After an emotional goodbye to Maria and Tanah, we started heading south, through the centre of the north island. The breathtaking landscape made up for bits of culinary desolation, where small towns have little to offer, apart from an always descent flat white and a range of savoury pies, the Kiwi equivalent of the British sandwich.
We visited the area of Rotorua, a unique centre of geothermal activity where boiling geysers erupt through mud and streams of steamy water flow through newly created volcanic valleys. The active volcano Ruapehu was reluctant to show its snowy peak to us until the last minute, when the clouds lifted to reveal its full glory.
Closer to Wellington, in little Greytown, was the culinary highlight of our road trip from Auckland. It was our breakfast at the French Baker, where we had exquisite croissants and the most delicious Parkvale mushrooms on toasted sourdough. This was pure perfection, created by the admirable Moise Cerson, a French chef who had married a Kiwi girl and set up a wonderful bakery of top standards and a cosy and generous atmosphere.
In Wellington we met Hilary, ex-manager of Ottolenghi Notting Hill, a good friend and a true Wellingtonian (with all the local know-how). Hilary took us to lunch at the famous restaurant Logan Brown, where we had paua (local abalone) ravioli with lemon and coriander. It was superb.
In the evening we went to Zibbibo where Anthony Shone, Hilary's boyfriend and head chef, spoilt us with some of his creations. Ortiz anchovy salad with caviar, orange, fennel and radish sticks to mind.
Our one day in the windy Kiwi capital was... how to put it?... filling.