Thursday, 25 February 2016

24 Hours in New Plymouth

In December, I went to New Zealand. For a day. My destination was New Plymouth. Here are some things that I found.

The Wind Wand in New Plymouth
Source: The Wind Wand in New Plymouth by Jarod Carruthers on Flickr, reproduced without modification under Creative Commons licence
New Plymouth is the home of the Len Lye Centre, a gallery devoted to the works of the kinetic sculptor. On the coastal esplanade flaps the 45 metre high Wind Wand; inside, his metal, moving, shimmering Fountains. I had walked in with no clue as to the name Len Lye - I walked out realising I had seen these works before, in the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, UK, years ago. I had even blogged about it at the time. I had come half way around the world, not knowing what I would find, and I found a link to the place I had called my home until so recently, a home I had shared with...

...two dear friends, who moved to New Zealand three years ago and who I hadn't seen since. Hot footing to a new adventure, unsure where it would take them, they've since laid foundations both metaphorically and literally in New Plymouth. My crazy, long haul, short-lived visit was to see them, and I'm very glad I did. It was a joy to see them happy. It was a joy to be shown around somewhere entirely new by people who love the space they are in. It was a joy to be the first guest...

... in their brand new Tiny House. At just 18 square metres of intricately designed floor space, their home is snug, yet it contains all that they could ever need, deliberately and cleverly designed to have a minimal ecological footprint. 'The Nest', and their adjacent Tiny Home for guests called The Matchbox (available to rent here), are not the only signs that New Plymouth cherishes its outdoors - we cycled all day, first through the large urban Pukekura Park, which was preparing for a Festival of Lights, then miles along a coastal path that leads nowhere, except to allow people to get out and enjoy a coastline lesser visited by backpackers, with iron-rich black sand beaches...

 ...and underappreciated surf. We threw pebbles out to sea and collected driftwood. There may even have been a penguin sighting (we're not sure, it was small and far away). In evening we climbed Paritutu Rock...

...from the top of which we could see seals swimming, waves crashing and the town turning in for the night, yet also incoming thunderclouds and, despite longing looks all day, not a sign of Mount Taranaki, whose peak would not peek from behind the distant murk. With the weather now closing in, it was time to descend and spend the evening with my friends' family, who have also moved to New Plymouth. Family, it seems, is drawn here - and New Plymouth is perfect for family: catering for events, a healthy lifestyle, and even a free zoo for children (and grown up children). Family need not be related either: throughout the day my friends bumped into their friends, who were immediately welcoming; later in the day, two street cleaners came to say hello as we paused from our bike ride, for no reason other than they had seen us earlier in the day exploring Pukekura and the zoo, and wondered whether we were having a nice time.

We finished the evening watching telly and laughing.

And then I flew home.

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