Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

200003 New Zealand-N

Wednesday 1 March 2000  Commence our walking tour in the civic square at the Lego exhibition $3 (£1).  We are the only adults other than school teachers but I enjoy it anyway.  It’s a busy city and we are surprised to see so many people in suits.  Even in Perth the majority of people wore shorts.  It’s a friendly city and each time I study the map someone offers assistance.  The old cable car $1.50  (50p) takes us up to the Botanical Gardens with great views over the city.  Make our way to the Tree House visitor centre then down through the Herb garden where I chat to 4 ladies from Wakefield.  Round the rose gardens and out to the Parliament Grounds.  Parliament house is rather grand and we book a guided tour for 2.00pm leaving time to nip to the National Library first for great freshly squeezed orange juice, huge slice of chocolate cake with cream and for Steve a pot of tea all for only $8 (£2.70).  The tour is interesting and ends just as question time is starting.  Sit on the balcony and recognise Jenny Shipley the ex prime minister, Helen Clark the current prime minister and also one of the members who has had a sex change operation.  We saw her on T.V. when "she" made a speech about being the stallion who became a gelding, rose to be a mare (mayor) and has now achieved full member status.  Adjoining Parliament House are the Parliamentary Library on the right and offices on the left in a building fondly known as the Beehive.  Opposite we enjoy a huge portion of fish and chips from Wellington Fish Supplies $3 (£1) which is popular with the "Fish & Chip Brigade" politicians.  Next door the Backbenchers Pub has walls decorated with huge satirical puppets of politicians, political cartoons and memorabilia.  Into the High Court and then to the wooden Government Buildings which were built in the 1870’s to look like stone.  Back across the Parliament grounds to the modern Cathedral which has only just been finished and lacks character.  Down towards the waterfront to visit the original old St Paul’s which is much more to our liking with wooden beamed ceilings.  Into the National Archives to look at the famous Waitangi Treaty leaving just the Railway Station on our list.  Detour to Espressaholic in Courtney Place for the recommended hot chocolates.  For $4.50 (£1.50) you get the most enormous hot chocolate in a cup that looks more like a bowl.  Back at the van Malcolm’s (Turkey, Yorkshire & Nelson) Mum & Dad, Gwen & Roger call to take us on a Tiki tour.  Great view from Victoria Hill which saves us the fun climbing up the narrow winding streets in the camper van.  Round the Oriental Bay peninsula we see magnificent houses on the hill side with their own tramways for access.  Roger points out Jonah Lomu’s home.  There are dozens of dolphins in the bay and we pause to watch them at play.  Return to their house in Ascot Street which is an extremely narrow winding street with houses from the mid 1800’s.  They take us to their local the Shepherds Arms where the Guinness, Hot Chocolate and Spicy Wedges go down well.  Back to the van at 10.30pm having arranged to meet them again when we come back through at the end of May.
Thursday 2 March  The motorway North out of town has been constructed on the uplift from the last earthquake which formed a ridge 1m high.  Upper Hutt is our destination to visit the Wellington Sun Club at "Five acres".   $15 (£5) for a powered site in the spacious grounds.  Facilities include 2 swimming pools, sauna, spa, miniten and badminton courts and indoor bowls. It’s a hot day and we make the most of it.  Danish couple Christina and Per join us in the sauna and afterwards for a drink and chat.  We get good T.V. reception and notice many English programmes but mainly old ones.  In Coronation Street Maxine is just getting ready to get married.  Have a chuckle watching the "1900 house" when they talk about having to do strip washes, no electricity, no hot water on tap and cooking big joints of meat to last all week – sounds just like us today!
Friday 3 March    Another really hot day.
Saturday 4 March  Yet another really hot day which brings many visitors to the club.  Steve joins a group for miniten and I take my exercise in the swimming pool.  Everyone gathers at 6.00pm for a communal BBQ followed by darts and indoor bowls in the huge club house.
Sunday 5 March  A cloudy start so we sit in bed watching "Noel’s House Party".  The clouds soon move on and it is hotter and busier than ever.
