NZ – N. Island, An Expected Journey

NZ – N. Island, An Expected Journey

Written by: Jessica
Captions by: Diego

Disclaimer: LOTR and Hobbit jokes ahead.

It was a long journey from Rome to Auckland, New Zealand. Our first flight was from Rome to Singapore, and then from Singapore to Sydney. Those were business class seats on Singapore Airlines, which lived up to the hype as one of the most luxurious airlines in the world.

Business class is no joke in Singapore Air. The seats were pretty comfy (though a bit hard) and the food was great.
This is First Class – even more opulent with better wines/food, $300 bottle champagnes offered for free, and almost personal flight attendant. You also get access to the First Class lounge, where you can chug all the $100-bottle of wines that you wish.

After an overnight layover in Sydney, we had a flight to Auckland.  This was our first cheapo flight on Jetstar. We quickly learned that they are sticklers for the tiny weight allowance, 7 kg, for carryon baggage. For the first time on the trip, we were forced to check a bag. Throughout our travels in New Zealand, (and later Australia), we decided that we did not like the airline. We asked for water on one flight, as they had ignored our row when they brought the beverage cart around but we never got it. The service was lousy, the staff were unhelpful, and needing to check luggage for being slightly overweight was a hassle.

Going from Singapore Air to this was…hard. 🙁

The car rental company, Jucy, was a mixed bag. The first car we rented from them had some major electrical issues.  The turning signals periodically failed to work, along with many other systems on the dashboard. The airbags never worked. We called to report the car condition but found out we would have to turn around and return to Auckland or wait until Wellington to have the car exchanged.  They offered to reimburse us if we took it to the mechanics. None of those options worked for us as they would mean losing out on planned activities.

How New Zealand greets its tourists, it’s pretty cool considering it was all hand-carved (more on that later).
Jucy is a discount rental agency, I think. Hertz, Budget, and others were all in the airport but you had to take a shuttle to Jucy’s office (probably cheaper rent). I was a little taken back with the bungalow office and thought they were going to give me a Fred Flintstones car. I was partially right.

Our first night in New Zealand was for eating and sleeping after so long traveling. Auckland is pretty amazing city, though our stay was brief.

Auckland looked lovely at sunset. Sadly we weren’t there very long as the main focus of our trip was to see the outdoors, see The Shire, and drop a ring in a volcano or something – Jessica had this planned out.

The next morning, we woke up early and drove to Hobbiton.  It was magical and we felt like we were really there in the book. The tour was excellent and we recommend it without any hesitation. The hobbit holes there are built from 30% scale up. The smaller holes make characters like Gandalf look taller, while the larger holes made the hobbits look shorter.  At the end of the tour we had some ginger beer at the Green Dragon.  The ginger beer was excellent and I am assured there is no finer brew.

Off to see some Hobbitses and their precious. We had to go to a meeting point and then we were bussed into the set. It’s dark because the windows were tinted.
We arrived, Mr. Frodo! Rather uneventful welcome sign but that’s just how Hobbits like it for they are uneventful beings.
Hobbiton is quite large. This is just a small section as it took us about 1-2 hours to walk through it all.
The Hobbiton owners employ some great elves to maintain the place and keep it as authentic as possible. Fun fact, they prefer to be called “landscapers” – whatever that means.
Jessica is about as tall as Gandalf. This Hobbit hole is about 60 percent Hobbit-scale (makes humans look larger).
For reference, this is 100 percent-scale. Sized for a thievin’ Hobbit.
Where Bilbo’s famous one hundred and eleventieth birthday took place.
Speaking of Baggins, here’s his place. Apparently he’s Buffet-wealthy in the books because his home is at the top of all the other holes and has 22 rooms. He’s truly the 1-percent and still steals gold jewelry.
Bilbo’s home – it’s basically the entire hill.
It’s fairly difficult to give the size of scale in this village because there is so much forced perspective. The big tree on the left side is where parties were had. Hobbit homes are scattered around this photo, their roofs are made of grass.
The Green Dragon has a lovely interior.
Jessica had a fine ginger beer brew. It’s like ginger ale but significantly less dry (still non-alcoholic).
We went back to the meeting point and continued with our drive to our next destination.

That evening we continued on to Rotorua, where we checked into our lovely AirBnB and enjoyed the Tamaki Maori Village dinner experience. The hangi dinner was excellent, and we learned a bit about the Maori culture. We returned to our lovely AirBnB to prepare for tomorrow.

Our AirBnB was awesome. The sunrises & sunsets were incredible from the top of the hill on a little farm.
The Maori village really tries to keep the Maori culture as best as possible – we received several warnings that this is not a joke and to not laugh at the faces when the presentation began.
The greeting committee arrived on a canoe to the right of the main square.
A dance was performed to greet us. Those tattoos are real, btw.
We were taken inside the village and saw the lovely forest. This all takes place just outside of Rotorua, a city of about 70k people with faster 4G speeds than back in the US.
Hangi-style cooking. This requires a large hole filled about halfway with heated rocks, food is layered on top of a grill goes over the rocks, and everything is covered and cooked for a few hours. It was delicious.
The night was concluded with another dance. I really wished I had a longer telephoto lens.


2 Replies to “NZ – N. Island, An Expected Journey”

  1. Our son’s friend Amanda married a New Zealander. He’d been in the states for many years but eventually grew home sick so they all packed up the kids & moved to NZ a few years ago. They’re divorced now but she said that she doesn’t want to come back to the US as it’s so beautiful there. She’s always posting pictures & I have to agree that it’s paradise…

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