Another busy day.
We had originally planned a month in New Zealand because we figured that it would be enough to get around all the things we want to do and not feel rushed. In actual fact what seems to be happening is that every place we go to we end up getting new tips about places to visit and end of not spending as much time as we would like in some locations. So we’re now thinking that actually we need around three months to really do the country justice! We are meeting a lot of people on the trip who are on much shorter trips than ours and its difficult to see how they could get anything other than a fleeting impression.
Based on the tips from our host last night we largely avoided Hot Water Beach on the 237 km drive from Kuaotunu Bay to Rotorua (we actually did pop in briefly but only to take a photograph) and that was quite early and the beach was already filling up. We decided to take the highway SH25 as this follows the coast down. But be warned, the highway is incredibly twisty and follows the line of the mountains up and down so the drive is both quite slow and quite exhausting.
First stop of the day was the largely unspoilt beaches at Opoutere which is home to the Wharekawa Wildlife Refuge where a number of relatively rare NZ birds have protected breeding grounds. There are no cages and no barriers so you need to be aware (as we found out) that, although we stayed on the marked trails, birds can be very protective of their nesting spots (we enjoyed being harassed by some Oystercatchers). It’s a stunning spot with some interesting accessible sandbanks at low tide and well worth a visit.
Also on the advice of our previous night’s host we then headed to Mt Maunganui which lies on the coast of the bay of plenty and is essentially a 232 m high hill which juts out into the bay (also called Mauao). There are a number of tracks around the mount and walking around the base (in around 45 minutes) is quite pleasant although relatively busy with other walkers and joggers. Mt Maunganui itself is quite a lively beachside town with some stunning beaches and it is one of the places where we thought we could definitely spend some more time (if we had had the time – if you see what I mean).
Following the trip to Mt Maunganui its only a 75 minute drive to Rotorua where we arrived late afternoon. We are booked into the Regent of Rotorua which on first encounter is a mistake because while its been nicely refurbished, its a motel and incredibly claustrophobic. Never mind some you win some you lose.
In the evening we took in a cultural show at Tamaki Maori Village wich describes itself as “A 3 hour journey into the heart of Maori Culture”. It isn’t. In fact it’s a rather superficial Disney like experience that at time is so cringingly bad it makes your teeth itch. It is very popular on Trip Advisor where you can read my review) which is simply mind-boggling.
Tomorrow we are standing still for once to enjoy the sounds, sights and smells of Rotorua and a second night at the Regent. At least we had the time to take some things out of our bag! What’s so funny about having a hire car and only staying the odd day or two in each location is that you start accumulating carrier bags of shopping and dirty clothes. We know we will need to pack everything again for our our flight to the South Island.