About an hour and a half before we arrived in New Plymouth we could see this giant mountain just inland from the coast. It was interesting because there appeared to be no other hills or mountains in the area. Once we started driving past it we finally saw a few smaller hills behind it. When we arrived in New Plymouth we found out that it was called Mt. Taranaki, and was one of the main features of this area along the west coast.
The first day we spent in New Plymouth turned out to be a rainy day, so we ended up driving back the way we came and stopping at a huge museum called Tawhiti Museum. This museum had many figurines created by an artist to portray the lifestyle of the people living in New Plymouth. There were exhibits about the milk industry and its impact on the area. It also had a huge exhibit depicting some of the battles that were fought amongst aboriginal tribes against other tribes from the north. Apparently the Europeans brought muskets over when they started to settle in New Zealand and their selling of muskets to aboriginals had a huge impact on the wars they fought amongst themselves. There was also information about the many battles between Europeans and the aboriginal tribes for land.
It was a really interesting museum. It even had a large collection (around 50) of tractors that were used in New Zealand. Many of them were refurbished military vehicles bought from the government that were no longer needed.
After spending a few hours there, we headed back home and surprisingly we could not see the Mt. Taranaki. It was covered with a haze around it. After talking to some locals we found out that this is pretty normal. The area around the mountain is fairly dry, but Mt. Taranaki gets approximately 8 times more rain than any of the places around it. This is due to its proximity to the ocean and the fact that clouds rise to get over top of it and drop any moisture collected over the ocean. Over our next few days we didn’t end up seeing Mt. Taranaki like we did the first day on our drive in. If you are ever in the area and its a clear day around Mt. Taranaki, take its picture….or better yet…go tramping!