February 21, 2016

New Zealand: Hobbiton and Hamilton Gardens

In keeping with the pace of his "not-a-moment-to-waste" itinerary, Graham (with Julie and Heather) managed to squeeze in two more activities before driving us to the airport and sending us home.

The Lord of the Rings Trilogy was filmed here on the original set in 1999.  The Hobbiton Movie Set was rebuilt and the The Hobbit Trilogy was filmed in 2011.  Our guide had trouble herding us as we all had fun posing for our final photos.

Our last stop was to Hamilton Gardens on the Waikato River.  This park attracts over 1 million visitors and hosts over 2,000 events every year.  Today it was the Annual Arts Festival. All the gardens are "themed" e.g. Chinese Scholars, Indian Char Bagh, Rhododendron Lawn, Kitchen, Sustainable Backyard, etc.  A lovely way to end an AMAZING adventure.

February 20, 2016

New Zealand: Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley & Pohutu Geyser; Mt Tarawera Eruption, Te Wairoa Buried Village & Wairoa Waterfalls; Natural Bush Hot Pool Eco Cruise; Kuirau Park Hot Foot Baths

In the Whakarewarewa Geothermal Valley lies the Pohutu Geyser which erupts 1-2 times per hour and is the largest geyser in the Southern Hemisphere. 
Mt Tarawera erupted in June 1886 and obliterated the Pink and White Terraces - a world famous natural tourist attraction.  The Maori villages of Te Wairoa, Te Ariki and Moura were buried under 65 feet of mud and over 150 people died.  Now there is a museum documenting the devastation, an outdoor museum combining archaeological finds and recreated sections to show Te Wairoa village life, and natural areas including the Wairoa Waterfalls

Our captain provided great commentary as we motored across Lake Tarawera to a natural bush hot pool.  
 These children were NOT delighted to see us and one even asked his parents "When are they going to leave?" We were enjoying ourselves and were not going anywhere until we and our guide were ready!

 Visiting the Kuirau Park Hot Foot Baths is a Rotorua tradition. 

February 19, 2016

New Zealand: Mitai Maori Village Cultural Experience

Mitai Maori Village where new "Chief Richard" negotiated peace and brought us barbecue

 BONUS: Boat used in the movie "The Piano"

New Zealand: Taupo Huka Falls, Aratiatia Rapids Hydroelectric, Wairakei Geothermal, Orakei Korako and a View from Home

Huka Falls: 220,000 liters per second cascade over this scenic 11 meter waterfall
Aratiatia Rapids: Normally harnessed for hydroelectric power, the spill gates are opened several times a day so that tourists can appreciate their power.

Wairakei Power Station:  Geothermal power is used to extract steam and generate electricity

Orakei Korako: We took a boat to visit this geothermal area which reminded us all of Yellowstone

View from our Lake Taupo home including geothermal steam rising in the distance

February 18, 2016

New Zealand: Waitomo Footwhistle Glowworm Cave

Touring a glow worm cave has been on my Bucket List for ages and Footwhistle did not disappoint. Even luckier was that Graham picked the one cave not closed due to flooding.  Being in a glow worm cave was like looking at a black sky with a thousand stars.  I did learn that glow worms are more like glow maggots, and cannibalistic at that. Our enthusiastic guide and his son own and developed the property.  At the end, we were drank some medicinal tea from the area - a bonus!