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Published: January 12th 2010
Tea on the lawn at Te Arola
This is so much like the Tunbridge Wells of New Zealand
On day 6, I returned to an area south of the peninsular where the roads are straighter and the crowds less obvious. After filling up at a petrol station in the village of Bombay (honest), I turned off the main A1 road at the very humble village of Ohinewal , and headed past the Hapuakohe Mountains towards the town of Paeroa. Now, I have to tell you that New Zealanders are proud of their production of the internationally famous L&P soft drink. You know the one that tastes of Lemon and Paeroa? A few days back, I had seen this drink in a corner store and asked the cashier what Paeroa was. She asked a colleague, who informed me that it was a sort of kiwi fruit. Of course, I bought the drink, and am now a convert, even though the kiwi fruit flavour is very subtle. It turns out that Paeroa is the town where the drink was first produced (so significantly unlike a kiwi fruit), and the huge bottle of it stands outside the factory today, and is quite probably the only reason anyone stops there.
A big surprise for me was my next port of call. Te
Funny but true
One of the many humerous historical signs in Te Arola's town museum.
Arola is a medium sized town which turns out to be the Royal Tunbridge Wells of New Zealand. There are some nice big Edwardian houses, a municipal croquet lawn, and a group of health giving mineral springs. There’s also a hot spring here, and a park with lots of old wooden bathing huts, plus a hot geyser that erupts just after lunch! One of the larger bathing huts contains the town museum which contains lots of artefacts of local interest, plus a collection of humerous signs and notices. It seems that every town and village in New Zealand has a museum, and the level of interest can vary, but in Te Arola, I was made most welcome, and have a suspicion that the place doesn’t get so many visitors nowadays. If I’d had more time, I’m sure I would have stayed for tea and cucumber sandwiches on the lawn.
My final visit of the day was to the town of Whangamata. By the way, the Maori language only has about 14 consonants, so is missing a few including the letter ‘F’. Therefore, they use ‘Wh’ to make an ‘F’ sound, so this town is pronounced Fan-ga-mata. This is a
wild Agapanthus growing on the dunes at Whangamata
In reality, these plants can be seen all over New Zealand. Some are cultivated, some are wild, some are seen as being weeds, and it turns out they were introduced from South Africa before taking over New Zealand.
brilliant coastal resort that seems to be a well kept secret. They have a natural harbour one side, with room for boats, dolphin swims, cruises etc, then on the other side, there’s a very long and broad sandy beach backed by dunes with clumps of wild Agapanthus. In the middle of the beach is a lifeguard fortress (it’s much bigger than a lifeguard station) and the team that run it look as if they’ve just come off the Baywatch set. When I arrived, they were doing training sessions on the beach, and seemed to be attracting a lot of attention especially from connoisseurs of the curved art form. Knowing nothing about art though, I focussed my attention on the far end of the beach which is linked by a causeway at low tide to the nature sanctuary of Whangamata island. From a distance, I could see a lot of people walking out to the island, but when I reached what should have been the causeway, the tide had turned, and the water was already 50cm / 18 inches deep and rising. There were still a fair number of people on the island and some were clearly having a good old
Auckland's Sky Tower
(the view from my hotel window this evening). Rumour has it you can jump off the top for 200 dollars!
dither as they tried to decide if they should wade back now and get their shorts wet, or simply give it another half hour and have a complete soak. I’m sure the Baywatch team would have been available with their rescue boats if a small donation to their running costs were to be made by those who were unable to make up their minds within the half hour.
I left them to it as I needed to get the hire car back to the airport and then catch the bus into the centre of Auckland where my coach tour of the North Island would start very early tomorrow.
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