We stayed the night Sunday at my mums, its far closer to the airport than our place. She kindly drove us to the airport early in the cold morning, or at least i thought it was cold at the time! (Mum wonderfully also agreed to housesit for us and take care of manny and willis, fishies and all our bonsai! *THANK YOU MUM!*)As there was less traffic than we expected we got there early, arrived at the gate and watched planes for a while. It was at this time my anxiety kicked in, i commenced an internal dialogue with myself. Moments in time were spent reminding myself that i have a basic understanding of the physics surrounding the magic of metal birds. My body however was choosing not to believe me. B as per usual was cool, calm, collected and rather amused by my nervousness.
Finally the awaited time arrived, we got in the plane and admittedly we had a pleasant flight with Emirates. For two hours we watched tv, had breakfast of quiche and orange juice.
Eventually we arrived safely, spent an age waiting for our bags. Walked through customs. The day was away from us, it was late afternoon already. B and I were tired, but excited to be met by his parents with hugs and grins. They drove us through Auckland, past stunning green countryside towards Katikati. During the drive we were entertaining ourselves by trying to pronounce the place names on the roads signs, which B and i got wrong more often than not! Which induced many giggles. We arrived late afternoon and settled in. Had a wonderful dinner, and an early FREEZING cold night
The next day K said she had to work in Rotorua, so it made sense to hitch a ride with her and explore. We got up, put on several layers of clothing!! Had some delish manuka honey on toast for breaky and drove through awesome green countryside once more. Again everywhere was more shades of green than ive ever experienced at once. All this in the middle of winter, summer must be spectacular.
After dropping K off, T drove us to through Rotorua to Te Puia.
Te Puia (http://www.tepuia.com) is a thermal springs park. This whole area has a distinct aroma of sulphur (or bad eggs), there is a spectacular, prehistoric, jurassic atmosphere. There are mud pools plopping away everywhere and massive steaming pools with geysers.
I kept expecting a dinosaur to pop around the next corner. We wandered around, of course I took a million photos of steam, and boiling water pools of water.
We waited excitedly for the big geyser to go off, which it did spectacularly. I tried to get a photo but none did it justice. B estimates it was 20metres in the air and continued for 15minutes approx.
The area also houses a wood carving school which has impressive peices of wood, that are thousands of years old and impressivley massive in Girth. Metres around peice of trunk which is exquistely carved whole.
After we picked up K we went to a cute cafe beside one of the many pieces of water in New Zealand. (Everytime we drove somewhere or turned around we saw a lake, river, stream or ocean!! So much water, no wonder it is all green!)
The lake was beautiful and shimmering in the brilliant cold light. Many black graceful swans floated around waiting for people to through them bread. Some so close i could almost reach out and touch. I LOVED THEM.
After Lunch we took a short drive to Mount Maunganui (http://www.mountmaunganui.org.nz) We walked part way up the hill and stopped for the view, where we found the cutest sheep sitting RIGHT on the edge happily munching on grass. I wanted one!
Wednesday T offered to take us a tour of the northern way. We drove from KatiKati to the Karangahake Gorge(http://www.karangahakegorge.co.nz/mainpage.html) . Where we stopped to take in the magnificent View and stretch our legs with a little walk. I worked up some courage to walk across not just one, but TWO suspension bridges!
I could have explored this beautiful place for hours, but we still had a lot of kilometres to cover, and many more pretty sights to see.
We drove for hours through unending beauty, and breath taking views. Went up to Thames then through the Coromandel, Winding around forested mountain roads, with moments picturesque ocean views. The forests are a carpet of tree Ferns, massive ferns that create a feeling of an untouched world.
It grows like a weed. In fact, everything here grows like a weed. The lush fertile, volcanic soil make it a gardeners paradise. T tells me he just puts things in the ground and they grow. Just grow quickly and huge. EVERYTHING!! i was deciding i will never go back home to my dry, dusty, sweat inducing garden. Not when i could have this lush, verdent green. We drove through some wonderful old world countryside, back home, where the views were just as stunning.
Thursday we borrowed T's Car and GPS, so we could hit the road. We drove to Cambridge, which reminded me of Toowoomba quite a lot. We headed to the Hamilton gardens, which had heard a lot about, and despite the gloomy weather it was beautiful.
