria. This offered quite magnificent views in all directions down over Wellington which looked resplendent in the sunshine. The City is much larger than I thought and you can see why they built the capital here with the port and area of flatland surrounded by mountains.

We then moved the car slightly down the hill and walked to try and find a couple of sites used on Mount Victoria for filming The Lord of The Rings. The particular scene was the Hobbit Hideaway. This still meant nothing to me as I still haven’t watched the films but I knew it would make Karen happy. As we approached the site we knew we were in the right place as there were several other people milling around have been taken there on specialist and expensive Lord of The Rings tours. It was quite useful as we hung around and listened to a guide explaining how the scene was filmed.

I knew that there was also another scene filmed very close by which involved one of the hobbits sitting in a tree smoking. Chancing my luck I asked one of the official guides where it was. He wasn’t sure but thought it was down a steep slope which is why they didn’t visit it. We tried to find it and thought we had but when I compared the tree to stills from the film afterwards I realised it wasn’t.

We then made our way back up to where we had parked the car and then finally started our 3 hour drive to Whanganui for the night. The drive took us through the Hutt Valley and close to coast. We decided it would be nice to stop near the coast to have the lunch we had bought earlier at the Supermarket.

Quite by chance I pulled off the main highway to go to Waikanae Beach. This turned out to be another gem. There were some lovely picnic benches on the land side of the beach dunes where we ate our lunch in the glorious sunshine.

Across the road was a conveniently placed cafe which looked fine but quiet from the outside. This was another place that turned out to have a nice garden courtyard area out the back that was full with locals. Karen had what she described as the best flat white of the trip. The courtyard was a real sun trap. Yet again an example of never judge a book by its cover.

Quite by chance a Kiwi friend of mine messaged me while we sat there with a picture of his baby that had just been born. We were sitting not many miles from where he himself was born although he know lives in West Virginia.

We then crossed back to the beach and went onto the beach. It was lovely but reasonably deserted. We then walked a short way along the shoreline. The beach was lovely, the sea was glistening and the sky a lovely blue. The only shame was that the sand was not golden but rather a dull grey in colour.

Back in the car we decided that our next stop would be Foxton Beach which according to the guidebooks was worth a visit. It wasn’t. It was miles off the main road and was bleak and not pretty. There were quite a lot of people on it. Many of them were on board trying to catch some of the large waves that were crashing here. I suspect many others were like us and wondering why they had bothered to drive here.

Continuing our journey we had a decision to make. We could either go straight to Whanganui or we could make a 30km detour to have a look around Palmerston North.

The detour won and we drove into what was quite a large University Town. It had a nice large green square in the centre. We easily parked and went to a place called The Coffee Shop on one corner of the square for a pot of tea. Karen wanted to walk along one of the streets that was supposedly typical of the art’y nature of the town. We found the street but found nothing worthy of notice.

The whole town was typical of most towns in NZ in that it was deserted. It was 4.30pm on a Tuesday afternoon and there was no one about. Most shops were open but no one in them. What is interesting is that most of the shops are local independent stores. There are very few international brand names around apart from Specsavers. It's not as if there are large shopping malls either in or out of town either where they have all migrated to.They just do not exist in places other than the likes of Auckland. Each high street seems like a throwback to Britain in the 1960's. Despite bemoaning the fact that the UK High Streets are dying, Karen decided she would hate having to shop for clothes here. She would miss the anonymous nature and choice that the likes that M&S provides.

Finally we headed our way to our Motel for the night in Whanganui. When I was checking in I was told we had been upgraded to a 1 bedroom suite which was nice as it would mean we could easily sort out our breakfast in the morning.

Whanganui gave us the impression it was another generic NZ town. One interesting fact I had found out in advance was that in 2009 they changed the spelling of the name to include the ‘H’ as it had been misspelt originally. Now it was recognised as a town that had two spellings that are officially recognised.

The radio and TV here are full of the Harry & Megan situation. The polls here are almost unanimous in their views that they should be stripped of their titles and money. I still don’t think it is that simple but it will be fascinating to see how it all develops.

Once we had settled into the room we headed out in search of some food. We ended up at Caroline’s Boat Yard on the outskirts of town which was fine. We both had the Fish Burger, which some type of local battered fish in a bun. Karen tried a small glass of the local beer with hers which she enjoyed. So far this trip, apart from the free wine on the flights I have had 2 other glasses of wine which has been enough for me. Karen is on the insurance to drive but not keen on doing so.

After this we drove to have a look around downtown Whanganui which seemed to have been abandoned as there was no one about and everything was shut. NZ is not the place to come for a wild late night out anywhere it seems. We were back in our room by 9pm where we had a nice cup of tea before retiring for the night.

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