Apr. 14th, 2015

same_difference: (Me.)
So this will go up a couple of days after I write it as the WiFi in this motel has a limited allowance. We spent the day exploring the Coromandel peninsula which is kind of the North Islanders holiday destination.

The explorative was kind of done in three chunks. The first driving around it; I'm not sure which was the more challenging drive - the windy coast road whose edges were either a cliff face on one side and an ocean on the other, or the serpentine gravel road that ran up and down the mountain. Very pretty scenery when I wasn't focused on the road; Rachael took photos and we stopped once or twice.

The second was a visit to the Driving Creek Railway in Coromandel town. Single track railway that snakes up another 100m above sea level from its base. Was a mix of pottery, and the trains, as the trains had originally been intended by the potter in order to collect clay and wood. Really good view of the peninsula from the top.

The last after checking into our motel in Whitiangi, was a drive then a walk down to Cathedral Cove. Something that was both recommended by friends and used in the filming of Prince Caspian.

This evening we finished off with a great meal out. I had a very tasty steak served on a grill stone. The meat is served basically raw but on a extremely hot stone that cooks it as you eat it, allowing you to take it off when it's done exactly as you like.

Speaking of beef I thought New Zealand was all about the sheep, but the only way that could be true from what we've seen so far is if the sheep were hiding behind all the cows.
same_difference: (Me.)
So yesterday we left the Coromandel Peninsula and drove sort of SWW to Waitomo to see the Glowworm caves (or cannibalistic maggots with effervescent poop caves as the guide more accurately described them), then on to Matamata for our trip around Hobbiton tomorrow.

The drive was interesting. Driving in NZ's North Island seems to be mostly either long straight roads on largely flat terrain or serpentine roads that snake up and down mountains and steep valleys. Also the change from Coromandel W which is either mountains or flat and feels either American mid West or South Pacific island, to Otorohanga province whose rolling hills wouldn't look out of place in the UK, and certainly make it obvious why they used it for the Shire, is stark. Curious to see how the rest of the country compares to those two.

The glow worm caves were spectacular in terms of the limestone formations, and the thousand of glowworms illuminating a starscape like pattern on the caves. We didn't do the more adventurous caving, underground rafting options in the end. Partly because not knowing when we'd arrive meant we couldn't prebook. Having said that the combination of underground "heights" and enclosed spaces made me uncomfortable - not quite phobia freak out but caught in that unpleasant anticipation phase.

From there we did our first unplanned detour to see live kiwi birds in a sanctuary. As the birds are endangered, nocturnal and sleep a lot it was probably our best chance of seeing them. They look very odd sorry of fat bodied and legged with very narrow beaks, and they wobble amusingly when they dig.

Today also marks our first taste of proper autumn rains. Some light and a few heavy downpours to add to the driving.

Speaking of which Rachael did her first bit of driving from the bird sanctuary to tonight's motel. She missed having a clutch, but it's good thing we have the option to split the driving if we want to.
same_difference: (Me.)
So today we went to Hobbiton which was fantastic. I hadn't realised the set had been largely demolished as per the contract after the LotR films; it was only tourist interest (and bad weather) that meant it didn't get entirely destroyed. Tourist interest is also why when they rebuilt for the Hobbit trilogy they built it to last (also as per the new cobtract) instead of out of styrofoam, etc.

Considering the LotR films are why I wanted to visit NZ (I still don't have a travel bug) it was great to wander around a part of it (sort of). It was also fascinating. The sheer amount of work that went into getting things right is ridiculous.

From there we drove to Rotorua famous for it's high maori population, geo thermal activitu and hydrogen sulphide smell. We saw an excellent Maori village built on a geothermically active area complete with geysers - though they didn't half make us wait before deciding to jet. It must be weird growing up in a town where tourists come both to see what you live and to see you as almost an exhibit.

We finished the day with really good Japanese food. I really like good quality sushi.

An excellent day, though really incongruous going from the rolling hills of the shire to geysers and hot volcanic springs, especially as they are less than 50km apart.

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