After two weeks on the road in my Jeep, signing hundreds of books, meeting thousands of people and visiting most of the North Island's top tourist attractions, it's fun to look back at some of the highlights of the first leg of my Essential Tiki-Tour.
Day One: Auckland to Tauranga via Hobbiton
Day one on the road was the most beautiful sunny day and once our Jeep Wrangler (find out how you could win it here) was packed to maximum capacity and we’d inhaled a quick coffee we were on our way to Whitcoulls Botany for my first book signing! We had a delicious lunch at the Clevedon markets on our way down to Hamilton where I had two book signings – at The Warehouse stores in Te Rapa and Cambridge. Day one ended after the most magical afternoon and evening in Hobbiton, where we were shown around the hobbit holes and the amazing vegetable gardens full of heritage vegetables, topped off with a feast at the Green Dragon Pub.
Day Two: Tauranga
Day two took us along the coast of the Bay of Plenty. Starting with a signing at the Paper Plus in Bethlehem, we worked our way down to the Paper Plus stores in Tauranga and Papamoa where more of my first cookbooks surfaced! That night I was lucky enough to stay with a friend, who has the most beautiful fruit and vege gardens – look at the bananas they were growing!
Day Three: Opotiki, Whakatane and on to Rotorua
Now expert at unpacking and re-packing the Jeep, we made our way further down the east coast towards Opotiki, where we had our first signing of the day. We had the most marvellous turnout at the Paper Plus in Opotiki – I was blown away that so many wonderful people were cooking with me. Our second stop of the day was at Paper Plus Whakatane, where I shared a basket of cheese scones that I had made that morning. It was a bit of a messy affair but there were none left when it was time for us to go! We had lunch in the car that day (buns filled with with avocado from my friend's garden) before an amazing cultural experience at the Mataatua Wharenui. We were welcomed with a powhiri and then taught about the history of the Wharenui and of the region’s ancestors through a projected light show. We topped off the day with a flight over White Island with White Island Flights.
Day Four: Rotorua to Taupō
Having packed my entire kitchen into the boot of the Jeep, we decided to make the most of the gas cooker and have bacon and egg butties down by the lake in Rotorua. After our book signing for the day at Paper Plus Rotorua we had a quick look around Te Puia cultural and geothermal centre and were lucky enough to catch the end of the Pōhutu geyser erupting. After that we made our way to Taupō where we were treated to an amazing performance by The Haka Shop and learnt how to make a bag out of flax. That night I was very lucky to be hosted by Huka Lodge – read my blog to find out more about it and sneak a peek inside!
Day Five: Taupō
You may know that I'm a very keen gardener, so when I was given the opportunity to help plant a tree in Taupō I took it. The amazing people from Greening Taupō organised for me to plant a beech tree in the Wairakei Tourist Park, so it was a great excuse to see how well the Jeep went off the road. I really enjoyed the experience and it reminded me that Arbour Day is coming up in June – wouldn’t it be wonderful if everyone could plant their very own tree! I had only one signing that day, so after a quick coffee at Replete Cafe we were off to Paper Plus Taupō, where we had another great turnout. We were very lucky it was such a beautiful day because we were taken out on Lake Taupō by Chris Jolly Outdoors. We saw the Maori rock carvings, which are an iconic feature in Taupō, and went fishing. We caught two trout and after a quick swim in the lake we prepared a true feast, including one of the freshly caught trout. After that it was a quick drive through the ranges to Napier, where we enjoyed an amazing dinner at Mister D.
Day Six: Napier
Day six was the last book signing day for that week and it sure was a busy one. I started the day bright and early as the guest speaker at a business breakfast at the newly opened Napier Conference Centre. Shortly before that started it was announced that I will be recieving an Honorary Doctorate in Commerce from Lincoln University, so that was fantastic news to start the day with. Three book signings followed – at Paper Plus stores in Napier, Taradale and Hastings. After stopping off at a local family-run orchard, Longlands Fruit and Veg, we made our way to Black Barn Vineyards for the afternoon, where we had a beautiful lunch followed by amazing desserts.
Day Seven: Waipukurau, Pahiatua and Masterton
Day seven was the start of week two and another busy day of signings. Our first stop was Waipukurau Paper Plus and on the way to my signing at the Paper Plus in Pahiatua I took a little detour to the Hawke’s Bay Vintage Machinery Expo. We finally made it to Pahiatua with the cheese scones I had baked that morning. Day one of week two ended at an event at Paper Plus Masterton – they had such an impressive crowd!
Day Eight: Wellington
Day eight was my biggest day ever that day with FIVE signings. Paper Plus Upper Hutt had created an amazing display for the book signing and after that we dashed down the road to the Paper Plus in Lower Hutt and on to Paper Plus Petone. We had a bit of a gap in the day around lunchtime, so we visited La Bella Italia – the most amazing Italian restaurant in Petone. We were wined and dined and then ran off to book signing number four at the Lambton Quay Whitcoulls in Wellington. The day ended after the fifth and last signing of the day at gourmet food store Moore Wilson’s.
Day Nine: Kapiti Coast
Now making our way up the west coast, we started the day with a signing at Paper Plus Porirua. It was a very misty, rainy day in Wellington but as soon we came over the hill at Paekakariki... there was sun! We enjoyed a beautiful hot day on the Kapiti Coast, as well as two book signings at Paper Plus Coastlands in Paraparaumu and Paper Plus Levin. We had lunch at Olde Beach Bakery in Waikanae and after admiring their vege garden we were told that there was an even more impressive one down at their restaurant Long Beach! We then made our way up the coast towards Palmerston North, where I spent the night at the beautiful Hiwinui Country Estate.
Day Ten: Palmerston North, Feilding and Whanganui
The first stop of the day was at The Warehouse in Palmerston North, then after a very succesful book signing at the Paper Plus in Feilding we drove up the coast to Whanganui. Our last book signing of the day was at the Whitcoulls in Whanganui, following which we made our way up to New Plymouth, where I spent the night at friend’s place.
Day Eleven: New Plymouth, Te Kuiti and Te Awamutu
On the penultimate day of my ESSENTIAL North Island Tiki-Tour I signed books at The Warehouse in New Plymouth, Paper Plus in Te Kuiti and, last but not least, Paper Plus in Te Awamutu. There was a lot of driving, but we found a lot of lovely little places to pull into and have a cup of tea from my thermos!
Day Twelve: Cambridge, Hamilton, Pukekohe and back to Auckland
Day 12 was the final day of my tiki-tour! The day started off with a bang at the Paper Plus in Cambridge, where we had an amazing turnout, followed by a signing at Paper Plus The Base in Hamilton. We couldn't resist stopping for a pie in Ngaruawahia on our way back up to Auckland for our very last book signing at The Warehouse in Pukekohe.
After two weeks spent on the run around the North Island it was great to be back in my own bed but I had an amazing time and it was so much fun getting to meet all of you who share my passion for cooking delicious food. Thank you!