Seda: “You’ll be introduced to a stench emitting from the earths ancient bowels”. This was the description of the Rotorua area in a travel magazine we read! Before leaving this joyful region, we had one more of its cool places to see, well not literally because it was actually rather warm.
Andy: We went to Spa Thermal Park hot water pool in the morning. We were a bit worried that there would be no space in these small pools but turns out not many of the residents were interested in getting up at 8am on a Sunday morning. The small pools are lovely places to sit submerged with boiling hot water cascading down waterfalls on to our backs massaging maybe a bit too roughly. Although it was still very strange to have freezing Huka river water running literally two steps away.
We drove to Tihoi Tavern for our free overnight camping. This was one of the taverns opening their premises to campers in return for a meal purchase at their place. I wish there were more of these around New Zealand since all they have to do is allow the usage of an outside toilet.
In the bar was a stuffed boars head, and mounted on the walls were many chainsaws! They even had league tables for hunting, for example Men’s Boars, Ladies Stags etc! Crazy place, but free!
In the morning we headed back to Taupo before starting the drive down the East side of the lake. We’d heard that this is the best way to go as the road hugs the lake on the East side, but not the West. We stopped halfway at a little picnic spot to have some lunch.
It was a wonderful place and we had the tiny bit of “beach” to ourselves. We took our camping chairs to the waterside and enjoyed our coffee whilst having a paddle!
We were on our way to a town called Feilding in the south part of the North Island. We were going to visit an old RAF friend of mine and his family, but first we thought we’d best stop off the night at a paid campsite so we could have a shower and scrub up a bit.
When we arrived at Parklands Motorlodge in Turangi we picked a decent spot and parked up. We enjoyed a lovely shower and used their kitchen facilities for our dinner. All very lovely, until we went to bed! We were sat up in bed doing some puzzles on the iPad (Rock n Roll huh!) when Seda let out a scream and started climbing all over me! Usually I wouldn’t mind the climbing all over me part of this deal, but I thought the scream was a bit much! What had caused this? A cockroach was climbing the curtain right by her head! Cue us exiting the car in record time, and me trying to get it out in a tissue, petrified of not capturing it, and loosing it to the depths of the car!
Eventually we got it out, but calming Seda down was another story! In order to get her to sleep I promised to clear the car out of EVERYTHING to check for more. To make matters worse, we did find another one in the morning under the bed! The only way I could get her to agree to continue sleeping in the car for the next month was if we bug bombed it the next day!
Still in Turangi, in the morning we had found a few things to do before heading south. First was a cool suspension bridge called Major Jones Bridge over the Tongariro river. There were lots of people fly fishing on the river as it’s a trout hotspot, but also some large white water rafts came flying by us as we admired the river.
We fancied a walk afterwards and so went to a place called Lake Rotopounamu track. It was a lovely pathway that circled a beautiful lake with a few small beaches where you could swim. We had a quick bite to eat on a bench and fed some more ducks. These NZ ducks really do seem to like apple, and taking bites out of my fingers! We were thinking about a paddle in the crystal clear water when we noticed a few people swimming. The water seemed really shallow and warm and let’s just say we felt “overdressed” in just our swimsuits compared to the others! Hmmm…
Armed with a fresh can of bug spray we got on the road and headed for Feilding along a rather terrible State Highway 1. I mean, why do road works in one area when you can just do the whole thing at once and slow everyone down?!
We arrived in Feilding and eventually found Dave and Jennie’s house. Dave and I have known each other for about 20 years, but not seen each other in about 15! I’d met his wife Jennie many times but back then they didn’t have children so I was meeting his family for the first time. We had a lovely dinner and maybe one or two drinks and a great evening catching up.
Seda: The day we arrived was NZ’s pancake day apparently. Dave -clearly a man with multitasking abilities- managed to make pancakes for James and Leila, chatted to us about our travels and caught up with Jennie about the day’s events. The grown ups’ dinner was lasagne, yum yum!
I liked Dave’s wife Jennie very much but let me tell you that when she said it was no problem to wash the “contaminated” sheets in their machine, I could have hugged this lovely woman with whom I’d just met minutes ago! So, whilst the car was being fumigated by me – a very determined crazed Turk – with a whole can of bug spray, we enjoyed a wonderful bug-free sleep!
I think for men reminiscing about old days means drinking silly. Whilst Dave and Andy kept drinking beer after beer, Jennie stayed totally sober and I only drank to put up with the two drunks really! Well I don’t assume it was much fun for Jennie but I had a really good laugh the next day imitating a drunken Andy to him!
It wouldn’t be fair to mention only adults here because Leila and James were great to meet as well. When they weren’t distracted by the little kitten they were looking after for someone, both Leila and James joined our conversations and shared with us their views, curiosities and funny stories! Well guys, we couldn’t persuade your parents to come and stay with us anytime soon but if you ever find yourself in England, (maybe backpacking?!) come to us and let us introduce you pancakes Warwick style!
We loved our time with you all and will be eternally grateful for your hospitality!
Andy: See, I told you we’d write nice things about you all!
Seda: We drove onto Wellington in the morning where we would eventually get the ferry to the South Island that night. I was really happy because I’d found a dead cockroach in the passenger footwell of the car, so the spray must’ve worked. Hopefully we won’t have a repeat “incident”. The thing is, I’m absolutely paranoid now, checking around me constantly and lifting things to look underneath them. It did spoil my joy about this car a little bit but who would have thought NZ is a country where I’d have my closest encounter with those creatures instead of Vietnam where there were more of them than people!
Andy: In Wellington we parked up by the waterfront and went for a walk around. There were people swimming in the water with huge ferries and a container port in the background. Something you certainly wouldn’t see in the UK. Talking of containers, there were loads on the waterfront which had been converted into shops, a gym and even a stage for bands to play in. There were also loads of artwork statues dotted around the waterside which were really cool. We liked Wellington’s feel, and felt it was a shame we couldn’t stay longer, but we had a ferry to catch to continue our adventures in the South.
Seda: The Interislander is a massive ferry with most of everything you’d ever need on a 3 hours journey at sea.
Poor Andy was so tired by this point, he tried to catch a little bit of a sleep in the world’s most awkward position whilst I tried to make use of the free wi-fi that lasted only to midway. Wi-fi is pretty much non existent in this country and the lack of phone reception is equally common. I’ve seen this t-shirt perfectly describing life in NZ…
As we approached the South Island’s Picton terminal around midnight, the entire row of cars that we were at the front of were lowered to the ground level which was a very cool set up and did wake us up a bit by peaking our interest. The first free campsite was not far but it was totally full when we get there unfortunately. It was not about the cost at this point, we had to find a free overnight camping ground because all the paid camps would have been closed and we hadn’t booked anything in advance thinking it would be no problem. We drove to the next one, managed to park up amongst many fellow campers and quietly prepped our bed. It was great to finally get a good night’s sleep.
As I turned on my phone the next morning, I was in for a surprise! Turns out Blenheim, where we had driven to from Picton last night, was right in the heart of the Marlborough region and it was “the place” for wine testing! Helloooooo Sauvignon blanc!!!