New Zealand - North Island January 2015

Day 1 - Auckland

We arrived in Auckland on a brilliant summers days, light wind off the Harbour and the Kiwis were so excited to see us they threw a big Party! Just kidding we arrived during Auckland 175 Anniversary Celebrations. We headed down to Queens Wharf were the Battleship HMAS Otago was in port and the Navy band were in full swing. There were buskers and street performers and market stalls. There were people everywhere and everyone was having a great old time. We were staying at the Sky City Grand Hotel and ventured up Sky City Tower (328m Tall). They even finished off the day for us with a huge fireworks display, which we had the perfect vantage point from our hotel room.

So that was our first Day in NZ……… to a great start. The People are so friendly, the city is so clean and they have such a pretty harbor. With all the celebrations still going on, we headed off to bed.

Botanic Gardens

Day 2 - Auckland

We again had a fairly early start, we found a café around the corner to grab some breakfast and coffee on the go, We were picked up by Time Unlimited Tours, our driver Daniel (Swiss) very knowledgeable and took us on a day tour of Auckland and surrounding areas. He was also a keen photographer and was happy to stop and point out great photo opportunities. We visited few extinct volcanoes, including Mount Eden (Auckland’s Highest view point), Tamaki Drive, Mission Bay, out to Devonport (old marine village), Mount Victoria, over the Harbour Bridge, the Museum (Outside) gardens, Arataki Visitor Centre, Titrangi (Fringe of Heaven), Domain & Piha Beach (hot black sand, surf beach). Had lunch with a few Aussies for Australia Day, up in the hills. We were very lucky and escaped most of the crowds, being a public holiday (Auckland 175th BD).

Again spent the evening wandering around Auckland and the a lovely dinner, finally collapsed into bed

Hobbiton, The Shire

Day 3 - Auckland – Rotorua via Hobbiton

Again an early pick up for the first of our organized tours, Flexi Tours NZ. It was a very pretty, but long drive out to Matamata, where The Shire; movie set for Hobbiton is. On a private sheep farm owned by the Alexanders, 1250 acres. Through some very pretty but very dry country side. They have been suffering a mini drought, no rain for over 2 weeks and it had been very hot. (25 – 30C). It had been a cool, foggy morning, which again turned into a brilliant hot day (25 – 30c) and crystal clear, bright blue skies. NZ put on some sublime weather for us! Hobbiton was amazing, it’s a fully commentated guided tour of the area, I have never seen anything like it, I took so many photos, we were very lucky, we had no crowds again, virtually a private tour only 9 of us! The crowds arrived shortly after we had our tour………bus loads of them. Words cannot quite convey Hobbiton and I will predominantly let the photos speak for themselves. We heard lots of behind the scenes stories of the Hobbit and Lord of The Rings. We had Cider and Ale at the Green Dragon Inn and of course bought a few souvenirs. The original set were not permanent and the Green Dragon Pub was actually burned down for part of the movie. It was re built for the Hobbit and at request of the Alexanders, made permanent. A few hours was just not enough.

I literally have hundreds of photos, it was so hard to pick, so this is just a random selection
Mud Pools

We then went on to Rotorua and had lunch at Te Po Cultural Centre, also visited the Pohutu Geyser and Wairewarewa Mud pools, very interesting. Visited the weaving and the carving schools, where students still learn these crafts. We watched as students worked on an enormous carving for Gallipoli 100 year celebration which is to be finished and then sent to Gallipoli.

We were then dropped off for our afternoon at the Polynesian Spa. We spent an hour going from pool to pool in the private spa area (there is also a general public pool) temps ranged from 36C, 38, 40, 42C (Bloody hot!) we then had a luxurious 60 minute relaxation massage. We then went back to the hotel for a quick shower and change before we were collected again for the Tamaki Hangi and Maori Cultural evening. Really very good, the forest and huts symbolizing their village were great, as were the demonstrations of the different crafts and resources, as well as games. Great fun by all. There was also a video of their history and a concert, followed by dinner. Food was relatively plain, but there was plenty of it. I didn’t take my good camera, as I didn’t think we could take shots, so I only had the small one.

Day 4 - Rotorua

Rotorua, Wai-O-Tapu Mud Pools, Thermal Wonderland and Lady Knox Geyser

Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

We were picked up by our guide for the morning, Blue (no one could pronounce his Maori name!), he drove us to the Mud Pools first, and then onto Lady Knox Geyser. Apparently it was accidentally discovered and long time ago that laundry soap can set off geysers and once the startled would be washers recovered their senses and clothes, they had much fun with the Lady Knox Geyser, and made it even more astonishing by building the sides up with rocks, after decades the sides are totally encrusted with mineral salts and the rocks are no longer seen. However they still set it off with laundry soap! . The Thermal Pools, we only had a small amount of time, but what we saw (about 1/3) was superb and the water color was truly amazing. Weird, alien colors; Green, orange, purple, black, yellow, white and red. Would love to come back and walk the whole 3 trails. Simply superb.

After lunch the clouds that had been threatening on and off released the rain, great torrents of it. We were soaked and had to quickly get changed before our next tour to Wai-O-Tamo Glow Worm Caves. It was a long drive out there (2.5hours) and it rained the whole time, but hey in the car it didn’t matter, our guide told us interesting things about the areas we passed through and pointed out various spots along the way. It was still raining heavily when we got to the caves, but hey we were going under ground, so what did a little rain matter? (Although I did have a few quick panicked thoughts about flooding!) Anyway with my excitement building we proceeded underground. Now they are not the biggest cave system, nor the most spectacular (But they have made no claims to that effect), but they do have Glow Worms. I have no photos to show, as we were not allowed ANY photography, but I can state that I was quite disappointed. 2.5 hours for very little. There were quite a lot of worms and silk, they did not really glow all that blue or bright, and there were not as many as I thought there would be? The boat ride through The Cathedral was not as awe inspiring as I had seen in pictures……..but hey that’s Life’.

Sunset at Museum Gardens

On the way back our driver gave us a personal tour of the Lake and then dropped us off at the Museum Gardens, which were truly amazing. we also did the Sulfur Lake Sculpture Trail, commemorating the 100 years of ANZAC.

Day 5 - Rotorua -Wellington - Christchurch

Day 5 was mostly spent going from Rotorua Airport, then flying to Wellington (really cool LOTR & The Hobbit display at airport) and then onto Christchurch. We spent the afternoon doing some shopping, picking up rental car and mostly boring things. However we did go to the Botanical Gardens in the evening, but I'll leave that for my next Slate on the South Island

Lake Rotorua
Created By
Julie Powell
Original copyright photos by Julie Powell

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