In May I wrote “another trip to Rotorua beckons” as I had the disappointment of finding Ciabatta Bakery shut on a Sunday. Well. July began with the New Zealand Archaeological Association holding their annual conference in Taupo (in this case biannual with Covid putting it back a year. I believe the first miss for the Association). I decided it was the perfect excuse to take the 505 on a jaunt with careful navigation considerations to be made. These included bakeries and coffee and the chance to show some of these locations to my buddy Nic who is my most regularly used subcontractor and was also attending the conference.
The conference began with a Powhiri on Sunday morning with Ngati Tūwharetoa welcoming us, followed by the first lunch of the conference. This of course is what the navigation had to be planned around, arrive by 11am on a Sunday morning.
Those of you that are attentive will have noted that this ruled out Taupo via Rotorua, Ciabatta Bakery being shut on a Sunday. This of course left the obvious decision, Taupo via Kihikihi was required. Now I wasn’t sure what hours Viands Bakery are open on a Sunday so I rang, I wouldn’t have coped if it had been shut. It was on, they cater to the truckies that drive State Highway 3, open 4.30am 7 days a week. First stop, 8.30am Kihikihi, Breakfast Pie, a beautiful and well-made Creamy Mushroom and Bacon pie with a mocha on the side. Dare I admit it I don’t think all of Viands Pies are much better than average, the Creamy Mushroom and Bacon is not one of them; it is just superb. Viands cream their mushrooms well.
That Sunday morning the Waikato fog was out in force. First appearing just above Pokeno, State Highway 1 was in and out of its shroud. To say pockets of fog were present would be misleading. The fog was the norm, pockets of clear air were rare. It was a strange sensation to enter one large fog bank in the dark, to come out on the other side in the light. There had been no indication on dawn from within the cloud. Between Ngahinapouri and Kihikihi we largely travelled in light, though there was always fog somewhere on the horizon.
After our fulfilling breakfast we drove in brilliant sunshine. We stopped for a moment to examine the memorials, dioramas and signage at the Orakau Battle Field, the last fight of the Waikato Campaign in 1864, but still distant fog lurked.
Turning and heading towards Wharepapa South, fog was reached, then the fog came in thick and heavy and only got heavier as we neared the Waikato River and the second scheduled stop. Mangakino, just the right distant for a comfort spot after the coffee has “hit the spot.”
My go to place is the reserve and toilets by Lake Maraetai, a lake created out of the Waikato River to supply a water source for a hydro dam converting water motion to electricity, one of many along the Waikato River between Taupo and Cambridge. Often, and this was no exception, I will combine this stop with coffee, and in this case my go to location is the Bus Stop Café. To the best of my knowledge there is no bus stop here, but there is a stopped large purple SB Bedford Bus, complete with almost open air lean-tos attached. As an aside did you know that New Zealand Railways were the largest operators of the SB Bedford in the world, having almost 1300 of them in their fleet? Here I recommend sitting down, having a coffee and enjoying the views – but not this time. Nic and I bought our coffee, but decided to retreat to the 505 to enjoy it. Mangakino was cold, very cold, entombed within a thick, very thick layer of fog, yet despite this cold there was a group of forestry workers holding a meeting in the lean-to. About half of them were wearing shorts. I wasn’t alone! Although we were parked on prime waterfront real-estate, we could see at most 20m across the lake, not the usual scenic views I was used to.
Coming back it was a Tuesday, the conference wasn’t finished but I was only attending the first half. Tuesday means Ciabatta was open so that is exactly where I was headed, Auckland via Rotorua. This may come as a surprise to you, not so much that it is my favourite bakery, but the fact it doesn’t sell pies; who would have thought! I got my vegie sandwich, (the combination of chilli beans is magnificent with the sour cream), a coffee, what is the best mille feuille I have ever tasted – and some cronuts to take home.
One of the most amazing things in taking this route was observing the huge farms that Landcorp owned along State Highway 5. This is a State-owned Enterprise. The fencing, regular and recent tree plantings as well as the impressive iron work at each farm’s gate is truly awe inspiring. I wish I had recorded when I first noticed them at Wairakei. I suspect they lined both sides of the highway to Ohaaki, an approximate 20km, or 40km of road frontage when you consider they were on both sides of the road.
Later, over the Mamaku Ranges, we drove to Matamata via Tirau, another one of my favourite break spots, depending on my mood. I have more than one retailer I like to pop into for food in coffee. The most frequent I go to there is the New World and we did so again this time. They have one of the better supermarket Delis and Bakeries around, as well as their own in-house coffee shop at the front. Their Mochas are good, they also have a weekly special. You just never know which coffee it will be.
From there we used various backroads that I travel from time to time that lead me through to Morrinsville, to Tahuna and back to State Highway 1 at Ohinewai. This route takes me through rolling hillsides, more interesting than the plains the State Highways take. For the archaeologist there are also a number of Pa sites around these roads less travelled.
You now have a feel for my latest Rambles, not all was mentioned, the conference was good and I got to catch up with a number of friends and acquaintances I hadn’t seen for a couple of years or so. I will add – check out Taupo Museum, it’s a good one!
The next thing of importance for the club is our AGM, to be held at the Vintage Car Club rooms in Penrose. We have just finished our financial year (June 30) and have the AGM on August 8. Please come along, make sure we have a quorum and cast your vote for the coming year’s fees. Certainly if you are a Cup/Trophy winner come along so you can be presented with your winner’s reward. The winners are presented elsewhere in this magazine.
As per usual we will be hoping someone amongst you will join the committee, I am happy for someone to take my position as President, I am not certain as I write this but I think I have completed 11 years now, time for a new face?
Will leave you with that thought,