Today started with a drive south to the Kauri Museum at Matakohe. We got there just after opening and planned for a quick visit but the museum was so extensive and interesting we stayed for nearly three hours! It has artefacts relating to just about every aspect of the kauri industry.
It was fascinating to see how the early New Zealanders cut down the trees and milled them, creating stunning pieces of furniture, panelling, flooring and carvings but at the same time devastating to think of the amount of kauri trees that were killed in the process, all of them hundreds if not thousands of years old. They also used to cut into the trees to force them to produce gum so they could sell it.
On display were great big logs and huge flawless slabs of kauri timber. Because the trees don't have branches anywhere but right at the top the wood has no knots in it. You can no longer cut down a kauri tree or even use one that dies on its own but the industry is still alive. They use swamp kauri which are trees tens of thousands of years old that they dig up out of the ground. Once dug up it dries out and deteriorates very quickly so they pump special oil into it to stabilise it. It is very expensive to buy and very sought after especially in Dubai, China and Canada.
There was also a large display of gum, some carved into ornaments which is also very expensive. We reluctantly tore ourselves away and continued south, driving through Auckland and then heading east.
We stopped at Pukeko's Nest Café for lunch and had yummy fish burgers. We continued east arriving to Paeroa, the home of L&P! We stopped at the L&P Café and saw the big L&P which was really the whole reason I wanted to go this way and was a little disappointed because it wasn't that great. We went in and discovered that they sold L&P flavoured ice cream which definitely brightened our spirits. It was delicious and tasted a bit like a spider.
We then drove on and went to the information centre to find out if the drink is still made there but it had just closed (at 3:50pm?!). We got back in the car and drove on, just as we turned the corner to leave town we spotted an absolutely magnificent looking Big L&P Bottle in a beautiful park! The one at the café wasn't the Big L&P I was after, this one was, so we doubled back and what do you know, there was all the info we could possibly want there too! By the way, it is now made in a factory in Auckland. Even the rubbish bin was shaped like a lemon!
So after all that we left Paeroa feeling quite happy with it. We kept going south and 100km later made it to Rotorua where we'll stay for the next two nights.