Last minute sightseeing in Rotorua
As always, the time to move on had crept up on us. This time to the large metropolis of Auckland. We filled our last full day in Rotorua with, what else, but an outing on the beloved bikes. We headed to the town and came across a Sunday market full of interesting and non expensive stalls. There were a lot of hand made crafts which are always a magnet to me and we drifted round soaking up the sights, smells and sounds. Having resisted the street food we headed towards the Government Gardens to flake out on the grass and have our picnic. As we approached we could hear the sound of music and came across a concert going on in the band stand. Lunch stop sorted.
We found a shady spot and spent a good few hours listening to a variety of bands, people watching and generally just laying about. It was well supported and the age range was huge, as was the diversity of music but a few people got up to bust a few moves. Why not?
I cannot leave my “goodbye to Rotorua” section without mentioning a couple of the big bucks tourist attractions. Firstly Hobbiton, this is some the movie set location from the Lord of the Rings films (with a few additions for the tourists) that is about 45 mins from Rotorua. Our hosts had told us that it was the top destination of visitors. I think Jon and I saw the first three films and enjoyed them to a degree but in them the CGI battle scenes were increasing and we didn’t know what was real landscape and fake. Anyway for this reason and the $80 entry (£40 each), we decided not just to go for the sake of it. Perhaps we will regret it but it is more likely that we won’t. However, we did wander into the Hobbiton booking office and you will never believe who we met.
The second “must do” item was to visit a Maori Cultural evening. I had spent quite a lot of time looking into this because we have found a great respect in this area for the Maori history and values. Having said that, it is very difficult to distinguish between the purely tourist locations and the more worthwhile, factual and less commercial experiences. For me, I think what clinched it was seeing some pictures of an “authentic” hangi. This is where food is cooked in a pit fueled by hot stones which have been heated in a geothermal spring. Despite knowing it has to be done on a large scale observing health and safety, it was a shame that everything was wrapped in aluminium foil and there was lamb and chicken. Call me picky or just a stickler for detail but neither foil, lamb or chicken are authentic for the original Maori settlers (who originally came from Hawaii). Again could be our loss but we did stumble across a Maori Marae (meeting hall) and Pa (settlement) on the edge of the lake. There were traditional focal buildings and more modern homes, all of which were interspersed with boiling hot springs. Evidently a few years ago a new hot spring decided to surface in the living room of one of the homes. Instant hot tub but at boiling point very dodgy for the residents.
Barbara, our Rotorua host, had new guests arriving so she needed to get cracking on her turn round of the accommodation but she kindly gave us a lift to the coach station. We had a couple of hours to kill before our coach arrived so we stowed everything in left luggage and treated ourselves to a coffee by the lake and brunch. It was the end of a bank holiday weekend here. The public holiday is called Waitangi Day which is to commemorate the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840 which founded New Zealand and included it, and the Maori, has part of the British Empire. The coach was packed but it was a hassle free four hour trip and when we saw a huge obelisk on a hill so we knew we were approaching the city. After a short local bus trip we arrived at our last Airbnb for NZ and we are not disappointed. We have a self contained apartment under the home of our hosts, Helen and Andy.
After doing the essentials, washing, setting up wifi and shopping. We headed off to explore our local area. We are in a suburb called Epsom and it is very peaceful and relaxing. We are about 20 minutes by bus from the centre of Auckland and we have already seen so much we want to do while we are here. As usual though, we started off local and strangely we are within walking distance of our first sight in the city, the obelisk. It is on the top of One Tree Hill. The tree is long gone and the hill is surrounded by Cornwall Park. Jon figured out the best route and, who would have guessed, we arrived at the one entrance to the park right by a cricket ground! Cornwall Park Cricket Club no less. I found an office that was open and quizzed a couple of guys about fixtures – two games at the weekend was the reply. We’ll be back! (The goal of our walk is in the background of the 2nd photo.)
Onward to the summit. Some people drive up but we were off-roading it with the sheep and cattle. (The park has a working farm.) At one point we went through a gully….(no I am not on my knees)
The views at the top were amazing even though it wasn’t the clearest of skies. We had a 360 view of the city which included the off laying islands, the airport, the two harbours and the Sky Tower. The obelisk was bequeathed as a tribute from Sir John Logan Campbell to the Maori tribe Te Wai ō Hua, the original settlers on the hill. Sir John had arrived in NZ from Scotland in 1840 . He also bequeathed Cornwall Park to the people of Auckland and his tomb is adjacent to the obelisk. (Didn’t know which photo’s to use so you have a few – including Jon’s very arty one.)
The City of Sails name comes from Auckland being centred between two harbours and having more boats per head than anywhere else in the world. It is dotted with 48 volcanic cones plus a bordering rainforest so lots to see. We were slightly worried that Auckland would feel too busy and built up for us after our more rural trip north but we love where we are and are planning a mix of exploring, relaxing and planning JWalking 2. One of us seems to have taken up the relaxing part of this stay already!
7.2 – 11.2.2016