Sunday, March 13, 2011

Family Holiday - Rotorua NZ - Part 1

        Our family went on a short holiday to Rotorua, New Zealand the week before Christmas 2010. There were 16 of us travelling, our family of 6 plus Ryan, my aunty's family of 5 plus my cousin's boyfriend, our grandparents and another aunty who decided to come along with us (without her family). We flew to Auckland and hired out two mini busses and went on a road trip down to Rotorua.
        It was a late flight, the only one for Jet Star getting in at around 1:00am NZ time which meant we had to sleep over in Auckland before making our way to Rotorua. First stop of the morning after we flew in was breakfast, and where do we find ourselves? Stopping at some little suburb of Auckland at a Vietnamese restaurant. Trust my uncle to sniff out the local communities. You see, when travelling with our families (in the case of the adults anyway), they always try and find familiarities, especially in the case of food. Wherever we travel, they will seek out the local Vietnamese community, or at least an Asian community where they will generally stock up on food for our trip. Yeah, they're weird like that.

        So, it's breakfast time. We actually got there a little early so Ryan and I wondered around the block sussing out what else there was in this little community. The smell of fresh bread baking lured us to a nearby asian bakery where we couldn't resist grabbing a couple of pastries from. We first had to go and get some cash from mum seeing as neither of us had any local currency yet. We couldn't get over how cheap everything was even in NZ dollars, at this bakery anyway. We were too hungry to pause for photos.
        The restaurant finally opens and all 16 of us go in and take our seats at the table, all the adults on one end and all the young ones on the other.

        No milk and cereal for this breakfast. I ordered a lychee smoothie which Ryan enjoyed so much he had to order one for himself. It was nice and refreshing, tasting of pure lychees blended with ice, perfect as it was, not too overly sweet.

        All the adults seemed to be ordering Pho and other noodles dishes for breakfast but I was in a rice mood (I'm generally a rice over noodles type of person). I ordered the crispy skin chicken and rice, which is pretty much the only thing I order whenever I eat out Vietnamese. It was pretty average, rice and chicken a little dry needing the small bowl of broth that came with it, and also the extra seasoning from the bowl of fish sauce.

        That's me in the driver's seat of the huge Toyota Hiace, I pretty much only drove it from our Hotel to the Restaurant and Ryan took over driving for the rest of the trip, I wasn't complaining.

        Ryan and I spotted this big Asian grocer on our walk around the block, I had a suspicion that we would somehow end up here and I was totally right.

        Stocked with all the expected asian groceries and fresh and frozen produce. They were whinging a little about the high prices, I guess the cost of importation is a little more considering the distance it needs to travel further than Australia. They buy all the neccessities like Jasmin rice, cooking sauces, noodles and Asian herbs etc.

Our good looking driver for the trip.

        So we are on our way to Rotorua. We drive through what is mainly countryside. It was a beautiful drive and we are just absolutely mesmerised by how gorgeous the land is.

        And there were so many cows! Almost every piece of green grass had cows feeding off it.

        And it seemed like the majority of the crop grown in the area was corn, every field was just covered in corn.

        We take a toilet break pitt stop at a little town called Cambridge. The queue at the service station was a little long (remember 16 of us) so Ryan and I wondered over to the neighbouring tourist/info/souvineer centre to use their toilets.

Food stuff!! No time to stop and have a proper look though =(.

        Ryan and I wondered upstairs to this quaint little cafe to grab a coffee and perhaps a small snack to fuel us for the rest of the trip.

        The coffee was really good, and so were their sausage rolls! When you get flaky pastry dropping all over you, you know it's good.

        So off we go again. Ryan and I were pretty wowed at how absolutely lush everything was, it was such a nice feeling driving through this. The trip wasn't all this nice though, we copped some heavy rain during the drive. Our van also suffered some electrical problems on the way, we really didn't think we would make it to the destination as the engine seemed to want to give way. With Ryan's persistance we ever so slowly pushed on and arrived at our destination.
        EuropCar, the abolutely worse rental company to deal with regarding problems (in NZ anyway). We had no choice though because they were the only one out of the big guys that had the Hiace for rental. We had road side assistance come and fix the car for us and everything seemed to be okay again... so we thought at the time anyway.

        After what seemed like a whole day of driving we arrived at the Worldmark Maramar Resort, Rotorua. We had booked out two chalets for our two families plus the extras but whenever our families travel we split into a 'kids' vs 'parents' sleeping arrangement.

        First agenda after settling in was a trip to the nearest supermarket. Countdown is New Zealand's equivalent of Woolworths, everything was the same except for the name. Mum spotted that they had live green mussels selling for just over NZ$3 which we simply could not pass up. Off I went and grabbed 3 and a half kilos for dinner that night.

        And guess who's in charge of cooking the mussels for dinner? Me! With Ryan's help, and I also had minions help me clean them before hand.

        The adults had managed to prepare a feast, we had rice paper rolls with cooked prawns, omlette, braised pork and vermicelli rice noodles, and with home made fish dipping sauce and a hoi sin sauce too.

        My mussels - garlic, onion, diced tomato, parsley, chilli, lemon, white wine, and bread for dipping. The mussels were absolutely plump and juicey! I don't think I've ever experienced such fresh mussels as these. I had about 10 and couldn't take anymore.

