So far….so good. So GOOD!!
We had an uneventful flight, and thanks to a sleeping med, I missed about 10 hours of it. Barb D and Rob watched movies all night. Who thought who was losing out is still up for debate. After landing, we picked up our car, which can actually handle most of the luggage. The funniest part is that the control stalks are on the opposite sides as in North America. Every time Rob motioned to hit the turn signal, the wipers went off. It just became more humorous with repetition. Then we began the exploration. We drove to the top of Mt Eden and walked around the humongous crater that’s left from the last volcanic eruption. We drove around in downtown Auckland, which actually bears a striking resemblance to downtown Vancouver. By then, the lack of sleep was starting to slow down my comrades, so we found a parking lot (Burger King) and had a nap. After waking, we decided to get out of the city and headed North, to Puhoi, where we found “the Art of Cheese”. It’s an artisan cheese factory and café. It had a beautiful garden to stroll, and the temperature was perfect for just hanging out among the daisies. So we did. We also HAD to sample the pineapple and passionfruit cheesecakes, and take away a block of Havarti. A good decision! On the way back to the hotel, we also stopped at a random beach to dip our toes in the water and enjoy the warm sand. The beach was smooth and practically pebble free. It was instead practically paved with seashells of all descriptions. By this time we could check into our room, so we headed back into town. We all got cleaned up and teeth brushed (Hallelujah! Teeth should not be fuzzy) and sank into our beds. The evening alarm we set had no effect, and so we slept until the birds woke us the next morning.
I got up first and went for a coffee. I accidentally had some of the more complete buffet. Ooops. Rob and Barb were a bit slower to rise. We grabbed some crackers to go with the cheese acquired the day before for their breakfast, and then we went to Kelly Tarleton’s Antarctic Adventure and Underwater World. Undoubtedly, the best animals were the stingrays and the penguins. The rays were huge and you could watch them from above or below the water. They also had tunnels for people to walk under the aquarium with the sharks. After this, we cruised around Mission Bay and on to Parnell Road (it resembles Whyte Ave). After this, we made tracks for Rotorua. The GPS took us on an unexpected but scenic tour. The rain continued to phase in and out. At Katikati, we stopped to view the murals and buy fruit at a fruit stand (avocados, kiwifruit and asparagus are in season right now). As we got closer to Rotorua, we began to search out a place to stay the night. One very lovely B&B wanted $180.00 per night, per two people! We backed down the driveway and kept looking. Further along, we found a quaint place called Hideaway Lodge that only charged $65 per night, with $5 for breakfast. Good deal. Karen, the owner, gave lots of good advice and snagged us some discounts on the things we wanted to see. A very satisfying day.
We had breakfast early and headed to Kiwi Experience. This is a conservation program helping the Brown Kiwi battle back from extinction. The workers remove the egg from the nest (where it has been incubated by the male), and artificially finish incubating it. The egg is about the size of an emu egg, and actually weighs more than the mother does! When the eggs hatch, the Kiwi chicks are raised on a high nutrient diet and microchipped for later tracking. They are taught to forage for themselves, and eventually released at the same site that their egg had been laid. The program has resulted in a jump in survival rates from 5% to 85% for chicks. We got to see a chick being weighed (so adorable), and 3 adults in separate enclosures. The handlers have reversed the day/night cycle for these 3, so that they are active while people are visiting (they are normally nocturnal). Unfortunately, no pics are allowed, you’ll just have to visit there yourself. They are so cute, and a lot bigger than I had pictured them. They are about the size of a fuzzy football with a head. Hits a 10 on my Neat-O scale.
We then headed to the Agrodome to see the Sheep Show. A very humorous fellow described all the breeds found in NZ, and then sheared a sheep to show how it’s done. Once the sheep was on its back with a leg held between the shearer’s knee, it didn’t make a peep of protest or struggle. Apparently the average shearer makes $1.50 per sheep, and the record is over 700 sheep shaved in 9 hrs. Yikes! They went on to do a milking demonstration. Rob tried to volunteer Barb D, and instead got picked himself! Needless to say, he milked like a pro and received a “certificate of Udderance”. Lastly, they put on a herding demonstration with NZ sheep dogs and ducks, and then taught more volunteers to feed lambs.
This display was followed by Zorbing. In this case, you enter a 5 foot space inside an 11 foot hamster ball along with 20 L of water. You then go rolling down a zig zag course down the hillside until you hit a slope with a fence. Only in NZ!! It’s described as a cross between a waterslide and a rollercoaster. What a hoot! Barb D did it in her jeans, as she hadn’t brought her suit along today. Rob declined, preferring to wait for the “Schweeb”, a bike powered monorail. We returned to the motel exhilarated and soggy. After cleaning up, we headed back into town to collect supper from the grocery store and relax for the evening.
The only problem with this whole trip has been definite lack of internet, or not strong enough signal to be of any use. That means no Vonage so far, and my parents are likely to be ready to kill me due to lack of letting them know I’m OK. Sorry, mom.
OK, the other issue is being mistaken for Americans. The Kiwis can’t tell our accents apart, and just assume. However, they all apologize when we mention we’re from Canada, as they are often mistaken for Aussies abroad, and feel a similar resentment for it. No offence to any Aussies or Americans. We just know that we are distinct even though we’re similar.