A very short North island road trip.

Mon 09 February 2014 – Road trip North Island, New Zealand.

On Saturday morning mum took El and I out to Auckland airport where we picked up a rental car for a couple of days of driving down to Wellington. As we were not bringing the car back to Auckland we were charged a monstrous “one way” fee. Almost twice the car rental, outrageous in these modern global tourism times. They all charge it, milking the customers – bastards!

We were going to take two days to drive south, not a huge amount of time given all the cool things to see on the way. We had limited ourselves to two stops on the first day –  Hobbitton near Matamata and the Orakei Korako thermal area between Rotorua and Taupo.

We stopped in Matamata at the very neat tourism office, made up to look like a Hobbit house. We were informed that the only way to visit Hobbitton was on a tour, this really didn’t suit our (my) aggressive timetable that much so we sort directions to Hobbitton (not that easy to get) and drove there ourselves.

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El is a big fan of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit series (I am little bit) and we were both keen to at least have a look at the site and El wanted to pick up some gifts from the gift shop. After the very cool looking tourism building in town we were both seriously let down to find the entrance to Hobbitton is a large tin shed…

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El bought a couple of souvenirs and we then carried on with our journey to Rotorua. Rotorua is the probably the main tourist centre of the north island. One of only a couple of areas of thermal activity in the world it has some fairly unique attractions, combined with a few Maori cultural sites and some extreme sports make this tourist heaven. We took a slow drive through town and then continued on to the thermal area of Orakei Korako, almost in Taupo.

To get to the smallish area of interest you take a small boat from the office and then walk up the edge of a large silica bank, it looks very dramatic with the white silica stained by the different algae growing in the warm thermal waters.

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The thermal activity here comprises of a lot of pools of super hot spring water and a couple of small geysers, though the geysers did not spout while we were there. It was incredibly cool though and we both enjoyed the walk around. I loved this, the Diamond Geyser – so East London…

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At the top of the trail we found some boiling mud, something I was really hoping to see, as it is something very unique to the area. One of the downsides of thermal activity is the smell of sulphur, just like rotting eggs. Luckily it was not overpowering here; or maybe we got used it !

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We spent a couple of hours at Orakei Korako and thoroughly enjoyed it, in a way it was good we did not go to Hobbitton as it gave us more time here to walk around and enjoy such a unique experience.

We briefly stopped at Huka Falls on the edge of Lake Taupo.

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Then a further brief stop to photograph the lake, which is one of the world’s largest.

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We had original planned on staying in a lakeside hotel in Taupo but I had a brain wave as we were researching accommodation and we decided to stay at the Chateau Tongariro on the edge of the Whakapapa ski-field on Mt Tongariro. The only time I have been in there was to see a band on some ski trip way back in the beginnings of time and I had always wanted to stay there. It was surprisingly ‘cheap’, so we decided to do it. The drive to the Chateau through the central highlands and national park was just stunning. We could have done two days there alone…

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We had a great night in the hotel, I was expecting ‘faded glory’ but it has been well maintained and was quite plush.

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The following morning we were up early, and under cloudy skies headed off for the long drive to Wellington. We stopped for more photos of the mountain on the way but sadly did not get to see Lord of the rings ‘Mount Doom’, otherwise known as Mt Ngauruhoe as it was so cloudy.

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We stopped for coffee in Bulls – NZ pun central, and had an average drink in a place that really did not make us feel welcome at all. The only place in NZ we visited that seemed to not like visitors – or us anyway.

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We arrived in Wellington in the early afternoon and checked into our hotel before returning the rental car, the bill still sends shivers up my spine ! We arranged to meet my daughter and her BF for lunch, they are on a longer road trip than we are – lucky them. And then El and I walked down to water front to the Museum of NZ, Te Papa for a look – it was free, and pretty good.

I found some cool anti-shark fining street art on the way 🙂

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After a drink with Mel and friends we enjoyed a really nice meal in the hotel and then retired early and tired. Up early tomorrow for the ferry to the south island!

About wheresphil

Originally from Auckland, New Zealand, now living in London.
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