Stories, thoughts, observations, rants and dribble. Just another of my attempts to keep the interested people informed ...

Monday, March 26, 2007

The Waikato and Bay of Plenty Highlight Tour

I'm not sure why but I had a desperate need to get out of Auckland for the last weekend of the summer (last Wednesday was the Autumn Equinox and we finished Daylight Savings on the Sunday morning).   So despite the dodgy weather (correctly) predicted, Michelle and I decided to head down to Rotorua in search of natural hot springs and general out-of-Auckland entertainment.


We somehow managed to get on the road by about 8.30 on Saturday morning (w00t), and our first stop was Cambridge at about 10am .  Intrigued by the sign advertising the "Leamington School Duck Plunge", we pulled in to the tourist information centre to ask for directions.   The Duck Plunge was on the events blackboard, but when asked where the school was, the woman behind the desk replied "which school?".  Firstly, how many schools can such a small town have?   Secondly, why would we want to go to any other school when there was a Duck Plunge on?  During breakfast we pondered several scenarios that could be termed Duck Plunges, but still had no clue what it would involve.   Even better, the poster used inverted commas perfectly when it advertised a "Celebrity" Duck Plunge and entertainment from a top ten finalist in some series of New Zealand Idol (heh).  


When we got to the school, we found out that the Duck Plunge wasn't happening until 1.45.   Since there was no way we'd miss it, we decided to wander around and look at the entertainment – karaoke, mini jeeps, whatever you call hitting golf balls into upturned umbrellas, bouncy castle and wobbly train.   We also visited a local garage sale (nothing much there but I got an awesome old school teal leather suitcase for a dollar, and Michelle was very tempted by a $12 electric typewriter) and went shopping at the few clothes shops in town.   

When we got back to the school after ogling a really shiny really red Ford, there was a mob of people surrounding the fenced swimming pools.   One large pool, one small pool, some PTA women, an old man with a pool skimmer, a rather hot (looking) rugby player and a LOT of ducks.  Rubber ducks.   Actually, plastic ducks. 


For the grand purpose of a raffle drawing, poor (but beautiful) Liam Messam was forced to Plunge into the pools of Ducks (get it now?), drawing one from each pool to make up the winning ticket number.  There were several draws, each with a longwinded prize description, leaving Liam freezing in the pool with nothing but ducks to protect him from the gaze of a hundred primary school kids' mums.


We didn't win anything.


Fast forward (sigh of relief) to us driving down the road to the hot springs recommended by my sister.  Prior to that we had not been able to find the key to my friend's empty house (it wasn't "in the shed" as he'd said), looked at some very bubbling mud pools, gone to some garage sales and found a little cabin at a campground in Rotorua.  It wasn't until we were half an hour down the wrong State Highway that we realised that my sister had given us perfect directions asides from the correct highway number.  We decided to go to Taupo for dinner instead of driving all the way back, then all the way down another road to flounder around in the darkness.


After trying to find the least St Patricksy place in town, the highlight of the lakeside dinner ended up being (drumroll please) - a bearded midget, dressed as a leprechaun, running.  That's right.  Midget.  Beard.  Leprechaun.  Running.  He ran past several times, then got into a car and drove away.  It was awesome.  Michelle also went to the supermarket wearing her dressing gown as a coat.  Also awesome.


The next day we managed to make it to the swimming hole, a perfect little spot where a steaming hot stream and a colder river meet.  Such an amazing feeling and so nice to be able to move around and find the perfect temperature.  There was an old woman so ancient that she looked like a female ET in a matching mint green bikini and swim cap, complete with full mud mask.  I was a little startled when I turned around and she was just floating in the water behind me.  I became increasingly fascinated with her though, especially when she started doing t'ai chi in the river, and when she scolded and muttered at an obnoxious English woman who somehow thought it would be okay to use shampoo in the stream and that it would be okay for her husband to swim in white underwear (I won't get started or I will get angry all over again)!


The final highlight was totally beating a very frustrated Michelle at the 3D Maze (34 minutes, winner!) and meeting the grumpy old man that runs it.  We were having a chat and he completely berated this kid for cheating, it was great.  I don't think the kid really got the point, but the fact that Grumpy's response to "My granddad told me to crawl under the walls," was "Bollocks!" made it possibly the best $6 I think I spent that weekend.

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