Monday 6 March  Wake up to solid cloud which is good as we had planned to move on today and good weather may have tempted us to stay.   Into Upper Hutt for some shopping and also for Pizza Hut Lunch Works except this time we have a voucher on the back of our shopping docket and get 2 for 1 of the $8.95 (£3) all you can eat.  Over the Rimutaka Hills to Featherstone then out to the coast to see the Putangirua Pinnacles.  Park at the D.O.C. camp $5 (£1.60) for overnight camping.  Walk for 1 hour following the river bed to get to a valley full of pinnacle shaped massive rocks.  Heavy rain has eroded the soft earth/rock but in some places boulders shielded the earth and have become caps for the pinnacles.  Spend ages just wandering round exploring with the place to ourselves and the sun light making the rocks look different colours.  Walk back to the van which is parked opposite some small pinnacles and with a view of the ocean.
Tuesday 7 March  A drizzly start as we leave and head to Masterton.  Anna & The King is at the cinema $8  (£2.65) and we catch the 1.30pm showing and enjoy it but thought it lacked depth.  Out towards the coast to visit Castlepoint stopping just before it at a P.O.P. behind the Whakataki Hotel where Steve samples the beer whilst I cook tea.
Wednesday 8 March  Another drizzly start to the day so we drive the last 4km down the coast to Castlepoint.  What a great place.  A huge rocky reef runs close to the shore with a lighthouse at one end and a massive rock at the other end.  Captain Cook thought the rock was shaped like a Castle which is why he named it Castlepoint.  Horses are trotting along the beach in readiness for Saturday’s Beach Race Meeting. Walk along the cliff and up to the top of Castle Rock where the views over the reef, Deliverance Cove and Christmas Bay are excellent. Scramble down to the beach and walk back around Deliverance Cove as the tide is going out.  Waves still lap in over the lower part of the reef but it has left an area like a paddling pool which would be great for children to play in.  Fishermen clamber onto the reef and many go out on boats.  Bite of lunch before exploring along the reef below the lighthouse as at low tide you can get as far as some sea caves.  Spot some Black Shag birds as we clamber over the rocks.  Into the cave with our torches.  The waves roar in and the wind gusts through as the cave goes right through the reef.  There’s an awful smell so we have a quick look then leave.  The area under the lighthouse is severely eroded and concrete has been poured down the cliff face to retain it.  Back to the P.O.P. where we are parked on the back lawn overlooking the golf course.  Steve goes into the bar to catch the English Footie highlights which is another term for having a beer.
Thursday 9 March  A glorious day so we walk the 1km or so to Whakataki Beach and enjoy a few hours sunbathing.  Coming back along the beach at low tide we see some Paua (Abalone) shells whilst rock pooling.  Steve collects some as we have seen them polished up and they look fantastic.  Back at the hotel owner Kerri shows Steve how to get the meat out of the shell and prepare it for cooking.  We end up with a good 1/2" thick steak out of each shell which Kerri recommends cooked in garlic butter.  Steve says they taste good but I reckon I enjoy my fried egg and chips equally well.  The inside of the shells is like pearl but the outside needs cleaning so I attempt soaking them in vinegar and stink the van out.  Both pop into the pub in the evening for a few drinks and to watch Coronation Street and the 1900 house.  Bit of a shock as it is the Coronation Street episode where Judy dies.
Friday 10 March   Dry but cloudy day and perfect for a round of golf.  $6 (£2) for 18 holes plus $5 (£1.65) to hire a set of clubs.  Holes vary in length from 102m – 322m.  It’s a difficult course (for us) and Steve takes 132 to get round and loses 2 balls and I notch up a huge 160 and hang onto my balls (not sure what that tells you!). Don’t know where they get the 64 from which the card mentions!   Lots of riders arrive in the evening and most tether their horses outside the pub but one chooses to ride through the bar.
Saturday 11 March  Our early start pays off as we get a prime parking spot directly behind the beach at Castlepoint.  It’s a hot but very windy day and soon the area is chock a block with cars and people setting up tables and chairs to watch the races.  First event is held right in front of us and involves children riding sheep rodeo style.  One lad stays on for so long that they have to ask him to get off!  A call is put out for a Doctor as one of the horses has thrown their rider and then fallen on them.  Fortunately it is later announced they are only suffering from concussion.  The main races kick off at noon with equaliser type betting.  For $1 (33p) you get an alphabetical ticket at random.  After the tote has closed they draw out letters and match them up with horse numbers.  You can also bet $1 on a double and for this our horse is "Clara Belle" which we would have chosen anyway.  She comes in first and entitles us to another drawn ticket for the next leg.  "Allatu" also romps home and results in an $80 (£26) pay out – best we have ever had and for such a small outlay.  As the afternoon progresses thistle down begins to blow in the wind to the extent that it looks almost like a snow storm.  (It’s a bit like the dead head of a dandelion).  Return for a celebratory drink in the heaving pub.
