NZ North Island Tour Blue springs, white water, Methane and Machine guNs

After saying goodbye to Hobbits and Hobbiton, we awoke bleary-eyed but well-rested amidst a plantation of Feijoa, a somewhat exotic fruit somewhere between a gooseberry and a kiwi. I wonder if the Hobbits knew of this delicious food source so close to their home? Unfortunately it turned out they weren’t quite ready to pick / taste fresh so our only sampling was in jam. We had been staying at an AirBnb on Frans and Tineke’s farm on the outskirts of Matamata, well-placed for Middle Earth and a convenient stepping stone to our next destination: Rotorua.

Feijoa Farming Fantasma

Reluctantly saying goodbye to the juicy Feijoa crop, we departed for Rotorua stopping en route at Blue Springs. A short hike from the road, this spot proved very popular with the locals (on Waitangi Day, a NZ bank holiday). The water takes 50-100 years to reach the river from the mountains as it’s filtered by the earth and the resulting river is famed for its clarity and purity.

Literally crystal clear

First impressions of Rotorua were not entirely positive as a) we were hungry b) the obnoxious and virtually inescapable odor of methane makes much of Rotorua smell of slurry c) the city is something of a cross between Blackpool, Las Vegas and Slough. A more charitable assessment (post-eating) could be “touristy”. Okay so when in Rome make like a tourist: time for some white-water rafting.

Pretty lake, shame about the rank smell

When we booked a white-water rafting experience we relied on positive TripAdvisor reviews and snagged a Groupon bargain. Maybe we should have read the fine print on Kaitiaki Adventures’s website: “the world’s highest commercially rafted waterfall”. Perfect for a couple of middle-aged rafting novices!

“Crap here we go, hang on”

“Oh wait, this isn’t the 7 meter one”

“Stop trying to breath”

“*Splutter* Well hell we made it”

“Cool dice, that was nothing”

“It was nothing, yea we da boss!”

Saying goodbye to Rotorua, it was off to stay at Lake Taupo. As is our way, we decided to stop off at a crafty glass blowing studio called Lava Glass Studio. Some extremely nice pieces on display in the gallery as well as a live narrated demo of how they are made. However, the lacklustre garden made us appreciate the genius of Chihuly’s Garden in Seattle and the Glass Museum in Tacoma.

Lynden Over showing the completed piece
Garden with some nice glass flowers

Our digs for the night at Taupo was an amazing tent complete with a carpeted floor on a platform base, and a full-on bed. This was our first attempt at “glamping” and I’m not sure we embraced the whole experience as we hi-jacked power from elsewhere to charge our various electronic devices overnight. As with all camping, you can’t predict the weather....

Our beautiful tent palace for the night (first image credit Martin Lee Day)

Taupo was a lot nicer than Rotorua, an opinion not at all colored by the excellent Indian restaurant we visited, honest. As an aside, locals can’t seem to agree on the correct pronunciation of Taupo.. some pronounce it as written and others pronounce it toe-paw. Both camps swear blind theirs is the correct pronunciation and the other way is what tourists say. An unofficial survey suggests that the Taupo’s have it so that’s what we’re sticking with.

Another beautiful lake, this one fragrant, and home to a MacDonald’s with a plane (?!), and a bloody lovely Indian restaurant (first of the trip!)

The weather was definitely somewhat “changeable” in the short time we were there. An incredible sunset that blew our minds...

Red sky at night, (bloody huge rainstorm on the way)

.. was followed by a month’s worth of rain being dumped on us over night. Our beautiful tent was also beautifully water-tight, if a little cold and a bit noisy with the unfeasibly large raindrops bouncing off the canvas.

Huge rainstorm. On paper, glamping seemed like such a great idea...

We didn’t hang around to sample the outdoor shower or kitchen the next morning. Luckily there was an awesome coffee shop a stone’s throw away; I grabbed this pottery shot the day before (shows how nice the place is when not in monsoon).

Pretty pottery flowers at L’Arte Cafe and Gallery

And so we arrived at our final stop on the North Island: Wellington, capital of New Zealand. We stayed in a quite exquisite AirBnb which was both super-close to the CBD and secluded, almost like a London mews, only much more spacious outside and in. Our hosts Suzy and Scott were awesome and both cooked for us and gave some great tips for things to see and do.

Peacefull despite being in the heart of the town
Beautiful house with a free-roaming pet rabbit and the most chilled-out dog you’ll ever meet.

It was a nice change to be in a city again and we really warmed to Wellington, more so than Auckland. We did lots of city things: rode the cable car, shopped, visited the barber’s, drank some fine coffee, etc.


It would be impossible to come to Sir Peter Jackson’s home town without visiting Weta Workshop. The cave trolls that got turned to stone in The Hobbit have been relocated there from The Shire.

Azog be gone and Thunderbirds are go!

Our hosts for the week recommended that we visit the Gallipoli exhibit at the Te Papa Museum and we also had plans to visit The Great War installation at Dominion Museum. This meant a double bill of opportunity for reflection on the First World War. Neither Victoria nor I have as much historical knowledge of WW1 as we do for WW2 and were glad of an opportunity to gain more understanding of the causes and impact of this terrible event. Peter Jackson’s involvement in the design and presentation of both exhibitions has, deservedly, boosted visitor numbers.

Gallipoli at Te Papa
Sad, pointless loss of life, portrayed larger than life
Reflect, revisit, remember.
The Great War Exhibition at the Dominion Museum

We missed the chance to visit Mount Victoria in Auckland; luckily we were able to rectify this omission in Wellington. This is a great spot to take picture-postcard shots, so I did! Next stop: South Island...

Postcard from Wellington
Vistas from Mount Victoria
Goodbye North Island

If we managed to keep you until the end, thanks for sticking with us! If you are interested in following along go to http://clarkezone.io and if you like gratuitous food pictures I’m posting those at http://instagram.com/clarkezone

Love James and Victoria

Created By
James Clarke


All images Copyright James Clarke 2018

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