Week 2 and we’re off to the town of Tauranga, a town a few hours South of Auckland city centre. The town is situated in an area called ‘The Bay of Plenty’
We’ve been given an offer that we couldn’t refuse – the option to housesit for a (wait for it) family friend’s, cousin’s, daughter (!) while she was away with work in Sydney.
Homeless, jobless people can’t really afford to turn down the offer of free accomodation in a new city, and we also had some very touristy things which we planned to do in the surrounding areas (I will come onto that in a bit).
In order to travel around for the majority of the stay in NZ, we found a cracking deal on NakedBus who do a ‘passport’ of 15 trips for $250 NZ dollars (around £125). Now considering their busses run the entire stretch of the country, from Invercargill (at the bottom of the south island) all the way to to 90 mile beach (at the top of the north) – spanning 3000 km in total and the choice of around 100 towns/cities to arrive in, this sounded like an absolute bargain!
After arriving from our first coach trip we get picked up by Bas and Corn who take us for a quick drive around town and show us the sights followed by going back to their place for a cup of tea and some much needed info about the area and things to do.
They are so nice and welcoming, they have even sorted out a car for us to borrow while we are in town. Bas is an artist and after tea he takes me around the house to look through some of his paintings – I’m not much of an artist but they look brilliant to me, and it was just the tip of the iceberg…..downstairs, the basement is a fully converted studio containing hundreds of canvasses in various stages of completion….some of which are wrapped up for return of delivery from various art galleries…..“This one’s just back from New York”, Bas tells me, “No, wait….it’s not…that one over there…that’s just back from New York”
For the rest of the day we get ourselves settled and then have a drive around the town, taking a trip up to the beach front next to mount Maunganui (Which is poetically translated to mean ‘Large Mountain’).
We also took a walk around the oldest european heritage site in the Bay of Plenty – The Elms, an historic missionary house followed by the free (it’s important now!) art gallery in town.
And after bedding ourselvees in for a day or 2, we had some serious tourist things to do! Item 1 – a visit to Hobbiton (Lord of the rings set).
To get to the set, you get picked up from the nearest town (Matamata). I’m not sure what went on in this town before the films were produced, but you can see the affect the film has had on tourism since…..
(So guys, any idea how we can link the film to our Sushi restaurant?……..Hobbit Sushi?……Seriously?….Is that the best we’ve got?)
Another day trip out was to the town of Roturua. This town is known for Maori culture and history….and also the natural hot springs which make the entire town smell of egg from the sulphur in the air (it’s not that bad – you don’t notice the smell after 10 minutes). We took a trip around the museum, followed by a trip up the hill to do some lugeing.
On a side note, if anyone has seen the NZ film ‘Once were Warriors’, the actor Temuera Morrison (who plays the terrifying, ‘Jake the Muss’) was born and still resides in Rotorua. He also seems to help out with local tourism as he featured in the short (and quite cheesy) museum history video.
The final night in town, and Bas and Corn invited us back to their house for a BBQ were we were well and truly stuffed with good food, wine and company. Thanks for all your help, Dabb family for the 2nd week of the journey!