11/06/15 – Bus To Rotorua
Justin and I got up early and grabbed a Macdons hunger buster before hopping on our Naked bus up towards Rotorua. Our bus driver was a funny grumpy little man who spent much of his time complaining about previous passengers to someone sitting in the front seat. One story he complained about was a woman who had gone fishing and had put a chilly bin full of fish in the luggage compartment of the bus. After the long ride the Chilly bin had flipped over and the tape securing the lid had failed spilling fish and fish water, from the melted ice, all over everyone’s luggage. A woman then sued Naked bus for thousands of dollars worth of damage to her dresses and apparently in total it ended up costing $18,000. He finished his tale by stating, “That’s why no chilly bins are allowed on our busses now.” We drove through beautiful rolling green hills and past Tongoriro, which was now snow-covered listening to podcasts before making it to Rotorua 8 hours later. We checked into our backpackers and then headed into town to explore. We walked through a night market and passed many closed stores before stopping for dinner at an awesome restaurant called Fat Dog. We each got burgers that were held together by shish kebab skewers and were roughly 10 inches tall (Photo 1). Twas a loverly meal. We then stopped off for a beer at a local craft beer bar before heading back towards the backpackers. On our way we heard music coming from a huge bar called the Pig n Whistle. We stopped in to watch for a little while and ended up staying for 3 hours watching Agent Smith, which consisted of two middle aged bald men playing covers. They were incredible! The lead singer would alter his voice for each song matching the tone and feel of the original sometimes to a point where it felt eerie. He also used a loop pedal to create more complex arrangements. The pedal would not only loop but could be set so he could harmonize with himself. He could also tune his voice up an octave or two which allowed him to sing both the male and female parts of songs like Gotye’s “Somebody that I used to know”. He could also altar his voice to do a perfect Foster the People impression. It was endlessly fascinating. We sat thoroughly amused for hours with almost a private show. We were on a huge covered back deck area with only 5 to 10 other people. We also witnessed an amazing interaction. There were two German girls sitting at the table next to us who had just purchased drinks as they sat down two bogans approached and said can we sit down. And in one swift motion one of the women stood up and said we need to go gesturing to her friend. They both left immediately abandoning there two full drinks to avoid this situation. It was truly incredible! I have never seen someone read a situation and react more swiftly it was very impressive. We chatted with the bogans for a bit who were perfectly pleasant to us but clearly had one thing on their mind. They left a few minutes later after chugging their beers to go back on the hunt. Agent smith finished up their set and we headed back to the Hostel to crash out.
12/6/2015 - Day on the Town
Woke up at 930 and walked into town to grab breakfast. We found a fairly cheap spot in the food district of Rotorua called Nando’s. I grabbed an eggs Florentine and Flat white. As we ate we watched little birds flying around inside this little restaurant picking up crumbs and bits of fry left on peoples plates. It was incredible because these birds had it all figured out and knew exactly how to get in and out. The main door wouldn’t fully close and there was a 2 to 3 inch gap. The birds would fly around grab some food and then fly right to the door, land hop through the opening and t then fly off. We watched 4 or 5 birds continue to do this. Then a few moments later another truly shocking thing happened. A man walked in who was larger than any man I have ever seen. He was probably shorter than I but he was ripped beyond belief. He had to be a professional body builder. His upper arms were probably the size of my waist and were without doubt larger than my thighs. I couldn’t stop looking at him. He was fascinating. He had a tiny little girl with him who seemed to be 3 or 4. She was the size of his forearm. It was beautiful to watch this hulk of a human being interacting so delicately and lovingly with this tiny little girl. The whole experience was bizarre and gorgeous.
Just before breakfast we had stopped by an I-Site to see what things we could do around town for cheap or free. A woman gave us a map and circled all sorts of things including volcanic activity, redwood forest and museums.
