Sat 16 January – Day 64
It’s time to set off again. It has been wonderful being with Ma & Pa however they are heading back home and I am relishing walking again. I have had a pang of walking withdrawal and am looking forward to today. From Whanganui I’ll head out to Fordell then turn right to the state highway for a short stint before heading right again out to the coast for a beach walk to Koitiata. It’s a decent days walk just over 30km. We make a brief stop at the Whanganui farmers market which is held on the riverfront each Saturday morning. Coffees in hand we cross the river for goodbyes and I head into the tunnel leading to the Durie Hill elevator. The unique lift inside a hill opened in 1919 to whisk folks up to Durie Hill. I’m a few minutes early for opening yet with a push of the button to summons the lift it comes clattering down. It doesn’t stop flush with the floor but is about 20cm shy. There is an operator inside who I pay my $2 fare to and up we go, this time the door opening short of the floor. Well the poor dear is over 100 years old! We were up here yesterday so no need to hang about, I head off on the trail immediately. It follows the No 2 Line road out of town and within a km or so the farm land begins. Just before reaching the outskirts however there is another brilliant scarlet flowered tree. We’ve seen them throughout Whanganui and although the flower looks similar to a pohutukawa the leaves are of a gum tree. I did a little Google search of it which revealed a neat wee story of one lady’s crusade:
Wanganui owes some of its most gorgeous street trees to a public-spirited gardener active in Wanganui in the late 1800 and early 1900s. Emily Marshall-White came from Suffolk, in England. She found that she could grow exotic Southern Hemisphere plants in New Zealand, and fell in love with them. She delighted in trying plants like New Zealand ferns, cabbage trees and palms, and she imported the winged seeds of what she called scarlet flowering gums. They were brought in from Sydney, and cost her a penny each. She was responsible for planting both the gums and pohutukawa on Wanganui streets, including a row of gums in Victoria Park near her house. Some of the biggest and oldest pohutukawa and gums in the city are the result of her “personal city beautification crusade”. She was 97 when she died in 1936. The “gums” that she planted have been reclassified botanically as bloodwoods, which makes them technically corymbias rather than eucalypts. The albany red flowering gum, Corymbia ficifolia, is only found in the wild in a small area on the south coast of Western Australia, near Albany. But its glorious flowers, hardiness, smallish size and tidy habit have made it a popular street tree grown in temperate climates all over the world.
There is a steady flow of vehicles on a Saturday morning but I am fortunate that there is a mostly good wide berm to walk upon. The lifestyle block crowd like to mow their ones which are quite superior walking paths. I pass by the electrical substation for Whanganui which has the cutesy name of Blink Bonnie. Then just a bit further along I see why it has that name as I walk past a heritage sign of the same name. On I continue walking past the pretty St John’s church at Matarawa and along the road which is lined with white and blue agapanthus that are so common during summer. At the Fordell road sign I pause to wonder if there is a connection between this Fordell and the farm of the sand name in Naike. At Fordell the trail takes a tight right turn on to the road connecting to SH3. Farms on either side of the road. Not much to admire except grass and cows. I spot a handbag lying in the ditch. It looks as if it has been disgarded. Could it be full of cash? Or maybe someone’s belongings that they want returned? I clamber down the steep bank and give it a prod with my hiking pole – nothing alive inside. Not sure why I needed to do that. Picked it up and the zipper slid open easily to reveal an enormous
Peter Plumley-Walker springs to mind. I quickly return the bag and contents to the gutter. I doubt there would be any reward for it. Another km down the road it intersects with State Highway 3, the main road between Palmerston North Whanganui and New Plymouth. There is a lot of traffic and it’s all barrelling along at highway speeds. A brief gap in the flow let’s me cross to the oncoming side so I can walk to the first stop which is a rest area about a km down the road. While I’m taking a break here a highway patrol car pulls in. OMG this is my lucky day. Yesterday I had read Dean’s post about turning down a ride in a cop car on this same stretch of road. Hell no I wouldn’t turn down an opportunity to ride in a cop car (innocently). So I asked the cop if he could give me a ride. “Why” he asked? I said the road was dangerous and so he agreed. Really I just wanted to go in the car as it was literally less than two kms down the road where the trail leaves the highway. Still I got my ride and a photo to boot so I am a happy chappy.
Whangaehu Beach Road is bounded by dairy farms. It’s flat sandy and odourous. Silage is made and the sickly sweet smell wafts across the road as the mounds of silage sit across the fence metres away. It is early afternoon. Cows are being brought in for milking. At the first farm there is an almost endless procession of cows making their way slowly form the paddock, under the road and up to the milking shed. A milk tanker has just filled and departed so there will be plenty of space in the tanks for todays takings. I hear later down the road that they have about 1,500 views in their herd. I thought about going in for a look but think the better of it and keep walking. At the next farm the milking is over and the views are on their way back to the paddocks. They cross the road so I wait patiently for them to cross, not wanting to disturb them or upset the farmer. Nick arrives as the tail end Charlie on his quad bike with dog sitting on the tray. They milk 350 cows. We have a chat for a while then he indicates where they have provided a water tap to TA hikers just along the road. A thoughtful, generous and most welcome gift to walkers. I avail myself of some water at the trail before setting off on the sandy track leading to the beach. Another farmer pulls up in his ute. He has two farms here. We talk about the TA trail route and options for bridging the river which could cut out the road walking from Whanganui. He offers me a lift to the beach but I decline as it is quite pleasant through here and not much further to go. The river is the Whangaehu which has come all the way from Ruapehu. It’s the same river that passes through Tangiwai. It is nice to finally reach the beach, it is black sand and some parts are pebbles. Lots of logs and timber has been washed ashore sitting high and dry, bleaching in the sun. Flocks of seagulls take off in front of me as I disturb them. There must be thousands on this little section of beach. There is quite a strong wind, fortunately from behind, so it doesn’t require much in the way of takeoff to get them airborne. Four kms down the beach I begin to look for a sign to indicate where to cross the Turakina River. I think I can spot one in the distance but my eyesight is not what it used to be. Could just be a log sticking up. There are plenty of them scattered across the sand. Turns out it is the orange crossing marker. This is where it is shallowest to cross (for now). Off go the shoes and socks before I wade across. Easy. From here it is only half a km to the campsite where I pitch my tent for the night for $10. I meet two couples who are there fishing (small fish, not much being caught). They’re from Marton and Hawkes Bay and offer me a beer which I cannot resist.