After a couple of days in Rotorua it was time to check out of the delightful Victoria Lodge and head out of town leaving our personal geo thermal pool behind.
A few roundabout’s later and we were back on the road heading to Mamaku to ride the rails.
The rail line at Mamaku used to haul both logs and passengers, and still connects to the main Kiwi rail line but was left abandoned, for several years. When the current lease holders got access to the track it had to be hacked back out of the brush. All while they were clearing the track, they were also designing and building the track speeders that we hired and went for a ride in.
The 10 speeders are powered by gas hybrid engines, and charge their batteries on the way down to the turnaround station, the gas engine gets them back up the hill. Along the way your progress is tracked by gps and an onboard voice points out interesting things along the way. The speeder slows at the two crossings, you have a handbrake if you need to use it, but you can sound the whistle if you want to. For a rail fan this little adventure on the rails in your own speeder is about as good as it gets.
We had some more kilometers to cover, and with the aid of our phone gps we traversed across the green farm lands of New Zealand
Ever present cows tracked our progress, from the high green banks, traffic was light on the two lane, but hunger was beginning to take its toll. We stopped in one little town but could only find two restaurants offering take away, and that wasn’t to our liking.
Finally, off in the distance weary from travel we spotted a shining light in culinary roadside dining.
The door handle of the Rhubarb Café is a part from an espresso machine. Some of the tables are antique red and green Formica top, the patio is covered and even has live Rhubarb, the food was excellent, but what really makes the place shine are the owners, Louise and Brian who cook, bake, serve and clean up.
New Zealanders have made espresso their own serving flat whites and blacks, but when I asked Louise to make me a doppio she just asked what that was and proceeded to grind tamp and pull a most excellent shot. Brian cooked our burgers that were delicious and offered up talk about the café racer he is building out of a modern Triumph
They also recommended as a must see the swinging bridge that is just up the road and spans over the outflow of the hydro plant. It was very cool and a must see.