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2020 - SNZA - Day 15

As a treat this morning we thought we would go into the Hotel Breakfast this morning. It was not cheap and it was pretty busy. It was just about acceptable for the money but only just. We went round twice trying to get our money’s worth. I’m not sure we did.

Back in our room we Skype’d Karen’s Mum. They are both comically poor at speaking to each other on the phone. I started to take the bags out to the car so that I didn’t end up interfering.

After checking out, we first of all got some petrol and then headed back to Eat Street where we had eaten the night before as I had managed to leave my cheap reading glasses there. Sadly although most of the other bars and restaurants were open, the one we ate at wasn’t. Thats another pair I have managed to lose. I seem to get through one pair through loss or breakage every trip although that is the second this trip as I have already broken a pair.

Our final stop before leaving Rotorua was at Countdown to buy some rolls and things for lunch.

We then hit the road heading towards our destination for the night in the town of Waihi. The road was another one with many twist and turns as well as ups and downs. About half way there we decided to have a look at a place called Tauranga. Now I must confess I didn’t know anything about the place in advance. It was a very large town (in fact it is the 5th largest in NZ and England played a test match in November). It seemed to take us ages to get through the suburbs to find the centre. It was also the first place we had been to that was very busy. We were caught in traffic queues trying to get into the Centre. The main drag was actually very nice and fronted the bay. We found a parking spot and I was delighted to find that it was free to park on a Saturday.

The weather was glorious as we walked along the Lake looking for somewhere to grab a coffee. We passed a really good statue of Hairy Maclary and his friends. I must admit I had no idea who the animals were until Karen told me. There were lots of people getting awfully excited about the statue especially children. Anyhow it turns out the author is a Kiwi who lives in Tauranga. It was very good.

Then we found a Starbucks on the corner of a street overlooking the Lake - bliss for Karen.

Walking back to the car we decided to have our picnic lunch on a bench which was conveniently almost next to the car facing the Lake. It was really lovely and we were very happy that we had stumbled upon Tauranga almost by mistake.

We sat there until Karen started to get concerned that she may be burning in the sun. Whilst we sat there a young lad with Down’s tried to squeeze onto the smallest bit of bench next to me. The adults he was with were very apologetic but I just smiled and told him and them not to worry. It interests me that that those with that syndrome have lost their inhibition wiring. It's just a shame that they also seem to trust everyone regardless of they are deserving of that trust.

We decided to explore Tauranga further. Trip Advisor suggested the number one attraction was Mount Maunganui. This is an extinct volcano with trails either around the base or to the top. We headed over a bridge towards it but were not expecting what we found. The village of Mount Maunganui was absolutely heaving with people. It was the most we have ever seen in NZ gathered in one place. It was almost as if they had all congregated in same place at the same time. The Main Street was quite narrow lined with bars and shops. We thought it was a cross between Palm Springs and Lanzarote.

When we got to the bay at the base of the Mount, the beach was stunning. It was wide and full of white sand and people. We wanted to explore and perhaps do one of the trails but every single car parking spot was taken. I did a U turn but still nothing. I circled round for a final time when miraculously one of the best spots was suddenly vacated and I swung into it.

Out of the car we headed to the beach which looked even better once we were on it and then went to the start of the trails. The base trail stated that it would take 1 hour whilst the climb trail stated it was strenuous and took a lot longer. We took the base trail and were so pleased we did. The views were spectacular of the rocks and coastline. The colour of the water as the sun dazzled on it was beautiful. Although you would have seen further distance from the top, it would not have matched the base trail. Some of the trail was in sunshine, and some in the dabbled shade from the trees. This trail alone made the long flights worthwhile.

The sign was right in that it took us a hour to complete and we were almost sad when we finished it. We concluded our visit here with refreshing drinks in The Coffee Club which was opposite where we had parked the car. As a treat I bought Karen a Chia Chocolate Raspberry Cookie. Sadly it was not appreciated as it was too sweet for her.

It was then time to get on the road again towards Waihi.

Before we our first trip to NZ we had debated whether to hire a camper van as we were advised that it was the best way to travel, stay and see the country. In the end we were pleased with our decision not to. Although most people ‘free camp’ the actual cost to hire the camper van is exorbitant. Not only did we stay in some lovely motels we didn’t think the overall cost was that materially different. This time we made the same choice. We had noticed this time that there were very few camper vans on the road at all, in fact they seemed to be conspicuous by their absence. We have also not stayed in any motel that has had any vacancies when we have been there, so maybe people’s taste/choices have changed.

Our motel for the night was pleasant enough and met with Karen’s satisfaction.

For dinner tonight we followed the advise that Chris had given us the night before and headed to the RSA club at Waihi Beach. The RSA seems to be the equivalent of British Legion except anyone can join and they let guests in. We found the building easily enough and nervously went in. It was strange, really really strange. It reminded us of a Pontins holiday camp but all in one enormous room. We were directed to the restaurant but told as non members we were not permitted to buy alcoholic drinks. The restaurant was more like a very large canteen. There was a Cavers on offer and so we ordered that. You helped yourself to the carved meat (ham and beef) and then added whatever else you wanted. The quality was not great. It was made worse by the fact that what we thought was Roast Potatoes were actually Roast Sweet Potatoes. They were foul and did not go at all with the carved meat.

After finishing our meal, we sat and looked at the rest of the clientele. It did seem like we had stumbled into a holiday camp from the 1970’s. Back in the main room, there was now a live band playing rather quietly at one end. People were doing some weird country dance to them. The room also had a bookies and lots of TVs showing the racing from Singapore. There was also a small partition wall with ‘gaming’ machines behind. The place was full. We stood there for a while not quite believing where we were or what we were seeing. It is really difficult to explain how surreal it all was.

We thought we should go and see the beach which is supposedly one of the best in NZ. It was wide and expansive. As it was gone 7.30pm, there were very few people about. We had a lovely walk on the wet sand as the tide retreated. It was littered with thousands of shells, some of which were large and whole. Karen was in her element picking some up. It rounded off another really good and interesting day.

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