Shop decor and gardening

Succulents are the rage in recent years and they are easier to manage than vertical greenery.

In Rotorua, near Te Puia, we came across an exciting Food Streat, in an otherwise unexciting shopping area.

Instead of eating at the Te Puia, we drove 5 mins back to the city centre. Although along the way you can spot a Carl’s Junior burger joint, McDonald’s and some Chinese and sushi restaurants.

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Eat Streat in the City Centre has Italian, Thai, Indian, British pub food which opens till past lunch time. The Italian was closed by 2pm.

Here we are at CBK, which has a grill, surf n turf, including hand scooped ice cream milkshakes.

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But the greenery at Atticus Finch next door caught my eye. Natural and needing little maintenance. You can mix with sedum and even Indian borage.

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Hung below the signage to draw attention.
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Encheaveria need trimming and propagating when they become too straggly.
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Huka Falls and Lake Taupo

The Huka Falls are a set of waterfalls on the Waikato River that drains Lake Taupo in New Zealand.

If you’re planning to visit Lake Taupo, do make a side trip to Huka Falls.

According to Wikipedia, the volume of water flowing through often approaches 220,000 litres per second.

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Did I enjoy making the detour. Certainly. Holidays are never the same for me. There are people who love shopping- I’m one of those. Visiting museums and eating in fabulous restaurants. I’m again one of those.

But there’s something to be said of outdoor hiking adventures. I’m steering clear of camping in the great outdoors or roughing it out. Still not there yet. Need my proper toilets and bed. But a bit of endorphin and dopamine high. Why not.

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Beautiful jade like river.
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See the tiny raft, that’s how majestic and magnificent the Waikato river is.

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This photo of Huka Falls was taken between Napier and Taupo.

Day 9-11 Lake Taupo and Huka Falls

At Taupo we were in the great outdoors revolving around the lake: walks, cycling and trying our hand fishing for trout.

Rainbow Trout is not native to New Zealand. It was introduced from the Americas in the 1880s. I’m looking for steamed salmon, Chinese style. Something I missed when I was last in New Zealand in 1999.

“Rainbow trout is not native to NZ but part of an acclimatisation programme introduced in 1887 of brown trout from England and 1898 of rainbow trout from California.

Trout is spawned in the Trout Centre and released into the wild 12-18 months after hatching as fingerings. Taupo Fishery has been wild and self sustaining since 1905.” Not to be mistaken for wild since beginning of time.

On a wet afternoon, we rented a boat and went trout fishing. You need a Trout license but no worries, the shop will get everything for you. We’re quite pleased with the service here.
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Our boat
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Day 7 Rotorua Government Gardens and Rotorua Museum

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The government gardens is a public park with bowling lawns and flowers.

Cast iron filigree band rotunda built in 1900s during Victorian era.

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There’s a Tudor style Rotorua Museum and Blue Spa reminiscent of the early days when Rotorua was a destination for Europeans to cure their illness in public baths.

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The Bath house was built in the 1880s for Europeans seeking cures from the thermal pools. After the great Depression, the bath houses were converted to cabaret bars and today became the Rotorua Museum.

In the 1930s, the blue baths were one of the first in the world to offer mixed gender swimming and heated pools.

To create a English Victoria garden, topsoil was moved here in the 1930s to create a landscape of a grand scale with a formal lawn for croquet and bowling and informal intimate corners for a respite from the cares of life.

Scrub was removed, thousands of trees transplanted to create a Victoria style landscaping. We enjoy flowers so find this very pretty with rose bushes and sea gulls.

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Spring flowers
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New Zealand Day 4 Hobbiton Movie Set

We initially went to Hamilton because of the Hobbiton movie set but loved it for Hamilton Gardens.

A life sized human to show scale of the tiny Hobbit home.

If you grew up on Enid Blyton, it’s a joy to experience the English garden and be lost in a mixture of blissful childhood memory that these gardens evoked. In my childhood, in that magical one hour reading about the faraway land or the wishing chair, everything was fine and the world was a beautiful place of English tea and biscuits. Even now, drinking Ceylon tea (as opposed to Chinese or Japanese tea) at 3pm is very comforting to me. I associate that with Enid Blyton and reading.

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We stayed at 26 Pulham Crescent, Hamilton, Waikato 3210 and drove 51km about 1hour to Hobbiton.

From Hobbitton station, buy tickets and wait for a chartered bus to take us to the Hobbitton movie set.
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The land is owned by a NZ sheep farmer and the children can see sheep, have lunch, visit the gift shop.

