The ship docks right in town at Queens Wharf. It is a great docking place...right by the ferries to the outlying islands and the HOHO buses are waiting to gather those who are planning a day in town. Today we have a tour to Rotorua and the Thermal Valley. We are supposed to gather in the theater at 7AM so we go to our first breakfast in the Lido. Scrambled eggs, bacon and juice. Quite good.
We walk into the theater promptly at 7AM to find no one from the tour office even there. We sit for about ten minutes until a young woman from the tour office shows up and is surprised to find that the boss man, a certifiable idiot in the wrong job, is not there and the bus stickers are not there either. She takes off to find them. About 7:20AM the boss man and the stickers show up and Dick has to go stand in line to get our two. They look at his ticket and hand him two #3s. Half the people are getting #1, others #2 and nine of us get #3. We should have known something was wrong.
After a few minutes the lead idiot calls for #1 and #2 and clearly states that the rest of us will be called in a few minutes. So we sit and sit and sit. Carolyn is fretting about the delay, but Dick is telling her to do what the man said. Finally one woman gets thoroughly agitated and heads out to find out what is going on. Seems they are missing nine people on the dock and the buses are way past ready to leave. We hustle down to the dock and load up on bus #2 and continue to wait while one woman searched for her picture ID that will be required to get back on the ship.
We finally get rolling about 8AM, a solid 30 minutes late for a long day with a very tight schedule. We are on a comfortable bus with a pleasant driver guide who does not feel obligated to talk all the time. Rotorua is 150 miles South of Auckland so it is going to be a long day. Our route takes us along a motorway, over the Bombay Hills and into the fertile dairy lands of the Waikato River Valley. We make one stop to offload coffee and take on a new load. This is across the river from a huge gas/coal fired generating plant. We are told it is to be mouth balled as the coal mines in the area are being closed and it is not up to modern pollution standards.
Along the way, we pass through a mile long stretch of narrow highway called Fitzgerald Glade. Our driver says that the dense foliage and trees in this area are what the whole island looked like when the first English arrived. Some of the trees take a thousand years to reach maturity. There is one that they have dated as 1500 years old.
We are now running 40 minutes late and arrive at the Agrodome when the show is nearly finished. This is billed as a unique show featuring 19 breeds of sheep with displays of sheep dogs and sheep shearing. The ticket costs $47NZ and we missed most of it because of the tour director’s incompetence!
Next we are driven for a brief tour of the town of Rotorua and see the buildings and facilities from its heyday as a spa center. It is still very popular as a tourist destination and one sees thermal vents everywhere with steam rising from front and back yards and sewer grates. It reminds us in a way of Queenstown on the South Island with its broad streets and flowers everywhere. Plus, it also has a lake.
We stop at a Holiday Inn (Oh, Joy!) for lunch and it turns out to be quite nice. You can’t go too far wrong when they hand you a beer or a glass of wine as you walk in! It is a buffet with numerous tasty selections and we can only say we enjoy it and are well fed. This stop concludes with folkloric show by Maori men and women. They are a handsome people and several of the women are quite attractive; even with their tattoos!
Our next and last stop is at the Thermal Valley or the Te Puia Thermal Reserve. This is an area built up around the thermal pools and has Maori museum. While interesting, if you have seen Yellowstone National Park in the USA the thermal part is a disappointment. But, if it is all you have..........
There is a recreated, pre-European, Maori Village where we see dancers, weavers and carvers at work and Jack acquires a pin and a new “Jack Sack.” It has begun to rain, but not hard, as we board the bus for our three and a half hour drive back to the ship. She sails at 7:30PM and we pull out at 4:10PM. Not to worry, it is a ship’s tour. The Captain may get his “nickers in a twist” but they won’t leave us! Hopefully!
After an uneventful drive back with one potty stop in Matamata, aka Hobbitton, we arrive back on the dock at 7:40PM. We are, quite literally, the last two guests on board and the ship is moving by the time we get to our cabin. The Captain was antsy!
The sail out of Auckland Harbor is quite pretty with the last of the sun shining on clouds and even a small rainbow showing for awhile.