Sunday 12 March  Back to Masterton where the National Highland Pipe Bands competition is being held.  Everyone says it is great so we pay our $10 (£3.30) admission fee.  Hundreds of competitors are roaming around in Scottish dress and it’s a serious business as the average price of the made to measure kilts alone is $750 (£250). In the first round loads of bands compete by marching in sequence followed by a round with mace throwing.  By this stage we are ready to throw the towel in as it just isn’t our scene although there were one or two highlights when the mace got dropped.  Sit through a brief respite when a brass band comes on but when the pipe bands return we decide it is not for us and make an exit.  Heading towards Napier we stop at the A.N.Z.A.C. Park near Norsewood which is grassy picnic and camping area surrounded by trees 500m from the road.  Perfect for an overnight stop.
Monday 13 March  At Havelock North we drive up Te Mata Peak for spectacular far reaching views.  In 1931 a massive earthquake destroyed most of this area and the towns of Havelock North, Hastings and Napier had to be rebuilt.  Art Deco was in vogue at that time which has resulted in a very high concentration of that style building.  Check out Splash Planet which is a great water slide park but as it is just starting to drizzle we take a "rain check" on it.  Phone Jan whom we met at Aoraki and he comes in his van to escort us to his home in Napier.  After lunch he takes us on a Tiki tour starting with a visit to his friend’s orchard.  Fruit growing is a huge business here and we drive through an enormous orchard with trees bowing under the weight of the apples.  We fill three trays before rain sets in.  The owner also gives him two boxes of peaches and tells us his backpackers won’t work in the rain even though he pays them $9 (£3) an hour.  Jan takes us to some Art Deco buildings on the outskirts of the city which are magnificent.  At the old wharf the earthquake pushed the sea bed up by over 6 feet and the whole area now has to be dredged regularly.  Marine Drive with the colourful buildings reminds us of Miami Beach area in Florida.  
Tuesday 14 March   Get a serious fix on the computer but cannot get into the chat room with Netty, reckon if I had my own machine I would be hooked.  Jan lends us his small van to drive into the city which seems like a great help until we come to lock it and bend the key.  Steve gets another one cut and we set out on our walking tour.  I think the buildings are fantastic and end up lagging behind Steve taking lots of video.  The main city centre was almost completely wiped out by the 1931 earthquake and subsequent fires then rebuilt in the art deco style resulting in a concentration of pretty coloured and unusually shaped buildings.  When we get back we quiz Jan about the earthquake situation and from the computer he prints a list of the most recent ones.  There have been 9 since we arrived on the North Island ranging from 2.5 to 4.8.  Many were in the Taupo area where we are next heading – bit of a worry as they tell you to stand under a sturdy table or in an interior doorway and we don’t have either in the van.  We return to the van to go to bed and end up spending over 1 hour getting rid of some ants.  A carton of wine spilled in one of the cupboards and has seeped through to the floor which is where they are concentrated.  End up nearly choking ourselves with repellent spray.
Wednesday 15 March  It’s a brighter day and Jan drives us out to visit the Hawkes Bay Sun Club.  Only one other person is at the club and we manage a spell in the pool and some sunbathing between clouds.  Jan has a copy of the Michael Palin "Pole to Pole" episode of Australia and New Zealand which we really enjoy watching.  Had forgotten that he visited these parts but recognise almost all the places.  An even bigger ant problem in the van as they are now running alongside the bed.  Good job we bought another spray today.
Thursday 16 March    Leave Napier after lunch and drive just a few km up the coast to Whirinaki Beach.  At Castlepoint races we met motorhomers Graeme and Glennis and they asked us to call on them.  Over a drink they help us plan our route whilst enjoying the view from their window out to sea and across to Napier.
