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!