The club’s outing for November was billed as the Taranaki Garden Spectacular and spectacular was what it turned out to be.

Eighteen intrepid travellers left Auckland on Friday morning revelling in brilliant sunshine beaming down from an azure sky. We guided our Benz motor cars through the lush greenness of Waikato farmlands before emerging beside the brilliant blue Tasman, proceeding in a southerly direction towards Oil City sometimes known as New Plymouth. Signs proclaiming copious quantities of whitebait for sale were encountered but our driver (a Mr Bill Bray) claimed that he had seen no such signs and faced a near revolt as his passengers shrieked, “Look Bill – over there!” Eventually he stopped at The Fat Pigeon for a lengthy lunch with not a whitebait in sight. Mrs Teena Bray confided that our chauffeur had tunnel vision and once the ML started rolling it was hard to stop.

We arrived at the Auto Lodge Motel in the late afternoon and checked in for a two night stay. Some people got rooms with a view, some did not. Kath and I were favoured with an excellent vista of parked cars and a large bus which departed very early the next morning with subdued revellers amongst a swirl of thick black diesel exhaust. Friday night went well and we met up in the bar with Jack and Maralyn Nazer, Rosemary and Richard Glenn, Angelique de Jong and her mother Elizabeth. We were joined by the tour organisers Alison and Garry Boyce who welcomed us and laid out the plans for the next day. Then it was onward to a seafood restaurant where Daryl and Janine Jeffery, Kathy and Neil Rose and Don and Lyn Parlane had already arrived. Due to the whitebait fiasco earlier in the day a considerable number of large plates of the delicacy were ordered along with scallops, mussels and fish. The owner of the restaurant had to be congratulated on getting 18 dinner plates on the table all at once and the hungry travellers made sure that his efforts were truly appreciated. Under a full moon we all returned to the Auto Lodge in pleasant aura of fellowship and bonhomie.

Saturday morning the sun shone again and armed with maps, GPS gadgets and a lot of brave talk we set out for the gardens distributed round Mount Egmont. A small fee was payable at each garden and you could take your pick as to where you went, guided by the recommendations from Alison. As the day proceeded lost souls were seen to be heading in directions that were somewhat surprising, but for once your correspondent was not amongst the lost tribes as Mr Bray piloted our car with supreme optimism and accuracy. First stop was a tropical garden in suburban New Plymouth. The owners of a small section had worked a miracle where the tropics were micro-climated round their house. Rhododendrons and hydrangeas were prominent in nearly all of the following gardens together with English trees and acres of beautifully mowed lawns. One garden specialising in roses and hanging baskets were the feature of another site. Morning tea stop was at Pukeiti Park, a beautifully maintained public facility with long walks and shaded paths. Heading towards Hawera it was noticeable how the vegetation became sparse due to strong prevailing winds and we were wondering how anybody could tame the south westerly and create a garden in these conditions. But here a garden of Eden had been created with shelter for even the most timid of plants, with water features, rolled lawns, shaped hedges and trees producing a stunning vista, contrasting starkly with the next door property which was devoid of any vegetation other than grass. Further on a rose garden surrounded the house with blooms climbing up frames and over banks and valleys. The last visit was to the well-known Pukekura Park which makes much use of large lakes, waterfalls, Bowl of Brooklyn, huge lawns and several controlled temperature fern houses which were a wonderful conclusion to the day.

Dinner had been arranged down near the waterfront and a very happy band celebrated an excellent day. Congratulations to Alison and Garry, a lovely idea, cleverly thought out and realised with great aplomb.

Footnote: On the return journey to Auckland a stop was made at Mokau, the whitebait capital of the North Island, where giant fritters sandwiched by fresh bread were consumed on a lookout facing towards Australia.

David Winn