Still coughing but no longer running a fever, it was time to leave Auckland and head to Rotorua.

I had been told by everyone that this was one area that I should really take time to visit.  I was told to be sure to take in the evening show and dinner at the Maori Village, see the geysers and be sure and take the plunge into one of the hot baths. If nothing else, I thought it might cure the lingering effects of my cold!

Once again hopping on a Naked Bus, I arrived early afternoon and checked into my SINGLE room at the YHA Rotorua.  When you get out of the big cities, the hostel prices become a lot more reasonable – which meant I could afford not to share my room with 3-8 others – just had to share the bathroom!

Lunch was in order and I had a great one at the Pig & Whistle.  I wandered around town for a bit before deciding I wasn’t completely ‘up to snuff’ and a nap wouldn’t be a bad idea before heading to Maori Village for their tour, HAKA dance, and dinner.

It was enjoyable if pricey and quite ‘touristy.’  The best show I have ever seen in all my travels was the multi-island presentation on Oahu, Hawaii at the Polynesian Cultural Center.  This was a very small version of that one.

The next day I had signed up for a full-day tour with Real Rotorua Tours.  Wow!  I cannot tell you just how great this day was!  First, I was the only tour member – for the entire day.  And instead of canceling the tour,  I had the owner/tour guide all day all to myself.

Rotorua in located in a volcanic caldera 16-miles wide.  In the morning we tramped through massive redwood tree and fern forests;  saw streams that were colored the colors of the rainbow at Hamurana Springs; visited Okere Falls and watched the white water rafters tumbling over the Falls; stood between the Blue & Green Lakes which are side-by-side and one is blue – the other green; I was even served homemade hot chocolate and biscuits during our lakeside break.

After lunch it was time to soak our feet in Kerosene (very hot) Creek; watch the mud bubbling at the Waiolapu mud pool, and see where a thermal pool began as it fed down to out last stop – the thermal hot springs.  A bathing suit was a requirement of the trip!

It was a fabulous day – so educational and different and fun.  If you are even in Rotorua, then you MUST sign up for a Real Rotorua Tour!

I ended the evening with a return visit to the Pig & Whistle for dinner and then very early to bed as I had to catch my bus to Tauranga at 5:10A.M!

I had signed up to housesit for Boston, an adorable labradoodle, while moms Helen and Bron went off camping, hiking and biking around the Coromandel.
I had a great view of the local landmark – The Mount – from the deck.  Boston and I bonded and took leisurely walks around the neighborhood and when the Moms returned, we had a great brunch on the shore and watched a surf/lifesaving competition before it was time for my final bus ride that would return me to Auckland for my last 2 days in New Zealand!

I’m always asked what it is about traveling that keeps me on the road.  Other than my natural sense of wanderlust (not being able to sit still in one place for a long length of time!) it’s learning the history of the countries I visit, the cultural differences – and similarities – we ALL share, and most importantly, it’s the people I meet along my journey.

One afternoon, while I was just wandering through the upper floor of the TePapa Museum in Wellington, I met two sisters with their 90-year-old mother discussing a display of bobbin lace.  Since I had become a great fan of this extremely difficult craft while living in Brussels, I eased dropped on their conversation with the docent and eventually joined in. It turned out they were from Auckland and when I said I had yet to really see Auckland (ah-choo!) they said one of the things I must do was take a Red Boat River Cruise and have lunch at the historic Riverhead Tavern – which just by chance, the youngest sister and her husband owned!

I thought this sounded like a great way to spend a day.  The sisters and I had even emailed and found a date to meet at the Tavern for lunch.  And then I caught ‘the cold!’  But here I was, back in Auckland with 2 free days and the first thing I did was call the sisters and rebook my river cruise.

The weather was perfect – the sun shone, there was a light breeze and the waters were tranquil and it was so relaxing to cruise for an hour and a half (right past Tom Cruise’s massive ocean-going yacht with a helicopter on top! – he was in town filming) to the Tavern, enjoy a delicious lunch of fish ‘n chips and a good glass of New Zealand white wine while visiting with the sisters.

I took the train into the city center and had to catch a cab to the wharf where I got the Red Boat.  I had to share the shot of Auckland’s main train station.  So bright & clean.

Tom’s helicopter
Cruising under the Harbor bridge with the city skyline in the background

            The Riverhead Traven

I cannot believe 9 months have passed since I arrived in New Zealand.  The Kiwi’s are some the nicest, most warm and welcoming people I’ve ever had the privilege to meet.  I leave with the great honor of having made life-long friendships – and have even been invited to come back real soon!

My airport shuttle arrived in the pouring rain at 4:00 A.M., the start of what would be a massive storm that created havoc, flooding and lots of damage to roads all over the North Island.  I was lucky and my flight to Brisbane and then onto Bali departed on time – but it was with a sad heart that I was leaving what had been a wonderful ‘home’ for so many months.

The Auckland Sky Tower

Farewell New Zealand……until next time

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