Well I am back again! Need to stop being so lazy writing this because when I get round to it I just have more to say!
After the last entry we had another day in Auckland. We mainly just bummed around a little bit, spending too much money on food! New Zealand feels a lot cheaper than Australia, and it is, but we really need to get out of the habit of going out for food just because we can almost afford it! Money must be saved for the various extreme sports NZ has to offer! So far we are planning on going glacier walking when we get to Franz Josef on the south island, and skydiving there also because the view looks amazing! Still contemplating the bungy...
So yeah, we spent a day in Auckland doing not a lot, bit of shopping. Apparently the best thing you can do when you get to Auckland is get out of it, according to our bus driver. Not the most optimistic view I'm sure! But anyway, we did indeed get out of it on Wednesday morning, with a 6.30am taxi to the MagicBus station from the house we were staying at! We went up to Paihia, pretty far north in the north island, in a pretty small mini bus. The MagicBus is really cool, so much better than the Greyhound because your driver also acts as your tour guide and points out loads of cool places and gives you all the history along the way. They also stop off at various points and let you take pictures. And have interesting catch phrases such as 'cool bananas' and 'sweet as' which they get into their speech whenever possible! Quite funny.They also book all of your hostels for you and you can book activities with them, basically turning us into very lazy travellers for the next few weeks.
The scenery changes almost immediately once you get out of Auckland. The high-rise tower buildings disappear and you're met with rolling green countryside, mountains, trees absolutely everywhere, especially huge acres of pine trees. It's definitely everything it's cracked up to be. Unfortunately the view up to Paihia wasn't the best, as it was pouring with rain, but we got some lovely scenery on the way back again! Once we got into the little town we had a look at the Bay of Islands through the mist, still very pretty but gorgeous in the sunshine the next morning. We spent the afternoon visiting the Treaty Grounds in Waitangi, just further north from Paihia. We got to visit the house where the treaty was signed between the British and the Maori to agree to divide out New Zealand and share it between them, which leads it to be known as the birthplace of New Zealand. We also got to see a show of some Maori songs and they showed us the Haka, which most people will recognise from the Rugby I'm sure! Very scary.
The next day we headed back to Auckland again, as Paihia was only a little add-on day trip and we had to start our actual tour of the North Island. On the way back, we drove past Hokianga Harbour which was very, very pretty with all the green hills in the background and the deep blue water in front, just how you expect NZ to look. And it was sunny, yay! We also saw the huge Kaori tree named Tane Mahuta, the largest known Kaori tree in the country at 51metres! When we finally got back to Auckland we decided to be a bit touristy and go up the Sky Tower, which was definitely worth it as we got some incredible views of the city, especially when the sun was setting.
Yesterday we left Auckland for the last time to head south to Rotorua. We stopped off first on the top of a mountain which we found out was actually a dormant volcano when we saw the enormous crater in the middle. Our bus driver showed us lots of the sights of Auckland, including the stadium where the 2011 Rugby world cup will be held, and he was very proud of it as all New Zealanders are. With all the Rugby and Sheep, it's just like a big Wales! On the way to Rotorua we stopped in Matamata, otherwise known as Hobbiton! Being the geeks that we are, Gaelle and myself immediately signed up to the Hobbiton farm tour which takes you around the farm where all of the external Hobbiton scenes for the Lord of the Rings movies were shot. The tour was really cool, we got to see some great locations like the party field where Bilbo Baggins' birthday party was shot, lots of Hobbit holes (though they weren't quite so impressive with just the wood backing left!) and the sites where the marketplace and the bridge that Gandalf goes over on his horse and cart were made. Ok, enough of my inner geek, but I made my 15-year old self very happy yesterday! I can remember, 7 years ago, stating to anyone who would listen that one day I was going to go to New Zealand and see where LOTR was filmed. I'm not sure I ever thought then that I actually would! Yesterday was also awesome as we got to see new parts of the set being built as they are filming The Hobbit in exactly the same location!
We are now in Rotorua. It has natural geothermal activity everywhere so the ground smokes and it smells of sulphur. It's meant to be very pretty, but we haven't ventured out yet as it's rained so much! Will have to don the very attractive waterproof jacket and do that when the rain lessens a bit and doesn't look like it would hurt to be out in! The weather in New Zealand is pretty much like a slightly more extreme England. It doesn't really do drizzle, it does downpours. But when it decides to be sunny, it does it well and is pretty hot, which is a lot more than can be said for England in winter! We are in the North at the minute though, so it will get a fair bit chillier. I hope we get some more sun soon! Tomorrow we are off to Taupo and have 3 nights there, so we should get to explore a bit.