Another Pilgrimage

The beautiful Fitzgerald Glade on the road to Rotorua

It’s now Thursday March 2nd, 2023. Kia ora!

We set on from Wellington at midday on Saturday February 25.  I was determined to wear summer clothes and sandals, although it was decidedly cool.

We had decided to stop at the Woolshed Café for lunch. It’s just before you get to Sanson.  It was raining when we arrived there; it had been raining on and off since we left Wellington.

The café carpark was very busy. In fact the café was very busy. The old house from St Mark’s School in Wellington where my sons used to have choir practice has been completely revamped since we were last there.

I had scrambled eggs and JD had French toast. We shared a delicious date and apple cake – Lumberjack Cake, perhaps? It was very moist and very moreish.

Afterwards we set off for Turangi. It rained off and on most of the way there, although thankfully there wasn’t much traffic. Amazingly, there is still a railway crossing just before you get to Mangaweka! This is State Highway 1! Tourists must be amazed.

At Waiouru we stopped for a break at the Army Museum, but as it was due to close at 4:30 pm, and it was now after 4, we just looked at the shop – a new addition since we were last here. We don’t drive on this road very often now.

We drove across the Desert Road. There wasn’t much traffic, and it wasn’t raining, but the mountains were shrouded in cloud. Then we were through, and at Turangi, where we were to spend a night at the Turangi Bridge Motel, chosen partly because at $160 per night it was about half the price of staying on Taupo, and, furthermore, it had a restaurant.

Some friends from Hohepa had a motel in Taupo where we’ve stayed a couple of times; JD had tried to contact them, and he rang the motel, but evidently they have sold the motel and moved back to Napier. We did not know that.

Turangi Bridge Motel was fine, although it was quite basic. True to form, the chef wanted to finish early, but at least there was a chef; the prices have gone up, but the service is somewhat wanting.

There was no mini-bar at the motel. I was really thirsty, but the lovely Maori woman who had checked us in at Reception was also doubling as waitress and drinks manager, and she forgot our drinks order until we reminded her. We weren’t offered any water, but I’m really suspicious of local water, in any case.

JD had ordered bread and dips to start with. It came with a very nice salad. He’d ordered a chicken burger, which, unusually he ate most of; I had ordered the fish special, which was pan fried orange roughy with potatoes, vegetables and a creamy garlic sauce. Unfortunately it came smothered in masses of sauce; it was hard to find the vegetables. I remembered, too late, that I don’t really like fish.

We went back to our room and watched the last half of Call the Midwife! I’d forgotten it was on Television One on a Saturday night.

Early the next morning there were several very heavy showers of rain.  I was a bit jittery about this, but it later turned into a beautiful fine day.

We drove to Taupo, but as Lake Terrace was closed to traffic we cut across and drove to Taupo Cemetery, where both JD’s parents are buried. We found their graves, and it seems as though someone’s been looking after the headstones, they were both in very good condition. JD took a photo and loaded it on the family chat page. There was the sound of gunfire in the background, which seemed somewhat appropriate, since JD’s Dad was in the British Army after finishing at boarding school in England. His finishing there coincided with the start of World War II.

Then we drove through Taupo and stopped the car, looking in vain for a convenience store where we could get a copy of the Sunday Star Times. Eventually we walked past a waffle café to Whitcoulls, and got the last copy of the paper! We also bought a jigsaw puzzle with Monet’s bridge over the lily pond at Giverny to give to our hostess in Tauranga.

Then we headed back to the waffle cafe (it advertised authentic Belgian waffles) for lunch. It was almost midday by now.

We managed to order wisely at the cafe. It was quite roomy, and we got a table inside.  We ordered cheese rolls (3 for $5!), waffles with fresh fruit cream and raspberries to share, ginger beer to share and two long black coffees. It was all pretty good, and the right amount of food to share.

Then we headed off north.  There was debate over where to turn off, whether just past Putaruru or before Tirau. As it turned out, there were good signs everywhere and I was able to follow our progress on Google maps. There were a couple of death-defying intersections, but we navigated them and drove over the Kaimai Ranges to Tauranga.

We got to Tauranga, but it’s quite a big city and we needed to get to Papamoa Beach. I entered our destination address into my phone, and amazingly, Google Maps did its thing and delivered us safely to our destination. I think we would have had great trouble finding it on our own.  We were earlier than expected, so we were able to find our way (with Google Maps’ help), to the nearest Pak N’Save store and buy some flowers, some bananas, and some tonic water. 

At our host’s house, we had a separate wing of his lovely house, with a bedroom and bathroom separate from the rest of the house. Everywhere we stayed had an electric power point right beside the bed, so we could charge our phones.

