Thursday, February 8, 2018

New Zealand: Food in Rotorua

Little P's hot chocolate
As I was looking through the photo and about to write this post, I just realised that aside from the Hāngi feast, our other food options were non New Zealand origin.

First up, French influenced Le Cafe de Paris. We stumbled on this one when we were really hungry, travelling from Rotorua and not many shops were open on a Boxing Day. The food luck was on our side though, because these were good.

I wanted the La fermière initially, which was smoked chicken, aioli, camembert but as I made my option known to my friend, the owner heard me and replied that it was not available. So I went with La marine (smoked salmon, sour cream, chives) instead, NZD 13.90.

MMC wanted to share a muffin, guess which one she picked? Ha - salted caramel because caramel. If I was the one who suggested it, I would've gone with lemon curd.

Dinner on day 2 was our first choice prior to eating at Le Cafe de Paris, a Spanish/Mexico/Morocco cafe bar - Abracadabra Cafe Bar. If you only have one meal quota to Rotorua, go with this one.

This was New Zealand Fire Dragon chilli hot chocolat, NZD 7 and it did have a kick
Y's Spicy lamb salad, NZD 22
Little P's tapas option #1 of spicy prawns, NZD 11.50
Tapas #2 was chicken enchilada bites, NZD 13 (not in picture)
MMC and I shared the Moroccan seafood tagine, NZD 28
We also shared a bar platter which consisted of calamari, prawns, falafels, sirloin beef kebab, lamb sausages, chicken strips and chips, served with tomato jam and garlic aioli, NZD 32 
Another of our lunch was at an Italian restaurant near Eat Streat, that was forgetable. In fact, the food that we ordered did not arrived even after a 40 minutes wait. We wanted to cancel the order as we needed to make a move to be in time for our next appointment but was told that we cannot cancel as they were already preparing it. So we asked for a takeaway and made a dash out of the door.

Side note: How long does it take to build a habit?

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

New Zealand: Mitai Māori Village Experience and Hāngi Dinner

There are a few option of where you can try this in Rotorua according to my friend, Google. A quick search will yield return of Tamaki, Te Puai and Mitai. Little P booked us in to Mitai Maori Village because it is the closest to our accommodation, performance include  war boat and glow worm.

We did the Mitai Maori Village Experience which includes introduction to Maori culture, see warriors in traditional dress paddling an ancient warrior canoe (waka), an after dinner walk to see glow worms in their natural habitat and, very important - hāngi dinner.

Upon arriving, we showed them our booking confirmation and prompted ushered to our table. It was a 10 person table from memory, so we shared the table with some other people. We got ourselves a drink from the bar, this is not part of the buffet. I (because I'm not sure if the others shared my view) think, on hindsight, if we have known earlier then getting a drink later probably is a better idea, unless you are rather early (i.e. long waiting time) or a fast drinker. Reason being shortly after we got our drinks, we were being brought outside for our Māori culture introduction.

Some blue specialty cocktail which I forgot the name
It was a rather big group but they were organised, we were split into smaller groups and followed our own respective guides. Our group started off with some Māori words and we were brought to the riverbank to wait for the arrival of the warriors by paddling the waka (war canoe).

After that, we walked back to the main area passing by this blue pond due to presence of minerals. The bottom is constantly bubbling due to water flow. The source of this pond is from the earth via the sacred "Fairy Spring". We were told that despite it's appearance, it is about 3-4 meters depth and this is also their source of drinking water.

After this, we were brought to see a waka up close and given some information of their history and culture.

Then it was time to check our food status in hāngi. Hāngi is a traditional New Zealand method of cooking food using heated rocks buried in a pit oven. Food is put into aluminium foil and wire baskets. These baskets were lowered onto hot stones at the bottom of a pre-dug hole. The food is then covered with wet cloth and a mound of earth that traps the heat from the stones around the food. This is left in the ground for about 3-4 hours, depending on type and quantity of food.

This was only teaser because it wasn't dinner time yet. We were treated to cultural perfomance of songs and dances, showed how weapons were used, explained meaning of the tattoos. 

Village Chief
Haka dance
Then it was time to get back to our abandoned drinks. Buffet service was fast, empty trays were filled again quickly. 

It didn't finish with dinner. There was after dinner activity of seeing glow worms at their natural habitat, which was near the blue pond earlier. On our way there, we were also shown some plants that they use on daily basis, as well as the New Zealand famous silver fern. 

Side note: How long does one need to learn a language to reach conversational level? 

Sunday, February 4, 2018

New Zealand: Kuirau Park, Lake Rotorua and Redwoods Treewalk

Rotorua is famous as the stronghold of Māori tradition, as well as strong sulphur-rich air. Rotorua is NZ's home to spurting geysers, steaming hot springs and bubbling mud pools. Naturally, that was what we did.