However the real goal of the day was to drive Ohakune, only 237km from Hamilton! So back into the car and off we went, approximately 3 hours of unending beauty, sheep, small country towns. I was eagerly awaiting the drop in temperature as we drove further south looking for my first sight of snow. I was nervous that despite being in New Zealand during their coldest winter in years that i might some how miss the snow. As we drove and fell more and more in love with the country around us, we pulled the car over as I noticed suddenly something I could not have missed.
I was getting very very excited, and im sure quite chatty as the temperature dropped rapidly. We made it to Ohakune in good time. It was thought we should find a place to stay the night, and approached the Ruahpehue views motel (as we were flying by the seat of our pants, and didn't make any reservations at the end of school holidays and the snow season1) Quickly we arranged for our rooms, and asked for directions to snow.
The hotel man kindly said head towards the mountain, drive for 20 minutes, that should do it!
As we drove and slowly climbed the Ruahpehue mountain i could at first see ice, then slush, gingerly we crept up as we didn't want to damage T's car and all the signs said ICY! As it got colder and colder I was thinking uhoh what are we doing! I hate the cold..... ICE appeared along the edge of the road in ever increasing peices. Finally we were surrounded by crisp white snow. I've never seen such an encompassing, daunting landscape. Just pure and white.
It was wonderful, my first view, touch and play in snow! I was very excited! We played for a little while, however we were not dressed for the freezing cold, a thick heavy fog rolled in, so we headed down back to the town. As we were negotiating the icy road down, we were pulled over by the police, I assumed b was going to be breathalised and thought nothing of it. The police man leaned into the window, said they were doing checks to make sure we were wearing seat belts!!! He checked both B and myself then let us go! How bizzare! It was getting dark, on a foggy, icy, windy road, you bet we were wearing seat belts! We laughed all the way down, wondering how many are silly enough not too. It was too early for dinner, we found a bar to sit and warm ourselves up with a few drinks. We watched everyone come in after a day of skiing looking for some warmth and company. It was a brilliant atmosphere. So far on our holiday EVERYONE had been soo nice, just saying hello or smiling as they walk past. Eventually was decided to venture into the cold in search of food.
We found a beautiful restaurant on Clyde st, and went inside. We were seated next to the most beautiful fireplace, B is trying to draw up plans to build on at home! We indulged ourselves, I had Sumac Lamb which was stunning, and B had a Steak with Red Wine Jus. Both meals were delish and devoured within moments. After some wine and asking the waiter for the recipe for the Jus, (she laughed and said that yes it is a great recipe, but wasn't going to give it to me :P) we walked back to our hotel, hand in hand, in the FREEZING, crisp, fresh, night air and slept soundly.
We awoke friday morning to a cold morning, quickly decided just to drive to our next desination for Breaky. The car was definetly warmer than walking down the road. Lake Taupo was next on our list, New Zealands Largest inland lake, only 135km from where we were so a nice little drive though the countryside. I fell in love with this town, and was instantly trying to work out how I would survive the cold and frosty winds to live here. Definetly my favourite place on the holiday.
Lake taupo was wonderful, it was quite windy, cold and rainy but that didnt take from the massive lake and the snow capped mountains behind. I was in love now. We had some food, and I swear ALL the meat I have tasted during this trip was great, sausage rolls, CHUNKY pies, restaurant food... all of impressive quality. After we had eaten too much we went exploring, bought some souveniers finally. Walked all over town shopping, visited the Mueseum and Art gallery, which was fascinating. Then dawdled around the lake together, enjoying the scenery,the company and all the ducks, until deciding it was far too windy and cold. So we went back to the Caboose Lodge (http://www.cabooselodge.co.nz/) to sit in the bar to enjoy the scenery without the cold. A massive fireplace warmed us up quickly, as we sat in front of a massive window with the best view in town. We also ate dinner in the hotel restaurant, MASSIVE meals on MASSIVE plates, which was tasy and filled us up well. Later rather than sooner we ventured to the room for a cozy night in a King bed with electric Blankets. WARMTH, how delightful it is.
