We arrived in Auckland via Singapore Airlines. Smooth flight and picked up our bags. NZ is strict on no agriculture to the extent the soles of our shoes were checked in case we brought grass or soil from another country.
Picked up my Vodafone SIM card at the airport, although on hindsight I would have gotten Spark which has better coverage in remote areas like Hobitton. Hertz pickup is on the left of the arrival gate. While McDonald’s is on the right. (Drop off is very easy too. Make sure you drive to the right carpark for international flights.)
Day 1 Rapaura Gardens, Tapu
On our way to Rapaura Gardens in Thames, 2hr drive from the airport. There’s a Countdown supermarket here but there’s no need to get your stuff here as they’re quite well spread out. Along the way, we passed through highlands and mountains and coastline.
Google map is accurate so we didn’t need to rent a GPS.
Photo: glass windows all around the house.
We stayed at the Rapaura Water gardens for two nights. I think it depends on how much you like plants and walks. We were two families with two young children. There’s only one shower although two toilets.
The accommodation is tastefully furnished. Sally Tank, the owner, lived in HK for 40 years before moving to NZ and there are touches of her well travelled life.
Beautiful gardens with 5 water lily ponds. Yes, we saw water lilies and ducks on the compound. Plus a waterfall. I would consider the garden well maintained.
Photo: our dining area which is separated by a sliding door from our bedroom.
Because it’s in the midst of greenery, the nearest supermarket is about 20 mins away. So you need to either cook your own dinner or eat out before returning.
You need to make your own breakfast. This turned out great fun.
I didn’t get the email which Sally Tank sent about getting our own dinner. But because I called her before arriving, we picked up all necessary groceries at the PaknSave at Thames before arriving. It’s a windy 6km ride which took us 30 mins. At night the road down is not lighted and doesn’t look paved.
Sasha, the chef and Sally’s son, was wonderful, giving us tips how to cook coromandel mussels. We egret that we didn’t eat lunch at the restaurant. The children regret not staying for longer. If you like nature, this is the place for you. Even if it rained, and we stayed indoors, it wouldn’t be a problem for us.
Recipe for mussels
1. Soak for one hour in room temperature water so that the sediments will be spit out.
2. Use back of a spoon to scrape off the bits of corals on your mussels. Pull off beard.
3. Sauté onions and garlic. (For more flavour, roast garlic with rosemary).
Use fresh water or seafood stock and cook the mussels. Dash of white wine or preferred amount. Pick out shells which are opened as they may not cook at the same time. Those that don’t, discard.
4. Serve. Keep leftover soup to make spaghetti.