Despite the late take-off our flight was on-time.
First impression of AKL?
Seemed kinda provincial but of course I was spoilt silly by SIN.
Despite being the only plane arriving at the hour, the queue to go through immigration was painfully slow.
Most of the Asian visitors were subjected to rather rigorous interviews (where are you heading, show me your return itinerary etc) but our immigration official didn’t even bother to talk to us.
The quarantine official did ask us some questions about what’s in our luggage and she was pretty satisfied with our declarations.
She gave me a number to call and directed me to the pick-up point to the left of the exit.
A JUCY rep came and picked us up in a van with a cute trailer.
JUCY’s airport office was around 3 minutes’ drive from the International Terminal and another rep handled my booking.
For less than 160 NZD in total, I got a Gold Daihatsu Sirion for three days with unlimited mileage, zero excess and GPS.
NZ countryside unfolded in front of our eyes after we left the Greater Auckland area behind..
Our destination was Rotorua where there are plenty of attractions/activities (read touristy).
Driving in NZ was definitely less stressful compared to Singapore.
Despite the much longer distance, there were few cars and the drivers were definitely more courteous.
The four-lane expressway narrowed to two lane carriageway but the scenery remained fantastic.
The approximate route that we took:
Some of the roads that we drove through was downright deserted and for a moment I was questioning Mr GPS.
I drove all the way until a petrol station outside Tirau where we took our first break and bought some milk.
Then I remembered to get my sis to photograph our ride.
Driving on, we were briefly stuck behind something in red and yellow.
Fortunately for us there are overtaking lanes every 20km or so on NZ roads and I was able to pass the fire engine in the next one.
After a few wrong turns in downtown Rotorua we finally reached our hotel.
As Accor was having offer of 25% discount on its properties in NZ during the winter months, I was able to get a Superior Room with two double beds for around 120 SGD per night.
Furthermore I could book the stay using flybmi.com (partners with Expedia) which earned me 750 miles per night in my Diamond Club account.
It was interesting to have a Japanese receptionist checking me in in an English-speaking country..
Thumbs up to Yoko who helped me to retrieve my forgotten A Club membership number without fuss.
The two doubles were more than adequate for the three of us.
We couldn’t fault its location by the lake but our room was facing the town instead.
After freshening up and letting the rain subside, we decided to leave Elfie in the carpark and ventured out to explore the lake on foot.
The lake didn’t hold our attention very long so we swung inland towards the shops.
The scent of sulphur which smelled like rotten eggs were clearly evident.
The clock tower was where Rotorua’s i-Site was located and we went in to check out on the attractions or activities that appealed to us.
There were also a gift shop where my mom picked up two bar soaps made from volcanic minerals.
i-Sites around the country often offer good deals to the attractions and the staff were pretty helpful with suggestions to where to go and what to do.
As it was too early for dinner we continued to wander down the street.
Passed by a shop which sold Manuka honey but decided against purchasing them then as we were on foot.
Finally we hit the supermarket Pak’n Save based on the directions given by one of the i-Site staff.
That was where we got our food supplies for the next day’s breakfast (cup noodles) as well as lunch (bread and muffins).
We decided to walk back to the main drag of restaurants for our early dinner but not without taking photographs of some interesting sights.
Dinner was at Nando’s.
Ordered a half girlled chicken and a portion of espetada (a large stand with a skewer of chicken breast and grilled peppers) to share among the three of us.
The chicken breast was succulent and the Peri-Peri sauce didn’t disappoint as usual.
Though it was a pity that there was no extra-hot version in NZ.
Since it was still early after dinner, we drove to Rainbow Springs.
As we had a voucher (50% off admission for second adult) from our car rental company, we only paid 75 NZD in total for admissions.
The stars of the night at Rainbow Springs were definitely the nocturnal kiwi birds in the enclosure.
We only managed to spot one of them and had to keep absolutely quiet while trying to observe it in the dark.
What surprised me was its size; I was expecting kiwis to be way smaller but it was actually the same size as a grown hen.
Rainbow Springs was lit up with different colours in the evening but it was too dark to take good pictures with my PNS camera.
It was getting chilly in the evening so we returned to the relative warmth of our hotel room.
There was nothing really interesting on TV and rugby (both union and league) dominated the sports channels.
Due to the long day of traveling (and another one ahead of us) all of us were nicely tucked in bed by 10pm.