Saturday morning we had many stops planned for the drive back to Rotorua, however it was miserable weather, rainy, windy and very cold! So we drove past the(http://www.cratersofthemoon.co.nz/), Huka Falls (http://www.hukafalls.com/), and a geothermal valley, all of which would have been muddy and awful in the rain. Drove to Rotorua and stopped for Breaky, hoping for a break in the weather. After we ate a massive breakfast (all food portions are massive here!) we went for a walk/waddle, to try and burn some calories.
We found a garden which surrounded the old Hot Bath House, which now houses the mueseum.
We dawdled around,decided the weather had cleared enough, we could see somewhere else before we returned T's car to him. So we had a look at some pamphlets for things to do in the area, we found Paradise Valley Springs wildlife park(http://www.paradisev.co.nz/)
The wildlife park wasn't far out of town, we reset the GPS, took off on a scenic tour. I had the camera at the ready. They first area we saw housed HUGE lions. Beautiful big cats, I think manny would have liked them.
We followed a windy path through trees, and springs, to many enclosures with lots of beautiful animals, massive ponds filled with huge salmon. More varieties of ducks than I have ever seen in one place. It was wonderful.... little huts and waterfalls along the way. I took a million photo's as you can imagine. These are just some of the photo's I took that day.
You could feed and pat these animals as you walked around, everywhere I looked there was something else to see. Hairy goats, Deer, salmon, pigs, Eels that were 20kilos EACH!
We had sooo much fun here, at the end was little pens that had geese, lambs, piglets, alpaca's, turkeys, and a few other animals. I saw the kids ahead of me patting this cute little black pony. I thought, hey i can do that too! so i walked up to it, with my camera around my neck, I was patting the pretty little thing, I looked up at b to smile at him.... then! In the blink of an eye, the pony leaned forward and wrapped his muddy teeth and gums around the lense of my camera!!! i was in shock, not expecting that! hahahaha.....so I have no more photo's of this beautiful place. Luckily once we were back in the car, I cleaned the lense and the rest of the camera and discovered somehow despite getting teeth on the camera the pony did no damage. We decided that was enough excitement for one day and headed home to T's house to drop of his car.
Sunday we decided to take a relaxing drive aound local area again. Looking at kiwi orchards (they were everywhere!, i thought they were vineyards at first) , the stunning scenery, beaches. Visited Sulpher point, Took another walk around Mount Maunganui. For some stunning photo's,
As it was the day before we leave, K & T kindly decided that we needed to see Auckland, and arranged rooms for us there, T drove us all the way up, stopping at a few picturesque locals, Auckland I was surprised to see had few skyscrapers and indeed earned their phrase the biggest little city.
The Skytower (http://www.skycityauckland.co.nz/Attractions/Skytower.html)
dominates the city skyline at 220m, it is the tallest building in New Zealand. It was thought we should do something adventurous, so after finding our hotel and walking around the town, and despite the fact I am scared of heights we managed to go up to the highest height! 220m above sea level.
It was stunning, and oh so high! We walked around and B even convinced me to stand on glass, so i could see the drop beneath my feet. It was late evening and we watched the colours changing. We stayed for what felt like ages, but then i started to get a headache and feel a bit funny! so back down the longest elevator ever we went.
It was fun, and certainly something I never thought I could/would do. It was nearly dark when we left the tower behind us, so we headed out to dinner, T had showed us early this pretty little spot called Elliot Stables restaurant (http://www.elliottstables.co.nz/). I didn't get any photo's which is a shame, as i think it was my fave dining experience of the trip. It is an old stable that instead of destroying they thought outside of the box and made it an eatery, where each stable houses a different restaurant, different type of cuisine. We opted for pizza, something nice and simple for our stomachs. We chatted while we ate, and it was hard to believe our trip was mostly over. It took us forever to get to New Zealand and I never wanted to leave.
On our last day T drove us around Auckland for the morning, showed us his favourite bakery and coffee place. Then sadly dropped us off at the Airport. We were quite early as I was keen to go duty free shopping and to watch planes. I was sad to be leaving but also missed my kitties, family and friends..... so I talked myself into getting on the plane one more time. Emirates provided Beef Stroganoff for dinner which was rather tasty for airline food. Once we landed B and I were surprised to walk straight thro customs. I had sooo much fun, it is difficult to put into words, and I can't wait to go back, we are thinking in summer next time though.
Thank you K and T once again for being so generous and opening your home for us, and k for cooking beautiful food and the most needed fire ever!