Ok, maybe not so unexpected, since it was on my list of countries I wanted to visit in 2016. So I am happy that I can tick it off my list. It doesn’t mean I won’t return though. It’s so close to home that I can’t believe it has taken me so long to visit in the first place. But it was a little bit unexpected in the sense that I wasn’t planning on going so soon in the year. And I thought I would be going alone. Friends of mine planned this trip a year ago and one person in the group was unable to fully commit, so I took their spot in an instant. I guess the stars aligned and things worked out in my favour.
Oh, and in case you didn’t get it – the title is from The Hobbit, as many are aware, was filmed in New Zealand! There’ll be more on Hobbiton later.
Where do I even start?! New Zealand is one of the most scenic countries I have ever travelled to. The immense green, the hills, the mountains, the landscape, it has it all and it is beautiful! I must give credit to my travel buddies who planned extensively to ensure a smooth journey. Most of what I have to say is due to my friends planning. Being a last minute addition to the group, I just tagged along on this occasion. We spent the bulk of our time in Rotorua and Queenstown.
Rotorua is located in the North Island of New Zealand. We flew into Auckland then drove 3 hours to this town. Rotorua is a good place to learn about Maori culture. We participated in a dinner and show experience with the Mitai Maori Village. Kia Ora!
This town is also known for its geothermal activity. Those of you who have travelled there or are familiar with New Zealand will be aware of the not-so-pleasant smell. Trust me, you get used to it. But if you are super keen on seeing geothermal activity, we went to Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland. For NZ$35, you get treated to a demonstration of a volcanic eruption before entering the vast geothermal area.
Rotorua was our base for several road trips. You definitely need a car to explore New Zealand; there is a lot of ground to cover.
A long yet scenic drive from Roturua will get you to Waitomo, home of the glow-worms. This was one of my highlights of the trip. Courtesy of Spellbound Glowworm and Cave Tours, we put our torch helmets on and explored the wondrous Waitomo Caves.
I distinctly remember our tour guide, a lovely man by the name of Norm, saying: “You only live once; you’re dead for a long time, so you might as well enjoy life!” – Words to live by.
Huka Falls, Taupo
After sitting for long periods of time in the car and snacking incessantly, we needed some exercise. So we headed to the charming town of Taupo for a light hike to the luscious Huka Falls. Of course, you could just park your car at the top of the falls but we wanted to challenge ourselves! Remember, the journey is just as important as the destination. Plus, it makes the scene at the top all the more rewarding.
We also paid a visit to the popular Lake Taupo. You could enjoy the lakeside view from the many restaurants, go for a wander around the great lake, or do what we did and drive a little further to a quiet spot admiring the view, the peace and the calm.
On the drive back to Auckland, we stopped by the Hobbiton Movie Set. I’ll be honest with you; prior to this trip I had never read nor seen the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit books and movies. The night before we left Rotorua, we watched The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, and as I am sure the rest of the world is aware of, it was brilliant! After watching the movie I could not wait to visit Hobbiton. As I write this, I am currently reading Fellowship of the Ring. I don’t know how I have lived without these stories but I am so determined to read and watch them all now. As for Hobbiton, it was utterly delightful!
Catch more on my trip to New Zealand in my next blog, where we venture to the South Island in Queenstown!