Day 21 - Cambridge (not that one) to Essex

It’s 9:30am on Friday as I type this and we won’t be home again until about 6pm on Saturday (even taken into account getting back the twelve hours we lost on the way). The flight isn’t until midnight so no real sleep and/or internet for the next forty-four hours.

Breakfast and a walk around the grounds at Woodlands Historic Homestead, Gardens.

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It was, of course, very exciting to see the Essex Arms suddenly in front of me. The owner was from Essex but sold it ten years ago and the new owners didn’t know anything about him.

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Killing time at Shanghai Airport.

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We FINALLY took off. Flying over Mongolia was quite the view.

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Day 20 - Waitomo to Cambridge

I was starting to think that Kiwis were a fabrication by Peter Jackson to lure people to New Zealand. Too many times I’d found myself staring into a dark cage being told; “No, they’re totally in there.” Well, I was calling BS.

Today - another day - a visit to Kiwi House.

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FINALLY I saw a Kiwi. Obviously no photos were allowed because… well, I’ve no idea. I guess some people can’t control their flash. I totally did see one though. You’ll have to take my word for it.

Post Kiwi excitement there was time to kill because the check at the final hotel wasn’t until 3pm and it was only about forty-five minutes drive away.

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Day 19 - Waitomo

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The main plan for the day was the Glow worm caves (there are two caves to choose from; The Glow Worm caves and Ruakuri Cave. The former doesn’t allow photography (boo) so Ruakuri Cave was the one.

But first breakfast in one of the local cafes that sells tickets (at moderately cheaper prices). We were accompanied (as seems to to happen often) by a bird flying around.

The cave tour wasn’t until 1pm so a walk around Otorohanga first.

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The to the glow worm cave. A short walk to the entrance. The original entrance was closed due to a Maori burial site and it being the gateway to the afterlife (I think that’s what the guide said).

Down the large, lit spiral walkway down into the caves.

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Really you needed a tripod but as much as I’d have liked a better photo it’s a very heavy arse thing to drag through caves. Trust me, they were brighter and more impressive in person.

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A change of hotel (who wants to share a bathroom with ten other people?) and closer to town meant no driving so I could - for the first time (?) on the trip actually have a beer (or two, and an espresso martini.)

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Day 18 - Otaki to Waitomo

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Another Big Drive to get to Waitomo, then two nights there to see the Glow Worm Caves.

Less coast, but more mountains.

Drove through a town just to photograph a bad pun.

Passing the plane below we doubled back to go and photograph it and in doing so found a whole street that had been turned into an art exhibition.

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Oh, and this rather marvellous mountain.

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Day 16 - Lincoln to Kaikoura

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Up by nine, breakfast and out of the hotel by ten. Three hours drive ahead up the coast to Waikoura (possibly our favourite location from the trip).

A stop off in Waikuku for a second breakfast a the Brick Mill Cafe.

Being Sunday the churches we passed we actually open so I got to take a few photos.

The three photos below are three different churches.

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Into vineyard country.

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Back along the nice coastal road. Seal number three chalked up.

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And finally back to Waikoura.

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Day 15 - Oamaru to Lincoln

Up and away from our home for a couple of days. A three hour drive North to Lincoln lay ahead.

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About an hour in and a large building painted bright yellow said; “Waimate - Home of wallabies.” so a sharp left and we came across EnkleDooVery Korna. An elderly woman runs a place that houses about sixty wallabies that you can wander round, from pen to pen, and feed.

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We stayed in Waimate for a while because there was a book fair, and who doesn’t want to go to a book fair? (That’s rhetorical because… everyone). A new suitcase may need to be bought to bring the books back.

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A lot of the streets in Waimate were closed off because there was some sort of road race going on. It took a while to leave, but despite their best intentions, leave we did.

Into Lincoln by 415pm or so. A walk around the town (though pretty much everything was closed). The bar, however, was open and so I had my first real drink of the trip. Whiskey, no ice. Good times.

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Day 14 - Oamaru

Woke up in our residential street rather than a hotel. A lazy start to the day before driving into town.

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Spent a couple of hours in town look in the art gallery, and visiting the penguin colony place ahead of this evening to ask what time we need to be there for the penguins.

