Did you know that, when you draw money from an ATM and you, for some reason, decide to NOT take the money and just walk away, there is a very good chance that the machine will take the money back and just keep it for you (should you later decided that you did, in fact, want the money…)? Well, ask my husband. It is true. Phew. Jetlag is nobody’s friend…
After a 9 hour flight to Doha and another 16.5-hour flight to Auckland (!!!), we were pretty much fried. Luckily we were booked to spend the day and night at an airport hotel because my hubby is clever like that. Really.
Knowing that the quickest way to get into a new time zone is to stay awake as much as possible when the sun shines and to sleep when the locals sleep, we decided to explore the Auckland CBD waterfront on Quay Street. We had some ice cream as we watched the ferries come and go before Nico found us some e-scooters which was equally entertaining to African parents as to the kids! Luckily the laidback New Zealanders didn’t feel the need to reprimand us for our helmetless heads.
We found out that driving between towns in New Zealand takes a lot of time. No, really. For everyone. For starters, the speed limit is rarely above 110 but mostly 90 km/h, and the roads are very windy and bendy. So even if you did decide to just push your luck and rev up on speed, the infrastructure wouldn’t allow it. So the 230 km trip down to Rotorua in our rented SUV took us over 3 hours to drive.
Once in Rotorua, we were delighted to check-in early at Sage Cottage, our farm accommodation in Hamurana on the northern shores of Lake Rotorua. We couldn’t have been happier to meet Corinne and her family and stay in this special spot. What was initially chosen to be as far as possible away from the sulfur whiffs from downtown turned out to be an amazingly tranquil and scenic spot, with the bonus of the most lovely hosts we could ask for.
Still with the intention to get over our jet lag (Nico had to drag me out by the hair from my nap), we decided to follow host Corinne’s tip-off and explore Okere falls and surrounds, a mere few minutes’ drive from our new home.
And what a fund! We were surprised by the natural beauty of the place and how it was enjoyed, still very much original natural state, freely accessible and enjoyable for locals and guests alike. We were also kind of perplexed but delighted in the absence of excessive safety precautions and signs like the kind you would find in some other, similarly developed countries we have visited. As Africans, we felt right at home!
Although midweek, it was also New Zealand’s national day, Waitangi Day, and the place was abuzz with locals.
On Saturday 8 February I ran the Tarawera Ultra Marathon 50K. Nico and the boys made super sure that I felt supported, while they also enjoyed the beautiful scenery around Rotorua.
We spent another week in Rotorua, which proved grossly insufficient for everything there is to do in and around town for families. Some of the highlights included:
Rainbow Springs Nature Park and Kiwi Hatchery
With a very straight-legged, slow-moving mom, the four of us visited the Rainbow Springs Nature Park the day after the race. It was our first walk in with real-life kiwi’s (the birds)! I don’t think we knew that they were nocturnal, though, but enjoyed seeing the little furry balls scurrying about on stickily legs in their dimmed burrow.
The Taonga – Treasures of New Zealand presentation on the rich history behind the Maori artifacts and how they interacted with and conserved their natural world, was a real hit. Especially for Mother – she could sit. And for brothers – they could try out the weaponry.
Yes, you read that right! As I was scouring a local travel magazine for things to do with kids around Rotorua, Mr. Z’s eye caught the phrase: “Dress like a real Roman”, and that was it! With a range of models, ancient artifacts, and hands-on activities in four different galleries, our boys were really fascinated with the way of life and (warfare!) of the ancient peoples. And with dressing up, of course!
One of our delights is that they have the ability to unabashedly assume character by donning attire and weaponry of whichever forces are the flavour of the day. Be it modern- or WWII military, Romans or Greek, they ‘become it’ within milliseconds.
To be continued.