Hello everyone and welcome to Inagig, the travel blog of Guineith Isaacs, (that’s me, of course!)
Rotorua…My Home Town!
Dad loved to day trip and Rotorua of course is a Day Tripper’s Paradise! So I got to see a lot of the sights about town as I was growing up there.
Dad had another hobby as well…the restoration of vintage machines. He restored an Indian Scout, rode it for a few years then sold it and bought home a trailer load of scrap that he called an immensely rare MG sedan. I remember Mum standing in the driveway, arms at her side and a look of dismay on her face as she shouted “What’s THAT!” Dad beamed triumphantly that he was going to “fix it!” As I recall, Mum just turned around, went into the kitchen and put the kettle on for a cup of tea. Well, fix it he did! Within a year or two, that hunk of junk was a gleaming showpiece of automotive engineering. I remember Dad driving the MG out of the Garage for the first time and boy did that motor have a nice sound! Eight cylinders, sweeping running boards, walnut paneling, lots and lots of shiny new chrome…WOW!
I also remember Dad’s first ever test drive of the MG. We drove up Mount Ngongotaha (said “Nong-o-ta-ha). If you want a quick drive to test a car’s mettle, the Ngongotaha Road will do it. The road is steep, narrow and winding, with cliffs on one side and a precipitous drop on the other! But fear not, it is a two lane road and is well maintained. The road takes you to within a kilometre or so of the summit these days and there is a picnic area next to the television transmission tower. There are no facilities up there. It’s not a tourist spot, there’s no toilet, no view and not even a tap to wash your hands under…Well! Why would you go THERE?
I’ll tell you why…New Zealand is famous for its amazing bird life and if you go to the summit of Ngongotaha and sit quietly for a bit, you will see birds there that you wouldn’t expect to see so close to the middle of such a large city. There are kiwis there, although you won’t see them during the day because they are nocturnal, and morepork owls as well. There are kereru pigeons the size of a farmyard rooster, shining cuckoos, New Zealand bell birds and numerous other more common but equally beautiful birds. If you go there at dawn, there will be such a chorus of songbirds that you will be in awe of it forever! And there is the Tammar wallaby, once thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered at Ngongotaha and in the nearby Urewera mountains. If you are on the summit of Mt Ngongotaha at dawn or dusk, and if you are quiet, your chances of seeing a Tammar wallaby in the wild are pretty good!
Ngongotaha…and Life…as it used to be…
When I was a child, there was an observation tower at the trig point of the summit. However, constant vandalism eventually led to its demolition, and also the closure of the road. But back on that beautiful day when we drove up the mountain, the MG’s engine purred like a tiger and the view ahead on the winding road was spectacular. We climbed the steps to the observation deck and looked for the landmarks indicated on the brass rose in the centre. Ngaruhoe, Tongariro, Ruapehu were all just visible and darkly brooding Tarawera crouched menacingly, blown half to smithereens by dark demonic forces less than a hundred years before. The lake sparkled majestically in the late afternoon sun as thousands of people in their cars scurried about like ants below us.
A Magical Faery Kingdom…and a Wild Ride Home!
I ventured a short distance into the forest and stood, a magickal kingdom surrounding me of moss and ferns, and tales of the Little People whose home it was. I had once seen a fairy’s footprint, when I was four, and I have never forgotten the sight of it, even to this day. But Dad was keen to go. It was getting dark and the Fairy Folk would soon be about. If they found you on the mountain at night, they might steal your soul, and so, reluctantly, I hopped into the front seat. No seatbelt, no airbags and eight cylinders of brand new engine hurling half a tonne of metal at high speed down a winding mountain road. What Fun! Dad even did some special “swishy corners” that made me hang on for dear life! But Dad and I had a lot of fun, and Mum wasn’t even there to tell him off!
The view going home was of course spectacular and had Dad been more of a spendthrift, we probably would have stopped at the Aorangi Peak Restaurant, located at 353 Mountain Dr, for refreshments. The food is excellent and the VIEW! WOW! But Dad had other things to spend his money on, like vintage cars, for example, so the Aorangi Peak would have to wait for another day…when I was big, maybe…
Nevertheless, we both came back home beaming from ear to ear, reporting on the good behavior of the car (but not the swishies!).
Mum’s response was something like, “Oh that’s lovely dear, now you just sit there and I’ll make you a cup of tea.” Dad and I smiled at each other, knowing that this was just the first of many Marvellous Drives. And, of course, it certainly was!
The MG became a regular companion on our Sunday Drives and as a result, will be a regular companion as I tell of my childhood journeys around New Zealand.
God bless you all with safe and happy travels in 2016,
I’ll see you all soon…Inagig!
RIP Ted Carter, My Dad, Master Engineer and Motor Mechanic to Possum Bourne.
RIP Mum as well…I’m missing your afternoon cuppas, but I know that Dad will be enjoying them!
See you both in Heaven!