I’d flown to Wellington and got a lift back to Hawkes Bay with my sister. We’d been trying to shop up a storm in the big smoke, but I had disappointingly come away empty handed. Don’t worry, said she, there’s an awesome shop in Shannon.
Where on earth…?!, said I.
I’ll show you, she replied, gesticulating towards Manawatu.
So off we set one Saturday morning on our pilgrimage north to the whanau. She’s quite a dab hand at driving in and out of Wellington as my niece has been there for a few years now. But when the 120 weekend bikers roared past, overtaking us on the median strip and generally making such a racket one thought the sky was falling down, we nearly came a cropper. Then watching the ensuing road-rage of drivers in front hugging the centre line so the brazen bikers couldn’t pass was cause for much tutting.
Otaki soon appeared on State Highway 1 and we stopped for petrol. A couple of Harley’s joined us and off hopped middle aged mums and dads. Turned out they were Wellington HOGS and every Saturday a roadie gets organised. This time they were off to Palmerston North for the day. My sister might have mentioned something about not sneaking up and passing scarily, but I cannot confirm (nor deny).
Otaki is worth a stop for its designer outlet shops on SH1. Three of them lined up on the main road, plus some other little ones like handbags, shoe shops and a surf/ski store. Alas we still did not open our wallets, but I’d call in again just in case.
Next stop Shannon. About 30km further north on SH 57, (veer off SH1 just south of Levin and head towards Palmerston North). This town is the next Greytown, said local entrepreneur Suzie Johnson, who told me 18,000 cars per day roar through here. She has bought 3 shops over the last 3 years and has opened Gallery 57, an art gallery selling her own gorgeous and huge canvas paintings, a clothing shop with her own label Oosh La La (that caused me to open my wallet!) and a homeware/crafts store where she sells her range of Susie Q jewellery. She also has five kids under 7(!!)
If she’s not a candidate for business woman (or man, for that matter!) of the year, I don’t know who should be. Shannon’s pretty lucky to have her to be honest. This woman has turned the town around. Since she swept in, other stores and cafes have now opened and Shannon is definitely worth pulling over and turning the ignition off rather than scooting on by.
But in fairness to the good people of Shannon it’s not all about Suzie, the little railway station has been painted and spruced up, the council have planted gardens and a new cycle way from here, over the Tararua Range to Eketahuna is being planned. This little town in Horowhenua that once was renown for its gangs is emerging as a sparkly jewel.