1st – 6th July 2016
We set off the next day around 9.30am heading towards Rotorua. On our way we stopped off to do the Ruakuri Walk which was a beautiful walk through a forested gorge, under limestone arches and past many waterfalls and caves.
Once we were all back on the bus it was time to get our geek on and head to Hobbiton! I think even if you haven’t seen the Lord of the Rings or Hobbit films the tour is still pretty cool but if you have, oh my god, it is out of this world! The attention to detail is absolutely crazy, it is literally like you are in the films. After our tour round the set we headed to the Green Dragon for a complimentary pint of beer, cider or ale.
Once we were all back on the bus we drove straight through to Rotorua. As an optional activity that evening we had the chance to visit Tamaki Village to see how the Maoris used to live before the Europeans arrived. On the way our driver chose James as our chief – this meant that he would be representing our group on arrival and would have to participate in the Powhiri – the ancient ceremony of welcome before any of us were allowed in the village. Once this was complete we were allowed into the village where we separated off into little groups to learn about traditional facial tattooing, carvings and weaving. We also had the chance to join in and have a go at playing some traditional stick games, poi, training techniques and the haka!
Afterwards we were taken down to see our food being lifted out the ground. This traditional cooking method is called ‘Hangi’. This is where a pit is dug out in the ground, a fire is lit and hot stones are placed on top and then once the stones have heated up the food is placed on top and then the pit is covered.
Whilst our dinner was being served we went inside to watch traditional songs and dances being performed. At the end they put our boys to shame and performed the Haka how it’s really supposed to be done – the atmosphere was electric, it was incredible to watch.
At last our hangi feast was ready – we had chicken, lamb (the best you will EVER taste) potatoes, stuffing, gravy and loads of veg – it was the nicest meal I’ve had since leaving England. The evening finished with everyone standing to sing an old Maori song which sounded beautiful. It was such a good evening we all had such a good time, learnt so much and ate way more than we ever thought possible!
The next morning it was time to head to Taupo but we had a few stops on the way, our first being Te Puia, home to the largest active geyser in the Southern Hemisphere – Pohutu and over 500 natural geothermal attractions including mud pools and hot springs. Our guide took us to a hot spring and cooked us all eggs – they were pretty good! We also got to see two kiwi birds in the sanctuary that they have which was so cool as there is no chance of seeing them in the wild anymore!
Naturally heated rock seats!
We arrived in Taupo earlier than planned so we had the afternoon to explore the town. Me and Daniel had been told by a guy we met in Bali that we had to try the pies in New Zealand so we set out on a mission to find a pie shop. We quickly stumbled across one and brought a chicken and mushroom pie for me and a steak and cheese for Daniel along with a rocky road and chocolate muffin – they were just too good to resist. We spent the rest of the evening down in the bar with everyone having a few drinks.
Sunday morning we went to stay with Kirsteen and Ian who kindly said we could stay with them for a few days whilst we were in Taupo. They took us to see the Aratiatia Dam, where a few times a day the gates are opened and the narrow gorge is filled with water surging past at up to 90,000 litres per second and then The Huka Falls which are a set of waterfalls on the Waikato River that drain Lake Taupo.
Monday morning Kirsteen booked for me and Daniel to go out on The Barbary, a sailing boat, to see the Maori rock carvings out on Lake Taupo which are only accessible by boat. It was so beautiful out on the lake and we could see all the snow capped mountains in the distance. The rock carvings were pretty cool and our driver explained all the meanings to them which was really interesting. It was a really good morning so thank you again Kirsteen we loved it! For lunch we met Ian and went to Burger Fuel which was sooooo good. We then spent the afternoon walking around Taupo and then back to Kirsteens along the lake front.
Tuesday we walked down to De Brett’s Hot Springs and spent the afternoon chilling in the hot mineral pools – the temperature of the pools has been cooled down to around 32-42 degrees as otherwise it would be way too hot for anyone to go in!
Wednesday marked the end of our time in Taupo and we were back on the Kiwi bus heading for River Valley. We had such a lovely time staying with Kirsteen and the boys it was so nice to catch up with them on their side of the world! Thanks for having us!