“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” ....Oscar Wilde

Tuesday 30 October 2012

Rotorua, North Island....New Zealand (Part 2)

How much can you fit into a day? Plenty if you're committed...or should that read we should be committed?
We tried to fit in four attractions in one day!
But when there is so much to see and do then its full steam ahead...

Which leads me quite nicely into our next attraction...HELL’S GATE?
Hell's Gate is Rotorua's most active geothermal park featuring boiling hot pools and erupting waters with temperatures in excess of 100 degrees celsius; steaming fumaroles; hot water lakes; sulphur crystals and deposits; New Zealand's largest active mud volcano; Southern Hemisphere's largest hot water fall and even examples of land coral.
The Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw upon visiting in the early 1900's, gave it the English name "Hellsgate" as he gazed upon the land,  as he believed he had arrived at the gates to Hell.

So let's enter Hell's Gate....

Here's an information board to give you lots more detail if you have the time or the inclination for more...
just click and zoom in....

As you can imagine it can be a dangerous place to walk around and you are seriously advised to keep to the footpath. I didn't need telling twice, but we went one step further (hehe...sorry no pun intended it just popped up) anyway we decided to employ a guide and he did a fantastic job of giving so much more detail than what was written on the little plaques.
I had such a giggle when I read this signpost...
Just in case you can't see it clearly, it reads
Warning...persons who throw litter or stones into the thermal pools may be asked to retrieve them!

TV crews come to this place to film for advertisements ~ as you can imagine it's perfect!

After we'd finish our tour there was an opportunity to try our hand at some traditional carving...
I wasn't to be trusted with a knife...although it wasn't a knife as such; more a curved chisel but we found a volunteer very near!

 You choose a design out of the four that have been pre drawn for you depending on the which you like or is more appropriate to you.

Then away you go...

I watched the master at work...oh yes hubby wasn't bad either ;D
After all that hard work we were in need of some relaxation....
so what more could you want than to visit a spa.

Well yes but I have to admit I wasn't initially sure about the Mud spa....but after stepping into the warm goo....ahh...you just knew it was doing good ;D
Plus we had such a giggle. 
It was my hubby's first spa!

Fantastic...but be aware you do have a certain aroma for a few days after your visit and you might want to keep up wind of people just in case!

So enough relaxing for now....we still had things to do...place to see!
How about some white water rafting? 
It is one of the big 5 of New Zealand after all....

Can you see me? ;D
Phewph...back to the Lake House to get ready for tonight's event....drum roll please...
We're to visit the Mitai Maori Village for a cultural evening plus Hangi meal.
Our hosts had organised and booked the evening event with courtesy transport too.

Kia ora (Hello in Maori)

(Do you think my hubby was taking it all too seriously? hehe)

This was a fantastic introduction into the Maori culture and heritage.

Firstly, we were shown the traditional ground cooking Hangi Feast where our meal had been cooking over hot stones in a pit for hours...succulent New Zealand lamb and chicken, potatoes (riwai), sweet potato (kumara) and stuffing (a combination of bread, mixed herbs, corn, carrots and peas).

 We also had side dishes of scalloped potatoes baked with a cheese topping, freshly baked garlic bread and a range of salads, plus a fantastic rich brown gravy and thick mint sauce.
After such a busy day I have to say this truly was a feast!
Oh yes...and there were desserts too. Tropical fresh fruit salad, chocolate log, pavlova (which was delish) plus trifle with cream. And a bar!

The cultural experience was set in tranquil natural bush setting where we were taken back in time when the ancient Maori customs and traditions were part of everyday life. Through songs and dances plus tales and legends told, we learnt a great deal about the fascinating past.
We heard tales of how the Maori people interacted with the European settlers many generations ago, music, carvings and ta moko (tattooing).
Tattoos are just one of the ways that demonstrate the strong ties that Maori people have with their cultural heritage. The displays of weaponry and combat that were shown during the performance are captivating.
As well as the poi dance and of course the haka finale!
We also were privileged to see the hand carved ancient war canoe (the waka) being paddled down the Wai-o-whiro stream by warriors in traditional dress which was brilliant.

