Orakei and Hobbits

The Orakei Korako thermal springs and mud Pools perhaps gave JRRR inspiration for his epic creatures. It was certainly a pretty magical place with geothermal activity creating not only puffs of steam but also mineralised patterns on the rocks which they call the ‘artist’s palette’ but which reminded me of spilled Iron Bru

It was quite scary to think that here the earth’s crust is so fragile that water and mud can bubble up. The park is actually quite dangerous as areas can and do erupt.

This cave has a warm sulphate-rich acid pool at the bottom and there are only two like it in the world. The other is in Italy

It was quite cool to see a sea plane in action on the lake It’s not something you see very often.

My favourite feature was the elephant rock (so reminiscent of Thailand)

Orakai Korako means ‘place of adorning’ in Maori and was a traditional gathering place for many tribes. In 1886 a nearby volcano erupted causing the springs to change and the tribes moved away.

In peak season over 20 million litres of silicia rich water flows into the lake.

Rotarua is situated in a gigantic caldera which is 99% extinct. It is the second largest in the world, the largest being underneath Yellowstone Park.

The mud pools are bubbling at a whopping 94 degrees centigrade and are actually very acidic. The mud is gathered and diluted with spring water to make mud products which are used in local hospitals to help relieve skin conditions.

The sulphurous smell gives rise to the nickname ‘Rotten – Rua ‘

But the piece de resistance of our whole trip was our Christmas Eve visit to

This is Alexander Farm, the location used for The Shire in both the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit. Since deconstructed and re-built with permanent materials it boasts 44 Hobbit holes created with amazing attention to detail.

Some are hobbit-sized

And some were Gandalf-sized

This is an apple tree planted because of the dwarf stature which suited the diminutive hobbits. In the book though these are supposed to be plum trees which actually grow very tall. So for the film all the fruit was picked daily and these trees were hung with fake plums

This is Bag End (actually named after a farm in England which JRRR visited) who knew?

And this is Sam and Rosie’s house. The one which they disappear into at the very end of the film

I loved the little details like this washing line with little Hobbit jackets on

And the cheeses stacked inside this window

The famous sign…

And finally on to the Green Dragon for some ale (or apple cider)

All in all a magical experience and one shared with the Robertson family who are also holidaying here

Stunning scenery

The scenery here is simply out of this world. The picture above is the view from the Mount Victoria lookout point overlooking the capital city of Wellington.

Below is a Goblin forest nestled in the foothills of Mount Taranaki. It rained that day but there is a Kiwi saying that if you don’t do an activity in the rain then you probably won’t do it all.

The trees are mis-shapen and resemble weird creatures like this…

But most are covered in a type of moss which makes the whole forest look furry

Taranaki itself is a perfect cone volcano. We didn’t get a great view due to the aforementioned rain. And apparently there is still snow on the tops. You can just about make it out through the clouds here

Next up was a fairly long drive through the countryside. These pictures don’t really do the splendour justice.

Beautiful forests of silver cloak the slopes.

Breathtaking valleys under rolling clouds

Until we reached the shores of Lake Taupo

I was stunned by the iridescent blue in the waters of the Huka Falls (which were free to visit)

But perhaps most impressive of all was the ethereal sight that greeted us at a place called Craters of the Moon

This is an area of geothermal activity where fumaroles or small fissures in the ground breath hot sulphurous steam gently across the landscape in soft billowing puffs. There were fewer people here (£4 entry charge) so it was more peaceful and almost felt as though we had stepped into an alien planet. I half expected to see Dr Who around the next corner.

Fortunately the rain held off

Then Hanifa (the mad, reckless fool) did a quick bungy jump (there was NO WAY on earth that I could be persuaded to join in!!!!) then we were done for the day

Everything closes early here. See previous comments about Kiwi Bed Time. WiFi is erratic here and one place we stayed in they actually turned it off at 10pm. I mean why?!?? We needed to message people back in the U.K. but no… Guess it’s one way of enforcing KBT

Hello Wellington

Greetings from New Zealand. This is the perspective from the bottom of the world. Fascinating.

The flight from Bangkok to Auckland is 11 hours. The same length of time as a flight from Bangkok to London! For some reason I had assumed that we were almost there not just half way!

The long haul was totally worth it though as this is a country of stunning scenery. It is like a home from home as everything including the weather is so familiar. In fact wandering around Wellington city centre At 10pm reminds us all of Bournemouth. You also can’t get anything to eat there at that time on a Sunday!

Actually Wellington is known for it KBT (kiwi bed time) as they all do hit the sack quite early. Mostly everyone is up with the lark and off making the most of the sunshine.

Our day began with a delicious breakfast of coconut chia with fruit. Photo included here especially for Jane Robinson who is responsible for introducing me to chia breakfasts. Jane you would have loved this!

After that it was a tour of the WETA studios. A weta is a type of insect native to NZ, a cricket type creature which comes in an assortment of sizes, some as large as the palm of your hand! It is an ugly NZ monster.

This studio makes the monsters for the film world (hence the name) It specialises in puppetry, prosthetics and props such as weapons and armour and digital manipulation such as CGI.

The studio began with a couple who worked out of their flat and who were friendly with a young film maker called Peter Jackson. Three Lord of the rings and a Hobbit movie later and they are world renowned players in the movie industry employing over 2000 staff.

The tour was fascinating as we learned about how things are made. But we weren’t allowed to take many photos. Here are a few that we could take.

Kevin thoroughly enjoyed himself As you can see.

I can’t wait to see Hobbiton.

The weather here is exactly like a U.K. summer. The temperature is in the mid 20s and it’s windy. It is T shirt weather when you are in the sun but chilly in the shade.

Our next stop was the national museum where were saw an amazing display about Gallipoli with award winning giant sized models made by the Weta studios.

This was Lieutenant Colonel Fenwick (a family name for us)

The Maori exhibits were fascinating and we have much to learn about this culture. Although it was embarrassing when Hanifa replied to kevin in a loud voice that she didn’t like kiwi 🥝. ‘You can’t say that here’ whispered Kevin and we fell about laughing.