Our friends Merilyn and Colin from Dunedin have been to stay with us for a few days. Colin is one of those drivers who likes to go from points A to B without any deviation while on holiday. So while they were here we travelled in the slow lane and took them on a little tiki tour around the area. First up was a quick look around the township of Levin – that didn’t take too long. Levin is well recognised as a market garden area and to acknowledge this Wellington sculptor Dennis Hall was commissioned to design and make a statue. This is a tribute to the contribution made by the Chinese people of the development of market gardens in the area.
No trip to Levin is complete without a visit to RJ’s Licorice factory shop. Our guests were licorice lovers too, but had no idea that this delicacy was made right here in our (new) home town. Just like us, they went away with several bags of this tasty treat.
Then we had a drive around the old Kimberly Hospital site. Merilyn had a rellie who stayed here as a patient for some time before it closed, so was quite interested to see what was happening. Local builder Wayne Bishop has purchased the 48 hectare site and has plans to develop it into a life style housing village. While most of the 85 buildings on this huge site would be demolished or removed, some building materials would be recycled. There are lots of lovely old trees dotted around the property.
After lunch we continued our tiki tour going northwards. Did they know about the Foxton Dutch windmill, we asked. No, they didn’t, so off we went to show them. The deMolen Windmill is located in the Main Street in Foxton, and was opened in 2003. This very special Dutch windmill attracts visitors from all over the world, and grinds several varieties of stone ground flour. The windmill was built and is managed by volunteers from within the Foxton community, and it is run by a charitable trust organisation.
Where to next? How about another local attraction, the Moutoa Sluice Gates. The gates were built in 1962 and protects over 100 sq km of farmland from the risk of flooding. The Manawatu River downstream is vulnerable to flooding as the land is low lying and the river flows are very slow. The sluice gates cause much of the river flow to take a shortcut, bypassing 30km of low capacity river channel, instead being directed down the 10kmm long Moutoa Floodway. The sluice gates are a bit like the ones making up the Thames Barrier, I told them, but very much smaller of course. Colin in particular was quite impressed by this clever piece of engineering.
Another engineering marvel we took our guests to see was the Te Apiti Wind Farm. The turning blades had quite a hypnotic quality about them as we drove nearer and nearer, finally reaching the lookout. Meridian Energy’s Te Apiti wind farm is located on Saddle Road north of the Manawatu Gorge, and covers 1,150 hectares of farmland owned by several landowners, including Meridian Energy. The wind resource near the Manawatu Gorge is exceptional – with the Manawatu gorge acting as a wind funnel, creating consistently high wind speeds. Parking in the car park, we could hear the swish, swish of the blades as we stood just under a huge wind turbine. I could just imagine the blades flying through the air and decapitate us. (Too much imagination, says Robin).
Merilyn in particular was quite spooked by all the swishing blades. The wind power increased in speed at one stage and the noise and speed of the blades above us increased dramatically. She got quite a fright and wanted nothing more than to get in the car and away from the huge turbines surrounding us.
After all that excitement we really needed a cuppa and drove to the Bridge Cafe, at Ballance, just over the long bridge at the Woodville end of the Manawatu Gorge. This is a place I have long wanted to stop at, but we always seem to be towing the caravan behind us as we pass by. We enjoyed our coffees and slices in a nice shady area of the garden.
Then we climbed back into the car, drove through the Manawatu Gorge, and headed home. They enjoyed their trip, we are happy to say, as they visited places they had never been to before, or even heard of. Even driving through the Manawatu Gorge was a first for both of them, surprisingly. We are pleased that we could extend their geographical knowledge.