"" Writer's Wanderings: New Zealand Diary - Durie Tower and Elevator, Tram Museum, Dawson Falls

Thursday, December 26, 2013

New Zealand Diary - Durie Tower and Elevator, Tram Museum, Dawson Falls

Monday, November 4, 2013

Our goal last night was to get all of our clean clothes in one suitcase for the rest of the trip and everything we don’t need into the other. There are a couple more bed and breakfast stops and it’s always hard to know if we will have to lug a suitcase up stairs. If we do, now it will only be one. Hopefully I have organized them well and we will be fine for the next couple of nights.

The Durie Hill Elevator and Tower are our first stops for the morning. Actually we take the elevator to the top of the hill where the tower is. There is a long tunnel, about 600 feet, that leads to the elevator and over the entrance it says 1916. Is that the age of the tunnel?

At the end of the tunnel is a metal door and a doorbell to call the elevator. Bob pushes it and we hear the mechanics of the lift. The metal door opens and a lady steps out and smiles at us. Bob asks if we can get a ride up and hands her $4 NZD for the two of us for our ride. She invites us to enter what seems like just a big metal box and she pulls the metal door shut. I am grateful I’m not claustrophobic.

The elevator gets a good head of steam on it going up and it doesn’t take long to reach the top. Meanwhile Bob has asked enough questions to find out that the elevator is 94 years old and the lady’s mother operated it before she did. Her aunt and her daughter also help out so we guess it’s a family business.

At the top, we climb the rest of the hill to the Tower. It is a memorial to those from the city who died in World War I. There are 175 steps to the top. We haven’t had our climb yet for the morning so we start up. No sooner have we circled around the center three or four times and a jogger comes running down. We flatten against the wall. He mumbles a g’day and we start up again.

Now I may not be too claustrophobic but I do get a bit dizzy and winded on circular stairs. I stop for a breather and to set my equilibrium straight again and suddenly the jogger who went down runs up the stairs past us. I look at Bob and we both shake our heads. This guy is no spring chicken either.

We continue up. He passes us on the way down again. We make it to the top and just as I snap a picture, he appears again, walks around the top and starts for the door to go down. Bob asks how many times he does this. Sixteen is the answer.

The view from the top of the tower is nice but not really significant for us. Perhaps if we’d had more time to spend in the area we would recognize more things. The only thing we find familiar is the steamboat side paddler we saw last night.

On the way down, we are passed several more times by the jogger and then he disappears. While we wouldn’t climb up the hill from below we decide that going down wouldn’t be too bad and pass up the elevator ride down. We are quickly at the bottom, despite not jogging, and cross the river again to go to the Tram Museum.

The museum is actually just a large structure that houses a restored tram. Between 1909 and 1912, twelve trams came into service in Wangarui. Of those, only three survive. The restored tram on display is the Number 12. The tram system was closed in 1950 but the Number 12 had not been run since 1940. It was purchased and stored and then purchased again before coming back to Wangarui and becoming the project of an incorporated society dedicated to the restoration of the tram for historical preservation.

While the tram is a work of love involving a worldwide parts search and is detailed in its restoration, we find the most interesting part of the museum is the fellow who is there taking care of it all. He’s originally from the UK and is quite a talker. Story after story comes out about the restoration and the struggle to get the city to allow him and the others who work on it to get it running again. If they succeed, there is going to be a wonderful addition to their city that will attract visitors.

After Bob gets several earfuls of answers to his questions about some of the electrical gadgets and operational machinery, we decide to get on our way. New Plymouth is our next destination and we have several more places to stop along the way.

Our first stop is at the Hawera Water Tower. Why? I ask. Perhaps just because it’s there? The sign says 115 steps. I say no but after looking at the tower and snapping a picture, I am tempted to say, “Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your hair!” On to our next stop.

All the way up a wonderfully winding road, we find the car park for the Dawson Falls and Power Plant walks. The power plant turns out to be a small building that services the park and generates power from the stream that runs through it. While it is a small building, it has a big history. The little power station generator was originally used by the NZ Defence forces to defend the Wellington Harbour and help run the Wellington cable car before it came to the park. It is said to be the oldest continuously operating generator in the world. It has been servicing the park with a little help from the national grid since 1934.

Below the power plant and down the road a bit is the walk to Dawson Falls. It takes a little while and a few—make that lots of steps to get there and once again we have a picture of a waterfall. It will be interesting to count them all when I get home. Kind of reminds me of all the iguana pictures we took in Galapagos.

When we return to the car park, we notice that the café in the lodge is open and we opt to have lunch there. To our delight we are served the best bowl of vegetable soup we’ve had in NZ. The little café reminds me of something out of a fairy tale. The chairs and tables look like they are handmade and each chair is hand painted. It is rustic and lovely and any moment I expect Geppetto to come out of the back room with Pinocchio by his side.

Next it is down the mountain and on to New Plymouth.

In New Plymouth we find the Information Center and gather some. . .information, of course. There is a nice boardwalk along the shore of the Tasman Sea here and we stretch our legs a bit. A turn up and away from the shore and we explore the town center. After the delightful town center at Wanganui, we are a bit disappointed. The buildings here are just city buildings and nothing as quaint or interesting as Wanganui.

There is no disappointment however in the Arlie House, our B and B for the night. We have a “wing,” so to speak, of the house with a bedroom and a private bath that is huge. It has a clawed bathtub as well as a shower and Gabrielle, our host, has even provided a French vanilla candle should I want a bath by candlelight. Outside our window is a lovely spring garden blooming with purples and pinks and yellows. It all feels so comfortable that we decide to forego any more exploration of New Plymouth and just relax before dinner.

It’s always an adventure to find a place to eat—especially at a reasonable price. We settle on an Irish pub that seems pretty authentic. And yes, they serve Guinness. What Irish pub wouldn’t? I have a huge plate of lamb shank that I can barely finish and Bob polishes off his dinner so fast I’m not sure what it was.

After dinner we go down to the coastal walkway again and find a park bench to watch the fading rays of the sun. Families with kids on scooters and teens on skateboards pass us by as well as the occasional four-legged friends that want to check us out on the way by. It’s a nice relaxing evening and a time to just be together—as if we weren’t together the last four and a half weeks. Hah!

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