New Zealand: Auckland to Rotorua

Leaving Auckland

Our start was later than usual as we had to wait for the office to open so that we could pay for the campsite. However even so we were on the road for nine.

A fog bound SH1

We were quite happy that we'd passed through Auckland the night before as even at this hour of the morning there was a lot of traffic heading into the city. Luckily it didn't affect us at all and we were able to make good time on our journey south.

The sun of the previous day seemed to have deserted us however and our trip to Hamilton was shrouded in fog. We're sure we must have passed some more amazing country-side but we couldn't see it!

Hamilton Gardens

Hamilton Gardens

Our first stop of the day was the Hamilton Gardens, as these cover various hectares we weren't planning to see them all but we did stop for a nice walk around the lake and a quick coffee.

We also picked up a leaflet about our next stop: Matamata - the place that the Shire was filmed for Lord of the Rings.

Hobbiton / Matamata

We had some difficulties in finding the turn off but having driven into Matamata town centre we were able to follow the signs to the Hobbiton Movie Set easily enough.

Sheep covered hills

As ever we just missed a tour but in this case it wasn't a problem as we wanted to have some lunch. While we dined in the Shire's Rest the sun came out and we were treated to the sight of rolling green hills covered with the white dots of sheep.

We shared the tour with a family of four and our guide (a Maori school teacher) entertained us with stories from the filming as well as pointing the different locations where particular scenes took place.

Hobbiton is the only location used in the trilogy that still has some remains of the set, and although what remains is not as spectacular as what appeared on screen, little imagination was needed.

Party field and the lake Bagshot Row Bag End and Hobbiton

We visited the party tree, looked across the lake where the Green Dragon had stood and finished the set tour walking along Bagshot Row to Bag End itself.

Cris bottlefeeds a lamb

Then it was back to the Shire's Rest for a sheep shearing demonstration and finally we were given the chance to bottlefeed a lamb.

Rotorua (Hangi and Concert)

We arrived in Rotorua slightly later than we had hoped but made up for it by finding the campsite almost straight away. As we checked in we asked about Hangi dinners and Maori concerts.

They told us that the only one that we could still book for that night was the one in Tamaki Maori Village - something that suited us perfectly as it was the one we'd been recommended - but that it was leaving in just twenty minutes. We quickly booked and left to park the camper but were back well before the deadline.

Maori carving

The bus driver who picked us up introduces himself with his full Maori name but assured us we could call him "Nutter". Amazingly he memorized our names and those of the other coach passengers and is very well informed about the countries we all come from (Australia - "the West Island", England, Ireland, Malaysia, South Africa and Spain).

While on our way to the village he explained the origens and history of the Maori culture and of the ceremonies that we were going to participate in. Our chief was volunteered by Nutter and the importance of his role was explained.

Maori Warriors

On arrival the warriors of the village came running out to investigate the intentions of the visitors. All of the photos in the world don't comunicate the agression that they emit. It is quite a frightening sight and made us glad that we were not the chiefs!

Maori singer

Our peaceful intentions established we were welcomed into the village which is a reconstruction of what a typical Maori village was like. Each aspect of day to day village life was explained before we head inside for the Maori concert.

After the concert it was time for the Hangi itself, the meal was buffet style and the quality of the food was excellent. We shared a table with another couple who were doing the same as us but they had started from the South Island so we were able to get suggestions as to what to see.

Once everyone finished eating the "chief" of the village made a brief speech and thanked us all before the drivers treated us to their own concert. Nutter played the guitar and led many of the songs.

In the end of course we had to leave and Nutter got us all on the bus, we were all reluctant to leave so he distracted us by singing a song from each of the different countries before moving into a more general singsong (The Wheels on the Bus) demonstrating the actions by example!

Once back to the camper we slipped gently to sleep, it was a long day and this was our latest night yet but it was well worth it.

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