The original reason for our trip was in the main astronomical. To view the total eclipse of the sun and the dark skies above Lake Tekapo. Mission accomplished there. There was, of course, the novel experience of Australia and New Zealand themselves too. How rich and varied that turned out to be. We knew something of it of course, it is not a well kept secret.
We kept looking at the wall calendar sent to Alison by her far-flung (as she was then) cousin in Taranaki. The very distinctive peak of Mount Egmont as the Europeans called it became familiar to us. The calendar pictured it in different seasons from different locations as calendars do. It became something of a Holy Grail as we planned the trip. Reaching Taranaki became a goal in itself.
Well, we’d done it. The manner in which it was accomplished I’ve already related. Now as we flew away from Christchurch on a beautiful summer day, the plane passed over Cape Farewell on South Island. Appropriate. North Island came into sight and we passed very close to Taranaki. We had a last, wonderful view of the mountain from the air.
The green peninsula of the Taranaki region was set in an opalescent sea of faded pinks and greens. In the centre of that was the geometrically precise circle of woodland which surrounds the mountain and in the centre of that the peak itself. The white of the snow turned dusty blue with distance and etched with fine chasing to emphasise the symmetrical slopes. A train of light fair weather clouds trailed back from it towards the little town of Stratford where the hospitable Roslyn and Kevin live.
As the view faded behind us we knew this special holiday was coming to an end. But the iconic image remains with us. Not only a synopsis of all the photos we’d seen and taken of the mountain but a symbol of the trip and the country itself. Strange, remote, incredibly beautiful.