Our next stop 2 hours later was Papamoa Beach located on The Bay of Plenty (on the eastern shore of New Zealand's north island). Our asses were good and tired from sitting since boarding the plane on Mother’s Day, May 9th (it’s now May 11th ). And now driving for five hours, we were more than ready to see, feel, and taste the ocean. A side street revealed a beach access trail through sand dunes and we emerged on a long stretch of beach that disappeared into the mist to the south. To the north, a lone mountain stood watching over the shoreline. We stretched our legs and dipped a toe into the ice cold Pacific Ocean. I love sand between my toes.
It is fall in the southern hemisphere and that means the weather is cooling off and rain is a regular visitor. On our way toward Rotoma, which is centrally located in the heart of the north island Lake District, rain was sometimes heavy but then, just over the next hill, the sun would peek through. As suddenly as the weather would change so did the landscape. As we drove, we were struck by surprising changes in a matter of sometimes just few miles. From rolling green pastures we'd climb in elevation through narrow canyons and be surrounded by mountains forested with prehistoric looking tree ferns. Later, as we approached the Lake District, we found ourselves in pine forests that look suspiciously manicured. All the trees were uniform in height, planted in nice neat rows!
We called ahead to our hosts, Marc and Deb, in Rotoma. (I just love that Kiwi accent!) It's only a few miles now and we will officially arrive to spend a few days with friends of friends we have never met!