The funeral was to be on the Monday. It rained heavily, and it was only 19C, not 24C as forecast; never mind, it was good not to be too hot, and I had brought non-suede shoes.  Notice of JD’s aunt’s death had not been put in the newspapers, so some were unaware of it, perhaps.  Suffice to say it was good to be there, and to reminisce about the lady some called the Duchess.

The funeral was a Christian one, led by a celebrant. There were no readings or hymns, although there were some recordings: Morning Has Broken, Amazing Grace, and Time to say Goodbye, performed by Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman. We watched a photo display, and it was hard not to tear-up during this, and the evocative music. Afterwards we had very nice refreshments, and glasses of bubbly.

The next day we were to meet some old friends for coffee.  I checked on Google Maps, and the journey to meet them in Brookfield would take 25 minutes!  By now I had figured out how to get Google Maps give us oral directions, and again we were thankful for this. The traffic in Tauranga is weird!  It looks kind-of unfinished, but we found our friends, and shared coffee and delicious date scones at a very nice café.

After this we set off for Taupo. This time we took a different route, travelling via Rotorua rather than Putaruru.  We drove through volcanic country, all almost familiar, from years ago. Everything has changed at the Hamurana end, but we made our way into Rotorua.  We hadn’t had lunch, so JD chose to stop at the Pullman Hotel. This turned out to be a good choice. We had more coffee, and I had chicken satay with a salad and JD had fish and chips. They had very nice, very clean restrooms.

Afterwards we made our way to Taupo, a detour forcing us to drive through Reporoa – which, amazingly, we hadn’t driven though before.

We got to Taupo, and found Suncourt.  We checked in; our room was upstairs, but we were given a “Happy Hour” drinks voucher, and advised to make a booking at the restaurant, since they had a function that evening.  We duly came down to the restaurant for dinner, and ordered a house pinot gris and a house chardonnay from the Happy Hour menu. The chardonnay wasn’t great, but the pinot gris was quite drinkable. We ordered a smoked salmon starter to share, and a pizza to share. Our meals took ages to come, and we were offered more free drinks. I ordered an aperol spritz – it was very nice. The food was very good indeed. We decided not to have dessert, and went back to our room. There was a very limited range of television channels, meaning we couldn’t watch the Sky Premiere movie that I’d hoped to watch. We weren’t aware of the earthquake at this time, probably because we were moving outside anyway from the Restaurant to our bedroom.

The bed was quite comfortable, although it was disappointing not to be able to see the mountains because of the cloud; the set up was a bit inconvenient, as the luggage rack and small wardrobe were between the tiny kitchen, the entrance way, and the bedroom. The heated towel rail did not work, and although there was a bath, it wasn’t a spa bath. When I used it the bath somehow got lots of water on the floor, although I swear I didn’t cause this. It was so cold in the morning that JD turned on the heat pump. There was condensation on the doors to our balcony, although it was much less cloudy in the morning so we could see more of the mountains.

We didn’t have breakfast there. Instead we went to Victoria Kitchen and Café, where we’d met some friends two years ago. I chose toast and spreads with a long black coffee and a glass of orange juice. When the toast came, it was slightly over done, but I found it delicious.  JD had carrot cake, having breakfasted at the motel. Then I got a newspaper at the nearby service station, and we set off to drive back to Wellington.

Alas, although it was fine, there was lots more traffic, and many big trucks. Furthermore, they were resealing SH1, so there were many stops, many queues, and many places where we had to drive slowly, and endure small stones hitting the windscreen. We stopped at the Army Museum in Waiouru to get presents for our grandchildren, but did not dine there. We drove on through the beautiful Rangitikei district to stop at the Flat Hills Café. How this has changed! They apologised for being understaffed (like everywhere else), but were very welcoming. I had mushrooms on toast and JD had a hamburger. We sat outside in the sunshine. The food was very good. Afterwards, I used the restroom (pretty basic), and we set off again. There was a huge queue stopped, waiting to drive south. A kind person let us into the queue, and we slowly made our way back to Wellington. JD wanted to stop in Levin, but there seemed to be nowhere suitable. We were so pleased to get on the new expressway sometime after Ohau and before Otaki. After that it was plain sailing.

This morning I went to singing. There was a big turnout there and it was lovely. We worked at My Girl again, and sang Six Ribbons – a beautiful song.

Overseas, it seems that Rupert Murdoch has admitted that Fox News channel knowingly spread misinformation about the presidential election held in late 2020, which Biden won, but over which Trump and his followers continue to spread misinformation. This continues to cause many problems, as far from being disgraced, some purveyors of misinformation have now been elected to the US Congress.

That’s it for now. Slava Ukraini! Ngā mihi nui.

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