We left Auckland on Wednesday morning and took an uber to the airport car rental to pick up our car. We picked it up there as we’ll drop it off there the day we fly home. Our driver said things would be very slow for him after Thursday as Auckland would be dead on the weekend, everyone would be leaving the city for the four day Easter weekend. They were going to exactly to the places we wanted to stay but we hadn’t booked anything thinking it would be no problem finding place this late in the season.
It was a beautiful drive south over a small mountain range, across a valley floor and through a gorge. We stopped for morning coffee at the Woodturners Cafe which had some off the wall features.
We stayed at a friend’s place in Tauranga, south of Auckland, on Wednesday night. We went to a great dinner at Fish Face in a funky area near Tauranga called Mt Maunganui.
We realized after the uber driver’s comment that we better hustle to find places to stay. Jocelyn helped put together an itinerary of places to visit while Bob was trying to book rooms. We got booked into Rotaroa for Thu and Fri but after that nada until Monday night unless we were interested in paying $500+ for rooms. We even had a local tourist office try to help us on Thursday morning but no luck whether it was hotels or B&Bs. That’s when we decided to go back to Auckland for Sat & Sun night – no problem getting a room, we’re going to back to the same hotel where we stayed earlier. We’re actually ok with doing this as Auckland is a pretty big city and we certainly didn’t see all it has to offer. And we are now booked from Monday until we fly home on Friday. The distances are not bad, it’s a 3 hour drive from here back to Auckland.
Rotorua is in an area with a lot of geothermal activity and has strong ties to Maori culture. We visited a “living Maori village” which sits in an area full of bubbling mud pools, geysers and hot water pools. Twenty Maori families live in the village, which even has a school. We did a walk around the periphery of the area and then a guided tour. The smell there wasn’t as sulphurous as Radium Hot Springs in BC. On Friday we went for a lovely walk in the Redwood Forest.
Interestingly, we ended up having dinner at a restaurant that Leyla worked in during her gap year about 15 years ago. Today we went for a walk in a red wood forest just on the outskirts of the city, tomorrow, back to Auckland for two nights.