Monday, March 20, 2006

Day 3 - Auckland to Rotorua via Raglan

After a repeat performance of the previous days breakfast we bid farewell to Auckland and Devonport, it was a short-lived affair but I had the strangest feeling our paths would cross again before too long...maybe I'd read the schedule, who knows.

The road from Auckland to Raglan (our first stop off on the way to Rotorua), was a long one although this was more our fault than the physical distance between the two. You see we kind of got lost along the way, in all fainess for the first and only time during the holiday but as it was just the once we thought we'd do it in style.

State Highway 1 (SH1), runs pretty much from the top of the north island all the way down to the bottom of the south island, calling at many of the major places along the way. Raglan is located around 30kms away from the SH1 so it meant we had to head off the beaten track for a while. It wasn't long before we discovered that the North Island dwellers aren't that big on road signs, so much so they'd rather stick an old sign up that looks like it's sending you in the wrong direction than a new one that sends you the right way. About 30 metres after leaving the SH1 we'd found one of the old signs that lead us in what appeared to be the wrong direction, but we only drove for a mile or so before questioning in our minds the battered old sign and turning around to take the other, more friendly looking direction. Turns out the the battered old sign was indeed pointing the right way but it took us another hour, another 40kms and a loop jounrney to figure that out before we ended up at the battered old sign once more and returned to our original, once thought to be incorrect trajectory...40 minutes later we arrived at Raglan.

Raglan is apparently a surfers paradise, but there's one big problem with Raglan for many surfers...

...there's not too many waves. In fact some might say it's a little bit like a mill pond.

Raglan is quite a strange place really. There is a town here, right next to the sea with stylings which fall somewhere between colonial American and a seaside shanty-town.

It's a nice place to stop for lunch, just like we did. Then afterwards why not take a stroll over the bridge to the Butlins-type holiday camp sitting quietly on the volcanic black sand. Once here you can again search out the lost surf but don't expect to find any.

We were determined to find some surf though, not that either of us surf but it's just the principal of it by this stage. Getting back into our car we followed the coast for a few kilometers and eventually we did find some surf and 3 guys trying to ride it.

It wasn't the best surf in the world, this was obvious by the guys struggling to make the most of it in the water but at least there was some and it even looked like it could get pretty good there if the conditions were right.

Satisfied we turned around and made a short beeline for our next stop just outside Raglan.

Every country in the world seems to possess a Bridalveil Falls waterfall and NZ is no exception, in fact I think we may have seen 3 over there. This one though is around 20kms out of Raglan and after you park the car it's a short, easy going 10 minute walk to the top of the falls and another 5 minute not so easy going clamber down to the bottom. If you do have the ability and the energy though going the extra distance to the bottom is worth it.

The 55 metre high falls are spectacular and if the sun is shining you are guaranteed to see a rainbow in the mists.

Tired from the climb back up we retired to our vehicle, only to be accused of being a couple of pasty-white tourists. We had been spotted by a Kiwi fella who was playing host with his wife to an equally pale couple from the New Forest. Strange that you should meet someone so close to home, yet so far away from it. Again these Kiwis just fancied a chat, they really are that friendly and before long they were setting us straight on our pronunciations so we didn't embarass ourselves too much on our holiday.

Time was marching on and we had a bit of a drive ahead of us to get to Rotorua. Our original plan was to stop in Hamilton but as a friend once said "Time waits for no man..." and we really couldn't fit it in so we just skirted around the edge of it using the trusty SH1, seeing signs for Waitomo Caves along the way (something we wish we could've done, but couldn't squeeze it in no matter how we tried).

As we drove closer to Rotorua we were expecting to smell it before we saw it. People who have visited the place before us have told stories of how the whole place smells of rotten eggs, a smell so bad you can never hope to get it out of your clothes for the rest of the holiday. This isn't the case at all, in fact when we arrived in Rotorua and got out of the car at our motel there really was only a feint smell. I'll explain more about the reason why the city stinks in another post.

Rotorua is not only famous for smelling like eggs it's also famous for it's mineral spas. Everywhere you go in this city has spa facilities and our motel was no exception. Anne (whose Dad was from Halifax and her Mum from Hull), kindly introduced us to our large room, taking us firstly through the lounge, then the kitchen, past the bathroom, through the bedroom and finally out into the courtyard where we discovered our own personal spa.

Tacky, yet nice all the same.

It was our 6th anniversary that day, so after quickly settling into our outsized accommodation we set out to find that special place to eat.

La Vega Restaurant overlooked Lake Rotorua...

...and we had a lovely view of the sea planes bobbing on the water as we endulged in gloriously fresh seafood platters.

Can this country do no wrong? Even if it does smell a little of eggs.


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