Archive for September, 2010

Tamaki Maori Village


We discovered yesterday morning that the local Wharakei Village Maori cultural night we’d been booked into (performance and hangi) was cancelled – insufficient numbers.

After exploring various options, we decided to make a booking for an acclaimed one just south of Rotorua (Rotorua is a bout an hour north of Taupo).   So we ended up at Tamaki Maori Village.

We got there early, and being the only visitors present, spent some time reading while we waited.  6.29 – still no-one.  Is there no market these days for Maori cultural shows and the like?

How wrong we were! By about 6.31 four bus-loads had rolled up, and for the next 2 ½ hours about 160 people were treated to this wonderful authentic Maori cultural experience – all set in a New Zealand pine forest.  There was ceremonial ritual, costumes, craft, dancing, singing, the haka, storytelling; and to cap things off – a three course meal, with most of the foods cooked via a true-blue (sorry, wrong country) hangi.  The most delicious meal including chicken, lamb, sweet potato, yams, plum pudding (cooked underground) and more.

Dale and I could not have asked for a better time.  Wasn’t cheap, but should you be in Rotorua in times to come, check this one out.  No wonder it’s won so many awards.

Seeing a Maori cultural performance was high on my wish list for these two weeks.  In reflection, it was more than a peformance, it was an experience that invited us in.  Kia ora.



PS.  Home tomorrow, leaving Taupo around 7 am here, heading to Auckland Airport via a “crafty” town, arriving back in Brisbane town 4.40pm; that is, if I don’t find some free wifi at the airport and blog about our trip one final time!

Ruapehu Day

Mt Ruapehu - the summit


Mt Ruapehu is part of the World Heritage listed Tongariro National Park.  It’s also: an active volcano, the tallest mountain in Nth Island NZ (2797m) AND where we visited today.

It was the best day of our trip so far.  At last a really sunny day without wind.  So much so that the snowy/cold weather jackets we brought over for times like this weren’t needed.  As the photos show, we made it right up to ski-lift/ski field territory.  We did so by car.  Amazing number of vehicles.  Glorious views of the summit of Ruapehu, neighbouring

Lake Taupo

mountains and the plains below.  Stunning views. By the way, I was reminded that I don’t “do chairlifts’.

Lake Taupo looked its best so far too.  It’s such a magnificent lake and just another example of the incredible volcanic activity in past times around here and beyond.

For afternoon tea, having left the snow just behind us we had a High Tea at the iconic Chateau Tongariro – almost like something from Banff transported here.

We both commented that today will be a day we remember for many years.


Taupo 1

Lake Taupo


It’s Monday morning about 10.40 (Daylight saving began yesterday over here).  We had a good 4 hour drive down from Auckland.  Some beautiful farming country along the way, though the wind and drizzle still persisted.  We were intrigued, especially the closer we got to our destination, with the signs everywhere of volcanic activity in times past.   Little hillocks springing up all over the place.

Got into Taupo around 2.30 pm. Our accommodation is literally across the road from Lake Taupo – the largest freshwater lake in Australia.  An impressive sight indeed.

Yesterday was  a really good day.  Despite setting the alarm to watch a replay (didn’t know the score) of the Dragons/Tigers NRL preliminary final in the wee dark hours of the morning – only to find it wasn’t on — we set off around 8 am for a decent walk along the lake foreshore, stopping on the way back for a hot coffee from a coffee van, doing a brisk Sunday morning trade.  The walk did us good.

Huka Falls

We decided to head on to Huka Falls – apparently NZ’s most popular natural tourist attraction.  Not hard to see why.  The water from the falls plummets in astonishing fashion into the Waikato River.  An amazing amount of water rushing by each minute.   No wonder there’s all sorts of jetboat, chopper and other tourist activity nearby.  A sight to see indeed!

Seeing we were on a bit of a roll by now, and keen to get in some thermal activity (ie other than hot showers) we drove to the

nearby Craters of the Moon (it’s Maori name is something like ‘Kapati’).  For a generously cheap admission, it offered an hour-long circuit through this active thermal area – plenty of smoke coming up out of nowhere, the occasional bubbling hot mud pool and plenty of sulphur

Craters of the Moon

smell in the air.  Of course, no excursion for us would be complete without a coffee afterwards.

Come afternoon, we basically took it easy for the rest of the day – sleeps, reading (I’m onto the last of Stieg Larsson’s Millenium trilogy), TV and another game of Monopoly – of which Dale is the master!

And yes – I tried yet again waking up to  a replay of that NRL game – and yes, it was actually on!  Dragons v Roosters for the Grand Final.  As for the AFL, what a joke having to replay the whole thing.  I feel for the punters who forked out big biccies for what turned out a draw.  Oh well – the “glory” (some usde other descripors) of sport.

Today?  Maybe a drive into the mountains (Tongariro National Park?), a movie, who knows?!?



