Last October we visited New Plymouth during a public holiday week-end. This city of 53400 inhabitants is located on the north island west coast and is mostly known for two things: its proximity with the mount Taranaki and the highway 45, a road paved with really good spots to surf. Mount Taranaki, also known as mount Egmont, is up to 2518 metres and overlooks the entire area. Such a amazing volcano! Once you put your eyes on it it is quite difficult to turn away from it. Seing it reminded me how small Humans are and how powerful the Nature is. Fortunately for us mount Taranaki stayed calm during our week-end there despite the scientists say that it could wake up at every moment as the last eruption happened about 250 years ago.
New Plymouth is not a charming city. It is a medium-size city where streets seem too empty. On Saturday evening we wanted to watch the All Blacks game in a pub but all the streets and bars were so quiet so we just went back to our couchsurfing place. If New Plymouth might not be a very lively city it is still an enjoyable one to visit during sunny days. You can have a walk around Pukekura Park and stroll in the coastal walkway. Regarding accessibility the town centre is almost flat and sidewalks are in good shape with curb-cuts.
Walking in Pukekura park is a bit like walking in the middle of the bush and ferns. So only difference is that everything is wheelchair accessible; pathways and restrooms. Nevertheless I was disappointed by the Japanese area. I even didn’t realise I was in it until I faced a torii. Of course there are a few Japanese threes but that is not obvious.
The free zoo is making up for this! It is small but cute. It was perfect to me as I love guinea pigs and I was able to see some of them without being crammed in small cage in a pet shop. There are also cockatoos, others birds, pigs, reptiles and small monkeys.
The coastal walkway is also a good stroll. The entire walk is 12km but it is possible just to do a part of it. The walk is located between the coastline and the railway first part, from Ngamotu Beach to Kawaroa Beach. Consequently it is required to cross rails a few times but as a reward the view at mount Taranaki is charming. We can also see some coves with black sand, the Paritutu Rock and the Sugar Loaf Islands, a rocky volcanic formation emerging from the sea. A bit further away we also discovered “Wind wand”, a weird sculpture looking like a huge red pole reaching 48 metres high. If you feel like walking a few more kilometres you will also be able to see Te Rewa Rewa Bridge, famous for its surprising architecture and its perfect alignment with mount Taranaki. If you don’t walk to it it is also possible to drive there.
The coastal walkway is quite a good wheelchair stroll. Except for the railways that we need to cross I only noticed one difficulty. Just after Breakwater Bay, after the aquatic centre, there is one steep slope with hard sidewalks to go up and down. I preferred to ask Franck’s help to be sure not to fall!
There are three access points to get into mount Taranaki and reach different walks: North Egmont, East Egmont and Dawson Falls. There are Department of Conservation information centres at North Egmont and Dawson Falls. After skimming some leaflets about the walks we decided to access the mount by Dawson Falls as we wanted to walk the Wilkies Pool Loop Track which is supposed to be wheelchair accessible with an other person help. In reality it is not accessible. Starting at the very beginning there are two steps even before being really in the pathway. The ground is covered by a kind of railings generating a lot of vibrations. Because of this, I had lot of spasticity. It even harder to go forward as it is steep. The best solution seems to roll on the back wheels only… which we did for 200 metres before being stopped! Indeed at that point the pathway split in two parts: an accessible pathway on the right and another one on the left. Unfortunately the left one was closed due to public work.
Instead we decided to do the Dawson Falls Power Station Walk. This 5 minutes walk goes until a small powerhouse and is supposed to be wheelchair accessible. Once again it wasn’t. The pathway is short but steep and covered by gravels. There are no regrets to have: there is almost nothing to see. It is just a tiny house with some machines inside and a small river at the exit.
In spite of these disillusions I still think that going to mount Egmont is worth it. The road to reach it is stunning and once you are on the mount you can see the Tongariro national park if it is clear enough. I didn’t have time to try but there is another walk supposed to be wheelchair accessible alone at East Egmont: Potaema Track.
If you decide to visit mount Taranaki you should stop at Mangamahoe lake situated about halfway between New Plymouth and the volcano. The view is incredible! The mount appears above the lake and pine threes forests. The icing on the cake: you could eat surrounded by ducks while looking at black swans on the lake.
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