Arriving in Taranaki region, we continued straight ahead, towards the Mountain. It is visible from afar, but almost always hidden behind clouds. Locals warned us that it is a very shy mountain. For that, we were quite lucky.
Taranaki has a really cute part in Maori mythology. According to the legends, the central plateau was once home to all the mountains. The only female mountain, beautiful Pihanga, was admired by all of them. The two strongest candidates, Tongariro and Taranaki, fought for her favour and Tongariro won. Henceforth, she stands by his side.
Taranaki, in his anger and grief, left the central plateau towards the setting sun, cutting a deep crack into the earth behind him and filling it with his tears. This crack is now the Wanganui river. Until this day, poor Taranaki stands alone on the western coast, maybe waiting for a chance to return one day and win back his love.
It really is a beautiful mountain, it's perfect volcanic shape standing out over the flat landscape around it. We had a good look when we drove up to the eastern plateau, only a few clouds obscuring the sides. There are walkways all around and to the summit, but since the weather changes as quick as nowhere else in the country, you should be very well prepared before climbing it.
We spent two days in New Plymouth, with a very nice couple who showed us some nice places to visit in the area.
If you are into surfing, there is plenty to do with beautiful black sand surf beaches all along the coast – It is the 'Surf Highway' after all. We enjoyed the beaches from a dry perspective and drove halfway along the Highway to Cape Egmont to have a look at the lighthouse.
In the evening, we went to see the 'Festival of Lights', a cool event in one of the town parks that goes on every night until the end of January. There are free concerts most nights and the whole park is colorfully illuminated. We were there twice, on Boxing day and the saturday after, and both times it was packed with people. We really liked it and it was a nice way to relax and stop somewhere for once – after all this driving, sitting down and having an icecream felt just right!