Need a cab driver in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand? Try Lance — A Great Find! A Great Friend!
There he stood, a large man resembling a sea captain with his salt and pepper hair, and weather-worried complexion. Laugh lines near his eyes complemented the thoughtful pattern of wrinkles that lay horizontally across his brow; he made me think of the actor, Sean Connery.
Photo by Sheree Zielke
His cab, a small four-door white sedan, occupied the last spot in the taxi queue. We were in the town of Mount Maunganui, in the Port of Tauranga, situated on the Bay of Plenty, on the eastern coast of the North Island of New Zealand. Since leaving the ship, we had already run the gamut of at least three dozen assorted cabs, shuttles, and tour buses before espying the taxi driver who was to make our day of adventuring very special.
The cabbie’s name: Lance Calder. He told us later he had chosen not to be part of the vicious back-biting under-cutting group of taxi drivers awaiting the arrival of the cruise ship passengers on the pier. When we asked his price, he stated simply $60NZ per hour. “Not per person,” he added quickly, but “for the car.”
Photo by David Thiel
He wanted to know what we had in mind; as seasoned travelers and photographers, we told him to drive in the direction of Rotorua, and we would tell him when we wanted to stop. And that he was to avoid the regular tourist stops. That gave him pause for a moment, but only a moment.
Lance, also known by the handle, “Olddog13-1,” was very quick to learn our desires, and our sense of humour. He soon joined in our inside jokes as though he’d known us for years. As a resident of the area since birth (he was born and raised in Te Puke – not as in vomit) he navigated the roadways well, stopping to give us views of the scenery, and share oodles of insider tips on the lifestyle and cultures of the area.
We spent seven hours with Lance – and in that time we saw stinky bubbling sulphuric mud pools in Rotorua, patted a lamb at the Kiwi Lumberjack Show (farm) (ask for Thomas –a handsome young man with a mischievious nature), tasted exquisite wines at the Mills Reef Winery, paid a quick visit to the art deco style Rotorua Museum, lunched in a small café, just up from the old Whakarewarewa Thermal Village (where young boys would dive for coins thrown into the water by tourists), and we visited the Comvita bee centre in Te Puke.
We also visited the Kiwi360 kiwi farm (Lance was extremely knowledgeable in this – he took us under the kiwi orchard canopy where the fruit was hanging like grapes from vines, he pointed out the male and the female vines and how kiwis are chosen for import, with flat-sided ones being rejected and turned into wine instead.) Lance took us into the shop where we tasted our first kiwi wine (a little too much fruit flavour for our palate) and he took us to a favorite photography subject of ours, an old Mission cemetery, without ever being asked to do so.
We learned, through Lance that the huge tree with the gorgeous purple flowers is a Jacaranda tree, a soft drink is called a “fizzy drink,” a car trunk is called a “boot,” and that cruise ship passengers should never share a cab just to split the cost during shore excursions.
“It’s not a good idea,” says Lance. “The couples can never agree on anything.” He says he has never seen a cab shared successfully by people who barely knew one another, and who have gotten together just to split the cost of the taxi fare. He says the only successful shared cab rides are those where the passengers have previously agreed upon where it is they want to go, and what it is they want to do.
Besides knowing the area so well, and being a charming traveling host, Lance is also specially trained in the art of assisting the handicapped, or the ambulatory-challenged. He has extensive experience dealing with special needs children, and seniors in wheelchairs.
And if you are a wine lover, Lance has an inside track, having a son-in-law in the business. Be sure to ask him for a little advice if you are going into the Napier-Hawke’s Bay area on what wineries to see, and the best route to take to see them.
Planning a trip to the Tauranga, New Zealand area via cruise ship? Contact Lance Calder in advance. You will feel like family when this burly congenial man welcomes you at the pier. Tell him Sheree says you’ll need to buy a “Peepsi.” He’ll know what you are talking about.
Contact Lance via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.