        Whenever you travel with our family, you are guaranteed a good feed, just ask Ryan! =D.

        Day 2. We wake up nice and early to dreary grey skies heavy with rain. It's a Sunday and Ryan wants to attend mass so we pop down to the local Catholic Church while everyone is getting up and doing their morning thing. The church was so beautiful and they have managed to incorporate Maori culture into the interior decor of the church. This photo of the church was actually taken on our last day in Rotorua when the sun and blue sky decided to come out to play.

        After mass we high tail it back to the cabins and quickly throw together some breakfast for ourselves as the others have already eaten their big breakfast. I have placed two knives down, I didn't realise this until I went to pick up my cutlery to eat breakfast with.

        We pretty much drove around Rotorua all day with nowhere to go as it's just too wet for any activities. It was quite depressing to start our short holiday like this.

        We did stumble across a whole heap of bubbling thermal pools in the middle of the town. It was quite fascinating and it was then that we realised why it was so stinky in Rotorua! I was under the impression that all these thermal pools and hot springs were situated further away on the outskirts of town. Luckily for us though that there is a big lake seperating our resort from the town centre and we don't actually get any smells (or thermal pools) on our side of the lake.

        Day 3. Rise and shine for breakfast. My recruited breakfast brigade. I am merely the one co-ordinating and giving orders =).

        What was left of the usual suspects in the fridge/freezer. Hash browns, bacon, sausages, eggs.

        Today's main breakfast though was going to be pancakes, my uncle bought us what seemed like a never ending supply of bananas so when he said he was popping out to the supermarkets I got him to pick me up some flour to make pancakes with (to go with the bananas!)

A breakfast feast to start the day.

        The view of our 'backyard'. It's still a little grey but the rain seems to be holding off. Thank goodness.

        We head out to the Waimangu Volcanic Valley. Family group photo at the entrance, missing Ryan though as he's lagging behind somewhere...

        All the young ones, inside the valley.. Oops, I put my camera onto the top of a bin to get this shot, must have tilted a bit after I set the timer and jumped in.

All the adults looked like smurfs with their ponchos =D.

There's a big hot pool in the middle there, we walk through the valley and get closer to it.

So much steam coming from the bubbling water.

Hot flowing creek running off the pool.

        Look how goregous the colour of the water in this pool is. The water is high in acidity though.

        After the volcanic valley we try and stop over at the prawn farm. Unfortunately we've come a bit too late and there's not enough time to go in. So prawn golf it is! (It's just aqua golf). Look at grandpa go.

Gobsmacked when we saw this sign, Look how far from Sydney we are!

        Thanks to Ryan, we stopped at the Bee Hive. Lots and lots of honey products to sample and buy!

Lots of honey mead! (Honey wine). We leave with a fair few bottles of this.

        Sitting on the floor, drinking my honey mead, and chopping chocolate to make cookies. The boys had to take over because I was a bit tipsy =D. Don't want to lose any fingers now do I?

Chocolate cookie mix.

        Not exactly the best looking cookies or photograph but they were fun to make =D. I actually made some the night before which were really good that they all wanted some more. These however didn't turn out as good as the first batch I made which was actually just thrown together with no recipe on hand.
        So that's the end of part 1 and day 3 of our trip. Stay tuned for more! I'll also upload the rest of my photos to facebook so feel free to snoop here for part 1 ;) I did take over 2500 photos so lots more to come.


joey@FoodiePop said...

I loved Rotorua when we were there five years ago, and I think NZ sausage rolls leave ours for dead!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Wow 16 of you! That's amazing! I love big family trips if everyone behaves and there are no tantrums :P

thang @ noodlies said...

NZ looks so beautiful.. I love it how the Viets always manage to find a Viet restaurant to eat, no matter where they are!

Maria said...

I really enjoyed travelling around this area too, so much to see there! Looks life fun with a big family :-)

Cooking Gallery said...

You seemed to have a great time...! Love the arrays of food displayed too :).

Helen (Grab Your Fork) said...

Wow an epic post! Travelling in big groups can be hectic but then it also means you have an instant party whereever you go. And lol at the Smurf comment!

Richard Elliot said...

It's almost 10yrs since I was in Rotorua. I loved all of the little cafes my sister and I stopped at across NZ.

I have two memories of Rotorua. The smell (gosh it was bad) and a lovely cafe we found called 'Fat Dog'. I bought their little cookery book and still make cakes from it. It's fab!

penny aka jeroxie said...

What a family outing! So envious. I have not been on holiday with family since I was a kid!

the dainty baker said...

i went there like 2 years ago with the oldies too!! its so nice there huh? the scenery is amazing! love it!

Anonymous said...

NZ looks beautiful, I'm so looking forward to getting there!

Forager @ The Gourmet Forager said...

Your family must get on well. I can think of nothing worse than a trip with 16 of MY family! haha. I might even get arrested after it for strangling most of them! A very precious (and rare) thing - and it looks like a great trip to boot!

William said...

Nice blog ! I'm from Rotorua myself, and I'm surprised you and your family didn't go to any of the Maori Cultural experiences we have on offer... They are amazing ! We (Rotorua) are the capital of Maori Culture =D