34 Days on the Road
Something wakes us up in the dead of night. There is an epic thunderstorm happening outside of the Raglan Backpackers. Laura is shaking like a sh*tting dog because her sleepy subconscious state is convincing her the world is ending, while Robin is all like: “I experienced much worse when I lived on a boat with my rich-as-f*ck parents back in France.” Oh, shut up.
Rain: lots of it
Have we talked enough about the rain over the last few days? We feel like we haven’t talked about it enough. It’s raining, Goddammit! It’s raining more than ever with this storm coming in. So far we have been annoyingly positive about the rain. We’ve gone caving, canyoning, art gallery hopping… But now, Robin needs to drive the Jucy campervan back to Auckland, while Laura wants to finally visit the Hamilton Gardens (after we failed twice at doing that already on this trip).
Whatever the weather, we are still going ahead with the plan. We leave Raglan Backpackers early morning to go to Phils Paint & Panel in Hamilton to pick up our campervan that is now fixed. No more rust, some rust protection reinforcements added, a sweet new paint job (of the same colour. This isn’t Pimp My Ride): the campervan now looks fiiiiiine.
However, before we can jump into the campervan and leave Hamilton, Robin has kindly volunteered to drive the Jucy Condo back to Auckland then take the InterCity bus back to Hamilton. He’s a little nervous about driving in the low visibility and high winds, so will proceed with caution. Robin drops Laura off at the Hamilton Gardens. There’s a cafe at the gardens, where Laura plans to sit out the rain. (If it ever stops).
A waiting game in the cafe
Laura sits down with flat white (standard Kiwi coffee) and watches the relentless rain pounding into the lake through the cafe’s glass doors. She gets on with some blogging work. There’s no WiFi, but at least she has plenty of rollover data with Skinny to use her phone as a WiFi hotspot. Halfway through writing the blog post, the sun appears out of nowhere.
“Now’s my chance,” she whispers to her coffee. Packing everything in a rush and getting the camera out, Laura rushes out into the gardens. There are signs everywhere for all kinds of gardens: Tropical Garden, Productive Garden, Sustainable Garden, Paradise Gardens, Surreal Garden… Ahhh, she doesn’t have time for choices. The rain could be back any moment! She goes towards Surreal (but it’s a new garden which is not open yet), so Tropical will do. Passing an abundance of, indeed, tropical plants and crossing a blue wooden bridge, she reaches shelter just in time before the next lot of rain. She has barely been outside for more than five minutes.
Meanwhile, with Robin…
Robin is steadily making his way down the highway. He’s tucking into his lunch as he goes. It’s only 10am.
Back to Laura
Laura is stuck under a tiny bit of shelter in the Hamilton Gardens. If anyone sees her, please bring her home.
We jest, but she does, however, urgently need to pee after drinking that flat white. She’s going to have to lose progress in the maze of the Hamilton Gardens and go back to the start where the toilets are. Bladder relieved, she walks outside to heavier rain. Oh no, it’s never going to stop is it? Laura is destined to never see these gardens.
A window of opportunity
She sits down, laptop out, everything is set up then… The clouds part, the sun beams down… You’re kidding me! Run, Laura, run!
Now, Laura has seen photos of grand gardens inspired by locations from all over the world. If she only has a small window of opportunity, then these are the gardens she wants to see. But this place is like a friggin’ maze! She runs from courtyard to courtyard, encircled with about five doorways each. Appropriately enough, there is a statue of Alice in Wonderland in one of them.
“You know exactly what you are doing to me, Hamilton Gardens,” Laura thinks. She tries to steer away from the Productive Garden, because “productive” is Robin’s favourite word, but she still ends up in the garden full of vegetables before finding the Paradise Gardens. Oh where, oh where is Paradise?
Searching for paradise
Weirdly enough, she finds another garden that grabs her attention: the Tudor Gardens, inspired by 16th Century England. There’s a castle in the corner, lion statues with coats of arms, and mini maze bushes trimmed to perfection. On the other side of the garden, she can see some pouwhenua (carved Maori poles) standing above the hedges in the next garden. There are wooden carvings everywhere and a set up to mimic what old pa sites (fortified villages) must used to look like.
Laura starts talking to a guy who is studying in New Zealand, but she rudely cuts him off to ask: “Where’s the Paradise Gardens?! I need to see them before it starts raining again!” (Just so you know, you can definitely enjoy the gardens in the rain. It’s just because we film everything and take photos, so we don’t want to get our equipment unnecessarily wet).
“They’re just next door, you crazy person,” he perhaps says. Laura doesn’t know because she’s already on the path to the Paradise Gardens. Para-para-paradise!!
Which way to go?!
Country-hopping in Hamilton
She made it! She could kneel down and weep at the base of the glorious water feature in the Italian Renaissance Garden. This garden is amazing! Laura went to Florence in Italy late last year and this garden looks better than the ones there! Everything is pleasingly symmetrical, from the water feature to the orange trees dotted around. At the end of the garden is a balcony overlooking the Waikato River.
From here on, Laura is transported from country to country. The Indian garden is very similar to the Italian garden in its symmetry (but obviously has an Indian vibe). Then the Chinese garden has large gold fish swimming under a tiny bridge leading to a bamboo walkway. Next is a Japanese Contemplation Garden, which is some wooden sheltered decking looking out over a pond filled with blossoms. Wow, these gardens are not doing anything for Laura’s serious case of wanderlust.
It’s also worth mentioning how quiet the gardens were. Yes, it was a rainy day, but you can really imagine how busy it must get in summer. For now, Laura feels like she is a queen in about five different countries wandering her private gardens.
Reunited at last
Time is bashing on though, and Laura needs to get back to the panelbeaters before it closes to meet Robin. There’s a public bus between the gardens and Hamilton transport centre, and the bus driver points her in the right direction for the bus to the panelbeaters. She has a natter on the bus with a few locals who want to talk about England and Laura wants to talk about New Zealand.
Robin and Laura get to the panelbeaters within an hour of each other to pick up the van and take the 7-minute drive to the welcoming Backpackers Central Hamilton where we will spend the night.
Tomorrow, we get back on the road with our campervan to visit a Hobbit filming location in Piopio. See you then!
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It only makes sense! If you liked this article, you’ll probably like these:
- Waikato – Guide for Backpackers
- 5 Places to Visit in Spring in New Zealand
- 10 The Hobbit Filming Locations You Can’t Miss!
Make sure you check out our Hamilton Garden shots on Instagram.
See you tomorrow!