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personal - Singapore, new Zealand & HONG KONG Tour - 2012

Day Seven

We were supposed to take a Bay of Islands to Cape Brett and the famous 'Hole' in the rock. However the bad weather prevented us from taking this trip. So a decision was made to visit Kerikeri instead.  Kerikeri means dig and the words were doubled up to accentuate things. There is good soil in this area and it was used for digging and planting.  We stopped by the site of NZ's earliest 'trading post', since 1819. Kerikeri Mission Station included the oldest wooden house to survive, and the unique Stone Store. We also took some photographs of a local waterfall. We drove past Puketana to Paihia where we got out of the coach to get souveniers, food and take pictures before going onto Kawakawa. We were told that a famous architect called Hundertwasser lived here. He designed the public toilets which were famous.

Laurie pointed out the 'terraces' created in the grass caused by the animals walking in the same direction. We went past Mount Hikurangi and also past one of New Zealand's biggest employers - Fontaras. We then returned to Auckland via the pretty Whangarei city basin. Whangarei, meaning 'cherished harbour', is a deep water harbour where logs were exported and fertiliser was brought in for the farming area. Super yachts were build there. We ended up back at the Rendezvous hotel in Auckland.

Day Eight

We left the hotel early in the morning and the coach took us out of Auckland, past Penrose - an industrial area. We drove past Bombay, so called after the boat that brought the early settlers to the area - the SS Bombay. We stopped at Huntley, and saw the Taupiri Mountain which is an example of an udipow... a Maori cemetery. There was a bucket of water outside the cemetery to allow people to cleanse themselves. We were informed that people get buried higher up the mountain depending on level of importance. Other information provided as we drove was that a Hongi referred to the greeting with noses where they were pressed twice and a Tangi was a funeral. For funerals, no matter where live, you come back to the place you were born. The family sleep with the deceased, cry, tell stories and then after three days they are buried - not cremated.

We travelled to Tekowhai on the outskirts of Hamilton. Kowhai is a tree. We followed route 39 to Ontorongha where we noticed that the number plates were white. Laurie informed us that the letters and numbers represent that year and month of manufacture. Vehicles have to be registered every year. Vehicles can have personalised plated, and these cost up to 800 dollars. We drove past Mount Pirongia and to a town of Pirongia, which used to be known as Alexandria.

We arrived at the Waitomo Caves and experienced a guided tour of the underground limestone caverns, including the magnificent Cathedral Cave, where I gave a glorious rendition of 'Rule Britannia.' We then joined a silent boat ride and glided through a mystical grotto carved by an underground river over thousands of years and lit by thousands of tiny glow worms. I don't know what I was expecting, but this was sort of interesting but didn't 'rock my boat'. I did learn however that Taney means men and Wahoni means Lady - always useful to know when taken short!

We stopped for lunch on Otorohanga and managed to do some minor shopping in a store called Foddi Paku. From there we travelled into the wealthy area of Cambridge, a town with a strong equestrian tradition. The town further on was called Tirau. The town used to be called Oxford but changed its name back to Tirau which means cabbage. We were informed that the prefix 'TE' used before many words means 'many'. We drove over the Waimakereri river - (meaning = very cold river) and past the Kaimu Mammaku reserve and onto Rotorua, a city built on an area of geothermal activity and an important centre for North Island Maori culture. Basically, the town smelt like rotton eggs. We arrived at the Holiday inn where we were to stay for the night. And that evening we were treated to a Hangi (feast) and Maori culture performance of traditional dances accompanied by song.

Day Nine

This was a day of personal choices. We chose to pay for a 'Hobbit Land' tour which was EXCELLENT. If you've ever seen the Lord of the Rings films, then I would STRONGLY recommend that you take this tour. The sets were left in tact after filming and as a consequence this has become a must visit site for Lord of the Rings aficionados. This gave us a chance to see some absolutely stunning scenery. We left this half day tour happy and were taken back to Rotorua, where we took a gondola ride for some more stunning views of the town. We indulged ourselves with a 3D ride in a capsule, which was ok and killed a little time to be honest. Then we ended the day with some shopping.

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