Auckland – Part 2

Well, it’s 8 pm and we’ve had what seems a full day.

I’m hoping to stay up for the 1st NRL preliminary final between the Titans and Roosters.

Dale by Auckland harbour

Yep – once again Denny’s has been our meal base (bar one meal, and I’ll come to that).  We started our adventures by walking downtown to the harbour.  We were last down there 27 years ago while we had a 6 hour layover in Auckland en route to the USA.  Seems SO long ago now.  Checked out iPads (maybe 2011 if ever) before checking out harbour cruise/ferry arrangements.  Weather and whatever-else permitting, we may take the short 12 minute ferry across the harbour to Devenport, which apparently has lots of nice cafes and shops.  Maybe.

Fast forward to 11.30 and having made the booking yesterday, we headed up Auckland’s Sky Tower. At 328 metres, it is the tallest man-made structure in

Sky Tower by night

New Zealand and offers breathtaking views for up to 80 kilometres in every direction.

Sky Jumper

Sure felt like it. We made it up to about 190 metres, got out onto an observation deck, and I immediately felt rather awful.  I must have looked it too. A kind attendant had got me a chair to sit on within, I kid you not, about 15 seconds.  I needed it. It’s a long way up, BUT, BUT the view was absolutely tremendous.  Superb actually.  If you’re ever in Auckland do it.   Some bungee jumpers were doing the Sky Tower Jump every 6 minutes or so.  Silly people!!!   I did manage a walk around the circumference of this deck, never far away from the inner wall of this deck!

Still feeling somewhat queasy, we headed up two floors to the pre-booked buffet lunch.  Need to say it was a wonderful meal with great service.  It’s surprised us how cosmopolitan and multicultural Auckland is – the staff at Sky Tower well-presented this.  Anyhow, I managed to eat my lunch without throwing up (or even getting close).  I was proud of myself.   While lunching, two groups of people did the Tower Sky Walk.  Crazy, crazy!!    To be fair, I hand it to them, wuss that I am with heights!!!!

Auckland Museum

We head back to Rydges – virtually next door.  By then Dale is starting to feel a bit off, so I head off in our hire car to the Auckland War Memorial Museum.  Well, well worth it.  It was billed as having the best and most extensive display of Polynesian/Maori exhibits anywhere – the billing is spot-on.  Fascinating stuff reading about the history, culture etc of the various Polynesian and Melanesian peoples – and seeing the connections.

Took me forever to get back from the museum, though.  I misunderstood a GPS instruction, so lucky me sees some inner Auckland suburbia and Auckland Grammar School and the University of Auckland Campus.  Bargain.  Well?

Dinner at you guessed where and back now in our room #409.  409?  Wasn’t that the title of an early Beach Boys song.

Anyhow, tomorrow morning we’re off to Taupo right across the road from the huge Lake Taupo and what we know will be MUCH colder weather, but also the lure of thermal activity, swimming in a heated pool (while it’s freezing outside) and possibly a drive to Mt Ruapehu – technically an active volcano..

Just need the Titans to win, to cap off a really good day.



Auckland – Day 1

Well, we made it to Auckland.

Having driven most of the way to the Bay of Islands in windy, wet dark, it was a change to drive the reverse direction in windy – but without wet (mostly) and in daylight. Some lovely countryside, but boy – was it windy.  Felt like I needed to grip that Corolla steering wheel really tight for close on 4 hours!

Auckland skyline from Northern Motorway

Made it to Rydges Harbour View (great deal – $80 AUD/night when we booked back in March) and basically did very little the rest of the day, except browse the main shopping district.  Felt like I was back home, with Auckland’s main shopping street named Queen St.  Auckland is by far NZ’s biggest city.  At abut 1.3 million, it rivals Brisbane in size & population.

I realize those of you who dislike the Americanization of the planet, but we have been really pleased by having a “Denny’s” family restaurant little just around the corner.  Great prices, great meals, relaxing atmosphere, good service, bottomless coffee – you name it.  We have been there for all our meals so far – it’s been THAT cost-effective.

We’re about to head down to the harbour – Auckland (a bit like Sydney) is wrapped around waterways (but perhaps even moreseo here), before having a buffet lunch at Auckland’s Skytower, purportedly the highest building/structure – or so the hype has it – in the southern hemisphere.  If the weather holds out, we’ll have some great views.  Then we’ll drive to the Auckland Museum and check out all things Polynesian/Maori.

yes – the in-room TV has the Titans v Roosters NRL game live (9.30 NZ time) so that will be a nice holiday treat.  I guess if I can’t have the Broncos playing, the Titans are the next best thing!

For now – off to the harbour. Cheers.


BTW – I chipped a tooth two days ago – relying on Nurofen/whatever until my friendly dentist back in Brisbane is visited in about 10 days time. Typical me@

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