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Back to the penguin colony for 7pm and come 10pm the penguin count from the sea to their nests was at 209. Not a bad number. You weren’t allowed to take photos (yes, I know) so here’s the outside of the building. Just imagine the penguins.

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Day 13 - Dunedin to Oamaru

Two nights in Oamaru ahead and not too much of a drive so a leisurely drive up the coast. We pulled over at Shag Point, because you would, wouldn’t you? Every fifteen minutes or so were nice views so I have a lot of very similar photos. You’re welcome.

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Breakfast in Waikouaiti at the Outpost Cafe (chicken and mango), then off to seethe Moeraki Boulders. They sit there being all round.

The Moeraki Boulders are a group of large spherical “stones” on Koekohe Beach near Moeraki on New Zealand’s Otago coast. These boulders are actually concretions that have been exposed through shoreline erosion from coastal cliffs. Even today, there are still boulders remaining in the mudstone that will, eventually, fall on to the beach as they come lose due to erosion!
— https://www.moerakiboulders.com/
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Hampden Presbyterian Church. Erected in 1870.

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Threw the stuff in the house we’ve rented for a couple of nights and drove back into Oamaru for a walk around. It’s a quirky place and the Steampunk aesthetic filters in to quite a few things. You may see a man in a bowler hat riding a penny farthing down the street and have to remind yourself you’re not in a remake of The Prisoner.

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Day 12 - Dunedin to Bluff (and back again)

A day of a BAFD (Big Arse Freaking Drive). From the hotel/apartment thing in Dunedin to the Southernmost point in Bluff and back again. But first, apparently, Milton. We stopped off in Milton and had a disappointing breakfast. I misread a sign for the “Toko pistol club” and the “Tokyo Pistol Club” which needs to be the title of a James Bond novel or a bar in a Quentin Tarantino movie.

Within a couple of hours we hit Invercargill and never let the opportunity for more eggs on toast to pass. The Zookeeper’s Cafe had an elephant on the roof and I think we can all agree that means the coffee must be good.

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Breakfast 2.0 consumed a walk up and down the high street and a warm hat was purchased. It was red. I know you were wondering.

Bluff was twenty minutes away and it would have rude not to have gone as far South as you can go without a boat. We drove up and up and up and up until the Bluff Hill Motupōhue Viewing Platform. It was windy. Really windy. I could have died. *

* I couldn’t have died, but it WAS windy.

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Another BAFD via a supermarket for food (since we have a proper oven) and bed by 9:30pm because old / tired.

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Day 11 - Timaru to Dunedin

A drive to Dunedin this morning to stay two nights and use it as a base for a visit to Invercargill tomorrow. It’s really just worth going to because it’s one of the Southern most places on Earth (I don’t want to boast on its behalf but it has the Southernmost McDonald’s).

Always a sucker for oversized fruit we stopped in Waimate.

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The woman recommended doubling back a bit to look at the church. The owner’s son has been making a blueberry field to it’s left and got chatting. The church hadn’t been used in for services in twenty years because religion was (he makes the hand gesture you make to show a plane is crashing). It can’t be lived in because all buildings need to be made earthquake proof, but they were told the changes would actually weaken the building.

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Oamaru was the favourite city so far of the trip. A nice coastline, and unexpectedly the Steampunk HQ.

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An hour from Dunedin we pulled in to take a walk on a beach and there was a seal lolloping around on the shore.

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Driving into Dunedin (still not sure how to pronounce the place) it was surprising how big it is. The South Island has a population of one million people and about twelve percent live in Dunedin.

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Day 10 - Kaikoura to Timaru

The most important thing - I’m sure we can all agree - is that I have a new camera.

Having arrived in the dark it was somewhat of a surprise to draw the curtains and see the view from the apartment window. The apartment is so nice it’s booked for the return in a few days time.

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Onwards ever onwards to Invercargill. We clung on the East coast and through lots more roadworks fixing the roads post earthquake and past crashing waves we headed closer to Christchurch.

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As we travelled further south we passed more and more vineyards. It would have been rude not to stop at one and buy some wine. I’m drinking a glass as I type.

Another church fenced off and propped up.

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Into Christchurch and the earthquake / church theme continued. The cathedral is due to take ten years to rebuild.

