Hawera-Whanganui

15th-20th December

No escaping the main roads in this leg either. Traffic roared by endlessly. My first stop was in a little spot called Manutahi. It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it dot on the map type of village that time (thankfully) forgot. The kind of place where people know and care about their neighbours. A place where your consciousness is naturally at rest and peace. The kind of place you seek when you realise chasing money is a mug’s game and you are ready to give your soul some sanity for a change. At least that is what it felt like, but it is nestled right between a couple of centres known for gang activity, so perhaps it’s just wishful thinking on my part.

The main attraction for me was the Manutahi B&B, which has camp sites. I got more than I bargained for. Catherine wouldn’t take my money and instead wanted to feed me lots of home grown veggies and homemade kombucha. All I was after was a campsite, but I found the hospitality I keep running into throughout the country. There really are some good bastards in this country of ours. Thanks Catherine and Howard.

The phone saga continues. Remember how I said my old phone was “buggy”? Well it looks like nothing has changed in that department. One minute, I was listening to an audiobook over breakfast. The next, my not so trusty phone was beeping at me saying that my SD card is blank. That would be my SD card with all the photos of stops along my way and all of the audio files I record at the centres. Yes, that would be the SD card I recovered from my last phone just after it was destroyed. Somehow, through methods best known to itself, my phone wiped everything. Or at least made it unreadable. Perhaps an old, buggy phone is not better than no phone after all.

Remembrance_arch,_Patea
Rememberance arch in Patea (Source: wikimedia.org)

Patea was a welcome surprise. I had been there previously, but it was a long time ago and I didn’t really remember it. A quiet little town with a couple of basic community facilities, a sprinkling of local businesses, a river mouth and a beach. To me, that all adds up to a pretty good place to spend a night. The Patea Beach Motor Camp was a peaceful little sanctuary, which is well positioned for an early morning dip before getting under way. Jake took full advantage. Then we were off.

We didn’t get far before I started hearing strange sounds coming from one of the wheels though. It had been a bit buckled for a while but I’d had no luck finding a replacement. The asymmetrical rotation must have been putting a lot of strain on the bearings. As a result, the cover of the bearing assembly on one side had twisted, popped off and lost most of its bearings. Behind me, Charlie the Chariot popped, clicked and squealed in protest as I altered my route to find a settlement. The timing wasn’t great, as this was right in the one section I could have got off the main highway. Instead, I had to trudge on pulling a reluctant trailer along still more of an unwelcoming State Highway.

We reached Waverley and found a friendly welcome there. Leeanne and Charlie took us in and let us stay the night. Being Sunday, there wasn’t a lot to be done. As it happened, they’d planned a trip to Whanganui on Monday morning anyway. I tagged along and managed to find a replacement wheel at Sustainable Whanganui’s Green Bike scheme. Actually, I was lucky because it wasn’t technically open. Allen, the guy who fixes up their donated bikes, just happened to be doing a bit of work though and he sorted me out. Thanks to all who helped get the Chariot back on the road.

Mum and Dad were passing through at the same time, returning home from Hamilton. So I had a quick catch up with them and then pressed on. Also caught up with some mail they had received on my behalf. Remember way back in Auckland (the first time), when I did an interview for a magazine cover story? Well, it turns out that’s out now and they had sent a couple of copies to Mum. My cover girl dreams are fulfilled at last ;0)

Ashley Park was another pleasant surprise. Generally, a campground is a campground. It’s a toilet, maybe a shower and a patch of lawn. Ashley Park is more like botanical gardens or a small animal zoo. The grounds are expansive and walkways wend among long-established trees, flowering bushes and a picturesque lake. Several ducks, chickens and even a peacock roamed freely making for lots of poo treats for Jake and Piccolo to enjoy in our wanderings. An aviary houses various types of birds and farm animals potter about the paddocks bordering the accommodation area. Very cool and no more expensive than a basic Department of Conservation park up anywhere in the country.

Finally, I was able to get off the main track as we made the final approach to Whanganui. The wind had picked up to a howling gale not long before we hit the gravel track. Dust and sand were a constant through there. Listening to an audiobook about a cop in the outback at the time, I was struck by the similarity of conditions.

I arrived to an interview with the River City Press (p28). This eventually also turned into dinner and a place to stay for the night. Thanks Doug and Marion. What a great way to hit the ground running in Whanganui.

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