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Story goes that after the first movie, the set was torn down and restored to original condition. But by the third movie, there was a blizzard (I think or snowstorm) and the crew couldn’t remove the set for 5 months? So the owner of the land said. Why not turn lemon into lemonade. And it became a tourist attraction.

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The guide is standing in front of a fake tree. Created because the director wanted a tree of a certain height and dark green color. That’s the level of detailing in the movies. Movie buffs in our group were able to tell the actual scene it appeared.

You cannot get into the movie set on your own but move with the coach and assigned tour guide.

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Pretty English landscaping

If you are not confident of your driving time, there’s no need to book your tickets in advance.  The disadvantage is that if the tour is full, you have to wait one hour for the next tour.  The actual tour lasts 2 hours and good for photo buffs, lots of pretty flowers.

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A drink (root beer for me) at the Green Dragon Inn.

Suggestion
Rent a Hobbit movie before you go to refresh your memory.
Go to the washroom before the tour starts.
Bring umbrella, hat, sunshades, comfortable shoes, water.
Travel light
Engage your imagination

Bring an umbrella, sunshades and hat, as its very sunny.  Its very crowded with tourists (like me) but I’d no problems taking photos. Wander around a bit after the guide does his introduction, wait for the groups to clear. With 2 hours, there’s sufficient time to go back to your favourite spot for a family photo.

This tour is definitely not for you, if walking is a problem.

NZ Day 6-8 Rotorua

On Day 6 we checked out of our Hamilton lodgings and drove to Rotorua. Arriving at the Rotorua lodging was a pleasant surprise. It was a bigger town with several fast food outlets.
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Redwoods Tree Walk
Long Mile Rd, Whakarewarewa, Rotorua 3010, New Zealand

Absorb the greenery of talk trees and have a picnic if you may. There’s a 30 min walk, or 1.5hr walk. We did a 30 min walk and took many photos.

If we’re ever back again , will do a 3hr walk. There were times when we felt alone in the forest although occasionally we see a few ladies walking through. It gives the impression of being a safe place.

Next time I’ll grab a picnic with me. The tree top walk is $25 per adult. Feels quite short distance although enjoyable.

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Photo taken by Emma and Chloe.
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Our friends brought their children to see sheep shearing at the Agrodome (http://www.agrodome.co.nz/)
141 Western Rd, 3010, New Zealand

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We visit “Te Puia” to see the geyser and bumbling mud bath. This was at Hemo Rd, Tihiotonga, Rotorua 3040, New Zealand

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Te Puia is a beautiful geothermal area with bubbling mud, pools of boiling water and stunning geysers. Bluish pool at Rotorua, Te Puia gets its blue color from the minerals dissolved in it. The water is highly alkaline and around 30-50 degrees Celsius.

It’s used as a bathing pool by residents of Te Whakarewarewa Village and still a favourite swimming place for the 60 current descendants of the original inhabitants. The small mounds on the north-west side of the lake are stumps of manuka trees.

Highlight was to see the eruption of the Pohutu geyser which erupted as high as 30m and erupts once or twice every hour. Initially we saw the eruption of the Prince of Wales Feathers which is an indicator geyser letting you know when Pohutu will next erupt.

Mud from thermally heated mud pools was used by the Maori to treat a variety of ailments such as arthritis and rheumatism and to cleanse skin.
Rotorua’s reputation as a spa town began in 1878 when an Irish priest with bad arthritis bathed there and declared himself cured and walked 65km home to Tauranga.

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95 degrees Celsius. Also known as frog pool as the plopping mud sounds like leaping frogs.

I’ve come to expect that most New Zealand sites are very expensively priced. The tickets are $52 for the geyser experience and the kiwi centre and Maori village.

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We didn’t get a guide. Is there one? You are paying for a walk through and viewing the geyser shoot up. The kiwi centre is badly maintained as there’s only one kiwi. Since kiwi is nocturnal, the lights are very dim and if the glass pane is not properly cleaned it’s quite difficult to see the bird.
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Beautifully carved House of Learning where traditions and protocol is passed on.
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Suggestion for eating places: Eat Streat

As for the Maori village, the signage was not well done and was a disappointment since I’m interested to know more about New Zealand flora and fauna and more about Maori culture.

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I love the pretty gardens in all our home stays with rose bushes, rosemary and lemon trees.