Friday 17 March  Over the ranges to Taupo and much better weather.  Taupo Hot Pools offer thermal swimming pools, spa tubs and private pools all for $8 (£2.65).  The private pools consist of individual cabins with a plunge pool about 6′ x 12′.  You lock yourself in and can strip off to bathe.  The pools inside range from very hot, hot, not so hot down to warm and we sample them all.  While away a good few hours before driving into Taupo on Lake Taupo.  Last Friday there were two earthquakes 10km from here, one 2.5 and one 2.6 and they are also close enough to the volcanoes to be vulnerable to them as well.  Check out the town where we find that as it is St Patricks day the 17th at 1700 hours for 17 minutes beer will be 17c (6p) at the pub.   The beer is green and the system is that you can only buy drink and you have to drink it and re join the queue to get a refill.  Steve manages 4 drinks to my 2 and they even bring round free snacks of mini pies and potato wedges.  As Steve is bordering on the drink drive limit we take the van out to a P.O.P. in town and walk back to enjoy a meal at Rockerfellers before returning to the pub.  An Irish band are performing and the place is heaving, many people having been here since 1700 hours.  Lots of people have dressed up and there is a good atmosphere. 
Saturday 18 March     North of town in Wairakei Tourist Park our first stop is Huka falls.  The Waikato River plunges through a narrow cleft in the rock, dropping 24 metres in all.  The Honey Hive has lots of information about apiaries which are very prevalent here.  Craters of the Moon is brilliant.  We walk for 1 hour on boardwalks through an active thermal area.  So active that 2 weeks ago it was closed due to an eruption.  We see steam oozing from fumeroles and bubbling pools of hot mud over a vast area.  Nearby the Volcanic Activity Centre $5 (£1.65) show videos and gives us lots of information but probably wasn’t worth the visit.  Prawn Park is the world’s only geothermally heated Prawn Farm and we sit by the River on a terrace to enjoy our meal.  Huge Prawn Burgers with wedges at $12.50 (£4.15) go down very well with a glass of wine.  The Huka Jet Boat provides entertainment doing "Hamilton’s" infront of us.  Wairakei Geothermal Visitor Centre puts us in the picture as to how the power stations are using natural thermal energy.  Huge towers eject steam and there are miles of steel tubes to be seen.  Aratiatia Dam completes our list of must do’s.  At 2.00pm they open the flood gates and the water fills up a pool and then begins to crash through a gorge creating waterfalls.  The weather is "scorchio" and the Naturist Club beckons.  Rotota is a very natural club in a thermal area.  $8 (£2.65) pp overnight but no electricity and they use rainwater for drinking, thermal water for other things and long drops as toilets.  It’s on the Banks of Lake Ohakuri which is great for swimming.  Wayne shows us the 22 acre grounds with hot streams, waterfalls and bush tracks.  We start by joining a group for afternoon drinks before cooling off in the lake.  The water is crystal clear and the bottom fine gravel.  A pontoon anchored off shore makes a great sunbathing terrace.  On the grass lawns they have made a concrete pool which they fill with the 60C thermal water to create a hot tub.  There’s a full moon and at night we venture out to the hot stream intending standing under the waterfall as we saw people do in the "Nude Zealand " publicity video.  We have 2 torches but one gives up within minutes and the other is pathetic.  It’s quite a walk and the last part is through dense bush and forest which is where we admit defeat.  Return to the hot tub which is full of bodies drinking wine and yes we hop in and join them.  What a great spot. 
Sunday 19 March  The clocks went back last night so we are now 12 hours ahead of GMT but this means it will by dark by 7.00pm – not so good.  Early clouds clear and we explore another track which takes us to a different hot pool in the stream with a big face carved in the rocks.  Retrace our steps to visit the waterfall.  It’s like a fairy grotto as you walk upstream and through a narrow chasm which opens out into a small hot pool.  Two waterfalls gush in and are lovely to stand under.  We also walk downstream and through another very long narrow area of high rocks which brings you to the lake side.  Just magical.  Walk up a hill on the lakeside with great views then back to the beach for more swimming.  The club have a skidoo which Steve takes a trip on whilst I enjoy the hot tub. 
