Ron’s Driving Day, and Deidre led us out of Auckland without any fuss in the direction of Hamilton (still musing over calfing, the spelling of which was hotly debated in the car, with ‘calving’ winning; the phone conversation with a defined NZ accent had me trying to work out why ‘carving’ or chewing ‘kava’ would stop our ballooning plans – not the spelling of the act of cow giving birth to a calf!)
A lot of motorway, a fair share of road works, a mostly flat landscape and then into a very disappointing Hamilton: definitely not on the ‘must do next time’ list. A walk along the Waikato river was pleasant enough.
90 minutes later we were in Rotorua as planned and went straight to the Whakarewarewa Village where Maori locals live among the the bubbling thermal pools as they have for centuries. A guided tour told us lots; how they live, cook, bathe in this area of amazing eruptions – where steam was rising all over the place, where man had made channels to cool the water from its 120+degrees to a non-scalding temperature, where the stench of sulphur was unavoidable, and where steam cleansed the nostrils and fogged the glasses. We didn’t see Pohutu erupt, the geyser that reportedly shoots water 30 metres skywards, but its neighbour put on a show. As light was fading and the guide’s enjoyment of a family from Belgium was interrupting the flow of information, we departed, confident that we could now pronounce Tewhakarewarewatangaoteopetauaawahiao – the full name of the village, if we were really pushed.
To Taupo an hour away. Dark. Twin Peaks Motel. Two rooms. Walked to SMK restaurant (Southern Meat Kitchen) ( I hear the vegans smiling) and being a boutique brewery, sampled their beers and cider alongside smoked meat dishes.
Gary’s determination to prove the “To Shopping Centre” sign meant a Coles/Woollies complex resulted in an after-dinner stroll and a simple dairy with no ‘pot-set yoghurt’ – a Ron necessity for happy holidaying, or any decent yoghurt at all – a June desire for moistening dry oats. With much indecision we booked accommodation in Picton and Day 3 ended with ample coughing and sneezing.