We also took part in a torchlight bush walk to the crystal clear water of the sacred Fairy Spring flowing directly from the earth, which was full of eels and trout.
The Fairy Spring releases over twenty four million litres of pure spring water every day!
Then we were asked to switch off our torches which plunged us into complete darkness....
this highlighted the glow worms!
We also added on an additional stroll through the bush observing the flora and wildlife at night including the new walk-through outdoor kiwi enclosure. No glass partitions in-between so you are really close to them although I have to say they are very good at hiding in the dark! I had to see a kiwi before my New Zealand experience was complete...it was on my tick list....and this was the best way to ensure that I did.
I actually saw two, but unfortunately I couldn't use a camera or even a phone to capture them and we had to be so quiet because the kiwis have exceptional hearing.
The Mitai village was a very special place to visit that I can fully recommend visitors to experience.

So we will leave Rotorua and drive further south to our next destination....
I'll hopefully meet up with you again for more of our New Zealand experience.

In the meantime...I hope you're having a great week ~ enjoy! 

Sunday 28 October 2012

Rotorua, North Island....New Zealand (Part 1)

Hey...did you think I'd gone missing in action? 
I know it's been some time since my last post but we've been busy checking out some great places for you.
And so we reluctantly wave goodbye to Whangamata on the Coromandel Peninsula ...and those views!

 (This view was from the cliff top of Cathedral Cove)

Yet again en-route we were privileged to spectacular sights that took our breath away...
We drove south towards the centre of the North Island and onto Rotorua, the geothermal paradise where you can stand on active volcanoes, peer into massive creaters and see boiling mud and erupting geysers. 

But first let's check into our accommodation....

When you arrive at your location and are greeted by the welcoming aroma of freshly baked scones still warm from the oven, then you know you've made a good decision.
The charming house is located literally on the banks of the lake. It belongs to Ken and Carol our friendly hosts who welcomed us into their home...

Once again I rose at dawn to capture the house in a good light...I tiptoed across the back lawn of the house...can you see my footprints on the dew covered lawn?
You can't fail to be wowed by the extensive northern lake views from all of the rooms which take full advantage of all day sunshine.

 How's that for lemon growing? 
Produce from the garden feature highly on the breakfast table...in the form of jams and chutneys. 
Carol introduced us to the feijoa! 
(Feijoas originated in the forests of South America and are fragrant smooth-skinned green tropical tree fruit that have creamy sweet jelly centres. They are part of the Myrtle family, which includes other fragrant plants such as eucalyptus, allspice, guavas, and cloves.Their distinctive complex flavour has been likened to a mix of strawberries, pineapple and guavas, with undertones of quince, lemon and mint. In Australia they are sometimes known as pineapple guavas. The unique complexity and fragrance of the feijoa is the reason they are so versatile and addictive, with uses ranging from just munching them by the dozen to making beautiful perfumes. 

Feijoas are an extremely versatile fruit with very little wastage, being scooped out and eaten as fresh fruit and in fruit salads, used in juices, smoothies and ice creams, wines and vodkas, jams and chutneys, salads, in savoury dishes, salsas and especially in baking.  They are also easily frozen for future use, and are even used in perfumes and skin care ranges. The question should really be "What can't you do with a feijoa?")

Here's the room we stayed in...The Tahi room ~ photo courtesy of  Lake House website

This is the view from our room....not bad eh?

 Just a step along this path leads to the luxurious, purpose built spa room perfect to relax and unwind after a full days sightseeing and activities...

Ken and Carol have travelled extensively and lived in the Middle East for a time, so we had lots in common to talk about. Carol is also a very talented artist and some of her work is exhibited throughout the house.
She is also an exceptional cook and breakfasts were very relaxed and enjoyable.
Our time in Rotorua was to be limited so we asked Ken and Carol to advise us on how best to use the time we had to maximise our stay. 

