Labour Day Weekend

The joy of long weekends. This Monday was Labour Day in New Zealand. Andrew and I took advantage of the long weekend to go on an adventure. I tried to pack as much fun into three days as possible, and Andrew and I had a lot of fun, learned something new, and saw more of this beautiful country we are living in.

We left on Saturday morning so we got a good rest to start with. Most Fridays Andrew’s office provides a few cases of beer to celebrate another week of hard work. I met Andrew on Friday night and had a beer. Afterwards, I made a balsamic honey glazed lamb spare rib recipe that was a pretty spectacular failure. But hey, I learned something new – that is that I’m not the biggest fan of balsamic vinegar.

On Saturday Andrew and I left pretty early and wandered over to Parnell to pick up a rental car. We got a pretty old car, a 2000 Subraru Legacy. While it was an easy ride, it is unusual in the States to rent anything older than a few years. Andrew and I both had an opportunity to drive some of the way. It was much easier than I thought it would be to drive on the left hand side of the road and the steering wheel being on the right hand side of the car. In fact, the hard thing was to be the passenger with another American driving for the first time on the left hand side of the road! Because we’re so used to driving on the left hand side of the car, both Andrew and I drove very far to the left of the lane. It often meant the passenger felt way to close to the side of the road / bridge / other cars. But we managed. No blood, no foul.

Our first stop was Matamata. It’s a farm country about two hours south of Auckland. In Matamata, Andrew and I stopped at Hobbiton. It was a blast! As major Lord of the Rings fans, I put together a whole post on it! In addition to Hobbiton, the other blaaaag-worthy note was about sheep. We saw LOTs of sheep, fed some sheep, took photo’s of sheep. Again, so many sheep and so little time!

Afterwards, we popped up a dozen or so miles north to Wairere Falls. Wairere Falls is a waterfall at the edge of a small mountain range east of Matamata. We hiked up to the look-out all the while being serenaded by songbirds. It was a great way to fit a bit of exercise into an otherwise sedentary road trip up until this point. The falls were simply gorgeous!

Once we had our fill of exercise, we hopped back in the Subaru and went another hour or so south to Rotorua. We bunked at Astray Motel and Backpackers. A very inexpensive establishment with communal showers and toilets  The rooms were clean and the gentleman running the place was friendly, so no complains. It was also at the heart of downtown, which meant we could walk around and leave the car.

Rotorua is known for it’s sulfur rich, asthmatic air. And by that I mean it’s the most dynamic thermal area in all of New Zealand. We saw hot springs, boiling mud, a 30 meter geyser and farted without fear of anyone noticing. (Just kidding on that last part, well, not really.) The Maori occupy much of the area and make up 35% of the population. Andrew and I spent the morning at the Whakarewarewa Thermal Village and the evening partaking in a Mitai Maori Village event with a concert, hangi (traditional Maori meal) and glowworm bushwalk. To do both events justice, I threw together a post on the thermal action and the Maori culture. In between we enjoyed some local cafes and perused around a local Jade store that made high-end hand crafted green stone jewellery and carvings as well as bone carvings. Other than stinking of sulfur, Rotorua was a very enjoyable trip and I learned a lot about the Maori and saw a lot that I’d never seen before.

On Monday morning Andrew and I drove to the Waitomo caves. There are a bunch of caves filled to the brim with glowworms in Waitomo and we booked a tubing adventure through one of them. Waitomo is about 2 hours northwest of Rotorua.

Along the way we stopped in Otorohanga, only about 15 minutes north of Waitomo to visit the Otorohanga Kiwi House and Native Bird Park. This bird park is the only place in the country where you can see a Great Spotted Kiwi, the biggest of the kiwi species. While I couldn’t take any photos of the kiwi (they are nocturnal and were in a nocturnal house) Andrew and I both were surprisingly well-entertained by the other bird and reptile species the bird park housed. We played peek-a-boo with a kea and took too many photographs so I went ahead and just posted a gallery of pictures for any bird fanatics. I’m not the biggest bird fan but I had pet Cockatiels and Parakeets growing up so I’m a bit fond of them. There are so many song birds and interesting looking birds here that I think I might just become a big bird fan soon enough.

Next we drove on down south a bit to Te Kuiti to see the Big Shearer statue of a man shearing a sheep in the town center. Te Kuiti is the shearing capital of the world! Again, I was able to put together a whole fascinating post on sheep and tucked that photo in there as well.

Finally, we grabbed a late lunch and drove over to the Legendary Black Water Rafting Company only to find out the rain we had all day Sunday flooded out the caves! What a bummer! We started driving back home for a few minutes before Andrew and I decided that our adventure wasn’t over yet! We headed north towards Auckland for a couple of hours then veered west to Port Waikato. Port Waikato is a tiny town  located at the mouth of the Waikato River at the point where it opens up to the Tasman Sea. It is home to Sunset beach, where it is rumored that the best sunsets on the island are. But wait, that’s not all, about 15km south of Port Waikato is the rock formation that was used for the Weathertop scene in The Lord of the Rings. Yes folks, Andrew and I are that big of nerds! Sadly, it stayed quite rainy and overcast but we did get to see the beaches and it’s not too far from Auckland so we’ll catch a sunset or two there before too long. But all in all, it was a good end to the trip. In fact, I learned something new, Andrew taught me to skip stones.

We made it back to Auckland safely, figured out the on street parking and this morning I returned the rental car to officially wrap up our adventure. I had a blast, Andrew said he did too and we’re itching to have another adventure soon. But first, maybe a job interview or two? Back to the job hunt… well, after I post all of our pictures.