Rotorua: Bubbly Pools, Redwoods and Swan Feeding

We stayed with my uncle for three nights, so two full days. You’ve already seen that we spent the first morning at Hobbiton, so I’m going to lump the remaining day and a half into a single post.

After our hobbit tour, we first went home for some lunch (left over curry from the night before), then it was off to Kairau Park to soak our feet in the (free!) thermal foot bath and have a look at the geothermal pools… or “bubbly pools” as my little cousin calls them. The sulphur smell certainly takes some getting used to, but watching the pools bubble away and then suddenly hiss and erupt a jet of steam is an experience that shouldn’t be missed!

It’s difficult to take photos of steam, but you hopefully get the idea. In some photos you might see white branches… they’re not naturally white plants, but have turned that way after being boiled in the pools (you really, really don’t want to fall in one of them!).

Once my cousin got tired of walking (as three year olds do!), we headed back to the car and drove down to the lake front where we all got something to drink any my cousin had a go on the (quite impressive!) playground. Jan and I had a wander down to the lake, where we saw the float planes and lots of ducks and swans.

It was evening by that time, so after popping home for a bit we headed out for dinner. We ate at a craft beer pub called “Brew”, which I thought was a clever name. I failed to take a photo of my Harissa Chicken Burger, but believe me it was delicious!

The next morning, we were up and breakfasted fairly early because we wanted to get to our first destination before the crowds… we were off to Kerosene Creek, a hot water stream south of Rotorua city. I can’t show you any photos because funnily enough I didn’t take my camera into the water 😉 (my uncle actually got out took a photo of the rest of us, but I can’t show you because – again – not putting photos of three years olds on the Internet!). You’ll just have to trust me when I say it’s beautiful! Hidden among the trees, with a cute little waterfall cascading into a natural pool of warm water! It’s just like being in a bath… except an outdoor bath that’s full of mud. If you go there, take care not to put your head under water (apparently you risk a form of meningitis if you do – caused by amoeba going up your nose. Ick!!). You definitely should go there though! And go early… by the time we left, it was starting to get pretty full.

Next it was off to Whakarewarewa Forest, aka “The Redwoods” for a tree walk. My cousin had great fun running along the bridges (kids can only go if they’re able to walk the entire route – no carrying allowed!), and the rest of us enjoyed the birds’ eye view of the forest.

As well as Redwoods, the forest has other trees and, of course, ferns. Many, many ferns. It’s quite a nice area to just go for a walk (on the ground) even if you don’t like heights or want to pay for the tree walk.

Once we were done with the trees, we stopped off at home for a sandwich then my uncle had to go to work. The rest of us drove to Blue Lake, or Lake Tikitapu. Apparently it wasn’t as blue as usual when we were there. Still beautiful though!

You can swim there, although we did not.

After all that activity, we were ready for a sit down and a drink, so we headed into town back to the area where we had eaten the night before…. Eat Streat. No, not a typo! Eat Streat is exactly what it sounds like… a street of eateries. There’s a retractable roof and geothermal underground heating, so it stays warm even in winter. We chose Ambrosia restaurant and decided to order some snacks to share. Here’s Eat Streat:

Sorry, awful photos! It’s difficult when it’s sunny but the restaurants/bars are all in shadow…

My cousin decided she needed to feed some leftover bread to the ducks, so once we’d eaten and drunk, we walked down to Lake Rotorua again in search of some hungry water birds…
On the way down the the waterfront, we saw this:

Yes, that’s a bike tree. No, I don’t know why!

We planned to feed ducks, but actually it was mostly swans that came. And the inevitable gulls….

After the bread was all gone, my cousin and her mum went shopping for that evening’s dinner. Meanwhile, Jan and I were dropped off at Sulphur Point where we went for a walk among more steam and bubbling pools. The landscape there isn’t the most attractive, but it’s utterly fascinating! I read somewhere that the whole walk would have taken two hours, but we eventually had to turn round and go back the way we had come so we could be picked up.

On the last photo above, you can see a hole where steam comes out… all the surrounding rock has been died yellow from the sulphur!

There wasn’t much geothermal activity going on while we were there, so I can only imagine what it must look like when the whole thing is covered in steam. Pretty amazing, I suspect.

Sadly, that was basically the end of our time in Rotorua. All that remained was an evening of drinking wine, exchanging photos, and repacking our suitcase then the next morning we were up nice and early for the long drive down the New Plymouth.

Rotorua is a fascinating place, totally different to anywhere I’ve been before! And it was great to spend some time with my uncle and meet my little cousin! Hopefully one day we’ll make it back over.

For now, though, it’s the end of this super-long blog post!

Packing my Suitcase
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The phone call…

When the phone range before I left for work yesterday, I was pretty sure I already knew what it was going to be about. Phone calls that early in the morning never bode well! And I was right. My grandpa passed away in his sleep on Monday night, or early hours of Tuesday morning really. My emotions about it are a bit mixed, to be honest. It’s sad of course. Knowing I’ll never see him again really isn’t nice. But on the other hand, we’ve known it was coming for a while, and in many ways it’s a relief to no longer be waiting for the call. Also, towards the end he had no quality of life… he was sleeping a lot, on a tonne of painkillers that made him confused most of the time, and he hadn’t been able to eat or drink for days. And we can take some comfort in the fact that he lived to experience his 80th birthday (and was still doing relatively well at that point) – the milestone he kept saying he wanted to reach.

