Aren’t the Redwoods from California?

New Years Day we decided to head south. The weather wasn’t going to cooperate, so we just went anyways.

Hobbiton!Home Sweet HomeFirst stop, Hobbiton. One of these days, the thrill will wear off, but the hobbit holes are just so meticulously decorated! Regrettably, the service and time you get to spend on set has gone downhill considerably while the price went up but we made the most of the hurried visit. Such a cute hobbit holeThe Green Dragon Inn was now available for patronage (albeit, perhaps a 10 minute turnaround) and we were permitted to, albeit quickly, poke our noses in a hobbit hole. Until we could visit the Green Dragon without the haste, I don’t know if I’ll ever go back. But it was still a fun visit! This is about as close to Middle Earth I think I’ll ever get!

All work and no play... no, that's not right Too many pints! Yum!

Boiling Mud!Geyser ready yet?So what’s cooler than hobbits? Boiling mud! We went down to Rotorua, and were kindly informed that the hotel we booked had, um, overbooked. I guess the practice is universal. We were given directions to the sister hotel and checked into two separate rooms. Andrew and I had a stunning little creepy room with a fantastic view of the carpark and the wistfully nauseating smell of sulfur. We let my mother take the sulfuricly stunning room with a view of the Pohutu Geyser. Blowing up every hour, the geyser gets up to 30 meters or 100 feet regularly. And also in view was a huge pond of boiling mud. Most tourists pay good money to see the geyser and pools, but our new accommodation allowed us to skip the fee and enjoy the view.

Maori in a wakaThat evening, we found ourselves back at the Mitai Maori Village to share some of the Maori culture, such as the hangi, the meal, and the haka, or war dance. I guess I can’t get enough of historically accurate barely clothed men in canoes, or wakas. It was a wonderful show, and we paid a little bit extra to garner access to the Rainbow Springs Bird Park after hours. We got to check out the adult kiwi at night, which makes sense since they’re nocturnal.There's the sheep! There were heaps of people that evening, with parents who couldn’t quite get their children to hush, though sometimes the parents had the most difficulty keeping it down around the shy creatures. The guide was starting to gather everyone to leave the enclosure and we still hadn’t seen any kiwi. We’d seen the glowworms, but we were there to see kiwi! And just like that, a fat little round thing comes waddling into view. Promptly a parent yelled for his kids to come over which scared the bird back into hiding, but we saw it before it dashed off again! Oh how they walk so funny!

Cute idea!

The next day we were throwing out ideas of what to do when we decided to check out the Redwood trees. Brought to New Zealand from California 100 years ago, to see if they’d grow well for timber, along with 169 other types of trees, the Redwoods didn’t make the timber cut, but they do grow stunningly tall at the Whakarewarewa Forest. A short 30 minute walk through the forest was a blast, and also churned out some fantastic photos! It was definitely a pleasant surprise at how fun it was, and the best part? It was free!

Tall trees! Stunning though

Do I look tall now? How 'bout now?

What? Beautiful forests Pretty lake

Lots of lush Yup, it's a big tree.

Can you find us? Now I feel small

Back in downtown Rotorua, we picked up some grub at Epicurean, a lovely brunch spot. While walking past a gallery, my mom even found a spectacular painting from a local artist that she couldn’t resist! We found some books and a couple of souvenirs. We found our way back to the Rainbow Springs park to check out the baby kiwi’s during the day, only $5 more. And I got my mom and Andrew to ride the log boat ride with me! We only got a little wet, it wasn’t that bad guys! Well, I had a blast, anyway. In the gift shop, my mom tried some sheep placenta cream on her hands which she deemed, “a tad bit sticky”. It was a shame too, because I was prepared to buy a big bottle for my favorite sister. A good couple of hours until we were back in the city, we took off back home.

Lave Tube!But where did the time go? It was almost time to say goodbye! On my mom’s final day, we decided to hike Rangitoto volcano. There aren’t many volcanoes in the American midwest, so this was a new one for my mom and also, it was a rare sunny day! We put on our hiking shoes and hopped the ferry to Rangitoto. We did the circuit up the mountain, taking the detour to the lava tubes. My mother had an unfortunate argument with some of the volcanic rock, which sadly, she lost. Her knee will likely bare the scars for a couple of weeks anyways. She boldly pushed through her injury up the final trek to the summit were we grabbed a few snacks and walked down the other side to head to the lighthouse and beach. Because the last ferry leaves the mountain rather early, we didn’t get to stay longer than a few dips of the toes in the water and an apple or banana a piece, but we still enjoyed the trek. Another hour and half hike to the port, and, heaving sighs of effort, made it back to Auckland where Andrew and I promptly crashed on the couch while my mum packed up her rocks, and shells and shoes for the long trip home.

A whirlwind last couple of days, it was a great visit.