After a restful sleep in Tokoroa we were up at the crack of dawn, with the dew still fresh on the grass and a long drive ahead of us, we said our goodbyes and hit the road, to make a quick pit stop to fill up on gas, pies and coffee before the long journey ahead. It’s worth noting that here in New Zealand, service station pies (and coffee) are an art form, nothing like the ‘Wild Bean’ cafe’s you get at service stations in the UK with watery coffee and soggy pies, no, these pies are like gourmet pies and the coffee even features latte art!
THE CHEESE SHOP – KAIWAKA
To make the long drive more interesting, we stopped off at little one horse towns with unusual claims to fame. It was in one of these delightful little towns that we discovered an old library with no internet connection, and the only form of communication being a phone so old it must have been from the 1930s, a beautiful little church – The Kaiwaka Revival Church…
…and one of New Zealand’s best cheese shops – The Kaiwaka Cheese Shop, purveyors of some of the finest Dutch cheeses and, interestingly…run by a Welshman from Cardigan (the giant Welsh flag, proudly stating ‘CYMRU’ hanging outside the shop looked a little out of place in this quaint New Zealand town and was a bit of a give away!) Still, this was perfect opportunity to stock up on cheeses, honeys and an outstanding selection of wines!
LUNCH AT MOTUTARA FARM
After working out how to park the car without it sliding down the grass to the cliff edge and finding Sam’s dad’s camping spot it was time to settle down for lunch with a view. And what a view it was, the gentle sway of the pohutakawa trees gave way to the clear blue sea below.
After lunch (and getting the car to go up the hill rather than slide down on the grass) we were back on the road again. Driving at a comfortable top speed we hit Russell (New Zealand’s first ‘settled’ town) while it was still light. We stayed with friends in their self-built house overlooking Russell Bay, where we would spend New Year’s with them. It was quite a full house, with 8 people and two dogs in total! After the long drive, and still smelling of Rotorua it was time for a quick shower, but no matter how much I scrubbed (which is hard with 2 day old sunburn) I still smelled sulphurous and now was even more pink. The lesson learned here is to not get sunburnt, there is no lesson about Rotorua, other than I did warn you, you will just have to accept it.
Russell is a picturesque little town, steeped in history and popular with both national and international tourists. We dined at the Duke of Marlborough Hotel on some of the most amazing clam chowder – fresh caught clams from Russell’s own fishermen – this would give San Francisco Clam Chowder a run for its money! And after washing this all down with a fine NZ Pinot Gris, promptly fell asleep at the table – how embarrassing, but at least it was the whole table and not just us!