Monday 20 March  Wake early to clear blue skies but find it doesn’t really warm up until 9.00am.  I try my hand in the skidoo on the lake and notice how much quieter it is without the weekend visitors.  In the afternoon David takes us for a hike which involves him using clippers to hack our way through the forest.  We emerge above the terraces of Orakei Korako a big thermal area also known as the Hidden Valley.  The coloured silica terraces remind us of Pammukale in Turkey and we also see hot pools and mud pools.  Early evening I join Peter from England in the hot tub to sip my glass of wine whilst watching the sun set.  Steve enjoys the peace and quiet having the van to himself!
Tuesday 21 March  Depart after dinner heading to Te Kuiti.  Our scenic journey takes us past the exact centre of the North Island.   At the start of Te Kuiti we stop at a junction with a 6 metre statue of a sheep sheerer on one corner, a Maori marae on the other and a Japanese Garden opposite.  It’s a pleasant small town where we do E-mailing and pick up tourist info before retracing our steps to a spot 3km South of town.  Mangaokewa Scenic Reserve is a great free camping spot by the river with picnic tables, BBQ’s and toilets.  Spend the evening chewing over our many options for visiting Waitomo Caves.
Wednesday 22 March  It’s a dull drizzly day so we opt for the Long Tomo Rafting 5 hour trip at $65 (£21).  Meet our guide Caroline at the Waitomo Visitor Centre and along with Dutch Kitty and Malaysian Alan and Corrine we rattle along for 20 minutes in a clapped out mini bus onto Mason’s property.  A primitive hut has tarpaulin to segregate male and female changing.  (We booked the $65 trip as opposed to the $125 one and were told you get what you pay for but the safety standards are not compromised.)  Struggle into wet suits, thick socks, wellington boots and over trousers.  Looking like tramps we re board the bus to venture further.  Walk over fields to a dunny type shed to be fitted with abseiling harnesses and helmets with lights.  We then attach ourselves to ropes for an abseiling practice.  Now for the real thing and we clamber to a spot where the ground disappears revealing a huge hole with a stream in the bottom.  We take it in turns to be dangled over the hole and then lower ourselves 27m to the stream.  We control our own descents and try going quickly or so we think until we see Caroline descend in about 2 seconds.  Removing our harnesses we are given a black tyre inner tube and head upstream until we reach a wide cavern.  Sitting on the bank with our lights off we learn about the glow worms which illuminate the area like hundreds of Christmas lights.  In darkness we float downstream on our tubes as if in a grotto.  Venture further downstream with our lights on to marvel at the stalactites, stalagmites and fossils in the rocks.  At one point we reach a waterfall and are instructed to stand on the top facing backwards, hold the tube under our bottoms and jump off.  Steve goes first and immediately capsizes but the rest of us manage OK  Drop off the tubes as the stream gets shallow and proceed on foot to a cavern where we see a big eel amongst the rocks.  Sit down and enjoy hot orange juice and chocolate.  Next we climb to the top of the rocks to do some proper caving.  This involves squeezing through very small gaps to enjoy some magical sights.  Our final squeeze brings us full circle and we retrieve our tubes to drag them up steam.  The tough part comes when we realise that we will have to climb up the rock face.  Caroline goes first and throws down a support line which I attach to my harness.  It’s tough going as the rock is sheer and damp and although not required I am glad of the safety support.  Return to the base hut to share the single hot shower and tidy ourselves up.  A  good value black water rafting trip, no frills but plenty of thrills.  It’s now 2.30pm so we head on the scenic route stopping first to walk to Mangapohue Natural Bridge.  Two limestone arches span the Mangapohue River and Stalactites can be seen when you stand under the upper arch.  Walking back on the loop track we pass limestone rocks with large oyster shell fossils embedded.  Well that’s what the sign says but it just looks like white chips in the rock!  Piripiri Caves have a large cavern known as the "Oyster Room" but cannot explore without decent torches.  Final scenic stop Marokopa Falls where the track takes us through native bush to the edge of the river to view the greywacke bluff with towering falls.  Turning North we enjoy great views of the ocean en route to Kawhia.  Stop at Operau Mobil service station for fuel and realise it is a P.O.P. stop.  Owner Bill is exceptionally friendly and points out a good spot to park then invites us in for coffee.  With his wife Brenda they run the petrol station, a cafe, bakery and the mini market.  We mention that we were heading to Kawhia to see the hot pools in the beach and Bill leaps up for the paper and announces that it is now low tide and to hop in the truck and he will take us.  It’s starting to get dark as we scramble over the dunes to emerge on a wide beach of dark sand.  We hop in and out of pools and wiggle our toes into the sand to find that some are warmer than others but none really hot.  Suddenly realise that it has got quite dark and we have trouble finding the spot where we came over the dunes as none of us has a torch.  Eventually find our original footprints in the sand and retrace our steps enjoying a Tiki tour of Kawhia on the way back.  Sample some of Brenda’s "World famous" pies and have to agree they are exceptionally good.  Steve has wild duck and I have steak and onion $2 (65p) each. Bill has brought out a bottle of Rum for us to try and when a customer brings in a bucket of shellfish he cooks them to go with it.  Steve & Bill demolish dozens of pipis whilst I sample the sausage rolls and quiche as Brenda takes them out of the oven.  Steve then brings in the Whiskey.  These must be the most friendly people we have met in New Zealand and offer us use of the Internet and anything else they have which we may need.  Bill does a School Bus run and invites us to join him in the morning so with that in mind we manage to get away just before 11.00pm for an early night!
