Time for more photos from the land of the Kiwis! Last time I posted pictures from the first few days of my trip, in and around Auckland. This time we leave the city and head south into the countryside for a little road trip.
Tuesday, November 25
Woke up with a bit of a hangover. Guess I was drinking too late into the night with David, Teresa and Tesua. They forced me, I swear!
Anyway by the time I was presentable and made it upstairs everybody else was up and getting ready for the day’s adventures. Our plan was to head south from Auckland and visit Rotorua, a geothermal area that was New Zealand’s #1 tourist destination. We also had a loose plan to visit Matamata, a small farming community north of Rotorua, and see the farm that was the location for the Shire in the Lord of the Rings movies.
Teresa pulled the kids out of school for a couple days and they were very excited about that. David finished marking his exams for the semester and we were ready to go by around 1000 that morning. We had a minivan reservation with A2B Rentals, so we went down to the rental agency and about 45 minutes later we were on the road in a Toyota Previa.
First stop was the Newmarket area for some last minute shopping and lunch. I am sorry to report I took the longest during this stop. I bought a 256 mb memory stick on Saturday, but I couldn’t figure out how to work it. I decided to stop back in at Noel Leeming computer store and get their advice (or a refund). Turned out my camera was too old and couldn’t handle the 256 mb stick. After much deliberation on the phone, the sales kid helping me actually went across the street to a competitor and brought two 128 mb memory sticks back for me. That was excellent customer service Mr. Gregory Ramshaw. Thank you very much.
We gassed up the minivan and finally hit the road. It was after 1300 by the time we left, but everyone said the trip to Rotorua would only take about 3 � hours.
The drive south was uneventful. Pleasant, rolling countryside. Lots and lots and lots of sheep. Just like in Australia, once we got out of the city’s environs the expressway reverted into a two lane blacktop. Hard to believe that two lane highway was the country’s main north-south artery. Guess that’s all you need when the country’s population is 3 million people.
We got into Rotorua around 1600 that afternoon and drove around looking for our hotel. We finally located the Regal Geyserland Hotel, and it truly lived up to its name. The hotel abuts the Whakarewarewa geothermal area and our room offered a great view of the Pohutu geyser and mudpools. It was an impressive view, even if the entire city smelled terrible.
After dropping our bags in the room and settling in, it was time to wander around the city. We drove to the city centre, did some sightseeing, and located a promising restaurant. The Lone Star Cafe was a pleasant place to stop and rest our weary bones and get some tasty food. I was a little concerned that the name of this restaurant would invite a lawsuit from a similarly named US chain of restaurants.
After dinner we did some more sightseeing and found some really cool stuff. Rotorua is just an amazing city, everywhere we went there was evidence of geothermal activity. Hot springs, mudpots, geysers – it was incredible. I think the most disconcerting part for me was driving around and looking at somebody’s lawn. Right in the middle of their yard, a smoking fumarole was belching sulfurous clouds of steam. Call me old fashioned, but I don’t think I’d consider high volcanic activity a good reason to build a city.
These photos don’t really do the place justice. Luckily my digital camera can record movies too. If you want to watch a 15 megabyte movie of that mudpot above, just follow this link. Don’t say I didn’t warn you though, it’s a big file and will take a long time to download.
By this point it was getting dark, so we retired to the Regal Geyserland and watched a Monday Night Football on Sky TV.
Wednesday November 26
Wednesday it was dark and stormy. The weather was just awful. It looked beautiful outside with all the steam and the rainfall, but I had no desire to go tramping around in the rain. Over breakfast the adults decided to cancel our plans for fun in Rotorua that morning. We were hoping to try out the ZORB and then ride the cable car and luge attraction. But the rain was unrelenting and after our brief t�te a t�te over breakfast we chose to leave Rotorua and hope the rain would let up as we drove north towards Matamata. The kids weren’t too happy about this, they really wanted to check out these adventure activities. Well, who said life is fair?
Sure enough, the weather started clearing up as we drove north. By the time we reached Matamata, the rain was intermittent with patches of blue sky. I won’t go into details but it took us some time to find the place in Matamata that sold tickets for the Hobbiton tours. After getting lowdown on this place, and the exorbitant prices, we were on our way back to Auckland. They wanted $50 a head to visit this farm and the Hobbiton set wasn’t even there anymore. Plus the next tour wasn’t until 1500 in the afternoon as we just missed the noon tour. Thanks but no thanks.
We drove back to Auckland and by the time we reached the city around 1400, the weather was clear and sunny. David felt bad about cutting our trip short, so he drove us to the top of Mount Eden, an extinct volcano, for a look around.
We grabbed some food at a nearby pub, Galbraith’s Alehouse. The food was good, the beer was better.
That’s about it for Wednesday. We went back to Parnell, chilled out for a bit then went to dinner in Mission Bay. Our restaurant was in the old stone church that was the original mission in Mission Bay. The food was excellent, a fine dining experience. We took a drive through the city after dinner. Our destination was an immense supermarket. Thursday was Thanksgiving after all, we had to make preparations for our feast.
Thursday November 27 – Thanksgiving
Thursday morning – and Thanksgiving to boot! My last full day in New Zealand, it was all too short.
The kids trundled off to school and the adults went to the Auckland Museum for a little culturabsorptionon. The first floor of the museum was chock full of Maori and Pacific Islander exhibits; canoes, paddles, weaving, carving. Wow. I was in heaven. Check out the war canoe in the last image:
We went upstairs briefly, but the second floor paled in comparison with the treasures on the first floor. I think there were dinosaurs and stuff, but it didn’t interest me.
That afternoon I did some gift shopping at Victoria Market, pulling together Christmas presents for family and friends. We ended up grabbing a bite to eat at the Bog on Parnell Rise, where I put away one last pint of Guinness.
We got back around 1500, just in time to catch the kids coming home from school. Jordan had a basketball game after school, and I discovered that my digital camera doesn’t take sports/action shots very well. This is the best of the bunch, Jordan making a free throw late in the game.
After Jordan’s victory in the final game of the season we headed back to Alberon St. and our Thanksgiving feast. Turkey proved too difficult to locate for Thanksgiving, but the local butcher did provide us with a wonderful ham. Toss in mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, cranberries, fresh salad and a loaf of hot bread, and it was a magnificent meal.
What a feast. Nobody could move after all that delicious food. Teresa really outdid herself cooking up all those dishes. I’d like to say I helped clean up, but I was pretty much comatose after eating all that food. We rounded out the night watching a couple dvd’s and looking out over the Auckland skyline.
Friday November 28
That’s pretty much it. I left the next morning for Australia, but not until after Teresa made the best damn omelet I’ve ever eaten. After that, I was off to the airport in the early morning sunrise.
One last thing: a couple of the Air New Zealand 747’s were decorated with Middle Earth themes. Here’s one with Aragorn and Legolas painted on the side.
New Zealand was a lot of fun. I realized too late that one week was nowhere near long enough to visit such a large and fascinating country. Next time I go I will definitely plan on spending more time in Aotearoa, Land of the Long White Cloud.