The funeral is on Monday, so I’m flying over on Sunday (alone this time – Jan has meetings on Monday and Tuesday that he can’t get out of), so things might be a bit quiet around here for the next few days. I’ll be back soon though.

RIP grandpa. Forever in our hearts.

I’m going to England!

Thank you for all the lovely messages on yesterday’s blog post. After speaking to Jan and to my dad, I decided to ask for time off work and book the first flight to England I could. I thought getting time off would be quite difficult because my boss was off on Friday and the other person responsible for approving holiday was working from home… but I messaged the colleague who was at home, he contacted my boss then he got back to me later in the day to say it was fine and we’ll just do the signing of the holiday form when I get back. Jan also arranged with his work to be away next week (although he will be taking his laptop with him and working while we’re over there), so we’re flying to England tomorrow and coming back on Friday. It means I probably won’t make it over for the funeral, but I decided seeing my grandpa while he’s still alive is more important to me.

At times like these, being in another country is hard. I’m so grateful to all the commenters who know what it’s like, and of course to my boyfriend who immediately volunteered to come with me despite how busy he is at the moment. The situation is crap, but I feel loved, which helps.

I won’t actually be able to post while I’m away (my crappy BlackBerry won’t let me on WordPress), so I’ll “speak” to you all when I get back.

p.s. Apologies for the lack of pictures, but honestly… what picture should be used to illustrate a post like this?!

Friday letters (working from home)

Today is a special Friday because I’m working from home. We’re getting new windows put in at work, and that means I can’t be in my office because 1) It will be cold and 2) It will be loud. The good thing about working from home is I get to have a lie in but still start work at my normal time. Also, I can have as many cups of tea as I want! Actually, I can do that at work as well, but I only drink fruit tea there (which isn’t really tea at all!) because the milk we have is UHT milk and tea with that in tatses awful! Anyway, enough rambling… letters!

English: Postbox, Frome This postbox is on the...
Photo: Wikipedia

Dear grandpa. I’m so glad to hear your operation went well! I hope things continue to progress positively and you can come home in time for the weekend.

Dear sister. Thank you for keeping me up to date on grandpa’s condition.

Dear boyfriend. I find it very unfair that you get to go to South America for two weeks while I’m stuck here in the cold! Enjoy your conference and (especially) the free week after it. And no getting ill!! There’s been more than enough of that this year!

Dear K (who might even actually read this!). Have fun in Scotland and enjoy Dr Who!

Dear self. I’ve said this before, but seriously… you need to stop eating so much! A whole (large!) bar of chocolate before dinner the other day was neither big nor clever…

Dear New Year. We have finally decided where we’re going for you and booked flights. Madeira it is. I can’t wait!

As always, I wish you all a happy Friday and a fabulous weekend!

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Family… can’t live with them, can’t murder them in their sleep!

So, it seems my Grandma is in hospital with pneumonia. How did I find this out? Facebook! And not in a personal message to me either… I discovered it from my sister’s status. Thanks for letting me know family! The last time I checked, moving abroad didn’t magically make her no longer my grandma…
I admit I’m not the best at keeping in touch (I wonder where I get that from?!) but you would have thought for something important somebody might have found a few minutes to send me a quick text message! Welcome to life as a member of my family people. This, by the way, is about 90% of the reason I’m still on Facebook (the other 10% being I’m nosy and like to see what people are up to…). When I lived in Austria I didn’t have Facebook. In the time I was there, the only person who phoned or e-mailed me on a semi-regular basis was my dad. I heard from my mum maybe twice (in 10 months!) and my sister not at all. No postcards, no text messages and not one single e-mail… Families. Can’t live with them, can’t murder them in their sleep!

(To be fair to my sister, I should add that after I commented on her status, she did message me to let me know what had happened… apparantly she had assumed my mum would have told me.)

On an entirely unrelated note, I had to go to the train station yesterday to buy some baking ingredients. I wanted to make chocolate brownies and had forgotten to buy chocolate! Yes, I am that bright at times… The shop in the train station is one of the very few places where you can actually buy things on a Sunday (the other option is petrol stations), so that was where I had to go. It had been raining and I liked how shiny the autumn leaves looked (those that hadn’t been trodden to mush already, anyway) so I took some photos along the way. Enjoy!

Friday letter(s): To my mam

Just one letter this Friday, to my mother who turns 50 today.

