And now onto the bit of Aotearoa that I know a lot better. I decided to visit one of the spots I've neglected in my last couple of visits - the geologically hyperactive region around Rotorua (known mostly to my childhood self as 'that town that smells like rotten eggs').

After a quick stop in Palmerston North to catch up with a friend (which, somehow, still managed to involve wine tastings after we discovered Pohangina Estate) I set aside a little time to re-acquaint myself with the Thermal Highway sights, smells and sounds as I've not been round this way for a good 20 years (plus I had set myself the life goal of swimming in a thermal waterfall and I'd heard there was one around there somewhere).

Pro-tip: If you visit Wai-O-Tapu Thermal wonderland and you don't mind missing the 10am geyser display, I recommend getting there at around the time the site opens and just going straight into the park. 95% of visitors will be milling about in the gift shop waiting to head to the geyser and you'll have all the time in the world to do an extensive 90 minute exploration of the park before you start seeing any serious crowds - which means people free photos and quiet serenity (if these things are high on your personal list of tourist experiences, that is)
Ok the waterfalls...without giving too much away as they don't appear to be overrun with visitors yet, it's a slow bumpy drive up a subtly signposted road for a few kilometres. Needless to say it's one of the most amazing spots I've ever been to. Moss and ferns and perfect bath temperature water.
My last few days were, as usual, spent in Auckland hanging out in the lovely north shore with one of my oldest and dearest friends (who has the good fortune to live in one of the nicest parts of Auckland - in my opinion!) I squeezed in a day trip to Waiheke Island to visit another friend working up at Batch winery (oh, more wine tasting, what a surprise) and also spent some time up at Muriwai Beach, yet another seaside town with an awesome surf break!

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