Whilst we were away the weather at home was cold and very very wet. So wet that when I drove the hire car into the drive this evening and decided to get a bit nearer the house to avoid the mud one of the car's front wheels disappeared into the mud. As it is front wheel drive it wouldn't drive out again. So there it will stay until the morning when, hopefully, it will have stopped raining and, again hopefully, we will be able to free it without having to resort to towing it out.
However whilst we were away once we had left Hawkes Bay we saw no rain at all - and, indeed on the whole, we had lovely weather - until we left Taupo this evening for the return journey which was undertaken in heavy rain and, over the Ranges, heavy mist too.
We stayed last night in Rotorua. It is now out of the summer season so accommodation was easy to find and the girls found a family 'suite' in a rather indifferent but perfectly adequate motel for $80 - a tiny fraction of what it would have cost a few weeks ago. Indeed in high season January I'd have been hard pressed to find a room for anywhere near that price.
Rotorua is interesting for a stay for many reasons but one in particular is the ever-present smell of sulphur from the hot springs and other geothermal activity on which the town stands.
To make our stay even better we found a restaurant attached to a nearby motel which did breakfast. An excellent breakfast it was too. It's the first time I've had absolutely perfect thick, light multi-grain toast to complement perfectly cooked shoulder bacon, sausage and tomato garnished with orange slices and parsley. How cool is that?
After that we went to see the Blue and Green Lakes but from the ground (I saw them from the air in January) they were very disappointing and neither green nor blue for the most part. We passed on a visit to Te Puia, a Maori 'total experience' including a thermal area (we'd seen one on Monday) and concert (which we could not have stayed for and had all previously seen elsewhere in more authentic circumstances albeit on previous visits) because the weather was closing in and the cost was pretty exhorbitant.
Instead we followed the sun to Taupo and south to Mount Ruapehu (the volcano upon which I have previously posted on this blog). Once you get near the top it's rock and more rock and very large chunks of rock at that. Interspersed with the rock is the ski area. Except that it's not a ski area at the moment because there is no snow because it's the end of summer and Mt Ruapehu is not tall enough to have year-round snow sufficient upon which to ski. It reminded me of Andora (which Mo and I visited some years ago) out of season and on a much smaller scale (albeit a scale which could suddenly erupt and make skiing a very unpleasant activity). It was sad and deserted and dark and, to be truthful, as a result lacking in the majesty that a great volcano should have. This photo was taken from the road to Ruapehu's base and in sunshine - neither of which appeared when we were up at the ski area near the summit.