Prince Charles and his wife the Duchess of Cornwall received their first taste of provincial New Zealand during a 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 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 Wanganui 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.
Forecasts of poor weather were quashed as the sun was out in full force.
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 Prince Charles and Camilla 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 consummate 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 Wanganui was not in vain, as Mr McKelvie let her through a security barricade to meet them.
"The lovely, lovely man noticed me and let me under."
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, sniffed, 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 a dynamic showing from Lytton Street School's Jump Jam squad.
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.
From there the couple divided, Prince Charles going for a tour of a Cheltenham Farm and Camilla driving to Palmerston North to visit Massey University.
Prince Charles' trip was to Waipiko Farm, run by John and Diny Dermer, which is run as a lamb and bull finishing unit with multiple forestry plantings.
He looked at the preserved wetlands on their property before taking time for a chat with local farmers.
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.
Camilla was shown through Wildbase, Massey University's team of specialist wildlife veterinarians.
Wildbase director Associate Professor Brett Gartrell discussed the work of Wildbase and the impending $75 million upgrade of Massey's veterinary school - the only vet school in New Zealand.
Wildbase is one of several New Zealand facilities where injured and sick native and endemic species are treated and rehabilitated.
Wildbase staff are recognised world leaders in treating birds and marine mammals caught in oil spills, such as the grounding of the cargo ship Rena on Astrolab Reef near Tauranga last year.
Having completed her tour of Massey University's vet hospital and Wildbase, Camilla went on to the university's equestrian centre to be hosted by assistant Vice-Chancellor and university Registrar Stuart Morriss.
She was to watch a show jumping clinic for Team Massey riders run by coach and former New Zealand Olympian John Cottle.
The riders includededucation student Chloe Akers and science graduate Helen Bruce, who were part of the New Zealand Universities team that won bronze at the World University Equestrian Games in Germany in August.
- Fairfax Media