Prince Charles and Camilla received their first taste of provincial New Zealand during their whirlwind tour of Manawatu today.
The royal couple, visiting Manawatu as part of their royal visit to New Zealand, were greeted by Defence Force staff when they touched down at the Ohakea Air Force Base about midday.
Children lined Manawatu streets as the royal motorcade travelled to Feilding, where thousands had gathered for a glimpse, handshake or brief conversation with the pair.
Waiting in Feilding was Whanganui woman Melanie Donne, who drove to Manawatu with her dog Rica in the hope of meeting the royals.
"I'll be really let down if I don't get their attention."
Decked out in blue was self-proclaimed royalist Diana Blake, who was also keen for a face-to-face meeting.
"To me history is important and I want to be part of it," she said.
The sun was out in full force, and the temperature became too much for one elderly woman who fainted from what bystanders described as a "combination of the heat and excitement".
The crowd clapped and cheered as the royals drove along Manchester St to the town's square.
Manawatu mayor Margaret Kouvelis and Rangitikei MP Ian McKelvie were on hand to welcome them on arrival.
Working the crowd with ease, Prince Charles and Camilla chatted, shook hands and accepted flowers from the adoring throng.
Feilding woman Ann Loader managed to shake Prince Charles' hand, but missed out on a close encounter with Camilla.
"He's got a firm handshake. I thought he might break my fingers."
Pamela Titherington said it was the second time she had met the prince.
"I had a chat with him when he came out with his mother last time. I was just married then. He was just as lovely this time, but we were younger and more beautiful then."
And Ms Rica's trek over from Whanganui was not in vain, as Mr McKelvie let her through a security barricade to meet them.
She said she told the couple we was "thrilled to see them" and wished them a safe trip.
Feilding woman Heather Relf was overcome with emotion after a short conversation with Prince Charles.
She gave him some carnations which he thanked her for, before breaking off a single carnation and putting it in his jacket pocket.
The royal couple was treated to an array of events in Feilding. They viewed entries to the Right Royal Rural Mailboxes, spoke to farmers about crops and livestock, which included the sheep, bulls and horses on show, and watched performances from local schoolchildren, including Lytton Street School's Jump Jam squad.
The squad was overjoyed when the couple stopped to thank them for the perfomance.
There was also a bumper showing from Feilding's award winning Farmers Market, with the couple tasting many of the wares and speaking with stallholders about jams, wine and plants.
One of the more poignant moments was when Prince Charles and Camilla inspected the War Memorial while sharing some jokes with the family of Lieutenant Tim O'Donnell, who was killed in action in Afghanistan in 2010.
Lieutenant O'Donnell's sister Anna was wearing his war medals.
From there the couple divided, Prince Charles going for a tour of a farm near Feilding and Camilla driving to Palmerston North to visit Massey University.
Prince Charles' trip was to Waipiko Farm, run by John and Diny Dermer, where he looked at preserved wetlands on their property before taking time for a chat with local farmers.
Mrs Dermer said Prince Charles was very apologetic when he went back to their house for afternoon tea, about the crowd of media and security he had brought with him.
"He said 'I'm sorry about the invasion'."
Before he left, Mrs Dermer presented him with a gift - a bag of lemons from her tree.
Camilla's trip to Massey included visits to the Equine Research Centre, Wildbase and the Equestrian Centre.
She was met by Professor Robert Anderson, Dr Russell Ballard and Palmerston North Mayor Jono Naylor before embarking on the tour.
When she entered the vet school, she was greeted by Klara Pauwels, 2, who ran up to the Duchess of Cornwall.
"Hello," she said as Camilla knelt down to greet the girl.
Camilla returned her welcome and asked her name. "My name is Klara," the toddler replied.
Klara's mother Kate Hill said her daughter's eagerness was unexpected, and certainly unplanned.
"I'm very excited," Mrs Hill said. "I think she was very natural, meeting her was just lovely."
Camilla met staff and visitors in the reception area, as well as patients.
Among them was Rosemary Cousins and her 8-year-old West Highland Terrier, Brodie.
Brodie was in at Massey for a regular vet check, which had gone smoothly this afternoon.
During her tour through Wildbase - a facility where injured and sick native and endemic species are treated and rehabilitated - Camilla got to handle an injured Kiwi, which was brought in on Saturday with a swollen hock and foot.
While at the Equestrian Centre, Camilla watched a show jumping clinic by Team Massey riders, run by coach and former New Zealand Olympian John Cottle.
Hundreds of air force personnel and their families assembled at Ohakea to meet the royal couple before they left for Wellington.
Tomorrow the Prince Charles and Camilla will travel to Christchurch.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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