First up was the free Kuirau Park. Little P drove passed and we spotted smoke from afar and made a pit spot. According to the legend from 100% pure New Zealand website, the lake was named after a beautiful young woman named Kuiarau. She was bathing in the waters when a legendary creature (taniwha) dragged her to his lair under the waters. The gods above were angered and made the lake boil so taniwha would be destroyed forever. Since then, the lake was known by the name of the woman, albeit small change to the spelling.

It is said that there are also free thermal foot baths but we didn't come across any. We did, however, came across the most gorgeous brown border collie, Max.

He just made you want to give him a big cuddle.
Photos from Kuirau Park make it instantly a scene for horror movie. Like this... and they come with rotten egg smell too.

If smokes and rotten eggs smell are not your cup of tea, Lake Rotorua could be an option.

Or if you prefer something not watery, there is option of land activity - Redwoods Treewalk. We went after dinner on our second day. It is a walkway that spans across 553 m and consists of a series of 23 suspension bridges. There were information of the trees on the stations between bridges. We were told not to jump on the bridge and to only take photographs on the pit stop, not on the bridge. This activity is available during daytime as well as night time, or you can get a day and nightlights combo ticket.

Personally I think I might enjoy it better if we were there at day time. The lights at night were ok but I think I prefer clearer views of the tree. Ha.

Side note: So much to do, so little time while I only want to do nothing...

Friday, February 2, 2018

New Zealand: Waitomo and Glow Worms

Inside Ruakuri Cave
I first saw glow worms in Gold Coast, at the Glow Worm Caves Tamborine Mountain. That was many years ago, photography was not permitted.

I think everybody who made a stop at Waitomo would have included a visit to the glow worm cave. You can visit up to 3 different caves - Waitomo Glowworm Caves, Ruakuri Cave and Aranui Cave but glow worms is not available at Aranui Cave.

Ignore those legs reflection...
For the more adventurous, you can try Black Water Rafting which is water rafting in the dark which I heard also include jump starting with rafting off waterfall or something. I think my heart is not that strong for this activity. This page on their website gave a good table summary. We did the Glowworm Cave and Ruakuri Cave. Photography also not permitted in the Glowworm Cave but allowable in Ruakuri Cave. We were allowed a small bag and we had backpack which were told to carry as front pack so that we don't accidentally rub or knock against the walls.

The highlight of Glowworm Cave was definitely the boat ride. The glow worms were all across the roof of the cave, it also feel like sky full of stars (try not to think that those are worms...). Aside from that, I personally enjoyed the Ruakuri Cave better, maybe the guide was more engaging and makes it more interesting.

Entrance down to the Ruakuri Cave
In both guided tours we went (Waitomo Glowworm Cave and Ruakuri Cave) the guide talked of how glowworms attract other insects with their light and trap them in threads for a tasty meal.

The said threads...

No pictures of the glowworms though because no tripod to take amazing photos and limited time to set it up even if I do have one.

Here are some structures in the caves, this was said to be resemble a curtain, or if you are more familiar with chips, does it look like a piece of Grain waves chip?

While this one here said to look like cauliflower.

Our visit to the Waitomo Glowworm Cave was actually on Christmas Day itself and Ruakuri Cave on Boxing Day. We overnight at Waitomo Caves Hotel which on their website described that it provides a taste of the early 19th century. Totally described it to a T and it did look majestic when one was approaching in a car. The rooms gave a similar feel as well... umm, let's say I won't recommend this one either. 

Moving on, after we completed the Waitomo Glowworms Cave, Little P and Y went back to their room for a rest while MMC and I decided to visit the cows at the farm down the room.

I told my friend that the cows looked a bit hostile, he replied me, "I would be too if some farmer wanted to milk me every morning." Makes perfect sense :P

After that, it was time for food again. As it was a Christmas Day, Little P had pre-book dinner at Roselands Restaurant Waitomo for a barbeque buffet dinner, NZD 36. We were given a protein choice of sirloin steak, chicken or NZ greenlip mussels in sweet chilli sauce. The protein is not part of exactly part of buffet as it was only served once but there were other mains as part of the spread. Y and MMC chose the steak, Little P had the chicken and I chose the mussels.

Lonely steak on a big plate
This was where the main buffet, some pasta, rice, salad and vegetables.

My first round of main buffet spread
There was a separate dessert table of fruits, cookies and cake. 

This is round 1 of dessert, washed down with coffee while we played monopoly cards. I think we were all still pretty clueless by the end of it except Little P who tried very hard to explain to us how to play the game to us, even though we played 3 rounds.

 We left before it gets too dark, the road leading to the restaurant was quite a winding one.

We had breakfast at the hotel the next day. The name of the restaurant was inline with our sea life theme - The Lazy Trout.

MMC had pancakes from the ala carte menu, NZD 16

I was greedier, I had the continental breakfast buffet, NZD 14. I thought the price for breakfast is pretty good.

Side note: There were a lot of chocolates with hokey pokey flavour in NZ. Hokey pokey is classic NZ honeycomb toffee made with golden syrup, butter and baking soda.