So would it be rafting, jet-boarding, luging, soaring through the sky in a giant swing, tumbling downhill in a plastic bubble called a Zorb (I kid you not!) or blazing through the forest on a mountain bike, Rotorua certainly knows how to give you an adrenalin rush. 
Rotorua has a staggering 16 freshwater lakes. All are of volcanic origin; filling craters, calderas or valleys blocked by lava flows, and many are ringed by forest and farmland with fantastic lakeside walking trails. 
The lakes are teeming with trout too but there are regulations to adhere to for fishing.
And so well fed with walking shoes on and plenty of layers for any weather eventuality, we set off for the day....The Hamurana Springs Reserve was first on our list.
I've included the notice below for anyone who might like more information about the springs.

This place feels special from the moment you leave the car park and enter the walkway....

We have never seen water this crystal clear....
Alongside the springs is a grove of towering Californian coastal redwoods. These impressive trees were planted in 1901, and now reach heights of around 60 metres. The Redwood Memorial Grove track that winds its way between the redwoods is the forests most popular walk, although there is a range of other great walking tracks throughout the forest, ranging from 30-minutes strolls to all-day treks. There are also a wide range of both exotic and native trees too.
If you look closely or zoom in on the next pic you can see the trout.
 He is right in the centre of the photo...

I've taken lots of video footage throughout the trail with trout clearly in view. I'm afraid I'll have to edit at some stage because they are just too large to use here...that's another job for another day.
I've never seen trout so clearly in the water!
There are also dancing sands which don't show up on camera nearly as well as I would like...but the sand has little eruptions happening which give the appearance of mini volcanoes under the surface of the water. 

Here is the head of the spring (named after Hangarua a chieftainess) the rock around this spring is volcanic (rhyolitic) in origin. The spring water travels down from the Mamaku plateau through underground aquifers. This journey takes an amazing 70 years!
This spring is the largest in the North Island and where on the 9th January 1957 more than 5,000 pennies dating from 1860 were recovered. All of these were distributed to children's charities. The water from these springs flows into Lake Rotorua.  The height of the spring above sea level is 280 metres (920 feet). The depth of the spring is approx.15 metres (50 feet) The temperature is a constant 51°F (10°C) The volume of water is approx. 4,500,000 litres (1,000,000 gallons) per hour!!!

Once again we could see the huge trout gently circling and enjoying their special place....

I'm now becoming aware of how big this post is turning out to be...
So I've decided to split it into two parts...
This is part 1obviously, but I hope you'll join me in part 2 shortly...
We're off to 'Hells Gate' (an active geothermal park with mud spa) and a Maori cultural experience.

See you soon...in the meantime have a great weekend https://secure.quebles.com/content/hotmail/emoticons/1508618.gif

Tuesday 23 October 2012

The Coromandel Peninsula...Whangamata, North Island, New Zealand

We're off again leaving Auckland behind and heading south east across to the Coromandel Peninsula to a place called Whangamata on the Pacific coast.
Yet again the drive across the spine of the peninsula was breathtaking at times.
I have to confess that I'm running out of adjectives to describe the astonishing sights we are seeing. I've lost count of how many times we've voiced the word 'wow' as we've driven around a bend.
The Coromandel is a largely untouched paradise.
Native pohutukawa trees line the western side, the eastern shores are fringed with sparkling white-sand beaches, and the ranges in the middle are covered in lush native rainforest.
The crystal-clear water is perfect for swimming, surfing, fishing and snorkelling, while on the land there are fantastic walks with cascading waterfalls, gold-mining relics and fascinating natural features.
The rugged ranges offer panoramic views of the peninsula.
In fact it's hard to keep driving and I must admit I was glad that I wasn't driving.
I constantly shouted out 'stop' as yet another fantastic photographic opportunity came into view.
It's not always a good idea on the bend of a high narrow mountain road with a sheer drop off the edge!

