Saturday, January 25 – Friday, January 31
After two months of travel, down to the last week. As often happens, it feels like time has gone by quickly, while it also seems a long time ago that we set foot in Sydney.
After finishing the Tongariro circuit, we treated ourselves to a couple of flat whites and goodies at a cafe in Whakapapa Village while waiting for the bus(es) that would take us to Rotorua. The trip involved two bus changes that were well synchronized, so no delay to speak of.
Once we’d had a shower and a bit of rest we were ready to go again. Our friends Dita & Vaughn picked us up at the hostel and we went for dinner. Dita is a friend from Canada (Whitehorse), so it was fun to see her here on the other (warm) side of the world!
The next day Dita & Vaughn toured us around the Rotorua area, known for its geyers and mud pools; there is also an almost continuous smell of sulpher in the air, which takes some getting used to. They showed us around Lake Rotorua, taking us to different lookouts and places. We lunched by the lake, enjoying the food they brought and a glass of wine–something you (officially) wouldn’t be able to do in Canada.
At my request we went to see some “bubbling mud”. The geysers and mud pools look the way they do in pictures, but I enjoyed seeing them ‘for real’. And certainly the smells don’t come across in the pictures! After about a 45 minutes I felt slightly nauseaus from fumes and was happy to leave the mud pools behind. Another late afternoon drink with appies by yet another lake, then a quick stop at the hostel to freshen up, and finally a delicous Italian dinner to finish the day.
Sunday morning my friend Kaye picked us up and drove us to her place in Tauranga. The weather had turned; it was now grey and foggy, although not cold. Roy had web-work to do and decided to stay home and enjoy some peace and quiet. Kaye and I drove into town. We managed to catch a few sad glimpses of an airshow that had obviously picked the wrong day for the event. After a quick tour of ‘downtown’ Tauranga we picnicked at the beach and watched groups of kids learning to surf.
Monday morning was an early start, catching an 8:15 bus to Auckland. The weather was improving and it promised to be a week of warm summer weather until our departure on Friday.
We did a few more day trips from Auckland, including a trip to Tiritiri Matangi Scantuary, a open bird scantuary on an island. At one time the island was cleared, then farmed. In the seventies it became a maritime park and over the years, with the help of volunteers and the Department of Conservation, it has been restored. Natives trees and plants have been replanted; many (almost extinct) birds have been reintroduced. Seeing the place now, it is hard to imagine it was baren at one time.
The next day we visited Brick Bay Sculpture Trail at a local vinyard. Apart from fields of grapes and a cafe, the vinyard has a 2km trail displaying approximately 45 contemporary sculptures by New Zealand artists. The sculptures are for sale. After our leisurely art walk we ended at the cafe for wine and lunch–platters with cheese, pate, olives and other goodies. We rounded off lunch with coffee and one of the best brownies I’ve tasted in a long time, moist, chocolaty and made with figs. Yum!
Friday we stayed close to home: packing our backs and getting ready. I managed a quick last minute lunch with an ex-colleague from Vancouver, who has since returned to her home country of New Zealand. We spend the last few hours relaxing in Mike & Liz’s back yard enjoying the sunshine and watching their grandkids (3 and 6 years old) demonstrate their swimming skills.
And then, after a long flight, we were home again. The house was cold, felt strange, and there was a big pile of mail waiting for us. But once the house had warmed up again and we got groceries, things felt much better.
Finally we were able to unwrap “Gertie”, the wood bird sculpture we purchased in Australia, and found her a spot on our dining nook, where she looks pretty happy!