Highway to Hell(’s Gate)

 As Lisa still hadn’t decided to let loose her clutches on little Megan, we decided to hire a car and set off southwards. At some point shortly we expect a phone call r text to say she’s gone into labour. Most likely when it’s far too late for us to head back up and do anything about it until the little ‘un’s about 2 weeks old.

Thanks to Indy for letting us dump about 3/4 of our luggage at the house while we’re travelling. I haven’t told him yet, but the intention is to leave him with most of it when I vanish back to Hanoi as well. Shh. Don’t tell.

The car we hired was… budget. That is, it’s a rusty bucket with a noisy engine and damage to some of the door seals. Oh, and it’s a flipping automatic. The most bizarre thing, to my British mind, is that it’s a Toyota Corsa. Confusing to me because Vauxhall make Corsas in the UK. That’s Vauxhall who trade under the name Holden in NZ and Australia. Thing is, it looks nothing like a Corsa that I’m aware of. Or even the Corolla – “our” Toyota equivalent of the Corsa. Just… something in between.

Importantly, it moves. Forwards and backwards. It even manages corners, though the acceleration is pitiful. On the flipside this means it’s quite fuel-efficient. Petrol is about NZ$1.70 a litre here – roughly 55p – slightly more than half the UK prices. This apparently has been rising constantly over the last year when it wasn’t much more than NZ$1.20 a litre. Diesel is 40c a litre cheaper, but very few cars use it.

The little beast got us to Rotorua. Foul, sulphorous odours and bubbly, muddy messes. It’s astounding the similarities between this place and my bottom after 3 days on a virtually vegetarian diet.

Rotorua is famous predominantly for some serious underground heating due to lava flows relatively close to the earth’s surface. Dotted around are clouds of steam visible day and night, and the smell of sulphur does pervade. Some areas stink of it permanently. Louise and I were immune due to my dodgy tummy for the last week. I think the residents started to notice me above the smell of their local neighbourhood rotten egg production.

We stayed in the Kiwi Paka, just outside the town centre. A very pleasant place, at a nice low price. Comfy beds, very clean, quiet, cracking powerful shower and an outside heated pool available 24/7 (though we never got round to having a dip). They also have 20 Kiwi beers available in three sizes (taster, regular and half-litre).

What really sets them out from everywhere else we’ve been in the entire of New Zealand, though, is that they have central heating. Pipes through the walls carrying hot water. As far as Kiwis are concerned, this is probably the work of the devil himself – witchcraft! Hence the picture…

Our arrival was a little later than we expected due to me inflicting 2 months’ of holiday pictures on Indy, so we pretty much just wandered into town for food. We were spoiled for choice, our only problem being it was a Saturday night and many of the nicer places were booked out. Kiwis go out to eat on Saturdays and it was also the Super-14s (rugby) final. Not exactly sensibly, it was taking place as a night game in Christchurch – engulfed in fog. We actually thought the first pub we walked past had a problem with it’s projector telly till we realised it was the broadcast signal that was white with airbourne water vapour.

We settled on the Belgium Bar for dinner. I had a Kiwi Breakfast – my first meat in 3 days, I think – and a large glass of some delicious Belgian cherry beer. This plus a huge mushroom omelette and a stupidly large portion of Belgian waffles came to NZ$35… and we realised after we left that we’d been given NZ$10 too much change. Bargain!

It had been a long day so bed was settled into very early, after throwing quiz questions at each other when we should have had the lights out. I think the answer to number 16 was “Zzzzzzzz”. Posted by Picasa

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