Apologies for the delayed posting, we were in a tapas bar having spent a day following the UK election results (alongside road tripping).
Being 13 hours ahead of the UK, the exit poll results were announced at 11am New Zealand time. Back home in the UK, it would be 10pm and I usually roll my eyes, swear and go to bed.
This time… a new experience… actually watching the results come in for the next seven hours. All I can say is, it was a drip feeding of bad news rather than getting it over with in one go when I wake up.
So… back to New Zealand…
Mount Maunganui was where we had spent an evening before returning via State Highway Number 2 to Auckland.
Mount Maunganui is another lava dome, sitting at the end of the peninsula which creates a sheltered harbour beach, which captures the heat, and a more exposed ocean beach where people were surfing.
The harbour beach looks over to the port at Tauranga and we watched shipping tankers being piloted in, giving the beach its name: Pilot Bay.
The Christmas and Summer holidays start with a vengeance on Boxing Day (27th December) and, in the last few weeks, we’ve found that many places we have visited have had an out of season feel.
Many restaurants are closed by 6pm but we did well in Mount Maunganui and managed to find a table in Fish Face, after the manger checked that the kitchen wasn’t closing just yet.
(I love the directness of branding and advertising in New Zealand – we wandered past a pizza restaurant that offered discounts on meals and beer on Tight Arse Tuesdays).
For 28 NZD I had the best seafood chowder I’ve ever had.
Every spoonful brought out large scallops, or prawns, or calamari, or large chunks of fish or mussels and the sauce was thick and tasty.
The apple and rhubarb cider was a little disappointing – more like drinking a blackcurrant drink that providing the sharpness of rhubarb.
And I mentioned tsunamis… New Zealand provides a lot of safety advice. I’d seen this up on the Tongariro Crossing in relation to sudden lava flows and mud slides.
We’ve seen forest fire likelihood warnings. Low is obviously more comforting than moderate though yesterday was a little alarming when the likelihood moved to high.
Mount Maunganui is lined with tsunami advice.
In the event of a tsunami, people need to get up the Mount as soon as possible… our hotel was virtually next to it, and Mr How Fucking Much can move quite quickly.
So he’d be alright.
Setting off along State Highway 2, the following morning, the scenery in New Zealand continues to be stunning.
“Like England on steroids,” says my friend. Mountains, forests, rolling dales… everything greener and bigger.
This route brought us through more towns than previous drives.
Katikati is a mural village, filled with paintings reflecting how life used to be. There are some stunning designs along the main road through the centre of town.
We didn’t stop. We would never have got out in time to return the car to the rental office.
We did stop at Paeroa. We had an historic monument to see.
Paeroa is best known for the soft drink Lemon & Paeroa (L&P) that used to be produced in the town.
(Whittaker do a L&P bar of chocolate which is really good).
The soft drink was made with lemon and carbonated mineral water from Paeroa. Today L&P is owned by Coca-Cola.
Paeroa is also an Antiques Town and we visited a rather terrifying shop.
There were also some beautiful crockery and glassware pieces on sale but they wouldn’t be quite the same talking points as these horrors.
My friends were keen for us to stop at a self service cafe. There are lots of these in small towns all over New Zealand.
They’re similar to the self service restaurants I visited in Russia – banks of perspex counters where you open the doors to pull out the sandwich or cake of your choice.
This is a Lammington, a light sponge covered in thin layer of jam and coconut, sliced down the middle with a big blob of cream tucked in.
It’s really good. More of these will need to be eaten.
Having sated our hunger… it was back on the road to Auckland.