Thursday 23 March  We are woken at 6.30am by a plane barnstorming us.  Peer through the window to see it crop spraying the field behind.  Into the garage where Bill & Brenda have been hard at it since 5.00am.  Brenda supplies us with toast and coffee and at 7.30am we clamber aboard the school bus.  Over the next hour and a quarter we trundle up tracks to farms to pick up a total of 8 children.  The school has 38 pupils, 2 teachers and takes them to 11 years when they have to go to boarding school.  Return to the garage to do our E-mail, put in more fuel, buy gas and a stock of pies.  They are such nice people that we are glad to give them our business but wouldn’t like to have their 7 day a week 17 hour a day business.  Regency Park is Allan and Maxine’s motorhome business.  They built the motorhome belonging to Wendy and Geoff whom we met last year in Perth and have also built one for themselves.  They planned to drop out and travel but their son was involved in a serious motorcycle accident last year and is still in hospital with a poor long term future.  All very sad.  Near Whatawhata (so good they named it twice?) Ray and Lyn are hosting a Nudvan (naturists with motorhomes) rally over the weekend.  Phoning Lyn this morning she told us to let ourselves in and make use of the swimming pool which we do.  Ray arrives mid afternoon followed by Lyn and they make us very welcome.  Early evening Barbara and Warren arrive in their ex-rental van and we have a good chat.
Friday 24 March    Ray takes us for a Tiki tour to Hamilton passing the huge Mormon temple en route to Waikato Sun Club.  Return to find new arrivals Peter in his home made bus and Ian & Shirley with a new van.  Afternoon trip to Raglan on the coast.  One of the world’s top surfing spots they even have a "Surf Academy".  Evening is spent congregated on the deck chatting.
Saturday 25 March  Throughout the morning vans roll up.  Peter & Sheila ex poms in a transit van, Bill & Gail in a standard van, Neil & Pauline without their van as it is 11m long a too big to fit.  Norm & Edna in a van with no access from cab to motorhome and Maurie & Ros with dog Rodney complete the scene making a total of 8 vans.  9 if you include Ray & Lyn’s parked in the shed.  Much viewing and discussion of the merits of different vans takes place.  A committee meeting is held in the afternoon whilst non members enjoy the swimming pool.  A scavenger hunt follows and produces much hilarity. Some of the things to be collected are an odd pair, a wet suit and a black hole – use your imagination as to what a group of naked people would improvise with.  Supper is a BBQ & Pot Luck affair where you all contribute a dish to be shared.  Dauphne & Michael and Ivan increase the numbers and a good time is had by all.
Sunday 26 March    BST kicks in which now puts us 11 hours ahead of UK time. Another glorious day to spend talking, exchanging names and addresses and making arrangements to meet up.  Following the communal lunch the vans start to leave until we are the only ones left. Ray says we can stay as long as we like but we want to visit someone in Hamilton tomorrow so one more night is enough.
Monday 27 March  Peter re appears to make the most of another hot day.  Prize ourselves away late afternoon to drive to Pauline & John’s.  John is a Yorkshire lad and knows a couple of our friends who bowl in Keighley.  Children Emma 9 and Laura 4 bound into the motorhome to explore.  We have a lovely meal followed by a long evening of drinking and story telling – feel like we have known them for ages.
