I arrived in Auckland late and booked into the YHA City hostel. They upgraded me for free so I didn’t need to share, and I was grateful after a day of travel. I had a quick bite to eat at a little French creperie/cafe that had a delightful ambience and delicious food, but wasn’t up for much else.
I started the tour today and met a lovely British girl named Sophie who I think I will get on with brilliantly. Discovered the phrase “sweet as” and how to use “mean” as “cool.” I was the first stop on the pickup leaving Auckland and so took a seat at the front of the bus where I had some good chats with the driver Matty. We stopped first at the top of a hill for a view of Auckland and then went on to Mercury Bay and fell asleep in the sun on the beach. I was delightfully relaxed. That night we stayed at Turtle Cove hostel but spent the better part of the evening in a pub watching rugby and dancing to a live band. The cover bad was quite good and provided a Kiwi take on original songs. I will need to look up the band Kora, which plays our day song, “On my mind.”
We did a rather unadventurous walk in the morning, except that the caves we walked through were pitch black and my torch was in my bag under the bus. We found our footing by using the camera flash to guide our way.
We arrived at the Hot Rocks base hostel at Rotorua in the early afternoon and enjoyed swimming in the thermal pool. I opted out of luging and a nature walk because I was going to a Maori aboriginal village tonight. The village was quite commercialized I thought, but it’s hard to get a true sense of that without being invited in through a personal connection.
The welcome ceremony was less intimidating than I thought it would be, and the tour of their “village” was forced. Eating a meal cooked the traditional way, heated by rocks in the ground and covered by dirt, was good. I won’t say great, but it was good. The mussels were fresh from the ocean and tasted amazing. I tried pavlova and decides it was too sweet for my liking, which is saying something. I also bought a Maori mask to add to my collection.