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Nov 05
Sun

Lamb shanks and Guy Fawkes Day in Otaki

Today we have to say goodbye to the beautiful Tongariro National Park, where there's so much to see and to walk and hike. We'd love to stay longer if we had more time. I draw comfort from my decision that this won't be my last stay in New Zealand. It also means to gradually say goodbye to the North Island – we are heading for Wellington now, from where we'll take the ferry across Cook Strait to the South Island. On the way we'll spend one more night but we still don't know where.

Without a destination, we start driving along SH1 and pass Taihape with its smooth green hills and steep, high cliffs (craters?) the colour of sand. We'd like to stay longer here as well, but we want to cover some distance today. The scenery is kind of like a model railway, flecked with countless sheep and cows.

Again we wind up at the West Coast, at the campground of Byron's Resort in Otaki. The place is cosy, the facilities are ok. After arriving – it's evening already – we go for a walk on the beach. There's a lot of driftwood and, right at the water, a huge tree. And, as so often, there's no one except us on the beach. We take some photos.

OtakiOtaki Beach · more Otaki pictures more pictures

We wish to have a luscious diner outside. So far we've cooked honourably by ourselves but the steak we had yesterday in the Discovery Lodge wasn't that satisfying. So we try a second time and enter the restaurant Scuttlebutt - Ale House at Byron’s at the campground. It's cosy. A few men are sitting at the bar having a beer, other guests are dining.

The first bite tells us the lamb shank on kumara mash was the right choice. We are reveling in taste. How delicious is this! The portion is lush, the sauce delicate. The meat is so tender it falls off the bone. They serve it with crunchy vegetables and potato gratin. The price is quite fair at $24.

After dinner we go for a walk to the beach in the dark. There are some parties in the village, here and there little fireworks light up the sky. A family lights fireworks on the beach. Obviously there's reason to celebrate tonight.* Whether we leave or stay tomorrow depends on the weather. The Tararua Forest Park is very close and I'd like to go hiking there. But although it's mild and warm it rains nearly the whole night. I can't sleep. Just as I'm finally falling asleep, the cell phone rings. Ralph's brother is calling from Germany «just to say that things are fine at home!» Drowsy I answer «That's awesome, Andreas, it's just that it's 3 am here.» Nevertheless, we are glad to talk to him. But it's strange to realize how far away home is by now, not just in space but in mind as well ...

* When I was back in Germany, a friend from New Zealand told me it was Guy Fawkes Day.

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