Sunday, February 24, 2008

Rotorua and Napier

Inner Harbor of Napier from Bluff

Geysers at Te Puia

Maori Cultural Program

As our week in Auckland came to a close, we selected for our final dinner a Chinese Restaurant near our hotel that we frequently walked by. We knew it was probably good as it always seemed busy with Chinese eaters. That seemed like a good sign. We selected one of the usual Chinese options, the banquet dinner for two. Now why do the Chinese restaurants market meals like this? You always get too much to eat and it always seems that it is a bargain compared to selecting individual dishes. We were not disappointed. It was one of the best Chinese dinners we have had in a long time and for the equivalent of about $20 each. Too bad we couldn’t take home the little to-go boxes. We could have eaten for three more days.

It seems we left the north of the Island in the nick of the time, as this weekend they have been having hurricane force winds and rain. We had some rain when we arrived in Rotorua, but really just on and off light showers, the first rain we have had in New Zealand. Rotorua is the Yellowstone of New Zealand featuring mineral waters, mud pots, a large lake and geysers. The city is quite a tourist draw and has a huge number of hotel rooms for the size of the town. You sort of have to dodge the tourist buses wherever you go. The area is also a center for Maori native culture. We tried to combine it all in one stop by going to Te Puia, which was a Maori village, museums, native crafts, and a thermal valley. Although pricey we spent about three hours there and it turned out to be a good buy. Fascinating thermal activity, nature walk, active geyser, and a 45 minute Maori cultural show in the meeting house filled up our afternoon. Rotorua has an extensive lakeside park system and some very elegant Tudor municipal buildings and museums. Being modest we however did skip the communal thermal baths. I know, I know, we just have no spirit. We likewise also skipped the jet boats, the luge, the caves, the bungy jumps, the prawn park, river rafting, hobbiton movie set and helicopter rides. If you did everything tourist and adventure related in Rotorua you could go through a lot of money. Maybe later!

On Saturday we were off to Napier on the Pacific coast through mountainous forestry country. The farther south we go the more sheep we see, thus living up to New Zealand’s reputation. Napier is an interesting town with a deep water container port and city center built in an art deco motif. In 1931 the city suffered a devastating earthquake, and the reconstruction was made in a 1920-1930’s art deco design. Very attractive and it is a vibrant central business district. We are staying in a six story hotel right on the Hawke’s Bay beach over looking the Pacific and I hope it was built to modern earthquake standards. Today it has been mostly sunny but windy and there has been some terrific surf on the black beaches. We however, will pass on the water sports. They have been setting up an event along the beach and we have been told it is called the “long lunch” where you eat, and eat, and get pissed. Now I wonder what they will do there.

Quirky Living Bathroom Note: When I see something I don’t understand I tend to ask, often to Mary Ann’s embarrassment. Tonight at dinner I saw a sign that said “Dunnies”, so naturally I asked the bartender what it meant. I found out that it refers to the restrooms, going back to what New Zealand outhouses were called. As a logical extension the men’s was called “Blokes” and the women’s was the “Sheila’s.” At lunch at the Hogs Breath Pub they were the “Boars” and the “Sows.”

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