Every couple of trips the Super 16 Rugby fixture coincides with our camp, giving Geoff a chance to watch his beloved Chiefs in action and giving the kids an opportunity to see a different code of footy.
So, on Friday we made it an all day excursion to Hamilton, stopping first at the Hamilton Gardens to check out their beautiful, enclosed theme gardens. Herb, kitchen, camellia, Renaissance, Japanese, rose, Maori, tropical – a beautiful expanse of green and floral splendor in the middle of a big city.
From the gardens we drove to Claudelands to the Waikato Show, which sounded exciting on the website but was actually a watered down version of any country show at home. There were lots of promotional stalls, that apart from the ones offering free samples, failed to inspire any joy in the kids. Eventually they found a stall making identity bracelets that suddenly became ‘a thing’ and a few sad looking and expensive rides. We cut our visit short and went to Chartwell Square for an afternoon shopping browse.
Then it was on to the rugby. The boys (and a few girls) had a warm up practice in the park near the stadium while they devoured 20 pizzas before we found our seats in the Fanzone. Kids are well catered for at the rugby, with free supporters flags and packs for everyone, face painting and photo opportunities. This put everyone in the right frame of mind to support the Chiefs or the Auckland Blues or, like Lachie, display your national pride by wearing your Wallabies gear (brave man!)
Interest waned a bit during the stoppages in the first half but then at the start of the second half the Blues ran in a couple of tries and suddenly everyone was on their feet cheering and becoming part of the crowd swell for their respective team.
It was a long drive home in the dark and there was no trouble getting the kids to bed!
Yesterday we had a well deserved sleep in and a leisurely breakfast before driving into town to the Kuirau markets. The market isn’t big but it had an interesting array of local and international food to choose from. Hayley even got to do some work experience when the man running the popcorn stall asked her to mind the shop for him while he went to the toilet. The Kuirau location also gave us a chance to check out the thermal activity in the park. This is a great, free of charge experience, with steam vents and boiling mud pools scattered around the walking tracks.
After lunch we went to the Paradise Valley Wildlife Park. They keep a big cage of lions there. Go figure! The park wends its way around the Ngongotaha Stream which is full of trout at different stages of development. There’s also a NZ bird aviary and some very fat kune pigs, along with assorted geese, ducks, sheep etc. At 2.30 they throw chunks of horse meat to the poor caged lions. They fight over it and roar a lot. I think the kids enjoyed it. Personally I was glad to get away to do the shopping for dinner.
After dinner we went to the Rotorua Mini Golf. This was an fun, if a little bizarre, experience. It was raining pretty steadily and apart from the 80’s disco lights and laser displays (WT?) there wasn’t a great deal of lighting so it was a bit hard to see the course. Despite our booking being confirmed weeks ago, there were lots of other people playing and another large school group behind us. Consequently there weren’t enough clubs so we had to share, the other kids kept trying to play through even though the course was backed up to the gate, throw in several large, pet rabbits hopping aimlessly amongst the golfers, fake fog and two continually running bubble machines and you have a recipe for chaos! It was also a recipe for hilarity and since the score cards were too soggy to read, no on cared who won.
Today we took a road trip to Mount Maunganui. This is always a nostalgic journey for Geoff & me because it’s his ‘home’ beach and the place we were married many moons ago. Last night’s rain was still persisting when we got to our first stop, the obligatory 'Giant Kiwifruit' photo and then it was on to Kaiate Falls. The rain had the benefit of increasing the volume of the falls but it also increased the slipperiness of the track so it was a fairly cautious walk down. The cold water and rain didn’t deter everyone and quite a few of them stripped off for a wade at the base.
From there we drove to Main Beach where most of us (including me) made an assault on the summit of the Mount. It’s not a terribly difficult walk but I was glad I’ve been step counting for the last few months. The view from the top, across Pilot Bay to Tauranga and down the coast as far as White Island is most certainly worth it.
We were planning fish and chips at the beach for dinner but it was a bit chilly so we stopped at Papamoa Beach for a quick swim and a beach comb and then came back to Ngongotaha for our fish & chips in the kitchen instead. This was also an inspired decision because it meant we drove home in the daylight and witnessed a magnificent sunset on the lake.