Tuesday 28 March  John’s not working today and easily talks Steve into a round of golf leaving me with the run of their house to catch up on business matters and washing.  In the afternoon we borrow John’s car to visit the Botanical Gardens.  There is an excellent carved wooden mural and equally good theme gardens from China, England, Japan, America and an Italian Renaissance one in the making.  We’ve volunteered to be baby-sitters for the night and I enjoy a spa bath whilst Steve takes over the remote control – once the kids are asleep.
Wednesday 29 March  Return to the Waikato Sun Club $8 (£2.65) p.p.p.n where we have the grounds to ourselves. Alternate between sunbathing, playing miniten, the 9 hole putting course, reading and doing odd jobs.  Steve keeps disappearing with the golf club to practise his driving (definately learner driving) – reckon he could be getting addicted to golf.  A number of people arrive in the evening for the "Wednesday BBQ" and we join them in the clubhouse.
Thursday 30 March  A rainy day so we stop briefly in Tirau to photograph the unusual tourist information centre.  Two tin sheds have had the ends sculptured to look like a dog and a sheep.  Heading into Rotorua we pause to look at "zorbing" but it is too tame for us.  They strap you inside a huge transparent ball which is padded with a type of bubble wrap for protection as you roll down a hill.  At Paradise Valley Springs $13 (£4.30) we pat one of the twin lion cubs born 8 weeks ago.  Max already weighs over 8kg and looks a bit of a handfull.  It’s not every day you get enter a lions cage, didn’t spot Daniel.  Rotorua is a major area for thermal activity and as you drive through the streets you can see steam escaping in the most unlikely places.  Wooden fence posts get scorched and tarmac on the road melts as eruptions break out.  On the edge of Lake Rotorua the beautiful Government Gardens have magnificent buildings and gardens.  At sulphur point we see (and smell) a thermal pool bubbling away at 212F.  On the edge of town Whakarewarewa (short for Whakarewarewatangaoteopetauaawahiao) is a large thermal zone and Maori cultural area.  $16 (£5.30) to visit including loan of umbrellas and a guided tour. We view a school of Maori art where wood is being carved before visiting a replica Maori village to learn about the culture.  Onto a "Noddy" train to pass many bubbling mud pools and steaming fumeroles en route to the Pohutu geyser spurting hot water about 20 metres into the air.  Into the Kiwi house to view a couple of sleeping brush heads before retracing our steps through the park for a longer look around.  A stroll around town then at 5.00pm we join our Tamaki evening tour where we are listed as Mr & Mrs Footman.  $58 (£19) for transport, Hangi feast and cultural experience lasting 3 1/2 hours.  Coach driver Kuhi starts the entertainment on the coach which he calls our Waka.  We have to choose our "chief" and American Bill volunteers.  We are then versed in Maori protocol for entering a marae.  On arrival we gather for the challenge (Te wero) when warriors try to intimidate us with gestures and spear like weapon (Taiaha)  We have been warned not to laugh, smile or poke out our tongues.  A peace offering (Teka) is placed on the ground to be received by our chief Bill.  Next we enter the village (marae) to the accompaniment of a welcome call (Karanga).  In replica houses the people of the land (Tangata Whenua) demonstrate different items such as poi twirling, hand games, weaponry display and reciting chants. Into the big house (Wharenui) where only men may sit in the front row.  This is because if fighting were to occur between the home people and the visitors, the men would be the protectors.  The men make all the welcome speeches (Whaikorero) and the pressing of the noses (hongi) is performed by our chiefs and the Tangata Whenua to seal the friendship.  The Rangi-a-Tea Cultural group of 6 men and 6 women then perform a variety of Waiata, Haka and Song and Dance to tell the stores of their race.  Into the food house (Wharekai) for our earth oven (Hangi) meal.  Rocks are heated white hot with native timber then put into a pit.  Baskets of food are put on the stones then covered with wet cloths followed by earth and left for 3 to 4 hours.   This gives an unusual smokey taste to the potatoes, kumara (sweet potato), carrots, stuffing, smoked fish, mussels, chicken, pork and lamb.  Dessert is steamed ginger sponge with caramel sauce, custard and cream – delicious. Our meal ends with a closing ceremony (poroporoaki) before we return to our coach.  Kuhi has memorised everyone’s name and which country they come from.  He calls out the name of a country then expects a representative to go to the front of the coach to sing.  All goes well with USA and Israel but when it gets to England no one responds.  He then calls out the name of two English ladies but they refuse to move. He threatens to stop the coach and when they still stay put he stops the coach at the side of the road.   Nothing happens so he drives on but says they will be the last to be dropped off as punishment!  Meanwhile in the back row we are crouched down in our seats.   He goes through all the countries then as we reach town he says "here’s one for England" and starts singing "She’ll be coming round the mountain when she comes" whilst driving round and round a roundabout!  What a laugh and an excellent evening of entertainment.  Ovenight at a P.O.P. stop in town.