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An hour in Christchurch was long enough and the back on the road. We passed the Book Warehouse. It may have been called something else. It was HUGE. It picked up a nice big pile of books for just ten US dollars.

The guy running it liked to chat a lot. He gave us a pretty incomprehensibly drawn map for a book fair somewhere close.

Something about sometimes firing a gun towards birds in the rafters, but missing.

He did give us free biscuits though.

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Checked into the hotel at Timaru by 8pm. Asleep by 10pm.

Day 9 - Wellington to Kaikoura

A short drive to the ferry. We had a quick coffee with Mara at Mojo coffee.

We checked in at 12, and boarded by about 12:44. The crossing was rough. Walking down the corridors was like a scene from Inception. We had a cabin to ourselves which was good because how ever much you might imagine I was sick it was so much more. Thankfully, post sick, I managed to sleep through the remainder of the journey.

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Prior to the sickness tsunami there were some nice views from the top of the boat (I dare say there’s a proper boat term for it - deck?)

Post landing a nice coastal drive. We passed a church that was shut down after being made unstable by the earthquake.

En-route there were quite a few roadworks (fixing the road broken by the earthquake) but we got to a really great motel by about 8:45pm or so.

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Day 8 - Lower Hutt to Wellington

A day exploring Wellington. First stop was the library which had a good exhibition on both Suffrage (New Zealand was the first to give Women the right to vote. Just by comparison Saudi Arabia decided to wait until 2011). After the library we took a stroll around the government buildings. Below is a photo of the Beehive building.

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A “Rainbow Crossing” was permanently installed on the corner of Cuba and Dixon streets to demonstrate the city's commitment to diversity.

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Lunch then on to Wellington Zoo. It was nice to see a capybara in real life. They do indeed look like big guinea pigs.

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The very elusive kiwi was glimpsed in it’s cage under the red light, but this here isn’t a picture of that. It’s a stuffed one held up as an illustration but let us pretend it’s real.

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From Kiwis to Orcs as we drove to Weta Cave where Peter Jackon’s films are made. There wasn’t time for a full tour, but we snapped a few pics.

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Day 7 - Feilding to Lower Hutt (via Whitby)

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Because the ferry is booked up until Sunday we have two nights booked in a place called Lower Hutt. The mantra is “Invercargill or Bust”. This means Picton to Invercargill is about twenty-four hours of driving over seven days. That’s twenty-fours of optimum driving. Driving on every holiday always seems to be slower that Google Maps tells you. We’ll see how it goes. After the two nights in Lower Hutt, a hotel has been booked a couple of hours drive down from Picton in Kaikoura.

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A pretty rainy start to the day. We stopped off at a town called Sanson as we passed a coffee shop called “The Church Cafe” with the tagline “Heavenly coffee”. The food was okay, but one of the lesser Gods was in charge of the coffee the day we went. It wasn’t the worst coffee I’ve ever had, but ‘heavenly’? No.

A jar at the counter asked for “Donation for the angels.” I asked who the angels were but the staff seemed non-plussed and weren’t sure.

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We ploughed on until we saw a sign in a town called Foxton for a shop called ‘Junk and Disorderly’ and you can’t not go.

The sign on the door said if wasn’t due to open until 11am, so it was worth the fifteen minutes wait so we went for a stroll.

There was a big Dutch-designed library, which inexplicably had a piano in it. I think of libraries as been very shhhhhhh so it seemed odd. Being Dutch there was also a windmill. Obviously.

With it’s painted murals the town had a middle America feel to it.

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The town was awash with second-hand shops. Nothing overly interesting to be found though.

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All Saints Church was pretty. A sign outside said; “Designed by Mr. Tringham in an early English style this church was build in 1876 on land purchased from the Maori for one hundred gold sovereigns by Captain Francis Robinson. A condition of the purchase was that the grave of Pationa behind the church always be respected. The first vicar was Rev. Francis Sheriff. Additions and changes have been the enlargement of the chancel and vestry (1899). Installation of pipe organ (1967). Memorial stained glass windows are a feature.”

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Back to ‘Junk and Disorderly’ to be reminded that it’s Friday and so it’s open at 1pm, not 11pm. Onwards. The coastal road was being battered by waves which I failed to capture in any way so here’s a picture of a tree instead.