Stayed
3 Tete St, Westbrook, Rotorua 3015, New Zealand

NZ Day 5 Waitomo Caves

Our plan initially was to visit 2 attractions on Day 5, Otorohanga Kiwi House and Native Bird Park, and the Waitomo Caves on the same day, but woke up late and managed one attraction.

Driving one hour and 75 km with toilet stops to Waitomo caves where timing is controlled. We paid $75 for a visit to the Aranui caves and Waitomo glow worm caves. No option to just do one.

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Aranui was named after the boy who discovered the cave while chasing a pig with his dogs.

Both caves are small. If you’ve never been to a stalactites and stalagmites cave, it’s worthwhile because it’s small and cozy, instead of being intimidating. The guide brought about the 10 of us in.
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The glow worms cave include a short boat ride and you get to see the glow worms on top of a cave which is magical. You walk about 15 mins after your designated time to visit more stalagmites. The wait is about 15 mins and you go into a cave which the guides steer a boat by pulling 2 ropes. The ride us quite short. About 15 mins or less and powered by the guides with about 10 people in a boat.

Unfortunately we don’t have photographs to show you. But this is to prevent the flash from scaring off the glow-worms. Or you can watch any Discovery Channel video of a cave or David Attenborough’s documentary. I can imagine in the early days when no one else visited, and the Maoris moved through in their boats and the sound of wind through the caves with the glow worm stars and dream of heaven – life would be surreal.

In NZ, you drive about 1 hr to each site and once there, you may want to visit the site because there’s nothing else nearby.

Personally I think that there’s very little to see at each site that unless it’s to show young children, or that stage of your life when you don’t mind driving far to see something in 10 mins.

Good coffee and burger to fill our stomachs as we were driving through Waitomo caves and then rushing to Hamilton Gardens before it closes.

The cafe closes at 5pm so food is served through the day. You can pick up chocolates and little essentials here or use to washroom.

New Zealand Day 3 Hamilton Gardens

From Karagangahe we drove to Hamilton Gardens.

We were here in Spring, Nov 2016.

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I’ve this thing for water lily ponds. Must paint Monet water lilies (kids style) to get it out of my system.

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Excellent weather and we came here at 6pm. The park was still open. Entrance is free. We returned the next day in the morning. The children loved feeding the rabbits in the evening and the ducks and ducklings in the morning.

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We had a little picnic. The gardens of the world was very well designed to give a history of the different types of gardens and their view of paradise, Chinese, Japanese, Indian, English, Italian Renaissance. They were so well landscaped with small surprises according to the philosophy of the gardens and distinguishing features.

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But the lighting didn’t come out well so I didn’t include the photos. Probably done by the sister city exchange from the respective country.

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We loved the kitchen garden which probably influenced us and now we’ve a herb patch. Sometimes you’re not sure how your subconscious works.

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Coming from the Tropics, we were of course not impressed with the Victorian glasshouses with tropical plants. It is well maintained with a succulent section for cactus.

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We were there a day before the Rose bowl competition and treated to hundreds of rose varieties all blooming and glorious.

Have a picnic here but keep an eye out for the weather if it rains or is too hot when the sun comes out. Weather changes by the hour. Lovely to hear birds chirping and water rustling.

Best of all, entrance is free.

New Zealand Day 3 Karangahake

Enroute to Hamilton Gardens, we drove past Karangahake Gold mining town and walked across a creek.

We had meant to do a cycling trip on the Harauki railway – Day Trip but woke up late.

When we arrived at the mining town, a group had borrowed all the children bikes. We later walked past this group of 8 children. When we were at the Gorge, we saw one young person who was struggling with his bicycle as the chains came off. Another was not a proficient cyclist and was struggling behind his group trying to keep up and cycle through a bridge. So not a trip for amateur cyclist.

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The staff at the Town Information Centre who also ran the Bike Rental were very helpful and suggested we go for the Karangahake Mine historic walk.

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If you’re passing through the area, the scenery is beautiful with the large wheels and river running through the gorge.

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Tip
Grab a picnic if you need frequent rests. We took a 2 hr walk through the historic trail, and went back to Parareo for late lunch. Most of the eating places are open Wed-Sun.
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Long dark walk through the tunnel. Can be chilly.

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Best thing, the walk is free.

Unfortunately because we were here late, we could only grab a milkshake at the Courtyard Cafe.

Lovely ambience especially if you move inside the cafe. Lots of sun and looks as a courtyard. Really good milkshake (both salted caramel and vanilla)