Land of the Long White Cloud,
August, 2002

Home to Rotorua

7th April, 2002
8th April, 2002
9th April, 2002

Sunday 7th April, 2002

Drop Cap ere we are in Auckland, New Zealand, sitting in our room in the Sky Tower Hotel. We rose at 0500 this morning as the shuttle bus driver had said we would need three hours to get through Airport Security controls. So he picked us up at 0615 (for a 1020 flight) and got us to the airport at about 0715, before the check-in counter was open for our flight. However, we changed our money into NZ dollars - finally finding a country with money worth less than ours - got rid of the cases and had a bit of breakfast.

Aeroplane graphic

Drop Cap he plane was quite full; it was bound for Buenos Aires but a good number, including a team of young boxers from the Institute of Sport, were bound for Auckland. The plane was three quarters of an hour late leaving but got to Auckland at nearly the right time. New Zealand is two hours ahead of us so we had a two and a half hour flight but didn't arrive until 1520. A light lunch of pasta and a game of trivia on the individual screen and we were there. They didn't have time to finish the movies. Passengers going on to BA were luckier, they had choices including Harry Potter and Kate and Leopold. No time for us, but plenty for them.

Drop Cap t Auckland we were met by a nice man with our names on a card. We had to wait for another passenger on another flight and all in all it was 1700 before we got to our hotel. The Sky City Tower is quite amazing. A casino and sky tower (the tallest in the Southern Hemisphere), five restaurants and bars etc.

Skytower photograph

Sky City Tower, Auckland, New Zealand

Drop Cap e were pretty tired so had a large and delicious meal at their Tamarind Restaurant, Pacific Rim Modern cuisine. We shared a plate of various breads with lovely dips (hummous and sun dried tomatoes and olive oil and butter). It was a delicious entrée but filled us up rather. Then Mac had pork filet mignons in tiny medallions grilled on skewers and I had char grilled salmon. We shared the potato bake of the day and a bottle of gewurtztraminer. Lovely, but very filling, so we went for a walk around a longish block to aid our digestions.
Up at crack of dawn tomorrow to start the tour. No rest for the tourist.

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Monday, 8th April, 2002

Auckland skyline photograph

Auckland City Skyline from the Station

Drop Cap p at 0530 to shower, get the bags out and have breakfast before meeting our guide at supposedly 0700. Nobody, however had told Lyn (or Lun) and she appeared at 0730 by which time we were all getting twitchy. Still, off we went to the Auckland Railway Station to get our train, the Overlander, to the nearest station to Waitomo Caves. The train was quite comfortable, with a little café bar for snacks etc. The weather was changeable again, with occasional showers, but nothing too bad.

Drop Cap aitomo Caves were fantastic. Not as colourful as Jenolan because there isn't any iron in the limestone here but when we got through the lovely formations and down to the river it was magic!

Drop Cap e got into the big open boat that was pulled on a rope and pulley by our stalwart Maori boatman, and drifted under a sky of blazing stars. Actually it was the glow worms up in the caves, millions of them, but it was really magical. Just like a starry night. It stunned us all into silence.

Drop Cap haven't mentioned the rest of the group. We are a very mixed bag from all over the English speaking world. Some Aussies, some English, Scottish, Welsh and even the Channel Islands, Canadians, Americans, even a couple from Alaska. We seem to be getting on all right. One of the Canadians, Jocelyn from Nova Scotia, is on a walking frame. I think she is very brave, although it may just be a ploy to get the front seat permanently (not really). She is very nice and insisted on taking seats further back on other days. She and her husband Robert the mad videotaper have only been married eighteen months. Her granddaughters were their bridesmaids.

Drop Cap fter Waitomo we had lunch at a roadhouse called the Big Apple. In an orchard, very well organised. Then we headed on to Rotorua.

Rotorua street photograph

Steam Venting in the Street, Rotorua, NZ

Drop Cap otorua is very...interesting. There is steam rising off the lake and out of the gratings in the road. Houses have steam pipes venting in their yards. And the air smells of burnt popcorn from all the sulphur. Rotorua is situated on a volcanic plate and the ground shakes and the lake steams. The thermal activity has been harnessed somewhat to provide steam heating and power in the houses, hence the vent pipes.