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Finally we arrived at the Most Important Town in New Zealand. Whitby. Yes, that’s right. Whitby. I took SO MANY photos of things that said Whitby on them. So so many.

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In the motel by 4pm or so. So very very windy and rainy outside. Stocked the fridge with food and beer and settled in.

This is the first (and probably) only hotel we’ll be in for two consecutive nights. Some rest before the push to Invercargil.

Day 6 - Taupo to Feilding

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Awake very early again. The plan is to get to the South Island by the weekend so we’ll hit the road early (ish) today and do a 200km drive from Taupo to Feilding.

The coffee shop we were aiming for opened slightly later than the guide book said so a walk was had. Now, the McDonalds in Roswell, New Mexico has a UFO sticking out of its roof but here in Taupo there’s a full size aeroplane. Your move Roswell, your move.

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Mordor remained forever in the distance.

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The town was full of great graffiti.

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When the Replete cafe opened it was one of the best breakfasts of the trip, but a lot of the food has been great.

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A long drive through lots of nice scenery with stopping off to take photos.

Driving down backroads to try and get a better view of The Mountain we came across this. Seems legitimate. Nice to see the brand branching out.

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Penthouse BBQ.

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The evening was spent looking at maps and the ferry. The ferry was all booked up (unless you want a 2am crossing) until Sunday, so it’ll be a couple of days in a place called Lower Hutt then the ferry between Wellington and Picton on the Sunday afternoon. When we land in Picton it’ll be a couple of hours drive to Kaikoura. Best laid plans.

Day 5 - Rotorua to Taupo

Delayed jetlag, a colder room and thin walls meant less sleep than might have been nice. An early start and a really great breakfast.

Ten minutes drive away was Whakarewarewa (The Living Maori Village). Lots of facts were learned about the Maori culture. I mean I can’t remember the all right now. There isn’t going to be a test is there?

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They train people up (you need to be male and have a certain amount of Maori purity to be accepted) in the art of Jade carving. After two years they go out into the World and teach others.

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In the village is Pōhutu which is the largest active geyser in the Southern Hemisphere and erupts hourly reaching heights of 100 feet.

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An hour’s drive and we were at hotel three (?).

A bit early so we went for a walk along the lake which they’ve modestly decided to call Great Lake Taupo. The shoreline is scattered with black swans. Small streams brought water into the lake that was hot enough that you couldn’t keep your hand in it.

Across the lake you can a white capped mountain in the distance which doubled as Mordor.

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Day 4 - Ramarama to Rotorua

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Was woken at 6:20 by the World’s loudest and most-persistent cockerel. A thousand poxes on it and I hope its beak falls off.

Showered and breakfast by 730.

A one-hundred mile drive down to Rotorua so we set off earlier since we were up and about. About an hour in we came to the Bugger Cafe. You can’t not try a place like that out. Damn them and their ploy for passing tourists.

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With yet more coffee inside us we barrelled up to some pretty bays before heading on towards the hotel in Rotarua.

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We stopped for lunch at The Glade Roadhouse and Store and I had a big cheeseburger that was much nicer than I was expecting. I know I’m on the Keto diet so I only had half the bun. I wanted it all though.



We pulled into Rotarua by 4pm or so.

It’s odd how your perspective can change how something is viewed. Upon getting to the hotel you are greeted (and with much of the town) with a strong smell of sulphur. As if you’ll be spending the evening walking through one almighty cloud of fart. If the reception had said; “It’s the drains.” you immediately say “Well, that needs looking at.” But whereas when they say; “We have some thermal springs you can dip in.” You say; “How quaint. We simply must.” The smell though really is something to behold. The hotel is nice. It’s a “boutique hotel” but I’ve no idea what that means.

I’ve cut and paste the history because I’m lazy.

Built originally in 1897 in Waihi, some 150 km’s north of Rotorua, from the celebrated Kauri timber which was unsurpassed for its building qualities, it has endured the trials and tribulations that it has experienced during its long and eventful history and is still today a prominent showpiece in the very heart of Rotorua.

