North Island, New Zealand
MataMata, May 26, 2004
Yes, I went to see Hobbiton. I mean, the dang movies just came out, so how could I go right by it without checking it out?
It spoils the magic a little to know most of the footage was shot in the same 200 foot radius, just at different angles. And they've taken down all of the exteriors, so all you see is the shells from the original huts.
Kind of silly, but still fun to see.
Rotorua, May 24, 2004
This whole town smells of sulfur - it is the oddest thing. Bedding, air, walls, it seeps everywhere and soon it's in everything you own. Rotoruais situated in the heart of active volcanic territory so it oozes sulphur out of everything. Because of the geothermal processes at work here, it's central to the Maori religion.
The most interesting thing about this place, other than the spectacular volcanic occurrences, was Te Puia, the Maori Arts and Crafts Institute. The program they put in place to preserve traditional arts is amazing - a three year program with cultural history and carving instruction.
The drive from Auckland here was extreme; like flipping a switch from suburbia to english countrysides. You get 25km outside of Auckland metro and it goes to winding one lane roads. Big, beautiful farms, flowing green fields, going on for miles and miles. Then abruptly becoming craggy mmountains splitting the skyline. Took the road from Auckland north to the coastline into the Bay of Plenty region into the town of Tauranga, then dropped into Rotorua.
The Maori culture is everywhere here, since Rotorua has such deep historical significance.
Auckland is so much like Seattle, it is scary. The different districts and shops all remind me of home. We took a ride up the elevator to the viewing deck on Sky Tower to enjoy the views and see the lay of the land today. Also spent a fair bit of time wandering the city and covered a lot of ground. The hotel was situated just a few blocks north of Queen street, which is the main downtown district, so we covered from there, went east to the waterfront and then up the hill to an area that is sort of like Capitol Hill in Seattle, botiquey and indie.
A note about Sky Tower: it's kind of expensive to ride to the top, but worth it. They've got these glass panels in the floor so you can look down to the city below. Caylo just went right out over that to look down. I had to talk myself into the idea of walking onto the glass. Even though they tell you it's as thick and strong as the steel for the rest of the structure, it's a mental leap to trust that open space. At least for me.
It's fun to be in a city again where I feel like I belong. Speaking English again helps, except it will take me a bit to get used to the vernacular (“take away” for to-go). I am looking forward to driving around the rest of the north island.