Mum I love you xxxxxx
Photo credit: Andreas-photography

Dear Mam,
When I said I would be attending your 50th birthday while in England, a lot of people were surprised. Other people my age have parents who are already in their 60s… sometimes even late 60s. But you always were younger than most of my friends’ parents. Mostly, I thought that was a good thing – you were always so much more fun than those other stuffy, responsible adults, and now I’m older I love that I can go out for a drink or a shopping trip for you and actually feel like we have something in common. But our relationship hasn’t always been this great. For a lot of my childhood, my sister and I were basically left to raise ourselves (and later I helped raise my brother). I was 8 the first time I made tea for the three of us (sausages, chips and beans!) and started babysitting at around the same time I started secondary school. Even before that, one of the local teenagers would come and look after us every Friday and Saturday night. For a long time, I resented that. Looking back now, as an almost 30 year old, I still can’t 100% agree with everything you did back then, but I can certainly understand it a lot better. Going from living at home with your parents in the place you’d been brought up to being an army wife and new mother in a strange town within the space of 6 months can’t have been easy for you! And no matter what you did “wrong”, you always came through when it was important – whether it was baking a cake for the school fair, showing up to cheer us on at sports day, providing money (that we technically didn’t have) so I could go on school trips or driving me to and from sea cadets every Friday. And throughout everything else, I don’t think any of us ever doubted that you loved us. HAPPY 50th BIRTHDAY MAMMY! Here’s to many, many more.
Love you!
Beverley xxx

Heidelberg

I did not enjoy work at all today. It was between 29 and 33°C all day (roughly between 84 – 91.5 °F if you prefer) and we have no air conditioning. Also, I work upstairs and you could literally feel the air getting hotter with every step you walked up. I was aware that heat rises but unti, I started working here had no idea of the extremes. Also, I ended up working on a financial translation pretty much all day, which is not exactly my favourite type of text at the best of times. And on top of that, a customer had complained about one of my translations while I was off, so I had a lovely e-mail to come back to as well. Cue hot, bored and grumpy Bev. Ugh. But enough about that. I am now going to cheer myself up by reliving my sister’s visit, starting with day one.

So my sister and her boyfriend arrived on Wednesday evening. I went to pick them up from the airport straight after work, then we went to get a train home… which turned out to be 50 minutes delayed. So much for German efficiency… We did, however, arrive home eventually where we immediately opened a few bottles of beer and set about making our evening meal: Chicken enchiladas. Or it may have been turkey. Some kind of bird. Either way, they were delicious.

The next morning (the first of my days off), we were up bright and early for breakfast before heading off to Heidelberg. I’ve been there many times before, but it’s pretty, it has an English shop, which I never have any objections to checking out, and it was one of the places my sister wanted to see, so off we went.

If you ever decide to visit Heidelberg, there are two things you should know:

  1. It is absolutely beautiful
  2. It is incredibly – and I mean incredibly – touristy, to the extent that they actually sell T-shirts with the slogan “I’m not a tourist – I live here”.

The first thing we did on arrival in Heidelberg was go to the English shop, because it’s opposite the train station and I needed proper English gravy and crumpets. Unfortunately, they are currently getting ready to close down for a while for refurbishment and had almost nothing in. I managed to get some gravy granules for chicken (I actually wanted ordinary granules), but there was no self-raising flour, no crumpets… basically no anything. A (the sister’s boyfriend) then went into the Jack Wolfskin store and after much umming and aaahing decided to buy a rain coat, then we finally managed to get round to taking a tram into Heidelberg proper. Our guests requested that we stop for lunch before doing anything else, so we took a walk down the main shopping street on the look out for something suitable. I don’t remember the name of the place we decided to stop, but the entire menu was translated into English (see, touristy!) making it the first and only menu that we didn’t have to translate. Our guest then got to try their first taste of German food (my Enchilidas may have been delicious, but traditional German they were not!). I had Wiener Schnitzel, which is technically Austrian (Wiener = Viennese) and the other three all had a platter of various goodies including potato fritters (which the menu called fried potatoes), Nürnberger sausages and Pfälzer Saumagen (Sow’s stomach – it tastes better than it sounds – honest!). And we all tried a glass of Heidelberger beer. When in Rome and all that… Suitably stuffed we then went off to explore the town and work off some of the food we had just eaten…

We looked at the castle from down below…

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Walked down to the river and took photos of the old bridge…

Heidelberg bridge

Then crossed the river and walked up Schlangenweg (Snake’s Way) to Philosophenweg (Philosopher’s Way). I had never been up there before and Jan chose not to tell us just how looooong the Schlangenweg actually was! I certainly worked off my beer… and then some! Apparantly up on that hill is where the photos for most postcards of Heidelberg are taken, so we took some too:

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Heidelberg

Also, on the way up we spotted an East-German style Ampelmann, which I got slighted excited about.
I think my sister may have thought I’d gone insane, but I don’t care. I took photos anyway 😉 Isn’t he cute in his little hat

Then we took the long walk back down into town and rewarded ourselves with a nice cold beer before taking the train back to Karlsruhe.
The evening was spent meeting friends and eating delicious food at Marktlücke in Karlsruhe, until we were asked to leave because it was 1 a .m. and, it being a week night, they wanted to close.

… and that was day one of our adventures. For the rest, you will have to wait.