Just before we set off to explore Taranaki, we passed a large grey bus in a Wellington car park. Boldly written at the top of its windscreen was the following boast “God created Taranaki so the Hardcore people would have somewhere to live”
We’d barely crossed the border into the Taranaki region when the rain began to fall. We drove on. The rain became a thick grey curtain, impenetrable even with the headlights on high beam. We pulled over and waited. The rain was relentless. It was hardcore. I peered into the obscurity. What kind of country lay beyond the blanket of hard, driving rain? How hard exactly were the hardcore people who lived here? I was soon to find out.
Within a few minutes, dim figures broke from the watery wall ahead and ran swiftly towards us. As they came closer they took shape as children, bare-headed, bare-footed, in t- shirts and shorts, bags bouncing on their backs. School was out and its hardcore pupils were on their way home.
When the road had cleared of kids and the rain had eased to a thin veil, we drove on. Thick bands of water were spilling down the steep banks on either side of the road; it was fast becoming a river. We eased cautiously on ahead of it, past farms of an unbelievable green, through dying towns where the ruins of once prosperous flourishing dairy factories and freezing works huddled on the outskirts and abandoned shops lined the empty streets, on to New Plymouth. In more clement weather we might have lingered and explored, stopped to photograph the Aotea canoe at Patea, to have a beer in the grand old hotel at Waverley, to admire Taranaki Maunga from afar or to follow one a signpost up an enticing side road but we were driven on by the relentless rain and the threat of an even worse storm waiting just offshore. We were definitely in Taranaki, the hardcore country.