On Saturday morning I headed out to the farmer’s market in downtown Whanganui. Stretching out along the riverfront were various stalls selling local fruits and vegetables, baked goods, crafts and handmade items, and other fun things to explore. I bought a delicious pastry at one stall featuring ginger, dark chocolate, and whiskey flavors. With my pastry and a tea, I wandered along the river for a bit before sitting down to eat my breakfast. It was a beautiful, sunny morning. A bit chilly but the tea kept my hands warm. I then browsed among the many stalls some more but my will was iron and I managed to keep from buying anything.
Shortly before noon I headed north along the riverwalk toward the spot where the Motor Vessel (MV) Wairua was moored. I was greeted by Sam, the vessel’s owner and skipper as I made my way aboard. The only other passengers were a young father and son. We were soon ready to go and the first mate unmoored the riverboat and pushed off from the dock.
Once the riverboat began motoring up the river the breeze grew stronger and colder and the dad and his son escaped to the covered cabin below. I had my own private tour guide in Sam for the rest of the trip. Offseason travel has its perks. He told me the history of the Wairua from its origins as a kit boat ordered from London and assembled to New Zealand to its sinking in the Whanganui River after the demise of the riverboat trade and to its latest incarnation as a tourist attraction after a group of friends salvaged it from the riverbed and spent nearly 20 years bringing it back to life.
Sam also told me a lot about the history of the town and especially the riverboat trade. It was a great tour so if you’re ever in Whanganui check it out.
After the trip on the Wairua I headed to another local attraction: Lake Virginia. Lake Virginia has a nice walking loop around the lake and the Winter Gardens with an attached aviary. The Winter Gardens were underwhelming but not a bad place to spend a bit of time on a chilly day. The walk around the lake was flat and easy and I spent a lot of time trying to identify the many types of birds walking near and floating on the water. Pukekos were already my new favorite bird but this little Australian Coot was adorable.
I really need to get some books on native New Zealand flora and fauna so I don’t spend most of my time outdoors asking myself “What’s that?”