Saturday, 9 May 2015

July 2014 - Rotorua Roadtrip

My friend arrived at the end of June but we had to wait a whole 10 days before we could go anywhere. She was here to do a placement with the local SPCA as part of her university course so I kept on working and we spent the evenings together catching up and drinking wine. The days went past quickly though and before long we were on the road and on our way to Rotorua. Since we had hired a car we were able leave straight after work which meant we were able to make a very quick stop in Taupo. Sadly it was late so there wasn’t much to see and we couldn’t stop long as we were keen to arrive at and settle into out accommodation in Rotorua. We  a treated ourselves to a lovely meal at Dixie Browns though sadly we didn’t have room for one of their fabulous looking deserts it was still a lovely start to our holiday. Too soon we were back on the road again with the radio up full blast.

Everyone talks about the smell when you tell them you are going to Rotorua and sure enough as we drove in it was pungent. Throughout our stay would get used to it only to go on a day trip or fall asleep then it would be back as strong as ever. It was certainly distinctive!  On arrival at the hostel we were shown to our room. We had booked a twin but were given a family room with two single and two double beds. After ten days on an airbed it seemed only fair to let my friend have the double bed whilst I took the two singles, one for me and one for my luggage and Zack, of course. Our evening the previous weeks had been well spent planning trips and days out so the next day we were all set to start exploring.

We started with a walk through some parklands before heading to the Agrodome. It is worth mentioning at this point that as an animal science student my friend is interested in any and all things animal related but especially farm related. This would be why her grandmother insisted we had to visit the Agrodome. There we took a tour of the farm and then saw a show where we were introduced to the many varieties of sheep and the skill of milking a cow. Now this might not be my first choice of a way to spend the day but I actually enjoyed myself quite a lot. The tour was fun and we discovered a lovely kiwi wine, as in kiwi fruit, not Kiwi people in case you are confused. During the farm show I was most amused by the sheep and made sure to get a photo of Zack with one of them before we left.

For dinner that night we booked a spot Mitai Maori Village where we were experienced the delights of a traditional Hangi meal but only after seeing an entertaining cultural performance which managed to be both informative and quiet humorous. The host had excellent comic timing which made learning about the Maori history much more fun than one would expect. I also got to see my first Haka in real life and it was every bit as impressive as I expected. The Hangi meal was tasty and plentiful and if that wasn’t enough we finished the experience with a walk through the forest to see some glow worms. It was a great nigh and though not something I would want to do again it is something I would recommend to any other travellers as a one off experience.

The next day we drove out to a buried village which used to be a major tourist destination back in the 19th century before the eruption of Mt Tarawera in 1886 buried not only it but also the famous pink terraces which made the village so popular. Funnily enough being buried there wasn’t much to see but there was a lovely walk and I did get to practice my water photography some more. We finished our visit with some morning tea which included some delicious scones before it was time to head to the main event for the day.

We drove to Waimangu Volcanic Valley, the youngest geothermal region not just in the country but in the world.  It was like nothing I had ever seen before. There was steam everywhere and it felt like we were in prehistoric times. We walked all the way along the valley using the map provided by the information desk. I photographed everything in sight and my friend narrated the information provided by the map at various points of interest. It was a relaxing and enjoyable walk which ended at a jetty where a boat was waiting to take us on a tour of the lake. The lake used to be two smaller lakes but became the large lake we sailed during the same earthquake that buried the village we visited earlier that day. It was a little cold on the water but our guide was great and kept us entertained and of course there were many opportunities for me to practice with my camera.

By Tuesday we were feeling a little overwhelmed with walks and learning so we contented ourselves with a trip to Rainbow Springs. Here we decided that despite it being the wrong time of year for hatchlings we would take part in the kiwi experience. We did see some adult kiwis in the nocturnal enclosure but whilst it was interesting to see their nursery and learn how they are attempting to revive the native kiwi species (there are 4 of them!) there were indeed no baby kiwis to be seen. Despite the lack of young it was a worthwhile experience and we were happy to contribute to their conservation efforts by paying the extra for it. After a restful afternoon we decided to make use of our car and take a drive north of Rotorua. Being winter the weather was less than great but we enjoyed the drive and once we reached Mount Maunganui I did brave the cold and wind to attempt a few photots. Of course well wrapped up I felt less brave once I spotted the crazy people surfing in the sea. With such a strong wind I was unable to get any decent photos but as always it was fun trying. My friend sensibly stayed in the car so we didn’t hang about for long but it was s fun way to kill an hour or two. We had plans you see, after dark we returned to Rainbow Springs and to the outside kiwi enclosure where we saw more kiwis! Even though they were in an enclosure it was still exciting as I knew the chances of seeing them in the wild were extremely low. Also it was somehow more exciting to see them outside as opposed to in the nocturnal enclosure we had visited earlier in the day. All in all it was a good end to our stay in Rotorua.

The next day we were due to leave but we weren’t heading home. We were going north again but this time to Matamata, also known as Hobbiton. My poor friend was by this point feeling quite unwell but she persevered and despite a few wrong turns and a disturbing lack of signposts we finally got there. Apparently lost tourists are something they are used to and they happily moved us to a later tour. I had a great time geeking out and placing Zack all over the recreated hobbit holes including a cheeky photo at Bilbos gate. Part of the tour was a stop at the Green Dragon for a complimentary drink, ginger beer in our case since one was ill and the other driving. For a change I took many photos including some of the resident cat, of course.

After a most enjoyable tour it was time to head south and home. My friend agreed to going home the long way as I had a desire to see the famous Mt Taranaki. It was impressive but by the time we got there my most pressing concern was finding the nearest burgerfuel so for once the camera was ignored in favour of finding food. Despite only getting a quick glimpse or the mountain as were drove through the town it was still a worthwhile detour. My friend was excellent company even though by now her cold was obviously taking its toll on her and I felt the drive was a fitting end to our trip. We arrived home late and tired but satisfied that we had gotten the most out of our short trip.

Thursday morning and the day to say goodbye had arrived. It had been a completely different trip to my last one but every bit as enjoyable. Whilst I love travelling on my own I am also happy to spend time with other people and travel with them for a while. When I travel with others they introduce me to new experiences that I would not have considered on my own. My friend expressed concern that we were doing what she wanted but as (probably noted by now) there were a lot of photography opportunities and I genuinely enjoyed our walks and tours. I can honestly say I was sad to see her go and not just because that meant that once more it was time to head back to work again.

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