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Our Travels in New Zealand Part 3

Author: Mal Part (More Trip Reviews by Mal Part)
Date of Trip: March 2007

Our final stop was at the Skyline Café; a little more fun than the name suggests. Attentive readers may recall that this is the place a guy in a car park at Kaikoura recommended to us – he said that they had an excellent buffet lunch and dinner.

You reach the Skyline Café via cable car up the side of the hill. At the top, there is an opportunity to luge down the hill, or swing on a ‘contraption’ that accelerates you to “150 kilometres per hour in under 2 seconds”. You could also get food and drink.

When we were there, the restaurant was totally booked out for a large group of Chinese, so we were stuck with the café. We had a plate of spicy wedges with soured cream, and then took the luge ride ….

A luge is flat piece of plastic, about the size of a domestic dinner tray. A luge ride involves sitting on the luge and sliding down a steep concrete path. Well, it was a little more sophisticated than that, but not much. We can steer our luges with a handlebar and slow them down by pulling on it. But, the path was still concrete and it was still steep – we were grateful for the crash helmets. It looked a lot more dangerous than it was – if you held the brake partially on, you could take a leisurely ride down the hillside. Naturally, if you let the brake off, you’d have quickly gathered speed, spun off into the woods and been lost forever – it’s the NZ way!!!

We have a coach shuttle back to the motel and decide to return to the thermal park for a slower, more complete look around in the afternoon. This allowed us time to take in some of the Maori village displays, as well as the Maori Pa (meeting place), and a demo of Maori woodcarving.

All the day’s activities have been in thermal parks, under the sun, or both. We are exhausted, so we spend an hour or two resting up in the motel before heading off to dinner in downtown Rotorua.

Rotorua is a strange place. It obviously benefits frpm all the tourist dollars – the new Events Centre, a spacious i-Site, a sumptuous museum, lovely gardens and lakeside, and so on. But, it’s fairly large, and there’s no obvious ‘centre’ or focal point to the town. The motels are mostly out of town, so local restaurants and shops have grown up to service their guests. In any event, we head for Tutaneki Street since it has several restaurants – we’d noticed them the previous day.

The menu outside an Indian again seduces us. We again over eat, and again have to take a walk to help work the food into out systems before driving back for an early night.

Before dropping off to sleep I recall some of NZ’s unique car registrations I’ve seen recently: MUMS MM (on a Morris Minor), TWIN MA (I assume a mum that had twins), JACQUI, SUE VEG (yes, on an old Beetle) and 1-TUNA-1 (must have been a fisherman).

Day 40: Coromandel Here We Come

Based on our new itinerary, this is our last drive to our last motel. We’re off to Coromandel, and Whitianga in particular – it’s an easy 150-mile drive, so we’re in no hurry.

The clouds had been coming in yesterday and there were a few drops of rain overnight – the clouds were thicker this morning. We had more rain on the way, and the further we went, the wetter it got. This was bad for several reasons …. The driving on the Coromandel Peninsula is slow anyway – the hilly terrain made for many slow bends and the regular logging trucks were difficult to over-take. The rain just made for even slower going. Also, this was to be our last stop and I’d paid a premium for the motel I’d booked from Napier 3 days before. I figured that, well, it’ll be our last few nights in NZ, so I went for a unit with a spa bath, large sun deck, and extensive sea views – I’d paid £20/night more than our normal budget. This will prove a poor investment if it rains all the time.

By the time we arrived, there was a slight but steady drizzle. The proprietor helped us with our luggage saying, “It’s going too rain soon, I’ll help”. He pointed out the features of the unit – it was everything I’d hoped it to be, and the sea views were really special. He also pointed out Middle Island in the bay - real name Motukonure Island - and a fishing boat that had come into the bay to shelter from the weather behind the Island!

The weather worsened over the coming hours, and Middle Island was ‘lost’ in the heavier and heavier rain. The wind got up too; pounding the front window of our apartment so heavily we thought it might be blown in. We battened down for the evening and watched the TV. It was this night that the NZ news reporter told us that “Hottenhan Totspurs drew 3 – 3 with Chelsea in the FA Cup”.

That night’s TV was fairly typical: There was “Intrepid Traveller”, where NZ celebs. make a taxing journey somewhere in the world. Last week was an ex-Auckland mayor in Malawi. This week it’s an ex-All Black walking to Annapurna Base Camp in Tibet. Then there was “Dragon’s Den”, a repeat of an episode already shown in the UK, but one I’d missed luckily. After that it was “Turn the Tables”, a kind of Kiwi “They Think it’s All Over”, but with a lot more questions about rugby and cricket. We tried to watch a film on Sky Movies, but rain fade meant we’d lost the signal! Nothing else for it – bed it is, with the fear that rain might stop play tomorrow.

Day 41: Whitianga

We wake up to a sun-filled room. It’s before 8 o’clock, and the sun’s breaking through the clouds on a distant Pacific Ocean horizon. The fishing boat’s are still hiding behind Middle Island, but there’s no rain and the winds calmed down.

We have a breakfast of muffins, jam, yoghourt and tea. I’m interested in getting out onto the Bay and doing a bit of sea fishing, so I ring one of the numbers I picked up at the i-Site. But, no one’s going out today because the sea’s too rough; I’m advised to ring back on Wednesday night. That done, we then drive off to Coromandel Town, about 25 miles away on the more sheltered west side of the peninsula for a bit of a look around.

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