We had a few weeks in the Taranaki area starting in the south of the area at Hawera in the middle of December, then onto Stratford midway up the area during Christmas and New Year and finally to the top of the area around New Plymouth until the 12th January.

The south of Taranaki offers great views of Mount Taranaki, especially in the early morning light. We were lucky enough to be in an area where I could look out of the window and see her, well, on the few days the clouds were clear enough that is. I have the feeling that seeing the mountain is a long way from an everyday event as it is invariably surrounded by cloud.
We didn't find the area overly engaging so spent quite a bit of our week here relaxing and catching up on reading. Not a bad way to spend a few days and the inclement weather helped to make us not feel too guilty for not getting out and about! We did manage a few walks along the local beaches and one trip out to the Cape Lighthouse on a very stormy day. Definitely a bit of luck involved on this day as the clouds parted just long enough for me to get a shot of the lighthouse with Mt Taranaki in the background.


I can only describe the experience at Stratford as varied! A great spot to base ourselves and get out to explore Dawson falls area, an old abandoned rail and engineering spot plus some very colourful long term residents at the site. Language was limited and not subtle, alcohol was plentiful with the younger groups which resulted in them being kicked out by the police one night. Certainly made for an interesting couple of weeks, but we never really felt there would be any problems that directly affected us and it was pretty quiet at night.
While here we met Carole who is currently travelling on the road with her dog and cat in a small camper van and tent. We've met some amazing people on this journey who we will definitely stay in touch with, some because of the crazy adventures they are on around the world and others because we have connected with them....Carole, is the latter and a fellow creative but with painting and sculpting instead of photography.
The walk around Dawson falls was amazing especially walking around Wilkies Pools were the water has cut pools into the lava rock resulting in water cascading from one pool into the next, mesmerising and very photographic so it was a wrench to pull myself away and carry on walking. But, walk we did, and what spectacular views this area has including a crossing of the highest swing bridge in the area....a long way down and only for one person at a time!

New Plymouth
I wasn't too sure what to expect of New Plymouth as it's a city and we haven't been in heavily populated areas for quite a while. First impressions last they say, but, I'm happy to say that on this occasion the longer we stayed the more I liked the area. New Plymouth District Council has spent a huge amount of time, and money, creating walkways through the city and along the coast. The coastal walk in particular covers 15km and offers amazing views with the ability to sidle off into the city for a coffee or beer (did both). With it being the summer holidays the area, like many other main areas in New Zealand, put on nightly shows in one of the big parks called the 'Festival of Lights'. Live music most nights and the gardens imaginatively lit especially the waterfall which was stunning in an ever changing kaleidoscope of colours.

This area is also the gateway to many stunning surf beaches, one of which is Oakura. This little surf town also happens to have one of the best fish and chip shops in the area so a wonderful evening was had eating fish and chips by the beach watching the sun make its way to the horizon. Suitably fuelled up it was time to make our way along the beach and experience beautiful, soft, black sand in bare feet for approximately 5 kms. An amazing sunset in an amazing location........life on the road is an amazing adventure and privilege to experience.

Ranch rails on a stormy day. These were located just at the back of the van and were an exercise in looking for something close by to create an image from.
The trip out along the coast was mainly cloudy, but it did part long enough to get this shot of the lighthouse and Mt Taranaki.
An early morning shot of Mt Taranaki from the southern side.
Same location as the earlier image but on a cloudless day
Wilkies Pools on Mt Taranaki. These pools have been formed by the water gradually eroding the lava rock.
Wilkies Pools on Mt Taranaki
Mt Taranaki was hidden by the cloud but as it was lifting gave some great light to work with.
One of the huts on Mt Taranaki in some dramatic light as the clouds started to lift
These beautiful flowers were along all of the paths as we made our way along the mountain tracks
The highest swing bridge in the Taranaki area!
A young song thrush let me get in really close for this shot and was still happily sat there as I carried on my walk
These beautiful falls are in the parks at New Plymouth and were lit especially for the Festival of Lights
Living statues in the park for entertainment during the Festival of Lights. A news report advised that they spent all day applying this rock paint and applying horns to complete the gargoyle look. They could keep in perfect stillness for ages before suddenly leaping....caused a few squeals from the public!
Happen to like the reflection of this gull on the beach
This amazing bridge forms this beautiful sculptural view one way and frames Mt Taranaki from the other
Saw this couple walking along the bridge as I was lining up to get the mountain. Would make for a great portrait shoot location.
The beaches in the holiday season are just packed with people ;-)
Oakura Beach at sunset
Very rare for me to capture an image of a horse, but this one standing strong against a bright sky was too good to resist
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