Tuesday, July 16, 2013


Champagne Pool
Had a nice breakfast of fresh fruits: kiwi, apple, grapes, mandarins, a toasted muffin and a bit of sliced cheese and salami, then packed up our stuff and headed to downtown Rotorua to meet up with the rest of the gang. Grabbed a flat white to go at Nando's and a bottle of their famous piri piri sauce, and got on the road south to Wai-O-Tapu, New Zealand's answer to Yellowstone.

Lake Ngakoro
Had a nice few hours wandering the park, looking at all of the bubbling hot pools, sintered terraces, craters, ink pots, and cauldrons, with names like the Devil's Home and the Devil's Bath, Thunder Crater, the Opal Pool and the Oyster Pool, Bridal Veil Falls, Frying Pan Flat and Bird's Nest Crater. Amazing what hot water and sulfuric acid will do to a landscape. Not as big as its American counterpart, it's a bit more manageable for a day hike, and there are no bison to beware of, nor grizzlies to fear (actually, New Zealand has no large mammals at all, which is a relief when driving the winding roads after dark). The day was sunny and clear, and the vistas stretched for kilometers. Two of the most striking stretched across faraway valleys, ending in a geothermal power plant's exhaust stack at one, and a dormant volcano at the other.

Hedgerows at 100 kph
We had a nice lunch, of meat pies and sausage rolls, in the visitor center, then did our bit to help out the economy by buying some souvenirs, too. Headed back to Rotorua to fuel up and pick up some groceries, then drove about 3 hours north to the Coromandel Peninsula and Cook's Beach, where Vickie's parents have their beach home. The route took us through some fertile farmland, divided by hedgerow upon hedgerow, which Michele tried to capture on camera. Some of them were merely a meter tall, while others were six or seven meters. Just north of Rotorua, there are some interesting hillocks dotting the land, and some of them have eroded away, to reveal gigantic granite monoliths inside.

After negotiating the longest, best set of twisties I think I've ever seen between Thames at the base of the peninsula and Cooks Beach on the far side, we got things powered up at the beach house and I prepared a communal meal of basil and tomato rice (not complex at all - Uncle Ben sells some interesting flavours here), Chinese honey sausages, tossed salad, and soft bleu cheese on baguettes, which was topped off by another dose of wedding cake for us all before we dispersed to our suites.

Awake now before the others, looking out over a beautiful bay, ringed by rugged mountains, a cup of creamy coffee steaming in my paw.

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