Thursday, March 17, 2016

On the Road to Rotorua and Beyond

Whangerai Falls is one of many gorgeous waterfalls in New Zealand.

After leaving Kerikeri, we stopped at Whangerai (Fang-er-eye. "Wh" is pronounced like "F" in the Maori language). Whangerai is a pretty little town that offers a waterfall and a nice hike in a forest with kauri trees. It also has caves with glow-worms, but it had been raining heavily, so the caves were flooded. 

The shopping area on the river where we had our coffee.

We had a coffee in the town before we headed to the waterfall and forest. An English man asked us, “Did you come on a yacht?”

“No,“ Kevin replied. “We came in a Hyundai.”

In fact, our little Hyundai, which was rented from a company called Kiwi Direct, offered the best car-rental price in New Zealand. Our friend Glen had offered to let us use one of his cars for touring around, but we had been worried that we would dent or scratch it. So we went with Kiwi Direct, which rents older-model cars. They come with the dents and scratches built-in, so, as the owner put it, “We don’t care bout anything unless it’s major—like a bumper coming off.” 

Then we discovered the car that Glen had offered us was a Porsche! Maybe we could have saved face with the British gentleman if Kevin could have said, “We came in a Porsche,” but no, we were stuck with the Hyundai!  (Really, all for the best, because we didn’t worry about it at all, even though Glen’s offer was exceedingly generous.)

When we visited the falls we were astounded by something you would never see in the U.S.: the walkway to the other side had no railings, and anyone who fell would certainly plunge over the waterfall!

The walkway. If you fall in, it's your own damn fault

The forests of New Zealand are green and lush. 

After another pleasant evening in Langs Beach with Lynda and John, we headed off for our next destination, Rotorua. We have been to Rotorua before, so we didn’t do a lot of exploring there. It is built in a geothermal area with lots of hot pools and mudpots, just like in Yellowstone Park.

Because the entire city is dotted with hot springs and geysers, I keep wondering if a part of it might fall through the crust if they experienced a strong earthquake. (Probably not, but I did consider that as I strolled through the city park with geothermal activity on all sides!)

We didn’t go to the Agrodome on this visit, but I highly recommend it if you’re a first-time visitor to Rotorua. The Agrodome’s sheep show is the best sheep show I’ve ever seen (also the only sheep show I’ve ever seen, but still…). The banter alone is worth the price of admission.  

We took some photos of sheep and noted this giant “hamster-ball” (Zorb) ride in the vicinity.

People ride downhill inside of this ball!

Now I probably wouldn’t mind using a ball like that if I could self-propel it at a leisurely pace around a flat surface. But the Zorb has several tracks, and all of them go downhill! Some are faster than others, but somehow I don’t see the fun in being rolled down a hill in a ball over which you have little control. As we stopped at the attraction, a woman came out muttering, “That’s crazy! It’s just crazy!) I was wondering if she had teenage children about to embark on a ride.

We said goodbye to Rotorua the next morning. We were very lucky, because, unknown to us earlier, the seaside town of Napier, which boasts a downtown section of 1930’s buildings was hosting its Deco Days.  At the last minute, we were able to reserve the only motel in the area, due to a cancellation.

It's a delight to explore the Art Deco architecture in Napier.

Before we arrived there, however, we stopped off for a coffee at the town of Matamata. (I love that name! It rolls off the tongue like Walla Walla! It’s pronounced like it is spelled, mattuh-mattuh).

We had trouble connecting to the wifi at the cafĂ© in Matamata, and the waiter offered to help. “That’s OK,” we said. “We don’t really need to know what Donald Trump has said now.”
“I think he was criticizing the Pope today,” the waiter replied.

So we just relaxed and drank our coffee.

We were so pleased with our stop in Napier. It was great fun walking about the attractive town, while we inspected old cars, marveled at the architecture, and observed the people, many of whom were attired in period costume. It actually made us a feel a little guilty that we were dressed in modern-day shorts and tops.

Aside from Deco Days, Kiwis are usually informal, as this bumpersticker makes clear:

The next day we were on the road again. This time we were headed for a remote area of New Zealand, Lake Waikaremoana. (I think it's pronounced Why-carry-moh-ah-nuh.)

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