At the turn of the century, in the early 1900’s, the thriving Waihi was the third largest town in New Zealand (after Auckland and Wellington) and was the site of the Martha Gold Mine, then the richest in the world. Many hotels and public houses sprang up to cater to the demands of the many miners and visitors that occupied the town. One of the finest of these establishments was the New Central Hotel (later to become The Princes Gate Hotel), built by Mr E. Morgan, it had 75 bedrooms and very quickly became well known for its superior qualities. Visiting mine officials enjoyed the excellent hospitality that was shown by the first proprietors of the hotel, Mr and Mrs M.G. Power, and many distinguished names began to appear in the hotel register. Many of the biggest weddings and social functions were held at the hotel and due to Waihi being the railhead in those days it was a popular stay over for visitors to the Bay of Plenty before travelling on to Tauranga by coach. After Mr and Mrs Power left the hotel their daughter Nellie Budd and her husband took over the running of the hotel and Mrs Budd, who was a member of the operatic society and had a beautiful voice, would often entertain her guests with her singing. After leaving the hotel Mr Power later became the mayor of Waihi but shortly after both he and his wife died as victims of the influenza epidemic that swept through the region.

In 1906 the hotel was purchased for nearly $9,000 by Mr Moss Davis who was the father of Sir Ernest Hyam Davis who was a New Zealand businessman, and was Mayor of Auckland City, from 1935 to 1941. He was also on other Auckland local bodies and on various philanthropic and sporting organisations.

In 1908 the town was still thriving and with miners making up the majority of the population and keeping the bars busy it seemed that nothing could go wrong but a steady demise was literally just around the corner. Price hiking of alcohol, discontented wives, unruly behaviour and general discontent it was threatened that prohibition would be voted for at the coming election. Due to a certain level of apathy amongst those that did not consider prohibition as a likely outcome many did not bother to vote and thereby assisted the bombshell result that saw prohibition winning by 86 votes. . In 1909 the bars closed for the final time and although the Central Hotel closed its bar with dignity the Rob Roy saw stones and bottles as it was regarded as the hotel that started all the trouble in the first place.

The Central Hotel was on a steady decline from this time onwards for a period of about three years when in 1912 it became busy again by housing the extra policemen who were sent down from Auckland to help quell the riots that arose as a result of the infamous miners’ strike. The mines were thriving and the men were only asking for better working conditions and pay and even after law and order was restored the bitterness remained and many decided to move away. With the declining population the Central Hotel started to lose trade but once again a tragedy brought it some temporary relief. When the influenza epidemic hit Waihi after the First World War the Hotel became a hospital and served a great purpose within the local community.

However, not long after the epidemic was over it was decided to move the hotel to the fast expanding tourist town of Rotorua where it was considered that it would be most suitable for tourist accommodation (such vison and foresight). So in 1917, nail by nail and board by board, the hotel was dismantled and transferred by horse-drawn wagon to the Waihi Railway Station and the timber and fittings were duly taken by rail to Rotorua. It is believed that the original builder of the hotel, Mr Morgan, was employed to reassemble the hotel and the structure remained almost unchanged from the original. Its new location was superbly positioned at the corner of Awara and Hinamaru Streets directly opposite the entrance to the stunning Government Gardens and Museum that are accessed through the Commemorative Archway Gates.

The sign at these gates read: “The wooden arches that grace the entrance to the Government Gardens once spanned the intersection of Fenton and Hinemoa Streets. Designed to represent the royal crown, they were erected in 1901 to honour the visit of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and York (later King George V and Queen Mary). The arches were adorned with greenery and electric lights to celebrate the arrival of the royal pair. After the visit, portions of Prince’s Gate were moved to their present position. The impressive Totara gateway has been recently restored.”

The newly reassembled hotel was re-opened in 1921 and appropriately named “The Prince’s Gate Hotel” and has remained so ever since.
— https://princesgate.co.nz/history/
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I think in the above photo that’s our room to the left of three people. Below there it is today.

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Day 3 - Auckland to Ramarama

Wait, what happened to day two? Is this a different day to when you landed? No. Shut up. I’m tired. A day happened somewhere, or merged, or something. We landed earlier. But, wasn’t that day one? Shut up.

About forty minutes drive and we landed in Ramarama and the house for the night.

Set in - as I suspect most things are here - lovely scenery the house was great and has a large field with a horse and ewe chilling out together, and further down the hill some emus.

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In the owner’s garden were some emu chicks.

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The plan was an early night but no… wide awake at 1am. Still, with no light pollution you can really see the stars. So, that’s nice.

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