This morning confirmed to me that staying in hotels for this type of trip just does not work for us. The room was cramped and not helped by having the luggage trolley ‘stashed’ in our room overnight to make sure we could use it again this morning without having to make several separate trips up and down in the lift.
Then was the fact we didn’t think it was worth paying £20 each for breakfast and so we made do with what we had in our room. It was our first stop without a microwave to use in our room and so I missed my porridge.
The bed was comfortable enough but I was glad to be out of there. We decided we should at least have a look at New Plymouth itself whilst we were here. It was though not a patch on the Old Plymouth. The centre itself was a typical mid-sized Kiwi town geared up for locals and industry rather than tourists. We decided not to get out of the car and instead drove back a couple of blocks to the sea front. It was fine but no Southwold. The beach was non-existent although it did have a nice coastal walkway which we didn’t feel we had time to try. The only other thing of note was a ‘wind wand’. This was a very tall metal bendy stick with an orb on the top which flexes over in the wind. Typically, today there wasn’t any so it all seemed a bit pointless.
With that we headed to Lake Mangamahoe just outside the town which promised lakeside walks and the best views of Mount Taranaki. This mountain looks rather like Mount Fuji in shape. But like when we visited Mount Fuji in Japan, Mount Taranaki was covered in cloud only offering tantalising glimpses of itself. We squelched along the walkway to the viewpoint and it was ages before we could even work out if we were looking in the right direction for the damn mountain. Then it peeped out revealing one little bit at the top before disappearing again. On top of this on the way back to the car we were seriously hissed at by some wild geese who were blocking our path.
Then we thought we should finally start the predicted 4-hour drive to our next stop for the next 2 nights in Tauranga. The drive was hard with several parts involving going over mountain ranges. The speed limit may have officially been 100kph and that is what the GPS used to calculate the time but in reality, many of the passes had long tight bends where it was difficult to drive safely over 30kph.
Do not get me started on roadworks. I genuinely think that there are some every 5 miles. Not all had traffic lights or stop/go boards, but every flipping one has 30kph temporary speed limits. Now one thing I have noticed this trip is that I have very rarely seen any Kiwi breaking the speed limit whether temporary or not. I know it is the right thing to do but it can be frustrating when it is obvious the roadworks have been completed and they have just forgotten to remove the signs.
The other thing is that Kiwi motorists are all very good at pulling over and letting you pass if they are not doing the speed limit, even caravanners. You can tell if it is a tourist though in a camper van as they refuse to give up their road position for any reason.
One early part of our route had a detour through the town of Waitara and as we passed a café we stopped. It was a mistake. We ordered some drinks but no more as it was very run down had strange people inside and loads of flies everywhere. We should have just turned round and left but were too polite to do so.
Back on the road we drove for another while before having a toilet stop at Mokau. Karen took advantage of the stop to make us both a tuna roll from our food bag to eat before continuing. Then after another hours driving, we came to Te Kuiti. We saw a lovely café and pulled over. This one was not a mistake. It was lovely. We sat outside and have some drinks. Karen had a Date Scone and I had a hot Cheese & Bacon Swirl, both of which were good.
Opposite was a NZ craft and gift shop that sold genuine stuff rather than tourist tit tat and so we wandered round that for a while before hitting the road again (for some reason reminds me of a story from when I first started at NU – there was a lad who had been in the marines and for obvious reasons was called Marine boy. One of the guys I worked with whenever he saw him would say ‘Marines hit the beach’ followed by him then saying in a ‘camp’ voice – ‘Naughty beach Naughty beach’. Nowadays that would be unacceptable in so many ways, yet at the time everyone laughed and even Marine boy would just roll his eyes each time. I could write a book on all the ‘wrong’ things that were said and done in the office environment in the late 70’s/80's. It was of that time, not that that makes it right.)
We drove through some lovely towns on the way including one called Otorhangar that we really regretted not having the time to stop and look around. It called itself the Kiwiana centre of NZ. However, time was pressing on and the journey was already taking over an hour longer than we had anticipated.
We had various Radio stations on whilst driving. They all play a much wider and eclectic variety of music than either at home and certainly more than the USA. Three songs though are cropping up time and time again, 'We didn’t start the Fire' by Fall Out Boy, 'Stumblin in' by Chris Norman & Suzi Quatro (why?) and 'Stick Season' by Noah Kahan, all of which are now this trips songs of the holiday. The other thing about the radio here is that they obviously do not have the same broadcasting standards as the UK either in terms of adverts or editorial content by the presenters. The language can be quite fruity as can be the subject matters. It does make for some funny adverts but I’m not sure many of the presenters would meet the levels required by the BBC.
Our base for the next 2 nights was a lovely apartment in the basement of a house. It was a converted garage and was perfect for us. We had our own small garden overlooking the Bay of Plenty. It had its own laundry facilities and a full kitchen. After the much-needed cuppa we headed out to dinner. We went to a restaurant called Going Local which was full of locals, very friendly with good service. We both had a burger which were acceptable.
After popping into a supermarket which was on the same site we ended up sitting in the garden quaffing one of bottles of Waipara Springs Savvy B. It was still 26c and was bliss. We caught with some messages from home and planned what we are going to do tomorrow.