Visitor Centre Rotorua photograph

Visitor Centre, Rotorua, NZ

Drop Cap e went out for a walk and bought some biscuits to foil the mini bar in our room. We are staying at the Millennium Hotel, very nice. It has a spa and swimming pool and is next door to the Polynesian Spa which I am tempted to try.

Park Gateway, Rotorua photograph

Park Gateway, Rotorua, NZ

Maori Night photograph

With Kaylene and Monty, Maori Entertainment, Rotorua

Drop Cap e had a Maori feast and entertainment tonight and had a ball! We had our photo taken with Maori hostess Kaylene and "warrior of the night" Monty. We enjoyed the buffet spread and the entertainment was excellent, lovely singing, lively dance. Kaylene dragged me on to the rim of the pool where it was taking place to join in the poi dance. Yeah, right! Tiny ball on end of string, very difficult to catch. Then the men dragged Mac up to do a haka. He did very well. A lot of us were coerced into audience participation, probably because we were the closest table to the middle front. It was good though, we enjoyed it very much. Not so early tomorrow, 0900 start, we can sleep in - here again tomorrow night.

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Tuesday, 9th April, 2002

Drop Cap e awoke to a beautiful clear sunny day, cool but bright. After breakfast we gathered for what the day would bring.

Agrodome photograph

Sheep (live) and Dog Display, Agrodome, Rotorua

Drop Cap irst visit of the day was to the famous Agrodome, New Zealand's celebration of its most lucrative export trade, sheep and dairy. It was very entertaining, the sheep, cow, dogs and audience performing all their tricks. The man who ran it sheared a young sheep and kept up a constant line of patter in several languages including Japanese and Korean. After the indoor show we went out to see him put his champion sheep dog through the trial, herding and penning a group of sheep. I bought a badge for my cap there. It has been much commented on today.

Swan, Rainbow Springs photograph

Rainbow Springs, Rotorua

Drop Cap hen we moved on to Rainbow Springs, which is basically a trout farm in lovely natural surroundings. A picturesque cold spring gives the water for the ponds and the trout are free to go, not kept in their pools. They go off into Lake Rotorua and return to spawn. Presumably they avoid the hot spots in the lake, which steams like a bath on a cold night. At the complex we saw some native fauna, like the tuatara, which is a prehistoric lizard thingy, and the kiwi, hiding shyly in a special nocturnal house, very dark. Here I bought myself a little box with a paua shell lid and a carved wood letter opener for Geoff's collection.

Whakarewarewa photograph

Maori Cultural Institute, Whakarewarewa, NZ

Drop Cap fter this came the day's high spot, the Whakarewarewa Maori Arts Centre and Thermal Area. This combined a look at traditional crafts like wood and jade carving, and flax weaving with a tour of the thermal region. The area belongs to the Maori people who are its caretakers. They have built a model Pa or fortified village, complete with palisades and watch tower and it was interesting.

Whakarewarewa photograph

Maori Pa, Whakarewarewa, NZ

Pohutu Geyser photograph

Pohutu Geyser, Thermal Area

Drop Cap hen we piled into the Waka train, a little electric powered vehicle which thankfully transported us to the Thermal Area.
Here we were fortunate enough to find the Pohutu and Prince of Wales Feathers Geysers in full spate. It was truly amazing! They shot up a considerable distance, making a really worthwhile display. Nearby we also visited the bubbling mud pools, plopping and gooily slurping - somehow it reminded me of Jabba the Hutt from Star Wars. This area contains all I had always read and heard about New Zealand and it was great to see it.

Mud Pool photograph

Bubbling Mud Pool, Thermal Area

Drop Cap e had a group photo taken at the Agrodome and it turned out quite well. We bought a copy for $15.

Dinner tonight is at the Nikau Restaurant here at the hotel, "table d'hote" style. Wait and see what it is like.


Drop Cap quite pleasant meal, I had French onion soup, roast chicken breast and pecan pie, Mac had smoked chicken salad and braised lamb, a little dry but tasty. Tomorrow, out at 0830 - Raurimu Spiral here we come!

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