Friday 31 March  A nice hot day.  On the outskirts of Rotorua we visit the church at Ohinemutu "the place of the young woman who was killed" named after Ihenga in memory of his daughter.  The historic Maori St Faith’s Anglican Church by the lakefront has a beautiful interior decorated with Maori carvings, woven tukutuku panels, painted scrollwork and stained glass windows.  Christ wearing a Maori claok is etched on a window so that he appears to be walking on the waters of Lake Rotorua which with a bit of imagination could resemble the Sea of Galilee.  South of Rotorua on the road to Taupo is Waiotapu thermal wonderland.  As we pay our $13 (£4.30) we are told that the famous Lady Knox geyser performs at 10.15 and is 5 minutes drive up the road.  This leaves us time to do the short 30 minute track.  It’s a colourful park with every tint and hue displayed in pools, lakes, craters, steam vents, mineral terraces and even the tracks we walk on.  Artist’s Palette lives up to it’s name as an area of many coloured hot and cold pools.  Champagne Pool is unique with a fifth of a hectacre of bubbling, hissing water, with a beautiful ochre-coloured petrified edge.  We had difficulty parking the van and ask about a shuttle bus to the geyser.  There isn’t one but someone in earshot offers us a lift.  Stephanie is an American, married to a Kiwi but living in Australia.  She has just bought a car for $400 (£130) but is struggling with the manual gearbox.  We kangaroo hop with much laughter to the geyser.  Many years ago prisoners working in the forest found a small pool with hot water and decided to wash their clothes in it.  As soon as they had put soap into the water it became an enormous eruption.  The soap had broken down the surface viscosity and released the built up tension.  Today soap is poured in every day at 10.15am to allow tourists to view the spactacle.  Without the soap it would erupt every 2 or 3 days naturally.  We await with anticipation as bubbles emerge followed by a huge spurt which will last for about 1 hour.  Back to the park to retrace our steps then continue into the 75 minute walk which is great.  We see blue and green lakes, silica terraces, hot water falls and alum cliffs amongst numerous other amazing sights.  Absolutely stunning and very different to the area we visited yesterday.  Driving back towards the main road we stop to look at an area with serious bubbling mud pools.  Next we detour to the little known Kerosene Creek favoured by back packers as a free thermal pool.  We walk into the forest alongside a cold water stream.  This is joined by a hot stream which later tumbles over a waterfall.  We wait as the other 4 visitors leave then bathe in the pool beneath the fall. Care is needed near the waterfall where the temperature is higher and the sand beneath your feet is also hot. Drive via Lakes Rotorua, Rotoiti, Rotoehu and Rotoma to Whakatane.  As you may have guessed Roto in Maori means Lake.   Collect our mail and as usual some still hasn’t arrived.  Think snail mail would be an apt name as some has taken nearly 3 months to catch up with us.  Stop at Jim & Mavis’s P.O.P.  Once again we are taken on a Tiki tour and get fantastic views from the lookout.  We can see North and South along the coast and out to sea where White Island volcano is puffing away.  O’Hope Beach is an attractive area and Jim tells us about the town’s history.  He shows us his garden in supplies us with Fejolas (a small green fruit which you cut into and eat the middle) and choko’s (a vegetable which sounds a bit like a marrow).  They are an elderley couple and insist we join them in the house after tea.  It seems the P.O.P. system works well for both parties as we get a safe place to camp and often a Tiki tour and the owners get to meet different people.  

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