Whangamata is a beach resort combining rainforest with a spectacular beach that boasts some of the best surf breacks, safest swimming, in New Zealand.
Other activities include big game fishing, golf, mountain biking and bush walks so there's lots of choice depending on your holiday ticklist.

But onto our next accommodation...after our last stay we did wonder if it could possibly come anywhere near Eden Park B&B, but with a name like 'Pacific View' we were hopeful.
We needn't have worried...with a view like this what more could you want?

What a way to start your day!

'Pacific View' boutique bed and breakfast certainly delivered on many counts.  
It is located at the top of the highest hill in Whangamata with spectacular 180° views out to the Pacific
 Ocean, offshore islands and also overlooking the town and estuary.

I could spent hours sitting looking out at the ever changing view....and admit that breakfast was a very leisurely delight with fresh locally sourced fruits plus freshly squeezed orange juice from a tree in the garden. Kathryn’s homemade Muesli is packed full of goodness tpo. 
The bedrooms are tastefully decorated with contemporary colour schemes and the wonderfully comfortable beds are dressed with top-quality linen. We actually were the first guests to stay in a newly converted room so everything was pristine for our stay. 
Just how I like it ;D 

As a Qualmark accredited business with a Four Plus star rating (If you've never heard of Qualmark it's New Zealand tourism's official mark of quality) Pacific View meets environmental and social criteria however they chose to be further assessed through the Qualmark Enviro Award system and in 2012 achieved the Qualmark Silver Enviro award. 
To achieve this means that they have met high levels of environmental and social responsibility. 

Both Kathryn and Peter have travelled extensively, so we had lots to talk about over a pre-dinner drink and nibbles.

Our kind hosts Kathryn and Peter enjoy golfing, gardening and walking and Peter is an enthusiastic fisherman (ocean and fly) and will happily coordinate and accompany you on fishing trips. 
Whangamata is a fisherman's paradise. 
Golfers are catered for with two courses; the challenging Titoki 18 hole course or the easy flat Williamson 9 hole course. My OH chose the easy option (well he is on holiday after all) and Peter kindly joined him for a very pleasant afternoon.

I did finally manage to drag myself away from looking at the view so that we could visit Hot Water Beach.
Upon arriving it looked like lots of other beaches we'd visited...but this one held a secret. 

It is one of New Zealand's most fascinating and popular natural wonders. 
Here for two hours either side of low tide during normal sea conditions, you can dig your own spa pool as the water from hot springs seeps up through the sparkling sands. 

 Surfers love Hot Water Beach for its renowned waves, but only strong swimmers should surf here as the currents can be dangerous.
Here is the information board if you'd like to zoom in for the details of this natural wonder.

Kathryn and Peter gave us a spade to use but you can hire one from the beachside shop. 

The water can reach 60+ degrees so you need to have your defence wall well built to maintain the perfect temperature within your pool...just letting in the right amount of hot water as and when needed. Ahhh....
I'm not sure if you can see on the above photo the steam rising as the flow passes our pool. 
Some people were very crafty and came along a little later which meant that there was the possiblity of finding a vacant spa...that way they didn't even have to work a little for their reward!

I know...what a strange sight!

 Once relaxed (although we weren't even slightly tense never mind stressed, we moved on to visit a picture paradise. Cathedral Cove is a must-see attraction and one of the most beautiful beaches on the peninsula, with remarkable rock formations, pure white sand and crystal-clear water.
We accessed the cove via a walking track down the cliff face from Hahei but there is also the option of boat tours or better still kayaking to the cove. 
The walking track took about 35 minutes and at one stage I did wonder if it was going to be worth the trek but 'wow' (there's that word again) it took my breath away. The photos just don't do this cove justice. 

The colours were incredible and I have to say I became speechless for a time (...there that shows you how impressed I was...it doesn't happen very often that I am unable to speak!)

The gigantic arched cavern passes through a white rock headland to join two secluded coves. The cathedral-like arch gives whole area an air of grandeur.

See it's happened again...I'm speechless just remembering it!

