New Zealand 2014

Day 08

March 22

  Since there appears to be nothing open for breakfast, I decide I'll check out the local grocery to see what I can come up with.  
  It's small but pretty well equipped and there's sure not a lot of folks out and about right now.  
  They have some pretty good looking bananas, and I see something called 'leg ham'. So I figure leg ham, cheese, milk and bananas have the makings of a breakfast - and it's not a bad breakfast at all.  
  I quietly get RubyRed loaded up for the day's journey. There's a little liquid sunshine coming down, so I gear up for that. The weather has been wonderful so I'm not complaining today.  
  Soon we are ready to roll and we make our quiet escape from the sleeping hamlet of Coromandel, headed south.  
  This is one of the days that there is a 'prearranged' event booked for us - a Maori village tour - so we have to be mindful of our progress down to Rotorua.  
  We proceed cautiously as the New Zealand roads seem to be really slick when they get wet.  
  We have learned to back way off when there is water on the roads - especially in the twisty bits.  
  We pass a pretty church as the sun peaks out from behind the clouds and I wonder how long that bell tower has beckoned to people to 'Come and See'.  
  We are playing hide and seek with the rain as we are in it one moment ...  
  and out in the clear over the next rise.  
  And again I remind myself that this is not the place to drift wide unless I want to get really wet!  
  One of the things that I am getting used to in New Zealand, is the frequent areas where the roads and bridges are one lanes. It reminds me a lot of the single tracks I rode in Scotland - but without one of the challenges I experienced there.  
  The rain soon settles back in, so we just dial it back a bit and enjoy the views.  
  Soon the sun comes out and the gulls start playing in the pleasant breeze.  
  Before long, we are approaching a village by the name of Thames. It had its big start during the local gold rush of 1867.  
  Soon we pass through the village of Matatoki, proud home of the 'Convenient Cow Cafe And General Store'.  
  But then we are back out in the twisties and are reminded that 'Skilled riders Plan Their Corners'. New Zealand is serious about road safety and you come upon these sort of signs with regularity.  
  It is a constant tension though to keep your eyes on the road and not on the scenery. The perfect reflection in this river is a perfect distraction.  
  Soon I do a double take, as I think we must have made a wrong turn and ended up in Florida.  
  But those dreams are over as we encounter another less than lovely construction zone.  
  Soon we are approaching the village of KatiKati, which I do not even have a clue as to how you would pronounce it.  
  I have to admire the ingenuity of the New Zealanders as they have used native bush and hedge to create natural fences and windbreaks around their properties. This is a particular splendid example of their handiwork.  
  When we stop for our next fuel break, I see a vehicle that attracts my attention. It's just like the old Rancheros we used have in the States but down here they have called them 'Falcons'.  
  Once again we pass a nicely maintained hedge row. It surely makes perfect sense to me - no painting, no boards to rot, perfect privacy - and all it takes is some proper trimming.  
  Too soon we are in another construction zone. Fortunately, the ones we have encountered are at least of short duration.  
  Soon we are running alongside the ocean again and enjoying the lovely views.  
  Since we are making good time, we decide to take a short break at Kohioawa Beach, on the Bay of Plenty.  
  It's a great place to stretch your legs for a bit and enjoy the surf as it rolls in.  
  Alain, who is a much better photographer than me, takes advantage of the stop to get some great ocean shots.  
  At the Tauranga/Rotorua cutoff, we head the 'long' way down to Whakatane instead of directly to Rotorua.  
  It's a choice well rewarded by great roads ...  
  and more lovely scenery.  
  There are lovely views like this one of Ruato Bay that we pass ...  
  and plenty of great twisties so we are not disappointed with our choice.  
  Once we get into Rotorua proper, we make our final gas stop for the day so we'll be ready to head out in the morning.  
  Tonight we are staying at Mokokia Downs Estate, a little bit of rural heaven stashed away near the center of Rotorua.  
  But for all the world, you would think you are a hundred miles away from the hustle and bustle of the tourist center of Rotorua.  
  Mick and Teresa are wonderful hosts that Chico and Pepper, the donkeys, allow to live on the place with them. I think it is pretty generous of the two donkeys to be that kind to humans. But then humans are somewhat useful when it comes to feeding and such things.  
  They were kind enough to host the Canadian and the US flags for us in honor of our arrival.  
  It's a lovely place with lots of beautiful flowers gracing the grounds.  
  But we have to get ready, for Te Waipounamu has arranged a visit for us to a Maori village as part of our tour package. After a bath and bit of freshening up, we both smell a lot better and I am sure the other occupants of the van transporting us are very thankful. Soon we arrive at the Mitai Village front entrance.  
  We get the tour which includes a display of an authentic Maori war canoe.  
  And as part of the package there is a show that demonstrates many of the Maori customs and what a traditional village looks like.  
  They sing native songs of which I do not have a clue as to what they are saying but it's all pretty interesting.  
  Also, included is the meal for the evening, cooked in the Maori tradition, called a 'hangi'. It was traditionally wrapped in leaves but now aluminum foil and wire baskets are used. The food is placed in a pit that is lined with hot stones and covered with moist cloth to keep the heat in. It cooks for three to four hours and then served.  
  And it is mighty tasty - tender, moist and delightful!  
  After the meal, we are guided back to the 'bubbling' springs that provide the water for the village. There are also some glowworms surrounding the springs but the flash from the cameras wash them out of the picture.  
  It's been a good day of riding and an interesting afternoon, but this old hillbilly is ready to check his eyelids for holes. Some how, I never seem to get to finish the process ...