Monday 4 March 2019

Taranaki 3 - Birds and MAMILS

With thanks to Venture Taranaki for hosting me
I don't know, MAMILs, they're everywhere, but when you want one, can he help? No, he can't. Not this morning, anyway, as I was just setting out on my bike ride along the Coastal Walkway to the Insta-famous Te Rewa Rewa Bridge. I'm from Christchurch, you see: flat city, so bike gears always flummox me, and this morning I managed to seize them up so the pedals wouldn't, er, pedal. So, failed by the MAMIL - actually, more of an OMIL - I flagged down, I had to wheel the bike back ignominiously to the hotel and take another.
Anyway, that aside, it was a splendid thing to be doing on a clear, warm, sunny morning - and lots of others had the same idea. Cyclists, walkers, runners, with or without dogs and/or kids, they were all out there appreciating the sparkling sea, the white foam on the black sand, the Sugar Loaf islands and, of course, glimpses of The Mountain which, in Taranaki, is always there, peeping or looming. People were friendly, smiling and greeting me, and it was all just lovely. And the bridge, when I got there, didn't disappoint: freshly painted white, it was as artfully sculptural as it looks in all the photos, and make a perfect frame for the mountain. 
I already had my eye in, art-wise, after having a guided tour of the Govett-Brewster Art Gallery and Len Lye Centre. It's a real mouthful, that - but the building itself is a marvel, all wavy stainless steel walls, reflecting and distorting. And inside is a regularly-changed display of Len Lye's kinetic artwork, which is mesmerisingly lovely and fascinating, and impossible to photograph. Plus, of course, in the art gallery, there was the usual arty-farty stuff that I always secretly suspect to be an elaborate con-type joke. I mean, a dark room full of black Venetian blinds hanging from the ceiling, scented with wildflowers and gunpowder?
Much more to my literal tastes was the Brie and sausage tartine that I bought from a Frenchman at a container café on the way back, and shared with a bunch of sparrows (only the bread base - the topping was too good for the likes of them).
Then I headed for Pukekura Gardens, near the centre of town, which are famous for their being lit up at night. Also for being the main venue during WOMAD, which is about to start, so some of the grounds were closed off. Never mind: I had a pleasant stroll around, under huge trees and ferns, past the azaleas and rhododendrons that grow so well here, and the traditional Tea House, and the big fountain that I set off by pressing a button. I walked around the lake with its ducks and swan, and crossed the Poet's Bridge - which is not as poetic as it sounds: it was funded with the winnings from a horse race won by The Poet.
Next I went back into town and flitted round Puke Ariki, which is the museum/library complex here: modern, well-presented and not too guilt-inducing for those of us with inadequate time/energy/eyesight. There was a nice little section on Taranaki ingenuity, which has led amongst other things to mechanised hedge trimmers, NZ's first purpose-designed farm bike, a device for practising brass instruments quietly, a mobile TB unit, and a no-dig hangi. I also learned, a little disquietingly, that Mt Taranaki has had numerous eruptions over the last several hundred thousand years, each time collapsing some time afterwards. The last time it blew was 250 years ago - I wonder if another collapse is on the cards?
And then my Taranaki visit was over - though I will happily return, there's lots more to see and do. Besides, I've got that damned mountain under my skin now, just like a local.

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