Australia's favourite food blogger, Not Quite Nigella, reels in a taste of New Zealand.
We’re on the move again on our whirlwind trip in New Zealand but before we can bid Waitomo goodbye we have to stop by the Waitomo Caves, a glow worm cave where we will take part in a quick Spellbound tour. There are several different types of tours available where you visit a variety of caves and the tours last anywhere from 45 minutes to more than three hours. On our 45 minute tour we will get to see the various formations that were created in these very special and atmospheric caves as well as take a boat ride along the water.
Flash photography isn’t permitted in the caves to protect the glow worms although below is a photo from the New Zealand Department of Conservation showing how pretty they are close up. The glow worm larvae make delicate and breathtaking strands which glisten like a diamond drop necklace under the light. Up top the glow worm clusters shimmer with a blue green luminescence.
After watching the glow worms tinkle above us we board a boat where we glide across the water under the cave formations that resembles a sky dotted with stars or at times a tree canopy with the sun shining sun underneath the leaves.
…Our next destination, Acacia Cliffs Lodge, was originally a deer farm set on the cliffs overlooking Lake Taupo and is a four room luxury lodge that accommodates up to eight guests. These lodges are of course that wonderful type of accommodation that New Zealand does so well. The owners Linda and Rick are gracious and welcoming and show us the grounds and tell us that should we wish (I do!) we can pat their sheep. "He think he’s a dog” Linda says pointing out Tom her mobile lawnmower.
The room that I am in is the left most one nearest to the front door and it is a spectacular corner room which is just all view with expansive views of Lake Taupo, Mount Tauhara and the Kaimanawa Ranges afforded by floor to ceiling windows. The bed is king sized and the room is decorated beautifully by Linda in a modern style without being stark and themed in red, white and black. Two large support beams that we at first thought were for decoration stand at each end of the bed. If I tear myself away from the view of Lake Taupo I can see the rolling hills where their flock of sheep graze just to the left.
…About ten minutes away from Acacia Cliffs Lodge is the Wairekei Spa and Terrace. I’ve become somewhat addicted to Miri Miri massages on this tour of New Zealand. Miri Miri massages are based on spiritual healing along with long, light touches and I like the fact that either by instinct or feel that they zero in on your sore spots, even ones that you don’t know about and work on those.
My therapist Karen gives me a 30 minute massage using body oils but she also can use her own kawa kawa balm. And for no extra charge you can complete the experience by having it in the special room above. The massage is $80 for 30 minutes so it’s not cheap but it’s an excellent one that leaves you without an iota of stress left in your body.
Outside are the spectacular thermal pools which range in temperature from 38C-45C. The primary mineral in these spas is silica which is said to be good for skin allergies. This water has less sulfur than the ones in Rotorua so the smell is milder although there is some sulfur in these pools.
Meanwhile, back at the lodge … as lodge life dictates, or really gently suggests, you can join the hosts for a pre dinner drink if you wish. Apart from doing the gardening (no small task given the rolling hills and the grounds) and taking care of my enormously heavy bag, Rick is the chef here. Having owned three restaurants in Auckland he recalls the offerings in Taupo in the late 80s and felt embarrassed for international visitors coming to visit here. So he aimed to increase the quality and breadth of the food offerings.
Throughout the night Rick and Linda sit down and talk to us and they’re great hosts to chat to as are Kim and Nick who give me a fantastic list of New York must visits. Linda has thoughtfully turned on the heater so that the room is snuggly warm when I get back and there’s a chocolate fish on my pillow. And a good night was had by all…
…Our next stop is to do some trout fishing with the Chris Jolly Outdoors adventure company. Did you know that in New Zealand it is illegal to sell, import or serve trout at a restaurant because of the huge sport fishing industry? As a result the only trout that you an eat is trout that is caught with a fishing license. And that’s what I am holding in my hot little hand.
Charlie Brown the gorgeous chocolate brown Labrador is taking up space at skipper Simon’s feet. We are on the Waianiwa about to embark on a luxury trout fishing trip out on Lake Taupo. Our first stop is to see the Maori carvings etched in the rock on Mine Bay 10kms from downtown Taupo which can only be seen from the water. The carving is enormous, about 10 meters high and was completed in 1982 with the help of scaffolding and abseiling for the upper portion.
There are two glossy duck that bob on the surface of the water eyeing the boat. "How peculiar” I thought to myself as they landed smoothly just as our boat pulled up. And then Nic hands Krissy and I a Ritz cracker and instructs us to hold it up in the air. The two birds fly towards it, the female duck just looking at it while the male duck hovers closely looking at me carefully before taking it gently from my fingers.
Then comes the trout fishing. We fill in the forms for a fishing license which is valid for 24 hours. There is a limit to the number and size of trout you can catch and you also are not allowed to use bait, only lures. We wait patiently for the lines to give that telltale zipper sound but alas, there is nothing. They start on the shallow water and then progressively go into deep water. There is no trout biting so after a while we move into deeper water where we are fishing at about 38 metres deep. Here they use a system of weights to weigh down the lures and there are four lines going at the one time. Nic says "I know when one will come, it will be 11.30 when I’ve just put lunch down on the table.”
And like a well behaved invited guest, around that time there’s a little jolt of the rod. We all spring up and I take the rod. I’ve never fished before but now is a good time as any to try. Nic and Simon tell me to gently wind in but if the rod goes down then I am to let go as the fish will try and rip the hook out of their mouths whole struggling violently.
It takes a few minutes and while the trout is in deep water there is the occasional resistance where the line spins backwards as she tries to escape. I keep going and occasional the trout struggles in a game of cat and mouse and then when the trout sees the boat there is more struggling.
We reel her in (and it’s a 'her', Simon confirms as the males have a hook under their mouth) and he quickly knocks her on the head twice and she stops wriggling. We bag her and we will get to take her to our next destination for fresh sashimi.
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