Chapter 5 - Coromandel to Longlands Farm & Rotorua

14 Feb 2013

It was a shame to leave Puka Park Resort which was such a beautiful place but leave we had to and headed south via Paeroa, home to New Zealand's home-grown soft drink Lemon & Paeroa (L&P). We had never heard of it but apparently it is 'huge' in NZ and everywhere was plastered in signs advertising it. We arrived at 11.00 am at Longlands Homestead, a working dairy farm in Matamata. We were given a short tour of the farm and had a talk about the whole process of milking and herd management, which was actually very interesting, before enjoying a delicious home-cooked roast lamb lunch in the dining room . Afterwards we walked round for an hour and enjoyed the lovely gardens, the weather was glorious and hot. A huge Monarch butterfly was fluttering around in the conservatory giving us some great photos - a special treat.

After a couple of hours enjoying the ambience at Longlands we had to leave and head for Rotorua, a place renowned for its Maori culture and geothermal activity, arriving there an hour or so later. Paul took us to the newly expanded Rotorua Museum where we enjoyed a short film showing the history of the area and the volcanic activity. During the film our seats suddenly started moving extremely violently as though we were experiencing an earthquake, it made us jump - very realistic! We had our 'Group Photo' taken in the grounds of the Museum with the magnificent Museum building as our background. Paul then drove us to our hotel which had a good view of Lake Rotorua and that evening Mike & I went into the town for a light supper in a very nice Italian restaurant ('Nuvolari's') before chatting to a few of the group back in the hotel.

Back Row L-R:   Melvyn, Carol, Brian, Fred, Ray, Lynda, Greg, Alan, Peter, Ruth, Malcolm, Michael, Roger, Paul, Lance, Christopher, Mike, Graham, Jan, Keith, Maxine
Front Row L-R:    Trish, Jane, Linda, Marilyn, Ree, Joy, Kathryn, Pam, Lesley, Claire, Gill, Mary

15 Feb 2013

As we were about to leave our room to go to breakfast I noticed a red envelope by the bedside which turned out to be a Valentine's card from Mike. Apparently he had placed it by the bedside in our previous hotel and I had not noticed it. When we left that hotel he repacked the card and so tried again! Aah! Typical me, blind as a bat! We went down to the hotel restaurant to find a scene of total chaos! Apparently a whole tour group of Koreans had arrived for breakfast, without having actually booked, at the same time that our group arrived. The Koreans, who simply do not understand the art of queuing, were barging and pushing in front of everyone and generally being pretty objectionable. Maxine, our tour leader, had already complained to the manager on duty and by the time we arrived the CEO and the Manager were doing hands on work in the dining room helping the restaurant staff to clear and clean the tables. At one stage I just pressed myself to the wall to avoid being trampled upon. It was quite an experience! All of a sudden the Koreans departed en masse leaving behind in the dining room a scene of devastation. Their tables were an absolute mess with food everywhere, including some they had spat out on the tables. We had never seen anything like it. There was no time for me to even have a cup of tea after breakfast as we had to leave at 9.00 am on the coach taking us to the thermal reserve of Te Puia.

At Te Puia we met our guide for the morning, Cinnamon, a dynamic and energetic young Maori lady aged about thirty, who showed us around the wood carving school, demonstrated how to strip the flax leaves used in the weaving of traditional Maori clothing and took us into and around the amazing thermal area.

We saw a large bubbling mud pot (pool) spitting out blobs of mud which resembled jumping frogs, and then watched a large geyser which shot boiling water and steam high into the air for forty-five minutes each hour. The air was thick with sulphurous fumes and breathing was best done away from the area! It was very hot and sunny and so hats were a must.

The coach picked us up at lunchtime and returned us to the Novotel in Rotorua. I set to to do our washing(!) whilst Mike walked into town for a fish 'n' chip lunch and a pint. Michael, Joy and I joined Mike later for a drink at the same pub ('The Pig & Whistle' - the old Police Station...) before it was time to leave for our evening's entertainment.

We joined an organised tour which took us to a Cultural Show and 'Hangi' at Tamaki Village where we were treated to an excellent evening. Initially we gathered at the village entrance for the traditional ceremony of welcome, Maori warriors greeting us with a challenge (the 'Haka'). We had chosen someone from our group to represent us as our 'Chief'. Our 'Chief' (Greg) then joined three other chiefs, one from each tour groups present, these four then faced the 'Haka' before one of the chiefs laid on the ground a silver fern which was accepted by the Maori as a gift of peace. The chiefs were then invited into the village with the rest of us following. At the end of the cultural show we all sat down to a fabulous feast which had been cooked in a sealed pit of hot stones called a 'hangi' - chicken and lamb, with vegetables and potatoes and also a steamed pudding - all cooked in individual baskets in the same pit without any of the flavours mixing. It was absolutely delicious! The show and meal lasted for about three hours and, as we left, we saw another group in an adjoining dining room awaiting their meal - apparently the Maori put on three of these cultural shows and meals every day! They live and work in the village and try to portray their cultural roots as accurately as they can. We were all very tired after the coach dropped us back at the hotel and went to bed quite early.

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