Last moments with the Big Rig
Ah, the Trautmans will miss their camper van!
(catching up on my New Zealand trip blog entries)
After saying goodbye to Karen, Dave, Ana and Noah, we caught an Interislander ferry from Picton (South Island) to Wellington (North Island). We were able to return our humongous motorhome to the rental agency and get to the airport with juuuuuust enough time for me to stop by the Wellington airport's ICEBREAKER shop! (They were having sale! I couldn't just walk right on by, could I??
Our destination that day was Rotorua, a fun, touristy town on the northern part of the Island, known for its natural hot springs and geothermal features. We did have a pickle of a time getting there, however:
By the time our ferry landed in Wellington, it was early evening and there were no more flights available to Rotorua. We had to fly to Aukland, rent a car, and then drive like crazy for another 2 hours, all in the middle of the night.
We landed in Aukland, quickly rented a car from Avis, and, feeling so lithe and nimble in our cool Toyota Camry (after all those days in the honkin' big campervan!) made a speedy exit out of the airport and
this used to be the original health spa, and you can still see old baths from that time.
SMACK DAB in the middle of some epic highway construction traffic. This was the equivalent of closing down I-5. It was 11pm, we were tired and ready to find our hotel, and now we're stuck in some crazy Aukland suburban detour. Ick! It took us over an hour to finally break out of the traffic, so when we found ourselves FINALLY feelin' free and cruising down a lovely 4-lane highway (the first we had seen in all New Zealand), we were quite bummed to see the ominous flashing of the blue and red lights on the police cruiser chasing us.
Now, anyone knowing Steve knows that he doesn't exactly have that special touch when dealing with police officers. (I, on the other hand, have talked my way out of numerous tickets. I am proud of this.) Soooo, a $300-dollar ticket later we are finally heading off to Rotorua (the 4-lane highway quickly giving way to the more slow-moving 1-lane kind. We literally got caught on the ONLY mile of superhighway in ALL of New Zealand.)
Finally we arrived at our great little motor hotel, where the proprietress had placed our key under the mat so that we needn't
Lawn bowling in Rotorua
This is what the museum building looks out upon.
wake her up.
The next morning we got up and looked around town. Rotorua was developed over 100 years ago as a health resort where people would "take in the cures" of the hot springs. It has a fantastic museum of art and history (with charming bowling green in front), a main drag with lots of fun and touristy shops, and some amazing geothermal springs that remind one of a smaller version of Yellowstone National Park.
We set out to see the Waimangu Volcanic Valley
, which bills itself as "the world's newest geo-thermal ecosystem." Despite the fancy-pants decription, I highly recommend it to anyone interested in such natural wonders. We spent the whole (hot!) day there hiking around - this is one of those places where you can easily be mesmerized by the bubbling waters, gurgling springs, and turquoise lakes that surround you as you walk.
That evening we decided to bite the bullet and go to Tamaki Maori Village. I say "bite the bullet" because these shows are often quite awkward, as we foreigners gauk at the exotic natives in their traditional garb. We had gone to an Aboriginal village in Cairns, Australia and weren't horribly impressed there
(when the natives yawned as they taught us to throw boomerangs.)
Much to our delight, this seemed different to us. Although it was fully set up for tourists, the actual presentation and warmth of the evening left us really impressed. We loved the music and dancing, the fact that the people in the village spoke Maori natively and easily with one another, and their amazing skills with swinging weapons and other such tools. Everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves!
On the bus ride home (run by the village), the driver was cracking jokes and having everyone sing some sort of song from their home country. An Irish guy sang a drinking song, a British guy sang a WWII song, and we sang "You Are My Sunshine."
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