Yesterday’s road trip…Mount Taranaki, a rain forest and a botanical garden…More garden photos tomorrow…

Our favorite photo of the day.  Zoom in to see this bee’s facial features.  Amazing!

After writing yesterday’s post which we uploaded by 10 am after a very early start, we looked at one another and said, “Let’s head out!” We’d written about how little we’ve been traveling while living here in New Zealand enjoying our surroundings to the degree that we haven’t been motivated to leave for even a day.

We crossed numerous streams and rivers on our way up the mountain, including driving over this one-lane bridge.

When we do travel, we prefer sunny days for better photos and viewing scenery, but after being in for many days after Tom’s over-week-long illness, except for a night out for dinner and another outing for grocery shopping, we were excited to get on the road. 

We read this sign to get a lay of the land.  Inside this building, we were able to grab a map of the gardens to assist us on our walk.

Without a big plan in mind, we headed on to the long drive through winding country roads to steep winding mountain roads, not unlike those we experienced long ago when we spent three months in Boveglio, Tuscany, Italy in 2013. 

We got a kick out of this display for free coffee.  With no receptionist in attendance, one could help themselves.

By far, those mountains in Italy had some of the steepest winding roads we’d driven in our travels, except for the Atlas Mountains we traveled in Morocco in April 2014. 

Not a huge fan of driving through mountainous roads, yesterday I was at ease with the automatic transmission of our rental car and the lack of the necessity to pass slow-moving vehicles in front of us. We didn’t encounter more than a half dozen vehicles through the mountains making the drive relatively easy and comfortable.

As we commenced our walk, we spotted this gardener at work.

We hoped to get to the Visitors Centre partway up Mount Taranaki but when it began to rain during our walk through the Pukeiti Gardens and rainforest we decided it might be wise to head back down the mountain, realizing that scenic views would be impossible on the cloudy rainy day.

The Pukeiti Gardens is known for its world-class rhododendron collection exquisitely set within a rainforest with the flowering season from July through March. We were grateful to have arrived during the season to be able to see and take photos of the beautiful flowers and gardens. Every so often, the sun peeked out, allowing us a few better quality photos as shown here.

The rhododendrons are in full bloom at this time of the year, summer in New Zealand.

Here’s a little info from the Taranaki Regional Council’s website about the origination of the beautiful gardens:

“A vision fulfilled:
One man’s dream has literally flowered at Pukeiti on the slopes of Mount Taranaki — a garden renowned worldwide for its stunning collection of rhododendrons and other plants, and an institution that is much a part of the region as the mountain itself.

Founder William Douglas Cook’s vision was a vast natural garden of rhododendrons. Today that vision is a reality, thanks to the efforts of Cook and countless volunteers and members of the Pukeiti Rhododendron Trust through the decades since the garden opened in 1951.
(To read some stories from the early days, click on “History and culture” in the navigation panel at left.)

Pukeiti has the largest collection of rhododendrons in New Zealand, its sub-tropical vireyas known as the world’s finest. It also boasts major displays of cardiocrinum, hostas, hydrangeas, magnolias, primulas, liliums, bulbs, and alpine and herbaceous plants, all against a backdrop of luscious native bush and dramatic Mount Taranaki.

The Taranaki Regional Council assumed ownership of and responsibility for Pukeiti on 1 July 2010, as a result of an approach from the Trust. The move secures the future for Pukeiti and its unique collection of plants.

The Council also owns and operates Tupare, and Hollard Gardens, Kaponga, on behalf of the people of the region.”

The walkways were easy at the beginning of our walk.

Had it not rained, we’d certainly have stayed longer walking further along the many kilometers of trails. But soon, as we began trekking through mud and slippery rocks, we knew it was time to get back on the road.

We continue to be in awe of the maintenance and care in this lovely country. There appear to be few, if any, rundown properties, bad roads, or trash on the sides of the road. We’ve yet to encounter a “bad” or unsafe-feeling area in the Taranaki Region. At public venues, such as Pukeiti Gardens, clean restrooms are readily available. No fees are required to enter the gardens and rainforest.

The rainforest is beautiful. Well coated with repellent I never received a bite. Tom, without the use of any repellent, was never bitten. Surprisingly, we didn’t sense any biting flies, mosquitos, or sandflies in the rainforest.

We only encountered two other parties and one gardener in the gardens on the less-than-ideal day but never felt ill at ease in the secluded rainforest. Back home in the later afternoon we were pleased for the experiences and look forward to more similar outings.

Today is by far, the rainiest day since our arrival, much-needed rain to provide a greener pasture for the grazing alpacas and other grazing animals throughout the country. 

Unable to find the name of this structure online (metered wifi), we assume it may be a Maori (indigenous people to NZ) tribute. Please correct us if we are wrong.

As I listened to the pelting rain pounding on the metal roof during the night, I thought about the alpacas. This morning, as I stepped outdoors to see how they’re doing in the heavy rain, they were all busy munching on the grass picking up their heads to look at me, with the adorable funny little smirk on their faces, none the worse for the wear.

Feeling relieved, I wiped my bare feet and returned back indoors for what will surely be a quiet day at home.  We don’t mind a bit. Each day is a treasure.

We hope today will be a treasured day for YOU!

Photo from one year ago today, February 17, 2015:

The Nene Bird is the Hawaiian Island state bird, evolved from the Canadian Goose with which we’re very familiar after living in Minnesota. These geese are commonly seen in Kauai, where we lived for four months a year ago. Please click here for more details.