This party of kayakers came ashore and I couldn't believe it as the organiser took the party's orders for refreshments! Tea or coffee anyone?
This I had to see...but voilĂ ...out of heaven knows where, he produced a little cooker, fresh water and proceeded to make tea and coffee for everyone! 

I know I should have stayed in the cove until sunset (sorry N) to capture the cove in its best light but that trek back up to the cliff top preyed heavily on my mind and I really didn't want to do that in darkness. 
Call me a wuss if you like...I won't mind because I'll admit it I am one!

As you can imagine by the time we started to head back we were really hungry after a full day's activities...
so we called into Gauguin's Shell's Restaurant by chance located on the main road of Tairua.
A great place to relax and enjoy a fabulous meal. 
In fact it was one of the best we've had during our stay in New Zealand.
I had the pork belly and my OH had the beef cheeks!

If you're ever passing...just pull in and partake in a culinary delight!
They don't have a website as such so I can't add a link.
Phew...what a day! 
Will you be free to join me again for another packed day? I hope so ;D
In the meantime have a great week.

Sunday 21 October 2012

Eden Park Bed and Breakfast...Auckland, New Zealand

If you mention Eden Park in Auckland the natural assumption might be that you're talking about the Eden Park Stadium, New Zealand's largest stadium...the home of Auckland Cricket and Rugby.
The stadium that hosted the 2011 Rugby World Cup.
But not in my case...Eden Park to me means luxury bed and breakfast accommodation in an historic Edwardian villa.  
We've stayed in hotels of various ratings throughout the world, but for this trip we wanted a more personalised touch, so we decided to try boutique Bed and Breakfast Hotels. 
My initial thoughts of B&B brought back childhood memories...not always good ones but let me tell you B&B accommodation has certainly moved on since then. 

Eden Park Bed and Breakfast is located in Mt Eden, in central Auckland. 
Built in 1905 by a wealthy banker, the house has been immaculately restored to it's former elegance, yet sympathetically combined with modern comfort.

  Our room (featured in below photograph) was the premiere queen size room with fireplace and luxurious en-suite bathroom. All the beautiful linen and towels plus the cosy soft robe made it so easy to relax and unwind.
   The decor, ambience, personalized service and mind-set of both Marlene and Anthony McAnulty make your stay a memorable one. They are the perfect hosts.
Marlene is also an incredible cook and the gourmet breakfasts we sampled were exquisite. 
Her scambled eggs are sublime and I don't even like eggs!

The perfect spot to sit for a while...

Oh and did I mention Mr Darcy lives there...?
Mr Darcy has his own apartment and won't bother you...
oh boy could he teach Muffy a thing or two.

(in his younger days...courtesy of  Marlene and Anthony's Website)

(Photograph courtesy of Marlene and Anthony's Website)

I should state here and now that I'm not receiving any remuneration/rewards for posting this information...
I just think when people go to great lengths to ensure such a great service
 then they deserve credit.
If you don't believe me then just read the 250 trip advisor reviews!

Much as we enjoyed our stay there it's time to move on...
Off once more on the road to our next destination...
But taking in all the spectacular scenery and views can build up an appetite...
So coming across a sign for fresh oysters meant there was nothing for it but to take a quick pit stop.

The shop is located on Clevedon-Kawakawa Bay Road 9 km from Clevedon.
It was great to read their information board inside that had photographs and details about the oyster farm.
I really have only recently become a fan and certainly didn't know how they were farmed. 

The oysters have been grown in the clean, clear waters of the Hauraki Gulf for over 21 years. 
They cultivate, harvest and process only the juiciest, ripest oysters from their two farming areas on the Clevedon Coast and Waiheke island.
 They take great pride in being recognized as an international leader in the production of natural oysters and I have to tell you these were the most delicious freshest oysters I've tasted. 
A nice chilled bottle of wine would have gone down very well but with travelling on these roads that's not recommended...(well drinking and driving anywhere for that matter is not recommended)

  So enjoy the ride and hopefully we'll meet again soon..... ;D
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