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Friday, January 6, 2012

Private Universe

Our stop in Coramandel was an example of the joys of unscheduled travel.  The quaint little village was a perfect counterpoint to our week in Auckland, and was a pleasant change from that urban setting.  It was also our first exposure to the beauty that is the New Zealand landscape.
We just had to see more of it, so we threw everything back into our Nissan Bluebird and got back on the twisty, snaking highway 25 heading east, then south, and then, well northeastsouthwestnorthsoutheastnorthnortheasteast. The road had a few turns in it, and, still getting used to driving a car from the passenger side, I was happy when we hit a more straight stretch.  For the time being, we avoided any car sickness (hmmm, was that some foreshadowing right there?), and continued in the general direction of Tauranga, a resort area on the coast, but not before pulling over a few times to take in more of the grandeur of the Kiwi scenery. 

An online check before we headed out came up empty on a place to stay for the night, but we had hopes that a stop at the I-Site information booth in town could help us in Tauranga, just as it had the previous night in Coramandel.  Tauranga was bustling with people when we pulled into an open parking spot on the street, and we walked a few blocks to the I-Site location.  Just like what happened with Mary and Joseph and that adorable little baby of theirs, (no crying he made!) we were informed that there were no rooms at any of the Inns in Tauranga because of a triathlon the next day and some youth athletic games that weekend.  Once again, fate helped make our decision because we were having trouble deciding on whether or not to head to Rotorua, a spot about an hour inland, popular for it's geo-thermal springs.  

Before leaving Tauranga, I stopped in a music/video store and picked up a copy of the greatest hits of Crowded House.  They are a New Zealand band who had a few hits in the 80s and 90s, and I felt like having some Kiwi music playing as we drove.  My favorite song of theirs is Private Universe, and that's what I felt like Annie and the kids and I were in as we continued our adventure.  The ride toward Rotorua was scenic and uneventful and we were enjoying the tunes when simultaneously Annie said "What is that smell?" and I said "Did someone throw up?" Ben provided a quick end to the mystery by saying "Marley did!"  Fortunately our industrious young lady had been holding a plastic bag close by her as she felt uneasy from our weaving ride and she managed to keep everything inside the bag and not deflower our Bluebird and its 73 thousand kilometers and cloth seats.  Marley recovered quite nicely and we disposed of the bag and its contents and after passing a few lodges and motels with a NO in front of the vacancy sign, we found a Best Western with one room left for the night but nothing for the following night.  We had hoped to find a place for two straight nights but after about three hours of driving (there is a town in the area called Te Puke which had some karma considering Marley's episode) the decision was made to stay there for the night, despite the higher-than-we-wanted-to-pay price.  Once in the room, I got online and found a hotel in town with room for all of us the following night at a much lower price.

Rotorua turned out to be a nicer area than we expected it to be.  Pamphlets that proliferate tourist information areas tout it almost like a Pigeon Forge, with all kinds of rides and attractions for the family, but they don't mention that it has a very nice town area, including a section where the street is blocked off for al fresco dining.  It was a little chilly for our tastes to do that, but we did find a nice affordable Italian restaurant where Marley had what she described as the best pizza she's had on the trip.
One advantage to Marley's regurgitation in the car was it prepared us for one feature of Rotorua.  This place smells, thanks to the sulfur in the air from the springs that first drew people to this area.  It's not present all the time, but when it is, it is unavoidable.  

The biggest discovery for me so far on this trip is that I really like my family.  You get so busy during your every day life that you spend more time being at work and then getting homework done and getting to piano practice or football practice that it's hard to slow down and just enjoy the company of one another.  If nothing else, this trip is providing that opportunity.  Sure, being around a pair of 11 year olds 24/7 can be a bit taxing at times, but they are great kids who are slowly becoming fascinating adults.  It promises to be an interesting few months ahead as we continue to explore our own private universe.

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