Craig and Ross in New Zealand

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January 21st 2015
Published: January 21st 2015
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Episode 3 (21.01.15)

This blog focuses primarily on our time in Rotorua, staying with two wonderful hosts, Shirl and Brent Hardy. The blog is primarily aimed at our friends who know Brent and Shirl, but everyone else should enjoy it too.

From Coromandel Peninsula, we drove down to Rotorua via hot water beach (where you dig a hole in the sand and hot water from geothermal sources bubbles up - and viola - your very own spa). By dusk, we arrived at Brent and Shirl’s house, which sits directly on Lake Rotorua, a large expanse of fresh water and home to numerous waterbirds. Excellent. Brent had booked Ross and I on the Mitai Maori Cultural experience that night, which was a lot of fun (dinner, a Maori cultural show, and some glow worm viewing). The next day, Brent took Ross and I on what he called a “Tiki Tour” – a quick whizz around Rotorua, which allowed us to get our bearings. It included a walk to a lovely crystal clear stream, and a trip to a trout hatchery. Later that day, Brent dropped us at the wonderful Wingspan Birds of Prey Centre, which he is involved with. As a result, we had a personalized tour of the place with Debbie, who – like me – is passionate about birds. She is doing a fantastic job working on the conservation of the New Zealand Falcon, among other birds. After the bird show, I got to hold the falcon, and also a Morepork owl, and we had a unique behind-the-scenes view of the working of the centre (incubators, how they rear hatchling falcons, etc.) As you might imagine, I was enthralled.

So, the day continued with a trip on Lake Tarawera, with Brent, Shirl , their grandkids (Dylan and Sabrina), and their friend, a guy called Haggie, and his Scottish mates, Bob and Marjorie. John, the captain, skippered the boat, which glided across the aquamarine lake in the brilliant sunshine. We first stopped at a small cove, which hosts a natural hot water pool. We dived from the boat, and swam a short distance to the hot pool, and had a great time lulling around in the hot water. Next, we zoomed across to a region of the lake favored for trout fishing. We dropped anchor and set about fishing. Brent and Haggie, who have had more than their fair share of fishing, were happy to sit back and watch – and laugh at - us amateurs. Young Dylan soon pulled in a whopper – a big trout. Then Marjorie (the Scot) reeled one in. Some wine was distributed, and food was well catered by Shirl (sliders and pastries). it was noted that the Kiwis and the Scots had caught fish, but not the bloody Aussies (Craig and Ross). Well, just before it was time to leave, I brought it home for Australia, pulling in two trout in quick succession. The Aussies won, as I endlessly reminded everyone. The afternoon out on the lake in the glorious sunshine was fabulous. We loved every minute of it. (p.s, Brent, the trout that you smoked for us - well, we are enjoying it with crackers at present).

After the boat trip, we all converged at Haggie’s house for nibbles and drinks. Haggie’s house also backs onto the lake, just down the road from Brent and Shirl’s. Haggie was heard to say to Brent:

“I have trouble with ducks and gulls coming out of the lake onto my lawn, and shitting everywhere.”

Brent said: “You should use one of those fake ceramic owls like we have on our pier, to scare off the birds.”

Haggie replied: “ Oh, those things are bloody useless. Last time I was at your place, I saw a fucking seagull sitting on top of your owl. $180 well spent – not.”

Ross and I spent our second day in Rotorua doing our own thing, checking out the museum (a beautiful old tudor style building that Ross loved), and wandering around the city. We were going to get the gondola up the hillside to get a bird’s eye view of Rotorua, but baulked at the cost of $27 each. Then Ross had a rare flash of genius (!) – there was a road that wound up the top, so, we drove up there. Not only did we have spectacular views out over Rotorua, but there was a bar up there ! So, sucked in, gondola.

Later that night, Brent, Shirl and Haggie prepared dinner. Haggie brought a big pot of green-lipped mussels, which were delicious. As we got stuck into them, Brent said:

“Now for the benefit of you Aussies, note that you don’t eat the shells.” Very funny Mr. Hardy.

Then Shirl served up some equally delicious seafood pie, and we ate while chatting and laughing till late. I was asked, so I banged on about my research on genetics and sex, which everyone seemed to enjoy, and then the conversation drifted to evolution and animal behaviour. Someone asked:

“Why do dogs always sniff each others butts?”

Bob, an entertaining friend of Haggie’s, offered this explanation:

“Many years ago, all the dogs of the world attended a convention. Due to OH & S considerations, all the dogs had to hang their butts on hooks in the foyer. During the convention, a fire broke out, and all the dogs had to evacuate. In the rush to get out, they all grabbed the nearest butts (which were not necessarily their own). So, to this day, dogs sniff the butts of all other dogs that they meet, in an attempt to find their own arseholes.”

I am somewhat dubious about this explanation, which is Lamarckian rather than Darwinian.

Later that night, we watched through the opened back patio doors as ducks emerged from the lake and started moving about the lawn at Brent and Shirl’s place. Brent said:

“Look at those pretty little ducks, Craig. I can give you some bread to feed them if you like. We typically feed them herb and garlic bread – so that we don’t have to stuff them after we’ve shot them to eat.”

Brent is very amusing and quick-witted. Little wonder that he gets on so well with you, RGP.

After two fantastic days, filled with nature, laughter and good times, we bid farewell to Brent and Shirl et al., and headed south to see some of the famous geothermal delights of the region (Wai-O-Tapu, which was great). We sincerely thank Shirl, Brent, Sabrina, Dylan, Haggie, Bob and Marjorie, for showing us a great time in Rotorua. Brent and Shirl are great conversationalists, consummate hosts and are extremely kind and generous. Thank you all, from two Aussies with a passion for living and learning, and laughing along the way.

Craig (and Ross)

P.S. : Haggie, you can see our earlier blogs by clicking “Previous” below

PPS. Click on the pictures above to see them enlarged.

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