New friends “take us home”
The work week is quite busy. Video calls, emails, whatsapp, phone calls, all useful tools for those who work remotely but which allow you to always stay connected, without substantial breaks. The time zone difference amplifies the working hours. The computer is always with me, but the office changes 😅😂. Shopping malls, libraries, coworking spaces; I like to vary and above all I like the idea that work follows my decisions during the day 😉.
But luckily the weekend comes and that is sacred. This week the direction is the District of Rotorua, south of Auckland, but first we go by car towards the Coromandel Peninsula to spend half a day on the Hot Water Beach, the hot beach famous for a strange natural effect that warms up the sand bringing the temperature up to 64 degrees Celsius. To fully grasp this phenomenon we have to take into account the tide and take advantage of the low tide when the beach “stretches“, the sea water penetrates the subsoil and, heated by a thermal spring, rises again, causing this unusual phenomenon. Arrived on the beach, boys and families, equipped with a special shovel, had dug the sand to build natural pools of hot water. We, on the other hand, delight in sinking our feet into the sand, on the shore to marvel at how hot the lower layer was, almost to the point of burning.
With the arrival of high tide, the beach gradually disappears and so we just have to take the state road, very winding, towards the south. Before arriving in the District of Rotorua, we decide to stop in a pretty town on the Pacific, Tauranga, where we have dinner. To sleep we chose a very cheap accommodation, recommended to us by Airbnb with a 5-star score, about 15 km away, towards the hills. We will stay only one night in the chosen B&B. Arriving late, the hosts welcome us very cordially, offering us all their hospitality. In front of a black coffee we chat and make friends with their 2 beautiful cats. But tiredness takes over and we go straight to bed.
In the morning, having quickly packed up, we move into the living room which overlooked a huge green lawn. At night we had not been able to appreciate where we were.
It was a beautiful country villa, among green hills, with modern furnishings and style, overlooking the Pacific coast.
All around was an explosion of green, those thousand shades of green that can only be seen in our parts in the months of April and May. Jen and Mike, after spending time in England, he at AC Nielsen and she at the University of Oxford, have chosen a different lifestyle; office down in the city and home on a hill, here in New Zealand where they were born and where they have their closest loved ones.
The country villa was built to provide the necessary to be able to “survive”: from rainwater, skilfully collected and filtered – very good – to the 2 cows, 2 sheep and 5 hens which with little effort ensure meat and eggs for the whole ‘year.
The breakfast offered to us is of a unique goodness just as unique is the spectacle of the Pacific and the green hills in front of us.
It was evident, due to the standard of living of the 2 nice hosts, that their lifestyle, as well as the habit of hosting “tourists and patrons” in their beautiful home, is not based on money. Intrigued, I specifically asked Mike if they did it for money and he said: “no, no, we don’t do it for money but only because when we can’t go around the world, we like the world to come to us“.
We understand, therefore, that we share a passion for travel and so they tell us about their 3 times that they have come to Italy; classic destinations: Rome, Venice, Florence and then an unusual trip inland, near Pompeii.
We thus discover that 15 years ago Jen and Mike came to Vulture visiting Melfi, Venosa and the Monticchio lakes.
Incredulous, we tell them that we live right there, to which Mike enters the house and returns with an album of old photos; among these some taken right at the Monticchio Lakes.
At the sight of those photos we are filled with great pride. Our Vulture has come this far, we say to Sabrina. Jen and Mike tell us about happy days, where they met smiling people who were always very helpful.
So we keep talking for a long time, as if we’ve been friends for who knows how long. But the itinerary that we had set for ourselves looms large and so, with some regret at not being able to stay longer, we say goodbye to our new friends, inviting them to come and visit us in Italy, and we set off again towards the hinterland, towards the Volcanic Valley.
The Waimangu Volcanic Rift Valley is a hydrothermal system formed rather “recently”, in 1886, by the volcanic eruption of Mount Tarawera. Waimangu is a word in the Māori language which means “black water” and indicates the water raised by the Geyser, which was black with mud and rocks.
The gurgling water is not from too much heat but from gas emissions. And everywhere, for almost 4 km, everything is like this. Gushes, fumaroles, white rocks.
The clouds that run fast in the sky make us appreciate the explosion of green that is shown around us. A veritable luxuriant forest thanks to the abundant rains, throughout the year, and to the temperate climate, we imagine due to the effects of the Geyser.
Going up a few steps along the route, we make an inevitable detour, well indicated by the guide, which leads us to a Dantesque landscape: the Blue Lake (Inferno Crater Lake).
A sudden rain doesn’t let us get to the end. After taking refuge under a wooden shed, we take the first shuttle that takes us back to the car. So we decide to calmly take the road back and try to stop in one of the few villages that we meet along the way.
The “walk” of almost 200km that will take us back to Auckland will be very pleasant.
There are many fascinating signs of a little Maori, a little Wild West and Pop culture, as I call it.
There is no shortage of opportunities to make other friends, thanks to the impossibility of paying for an ice cream with a credit card that is kindly offered to us 😩😉😂😂 by a lady on a trip with a bus of friends.
The use of cash is superfluous … we have never used it; we don’t even know how to get them from the ATM 😅.