Once we were done with breakfast we walked along the giant lake seeing lots of bubbling mud and other thermal areas. One end of the lake was white with sulfur sediment. It was interesting but didn’t really capture our attention for long as it was all very similar. We saw a few hot pools that had a plaque that said that there is a gas emitted from some of these that were similar to laughing gas. It was very dangerous for the first people who discovered them because apparently they would bathe and start laughing and getting loopy and then pass out and many would drown as a result. (Photo 2)
From here we walked past the museum, through a sculpture garden and then decided to head up through the redwood forest to a lookout that apparently had a view of all of Rotorua and a geyser. It was a very long walk there but we eventually made it and the redwoods were stunning! We hiked through them for a bit and then were dropped off onto a trail that brought us through clear-cut forests to the lookout. (Photo 3) We were unimpressed with the later part of the walk. We then turned back and walked along the main strip and counted roughly 50 hotels on just over a mile of road. We were completely baffled by this. We then stopped off at the store and picked up ingredients to make a pasta dinner at the hostel. We hot tubbed for a bit meeting our new roommate Sofie and then crashed out in preparation for Hobbiton the next morning.
From here on I am writing a few months after returning but felt it was important to finish this off and post it to tie up that last ends of my trip.
We got up early from our sleepy little hostel and walked a few blocks down to the MacDonald’s to grab our go to brehfass the hunger buster and then walked down to the pick up point for our bus to Hobbiton. He hopped on the bright forest green bus and were on our way through beautiful rolling green hills towards Matamata. We pulled into the gift shop parking lot a bit over an hour later and then headed in to begin our guided tour of Hobbiton! We walked in through a little garden path to our first hobbit hole (Photo 4) they were beautifully maid and looked as though at any moment the large circular doors could open and a fluffy footed creature would invite us in for tea. The gardens were beautiful and maintained to match the books. Real and fake moss blended perfectly. It truly felt as though we had walked into another world. The hobbit holes were varying sizes ranging from 110% scale to 50% scale to allow for the movie magic to allow some characters to seem huge like Gandalf and others to seem tiny like the Hobbits. We walked through the winding trails passing hobbit holes of the baker and the town drunk, the fisherman and the beekeeper (Photo 5). We got to walk around bag end and learned that the massive tree on top is fake and has over 200,000 fake leaves on its branches. We learned that all the hobbit holes are simply facades and the farthest you could go in to any was about 3 meters just to allow a camera crew behind the door so they could shoot from over a characters shoulder as they opened the door overlooking Hobbiton (Photo 6). We then headed down over a bridge past a mill (Photo 7) to the Green Dragon, which is a fully functioning tavern (Photo 8). We got a beer that is only brewed for Hobbiton and had about 15 minutes in the Green Dragon before heading back towards the parking area. The tour in total was under an hour and full of people. It felt very touristy, which isn’t my scene but it was incredibly beautiful and did feel amazing to experience a bit of the movie magic that went in to making some incredible films. We caught the bus back to Rotorua and reconvened at our hostel. We met up with some of our hostel friends including the wonderful Sofie that we had met the night before who happened to be living in Wellington for a few months and grew up and lives a few minutes from my home back in NC… Small world. At this point I don’t fully remember what we did next but I do know I had an opportunity to drop in with Justin while relaxing in our hostel hot tub and talk about life, family, home, fears and all that good stuff. I’m hoping our paths continue to cross Justin is a truly amazing human being.
Later on in the night our whole room found our way back to the pig and whistle to watch agent smith again. This time they had the full band and put on another incredible performance. One particular song stuck in my head though although sadly I could not understand the lyrics I thought they were singing “down low” and the mystery continued for over a week before Sofie finally figured it out when we were all back in wellington. It was long train runnin by the doobie brothers. I can’t tell you how grateful I was that she figured it out. Now its one of my go to jams!
The next day we got up and Justin and I had breakfast with Sofie and our other awesome friend from the hostel Rachel we then headed down to the water and enjoyed each others company before hopping back on the Naked bus back to Wellington.
We listened to music and comedy on our ride back. Reentering the city was a surreal feeling. Paloma faith was in our ear holes as we road along the bay looking at the city lights ahead. Our last excursion was officially ending as we entered our last week in New Zealand.
Photo 1 - Giant Fat Dog Burgers
Photo 2 - Laughing Gas Hot Pools
Photo 3 - View of Rotorua
Photo 4 - First Hobbit Hole
Photo 5 - Beekeepers Hobbit Hole
Photo 6 - View from Bag End With Green Dragon
Photo 7 - Mill Next to Green Dragon
Photo 8 - Inside Green Dragon