Monday, November 24, 2014

Rotorua Airport

We are at the Rotorua airport, waiting for our flight to Christchurch.

This airport has one airline (Air New Zealand), one gate, and no security at all (meaning, no X-ray machines, etc). We parked our rental car on the lot, walked into arrivals, dropped off our car keys, walked to self-check in (no line), loaded our baggage (no line) and paid our $5 each for a developing levy ticket (required for all passengers). This all took less than five minutes. 

Bonus: Free WiFi.  

I love small airports in other countries. :)

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Waitomo Glowworm and Ruakuri Caves

By David and Miguel's suggestion, we ventured out to the Waitomo Caves today. It's about 2-1/2 - 3 hour drive from our lodging in Rotorua, but it was well worth the trip!

First of all, I'm going to make the statement that it's impossible to get a decent photo of a glowworm on an iphone camera. ;)
To see some really nice professional photos, you can check out their website.

We went on the Ruakuri Cave tour first, which was pretty amazing. We weren't allowed to take photos in the glowworm cave (for good reason) so all these photos are from the Ruakuri Cave. Very cool.

The boatride in the glowworm cave was simply amazing, and really hard to describe. We were about 20 people in a boat, with our guide. We were told to stay quiet the whole time, which everyone managed to do. To see this cave lit up with glowworms in near silence was pretty surreal and magical.

here, you can kind of get an idea of how the glowworm (actually at larva stage) and it's "web" work. They feed off mosquitoes and other small insects who get lost in the cave. The glowworm's light attracts the insects, as they think it is daylight, then get stuck in their single string webbing.

well, I know you can't actually see anything, but this a photo of some glowworms. ;)

Boat Ride around the Lake

This is the lake surrounding the resort that we are staying at in Rotorua.

Dick and I took a small dingy out for a ride this afternoon. We used both the engine and Dick even tried our the oars.

Unfortunately, I don't have any photos from our outing, as I was too nervous about the boat tipping over and killing my phone (not to mention my nervousness in open water).

It turned out to be a very nice outing, and we both managed to stay dry. :)

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Hidden Valley of Orakei Korako

We landed at Orakei Korako and took a short boat ride across the lake to the hot springs, geysers and just all around natural beauty of the geothermal park. It's tucked away, and hard to access, so coming here by float plane was really ideal. There weren't many other people there, and we were able to walk the whole area (with lots and lots of stairs) in about an hour.

What was most striking to me was the difference between this geothermal park, in contrast to Volcano National Park in Hawaii. Where Hawaii's volcano park was black, full of lava rock and stark of any greenery, this park was white, colorful, and filled with interesting vegetation. It was a very beautiful and really neat hike.

here's a shot of the same area that we had just toured from our float plane.

Float Plane Tour

This morning, we went on a float plane tour (a first for both of us!) over the Crater Lakes District and the volcanic rift of Mt. Tarawera. We were able to view the spectacular geothermal and volcanic landscape of Rotorua and the Central North Island of New Zealand. We flew south over the Waimamgu and Waiotapu Thermal Areas before landing at the Hidden Valley of Orakei Korako.

The flight was really awesome. We both loved the float plane. Our flight was about 35 minutes one way, and about 15 minutes on the way back. Our pilot, Rosie, was great, and was a great guide as we flew over points of interest.

New Zealand is a beautiful country! So many rolling hills, great, green forests, huge and BLUE lakes. We were lucky that it was such a beautiful day to view the area from the air. We've only been on the North island so far, and everyone keeps telling us how much we'll love the South. Hard to believe it'll be any more beautiful than what we've seen here so far.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Last bit of Hobbiton Tour

Here are just a few more photos from the Hobbiton tour, after we left the Green Dragon.

the sheep on the right, with the black head (and also has black feet) is the only sheep on the grounds that was in the films! (really!) His name is Stunt Sheep. Apparently, Peter Jackson felt like the native sheep that were on the farm were too "modern" for the Shire, so they brought in this other breed of sheep that had a more classic look. I guess the rest of the Stunt Sheep were returned to where ever they were brought in from. Not sure why this guy was left behind, but he seems to be very happy.

We splurged and had a private tour of Hobbiton, versus the regular tours. The regular tours have 41 guests with one guide, and they come in much larger buses. All of those buses are named after the dwarves. There is one larger bus that holds 44 guests. That bus is named Gandalf the White (although when it comes back dirty at the end of the day, it's name changes to Gandalf the Grey"). Our smaller shuttle bus was named Legolas! :)