Arriving at Wanganui, we hunted around for a motel and found a Backpacker Lodge called AnnDion Lodge, no prizes for guessing the names of the owners! It was beautiful, we took the Riverside Suite and very posh it was too; incredibly friendly people and the place was immaculate. Full kitchen facilites were provided as well as a lounge and the internet, a swimming pool and hot-tub; very civilised.
We settled in and organised ourselves for the next day's drive up the Whanganui River Road, some of which was on sealed roads and some not; after our experiences of unsealed roads the other day, we weren't quite sure what to expect so were well-equipped with water and food!
We met a Maori guy at a small cafe at the end of the River Road and had a couple of long chats with him about the possum problems in New Zealand and he also gave us some insight into the struggle that the Maoris had with the first European settlers in that area. The house that he lived in, which was built by his great-grandmother, can never be sold apart from to members of his family; Tim commented to him that it was a peaceful spot and he responded by saying it was hot, wet, cold, lonely, full of sandflies, windy, etc., etc., but that he still wouldn't want to let it go out of his family. He said that the Maoris who refused to sell their land to the settlers and caused problems were left with their land but told that they must never go off it as they would be shot, as it would be a Maori Reservation so they were stuck there; his land was miles from anywhere of any size and he had just a handful of neighbours.
I asked him why all their fruit trees had metal cylinders up their trunks and he told us that it was to try to make it more difficult for the possums to steal the fruit, but he said that they just found other ways to get to it, like bouncing on the branches of trees that were higher up so they could drop down on to the orchard trees that way! Originally possums were introduced from Australia as they were cute, furry little things that would make pets for the children, but that on the luscious bush in New Zealand they grow to twice the size of Australian possums and literally eat the bush away. The possums around there grow to approximately the size of a Lassie-type collie! The Dept of Conservation has a continuous programme of eradication of the possums as if they don't, then the bush will disappear and the land will flood as they rely on the bush to soak up huge amounts of rainwater and without it, the rivers will rise tremendously and most of the properties along the Whanganui would disappear. There are about 400 people living on that road, farming mostly and a few B and B's and there are a lot of activities that take place on the river, rafting, kayaking etc, which would all disappear. It's a very peaceful river which flows gently along at present.