There’s nothing like a climb to the top of a mountain right after breakfast. Especially on a chilly, crisp and very windy morning. Our host at our motel had suggested we not leave the area until we had made it to the top of Mount Paku, a pointy little mountain that overlooks the Tairua area. Since we find it has stopped raining and the sun has broken out, we decide we have enough time to take it in before starting on our day’s drive.
We wind our way up as far as we can in the car and find a parking area next to a marked trail that leads to the top. Donning our extra jackets, we grab cameras and head up the trail. Shortly we arrive at a spot that looks down on the Tairua harbor area. A pretty view but not the top. Rarely ones to dodge a challenge, we start up the trail that leads to the summit. Huffing and puffing, I can only grasp the comfort of knowing that once we’ve arrived our return is all downhill.
Lots of steps and some nasty boulders that were supposed to be like steps and we’ve reached the top just as a gust of wind threatens to knock us over. The view isn’t much better but we have the knowledge that we made it to the top. Challenge accepted and accomplished! As we turn to start down, another couple meets us with a tabby cat in their shadow. This is the cat our host said usually accompanies visitors to the top as the local tour guide. Apparently we were too early for the cat to be up when we started out.
Another dispute with Lady Garmon takes us off in the wrong direction but this time it proves she is right. It adds about a half hour on to our drive for the day by the time we backtrack and go the right direction. Part of the problem comes when we realize Lady Garmon does not tell us to make u-turns. Instead, she has us follow a loop back that often takes us completely out of the direct route. It’s probably safer that way for her. She can’t see the spots where we could pull off and turn around.
Our goal is to make a stop at an information place in the town of Taurangua. We end up needing a rest stop a bit before then. Thankfully we have found lots of public restrooms because McDonalds are few and far between. There is a restroom sign right next to an information place in a town called Katikati. Refreshed and loaded with a few more maps and pamphlets, I decide I really need a little sweet to tide me over to lunch. We walk down the street a bit and find a small bakery that has all sorts of temptations. I choose one that looks like a mini strudel and we walk back to the car munching on our treasure.
This little town looks interesting but we have miles, er kilometers to go before. . .well, you’ve heard that before. Taurangua, our original first stop is about a half hour down the road and we find the information center but it has much the same as we’d found in Katikati. As we take a walk down by the harbor area, I wonder where the cruise ships come in. This is one of the ports I remember from the cruise we took in this area. I realize we are too far inland when I see a bridge that is a permanent structure that stretches across the inlet. The cruise ships must put in closer to the open end by the sea.
A Turkish restaurant offers an interesting menu and we decide to try it out. We split an order of salad on a flat bread with chunks of lamb on top and a vinaigrette dressing drizzled over it. Turkish bread with EVO is a delicious side dish. The lamb is tender and tasty and makes us anxious to get to the South Island where we think we will find more lamb on the menus since there is more lamb raised there.
On to Rotorua. We skip the planned stop at the information center and head straight for our motel since we have more maps than we need and they tend to make Lady Garmon uncomfortable. Our host shows us our room which is very nice with a small kitchenette and nice bathroom. The smell however is a turn off. I don’t say anything at first and wait for Bob to come in with the first suitcase. Meanwhile, I run water in all the sinks and the shower. We had a place in the past that had a sewer smell that came up through the shower and I think that maybe the traps just need some fresh water in them.
About the time Bob comes in, I realize that what I am smelling is not sewers. It is sulfur. After all we are in one of the world’s best spots for thermal activity. When I walk outside the smell is even stronger. Am I up for two nights of this?
We need to do laundry and I found a place online before we left that was around the corner from our motel. The motels so far have offered guest laundries but want $5/load to wash and $5 to dry (that’s $4/each in USD). Unfortunately by the time we are done at the self-serve laundry it totals $12 NZ ($9.60 USD). Ah, but now we are assured of clean underwear for another week.
After we are settled and finished with laundry, we explore a bit and we find pool after pool of thermal activity. Some of them are encircled with decorative stone but there are others that are just out in the open alongside the road. There are lots of places where you can see steam rising from little holes in the ground. The air is ripe. Bob keeps telling me that I’ll get used to it. We shall see.Dinner is in a historic pub called the Pig And Whistle. The building is unique. The pub food fantastic. We leave satisfied and smiling. A good meal makes most anything seem better.