The town of Bulls in New Zealand has a gimmick that makes it udderly memor-a-bull. Also avail-a-bull is Forgive-a-bull (Anglican Church), though I’m not sure I’d forgive these terr-i-bull puns.

Not surprisingly, it’s twinned with Cowes in the UK…

Taranaki (the Volcano)

The volcano Taranaki gives his name to the whole region here, and it’s not hard to see why: on the map the volcano creates a huge bulge on the west coast of New Zealand.

In beautiful New Zealand style they’ve defined a National Park with an almost perfect circular boundary, and of course it’s particularly stunning when seen from the air:

Why Taranaki is here, of course, is told in legend: one of the big seven New Zealand volcanoes, he reputedly fought with his mates (Ruapehu, Ngauruhoe and Tongariro) over the lovely Pirihanga – and lost the fight. In fact he was so disruptive that he was banished from the main group in the middle of the North Island, and forced to live out west.

To do the trip properly, aim to stay overnight. If you’re desperate, get a camper van and stay in the car park; failing that, get a bed at the Dawson Falls Lodge, which is the main visitor centre for the park. The lodge is a bit dilapidated, but that seems to be part of its charm – the chance to get away from it all, have time to watch and photograph the volcano overnight, and see the utter beauty of the Milky Way in a crystal-clear sky. And although the electricity is 1930s direct current and the Wifi connection is terrible, the Coconut Muesli is well worth going back for.

And here is a young Taranaki entrepreneur. On the road to isolated Cape Egmont he was stopping every car – I assumed to tell us there were cows up ahead, but it turned our he just wanted us to buy one of his signs. For sheer cheek I thought ‘go  on, you can afford it’, so I bargained him down to $10 for the sign and then gave him another $10 for the photograph. There followed a long conversation about how he and his dad make the signs from old packing cases, how he’d already made $40 that day, and how any money he made would go to more power tools… and all just because he likes power tools.

Priceless… and if you look carefully you’ll see one of these signs has the mountain the wrong way round!



How do you become a little town with some grand old buildings? You start as a medium-sized port at the centre of the flax trade, and then the river silts up. Mind you there is a windmill, which is quite unusual. Welcome to Foxton.


In 1931 the town of Napier was flattened by an earthquake, killing 258 people. When the town rebuilt (to much stricter building codes), the obvious style to use was 1930s concrete and Art Deco – with its emphasis on surface decoration it was fashionable, cheap and relatively safe.

As a result the town has a fantastic collection of buildings from the period, ranking second only to South Beach in Florida as an Art Deco city. They run a great programme of events to celebrate it all – look at the Art Deco Napier website for more.


Stonehenge Aotearoa

Stonehenge Aotearoa is an entirely serious attempt to teach astronomy and celestial timekeeping: it also explains some early Maori myth about the heavens, though in general it makes a point of debunking astrology. But best of all is Richard, the enthusistic astronomer who does the guided tour (his wife says he ‘looks like he’s measuring fish…’)

Here’s a link to the official Stonehenge Aotearoa website.

Street Art

Wellington has a love of putting odd things out on public display. Sometimes they’re a bit tacky, but often they’re quite interesting and rather fun – it seems to suit their view of themselves as a young nation trying out new ideas all the time.

The Sky Ball on Civic Square isn’t there any more – in fact they seem to have tried to de-clutter Civic Square, which is probably a good thing. On the other hand it might just have blown down one day…

The Troll also isn’t there any more. Shouldn’t every city have a troll in its main square? Though I guess he was left over from Lord of the Rings.

Happily the fake Nikau Palms are still around:

Again, the Signriter advert has disappeared…

but happily there are a few anarchist yarn-bombers around…