You know those friends of yours who come back from some “life changing” trip, and bore you to tears for ages on end with the joy of travel and how incredibly awesome the whole thing was, slide show and all? (Yes, I appreciate a travel blog is a very similar thing. Bear with me.)
Well, there was a chap in New Zealand who went somewhat further than a mere slideshow and the odd photograph from his travels. For Irish immigrant John Martin, this was not enough. Instead, he decided to build an entire town dedicated to his life’s journey. Called Martinborough (well, what else), this town is a testament to one mans narcissim.
Laid out in the shape of the union jack, the streets are all named after places he visited whilst out and about in the world. Ohio Street thusly nestles up against Venice Street. Dublin St is just round the corner from Naples Rd. I feel that I should applaud him for his sheer temerity. Planning for Norahville is in its early stages.
Martinborough falls within the Wairarapa region of New Zealand’s North island, the part which is tucked away at the bottom right that is mostly skipped over by folk rushing to Wellington to get on the ferry to the South Island.
This is a bit of a shame, as it is actually a rather picturesque part of the land. The main town is Masterton, where you can wander the ancient graveyard and, once a year, enjoy the spectacle of the Golden Shears world sheep shearing championships. We visited in late Autumn, so the colours were particularly marvellous against a clear blue sky.
The Wairarapa coast is another highlight. Bleak cliffs and endless beaches battle it out with the relentless south pacific, in a war that the land can only really lose. Lighthouses, like the one at Castle Point, guard the shores like the all seeing Cyclops of myth.
We spent our nights in the Wairarapa at two rather distinctly interesting spots. The first, in Ekhatune was a deserted council run campsite which, for $5 a head, was possibly the finest campsite I’ve ever visited.
In hindsight, discovering the wicker weavings all around the camp was best left for the morning of our departure. As it was, the locals who popped through in the morning seemed more than friendly and happy we were there. Heathen witch burnings did not seem on the cards.
Our other stopover for the night was near the Castle Point lighthouse, round the back of the local pub, which was clearly a popular haunt with the local lobster fisherman, which is the big trade in the region. I’m not saying conversation entirely stalled when we entered, but new faces were clearly something of a novelty item. The bar stools were made out of old tractor seats, and the portions of chips were heavenly.
The chips were probably what got us up the actual rock at Castle Point, a 160 metre high monster that towers over the lagoon and nearby lighthouse, providing ample views up and down this ruggedly beautiful coastline, despite the winds best efforts to dislodge us and send us tumbling to our dooms. Seals basked on the rocks of the lagoon below as we clawed our way up and down the treacherously steep path.
Beyond the shore, the interior of this part of the world isn’t half bad. A lunchtime stop over in the Waiohine Gorge afforded us the opportunity to bounce over one of New Zealand’s longest swing bridges, a precarious 92 metre long construction constructed dizzyingly above the waters of Waiohine Gorge itself. Beyond that, it was on through the rest of the wine country and down south, to the Pinnacles and the southern tip of Cape Palliser, which will be the subject of my next post.