Wednesday 5 July 2023

Welcome to Wairarapa

With thanks to Destination Wairarapa for this famil.
Back in the air again, heading this time to Wellington, for - gasp - actual work. (Er, "work".) The Kaikouras looked splendid, as did the capital as we came in to land. Not that I was having anything to do with the city, to begin with, anyway. I had Wairarapa to explore - which means driving over the Remutaka Hill, even today something not to be sniffed at.

Of course, it was worse in the old days, specifically during WWI when young soldiers who'd completed their training in Featherston were marched over this range of hills, taking three days to make the journey. Naturally they would have welcomed the cups of tea offered to them at the summit by grateful civilians - can't help thinking though that a beer would have gone down better. Especially since they had Gallipoli ahead of them.
My first call in the pretty little town of Featherston ("NZ's only Booktown!") was at the Fell Locomotive Museum, a typically detailed, well-presented and thorough effort by rabid enthusiasts, here celebrating the engine that pulled the train over the steepest bit of the hills. It's the only one left in the world, they proudly proclaim - and it is impressive. It has separate gripping wheels that latch onto a central track to grind up the incline, and the brake blocks wore out so fast that they had to be replaced every trip. There was only ever one accident, due to a gale, not slippage, and a newspaper report from the day is educational in several respects:

Can you imagine reading that sort of detail today? There were two crime reports in my paper this morning that had warnings above the text.
Next I met a cheesemaker, also an enthusiast and justifiably proud that his organic cheeses are made from milk that takes just half an hour to get from the cows up the road into his churn. He was disappointingly stingy with his sample sizes, though - so I was very happy to be met with a generous platter of savoury nibbles at my accommodation, Parehua Resort just outside Martinborough, next door to a vineyard. Only trouble was, it spoiled my appetite for what turned out to be a delicious dinner, and I couldn't manage dessert. Tragic. But the lovely kereru artwork over my bed was a consolation.

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