Thursday, December 31, 2009

Day 3 (Monday 4th May 2009) – Behind the wheel

AD was the first to get behind the wheel. We drove out of the city. Before long, the landscape changed from concrete jungle (a sparse jungle, unlike dense KL), to wide open green grassland dotted with cows and sheep. The view was great but we were warned by Aunt not to simply stop along the road but to stop at designated parking areas.

About one and a half hour later (approximately 119km later), we reached the town of Paeroa. Having clocked hundreds, I was fully aware the toll long distance driving has to the driver’s body and mind. I suggested that we stop and take a break. Little did I know that this small cowboy town is the birthplace of L&P (Lemon & Paeroa), a soft drink. We did what every geeky tourist would do, took photos, and continued our journey. We passed more small towns - Te Aroha, Matamata, and Tauranga - along the way to the town Te Puke.

We stopped for our toilet break near a place called Jamieson Oval in Te Puke. Then we picked a spot under an olive tree to have our lunch. We spread our packed food on the picnic bench had a splendid picnic. D and I were packing things when two ladies came.

The older lady was most probably in her 40s, the younger lady might be in her early 20s. We began small talks. They have northern Malaysian accents. The younger lady has lighter skin and short cropped curly hair. Her eyes were sort of light hazel – matching her not-so-black hair. After a series of questions, D and I began to suspect something was amiss. First they said they were on holiday. Hearing that D was on working-holiday visa, they too claimed that they were on working-holiday visa. Well aware that there’s an age limit to such visa, we agreed (without having to say a word to each other) to keep our distance from them and leave as soon as our two other traveling buddies came.

Our next stop was Kiwi 360. There was a gift shop. Ma Hen went to enquire the guy behind the counter about the guided tour. The next one was at 2pm. Again, not a shopaholic by nature, I bluntly asked whether we could ‘linger’ there while waiting for the guided tour. Well, needless to say, I experienced the ‘blunt’ of the question for the rest of the road trip!

The first ‘lingering’ effect of the question was that the good looking guy from behind the counter, Sam, became our tour guide. We boarded a ‘tram’. Sam drove us around the kiwi fruit orchard and went on explaining things.

Te Puke, along with some other towns, are located in Bay of Plenty. As the name suggested, there are plenty of things grown in the area, thanks to its fertile volcanic soil as well as its temperate weather. Contrary to common believe, kiwi fruits are not native fruit of New Zealand. Kiwi fruits were brought in from China by enterprising New Zealand farmers some years ago. Each variety of the fruit was named after its cultivator.

We even made a stop at the kiwi fruit processing farm. The fruits were plucked before they are ripe, then packed into boxes before being shipped (yes the fruits travel via sea to save cost). By the time the fruits reached their destination, the fruits would be ripe. A big portion of the Kiwi Orchard and processing plant workers comes from Asian countries – Malaysia included. After a visit to the Kiwi Fruit processing plant, Sam ‘set us loose’ in the orchard. We did the only geeky tourist thing to do: took lots of photos. The tour ended soon after.

We continued our journey with Ma Hen behind the wheel. We headed to a town called Whakatane, about 67 km away.

Distance traveled: 260km

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