Posts Tagged With: Rotorua

The Shire and Lake Tuapo Bungy

The town of Rotorua was on our list the next morning, a short drive and we were in this cute touristy spot, famous for its spas and thermal pools  with healing properties, a natural wonder that we got to see up close. Unfortunately this also makes everything in the vicinity smell like egg, so we had to endure that, as well.  I had the morning to explore as my tour of the movie set didn’t start till the afternoon.  I may have gone into EVERY touristy souvenir store that the town had to offer – and bought quite a few little trinkets – I can’t help it!! Cant buy too much though – I’m literally out of room in my backpack.  Oops.

Next stop was the Shire!! I got to visit the movie set for Lord of the Rings Trilogy – specifically the area where the Hobbits live, the Shire.  It is now a permanent tourist attraction after being torn down after the first three movies.  I was rebuilt for the Hobbit movie, and obviously there is a huge draw for fans to come and see where the film was made.  It was so cute!  The tour was expensive but definitely worth it for any movie geek – the guides were extremely informative, telling us about where the scenes were filmed and how they pulled off all the movie magic, including how they made the hobbits look so small compared to regular humans.  We saw the whole village, the party tree, and even got to have a beer at the Green Dragon Pub, which was authentic down to the last little detail – even the postings on the wall were perfectly in tune with the theme.  We drove home, tired but excited after our sunny day in the Shire.  Our dinner was at the local Irish pub, and some of us went out dancing and partying that night, it was a fun way to get to know the “other” side of my tripmates, the drunk and disorderly side!
Our next stop was the Tongariro National Park, but before then we had one more stop in Rotorua, the Whakarewarewa Thermal Village, a Maori site where families have lived for hundreds of years, taking advantage of the geothermal heat and the energy it provides them.  We learned more about the Maori culture and customs of the local trip while taking a tour around the village, where many tribe members actually still live.  There was also a cultural presentation, where we got to experience firsthand some traditional songs and dances, and another Haka (War Dance) as well. Fierce!  We drove onwards after that, visiting some waterfalls (horizontal Huka falls – forced through a channel and out the other side with incredible force, a natural wonder) and stopping for lunch in Tuapo, on the shores of Lake Tuapo which is the biggest lake in New Zealand.  It’s another super touristy town, I got to see some of the members of my group bungy jump off a cliff into a river.  I didn’t do it, I had other activities planned and have to watch my money cause four months of travel is sapping my bank account a wee bit!  It was cool to see everyone jump off and bungy down the cliff side, even touching the river below, making a splash!
We drove onwards that afternoon to Tongariro, the set of Mount Doom in the LOTR movie and site of our epic hike that we would tackle tomorrow.  It was a super busy day and I was happy to crash after dinner with a few glasses of wine in my belly.  🙂

 

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Categories: New Zealand | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Topdeck Trip and a stay at the Maori Marae

I was up bright and early the next day to prepare myself for the last leg of my epic trip – a bus tour around both the north and south islands of New Zealand with Topdeck – a tour company for 18 to thirtysomethings all around the world.  I joined up in Auckland, some of the trip members had been to the Bay of Islands already, but I felt like part of the group right away as I got on the bus – everyone seemed like fun, they were all my age and from a whole bunch of different countries.  Our bus left Auckland immediately for Rotorua, a spa town with lots of adventure activities and attractions in store for us.  We introduced ourselves to the group and met our hilarious guides, Craig and Scotty, who would entertain us for the next two weeks with their jokes, knowledge and general mayhem.
Before we got to our final destination for the night, we stopped to watch some group members Zorb down a hill, which basically means you get put in this giant plastic bubble and rolled down a hill. Sounds ridiculous, I know, but it was actually hilarious to watch!!
After a quick stop in Matamata, a “Hobbit” town close to the film set of the Shire that I would be visiting, we drove on to Rotorua. We would stay in the town the next evening, but the first night we all stayed TOGETHER in a longhouse type of Maori lodge, bunked down on the floor like a giant sleepover camp!  But before we could enter into the Maori Marae, we had to honor their customs and learn about the welcoming ceremony that was going to take place.  First, we had to remove our hats and sunglasses and wait for the Maori woman to call out a welcome song to us and we, along with our ancestors were permitted to walk slowly into the home and community center of the New Zealand Natives.  When inside, we were welcomed by our host Shawn in a speech given in his native language and treated to a song, which we had to return to them with our own song. We practiced our Maori song “Oma Rapati” on the bus beforehand, so we sounded pretty good!  Then it was time for the traditional Maori handshake, which includes touching noses like Eskimos!
We had a nature walk after that, where we saw gorgeous waterfalls and learned a bit about the traditional Maori way of life.  Our dinner, however, was chicken, potatoes and gravy – very North American but very tasty!  After dinner we were treated to a performance by the men on our tour – the “Haka” – a war dance and song performed only by the males of the tribe meant to pump them up for battle and intimidate the other side.  It was so cool!  We were treated to stories and legends after that in our lodge, where we bunked down for the night, feeling like we knew each other a lot better after sharing something so special.  Being the culture vulture that I am, I LOVED this part of the tour and felt like I learned a lot about New Zealand and the people who inhabit this fantastic country.  I had more new adventures on my mind for the next day though – it was time to visit a movie set from one of the most epic movies ever made. Lord of the RINGS, BRO.
Categories: New Zealand | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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