The last fortnight in February
proved to be an interesting mixture of both entertainments and scenery. On
Friday 19th we went to see Victoria University’s open-air production
of ‘The Merry Wives of Windsor’. We saw their version of ‘Henry V’ last year
and thoroughly enjoyed it, and this year, although not quite so good it was
well worth seeing, with lots of pizzazz and energy.
The following day we revisited
the East Harbour Regional Park, and did a long walk round the two lakes there,
and up and down the assortment of hills which surround them. We must have
walked about 15 miles in total, given that it takes 1½ hours to walk from the
entrance gate, along the east shore of Wellington Harbour to the lighthouses
where our walk proper began. By the time we’d finished we were certainly ready
to collapse in the Lifeboat pub in Eastbourne.
On Sunday 21st we had
a couple of commitments with no hope of getting from one to the next by public
transport, so we hired a car for the day. First we went to the cinema at Petone
to see a recording of the National Theatre’s production of a dramatisation of
Terry Pratchett’s book ‘Nation’. This was brilliant, with amazing acting, and
certainly worth spending time in the dark on a sunny day to see, especially as we
are suffering from theatre deprivation here. Unfortunately, there were very few
people in the audience, which was a shame.
From there we drove to Whitby,
across the hills, for a garden party to celebrate our friend Lisa’s conversion
to New Zealand citizenship after many years’ residence. Afterwards, we took
advantage of the car to drive up to a relatively remote park, Battle Hill, to
do a circular walk over the hills where an engagement between the British and
local Maori took place in the 1800s. On the way home we noticed a vast cloud of
smoke, and stopped to watch a big bush fire at Titahi Bay, which was being
tackled by a couple of helicopters with monsoon buckets.
The following weekend started on
Friday, when we picked up another hire car and headed off up SH1 to Wanganui.
The traffic was bad, but we arrived in time to check in for an overnight stay
at our favourite hotel there, the Kingsgate, and have a meal in a nearby pub.
The next day we drove on up to New Plymouth, passing by Mount Taranaki with a
necklace of clouds. The town was packed with people, and every bed for miles
around had been sold in advance – we were lucky to get a room in a house in the
town. After checking in there, we walked through Pukekura Park to the Bowl of
Brooklands, where the big Cliff Richard and the Shadows concert was being held
(part of their 50th anniversary reunion world tour). We’d heard about this some months ago, and
Sandie was overcome by nostalgia for her long-past youth, so we decided to go.
We arrived an hour before the
gates opened, joining a big queue of waiting fans. When we got in we found a
place on the grass facing the stage and settled down to wait. The grass all
round soon filled up with thousands of fans, from all over the south end of the
North Island. The warm-up act was by John Rowles, a kiwi singer who didn’t
leave much of an impression on us, but at 7.30 the main event began. Given the
age of the main performers, it was an amazing event – singing and playing all
the old favourites and moving around the stage like 20-year-olds. The moon came
up and the concert finally finished at 10.30, to the disappointment of all the
fans of a certain age who crowded the place. Afterwards we all tottered slowly
back through the park, which was lit up with a medley of coloured lights in
honour of the event.
The next day we left New
Plymouth, but rather than drive straight home we detoured along the ‘Forgotten
World Highway’, a road that crosses the rugged interior from Stratford to
Taumarunui, a distance of 150 kilometres. On the way it crosses four different
saddles with panoramic views, passes through a couple of tunnels, and goes
through the independent Republic of Whangamomona (population 30). We stopped at
the pub there so Sandie could sample the local brew. We also detoured up to
Mount Damper Falls, alleged (incorrectly) to be the second highest falls in the
country. When we finally reached the relative civilisation of Taumarunui we
still had over 300 kilometres to drive home, making an eventful weekend which
took in a fair chunk of the country as well as the Cliff Richard concert.