Friday, December 14, 2012



After Rotorua we headed further south to Napier.  On the way we stopped at Lake Taupo.  It’s hard to pick out but Mt. Doom from Lord of the Rings ins in the background. 




Heading southeast to Napier we drove through some beautiful farm land.  Here’s just one picture. 


This city was devastated in 1931 when it was struck by an earthquake. It was pretty much destroyed. When the rebuilding process started they selected an art deco theme. Many of the buildings in town are designed this way. It was neat to see. We also lucked out when we visited because they were having a antique car show so not IMG_5041only did we IMG_5042get to see the cool buildings we also got to see these neat cars with the drivers dressed in 1920-30 attire. It was cool. Here’s a few picturesIMG_5076













They actually had Christmas decorations!! 






















While walking around the stores in town Hannah and I came across this sign. 





Not sure who they were calling but both Nich and Hannah needed to use the phone. 










The beach was as beautiful as others in the country.The interesting thing about this beach is that it had black rocks and sand.  Matt and Nicholas held a rock skipping contest.



After walking around the city for a while we went up to bluff street where you could get a good look at the city and also the port.  Just our luck we ran into the same cruise ship we had seen previously in two other cities. 





Part of the beach and the city from the overlook. 





The next town south of Napier is Hastings.  This little town actually had two wards and a branch.  This is the biggest church we’ve seen since leaving the States.


IMG_4919After leaving Hamilton we headed down to Rotorua.  The drive was beautiful, just like the rest of the country.  This is just one of the many gorgeous lanes we drove down. 






Along the way we went through a town called Tirau, they had very unusual buildings and signs.  They’ve taken using corrugated metal to a whole new level.  Here’s just a couple of examples:









Something else that was interesting along the way was this drug sign -


Drugs and alcohol are a huge problem here.  There are signs like this all over.  Recently the local TV station did a simple study where they had actors pose as drugged taxi drivers to see if their passengers would object to the being driven by someone incapacitated (the actors made it very obvious they had just used drugs).  Only 17% objected enough to say something.  The rest just allowed them to continue.  I thought this was amazing!



Ever since arriving in New Zealand Hannah has wanted to do this activity.  Basically, you roll down a giant hill inside a big rubber ball.  You can choose to go for a wet ride alone or with up to 3 friends (this one you don’t go over and over, you stay at the bottom and the water goes all over you) or you can go by yourself all strapped in and go head over heels multiple times as you go down the hill. 

Hannah chose to ride alone. 




You ride up to the top in this van.  Hannah said she wasn’t nervous, but I think she was just being brave.  I know I’d have been scared to death.

Hannah at Zorb



Just before takeoff, she’s all strapped in – any second thoughts????







This is where she started all the way up at the top.








And, she’s off…….rolling…rolling…rolling…..rolling…rolling…rolling…












She came running back afterwards, said it was a BLAST!!  Not me, I would have thrown up after the first rotation.  Oh, to be young again!





IMG_4995Rotorua is a touristy town.  It’s famous for it’s geysers.  The whole area smells like sulfur, not to the point of it being overpowering, just every once in a while you wonder what is that smell, then you remember you’re in Rotorua.  It also has blocks and blocks of shops to attract tourists, so being as that’s what we are we got out and walked the streets.  It was fun.     IMG_4974

One thing that did impress us was this was the first town that we had actually seen Christmas decorations and heard a Christmas carol.  Not even the Christian radio stations play Christmas music here.  It’s kind of strange, no decorations in any of the shop windows, no lights and off course no snow so it’s been really hard to get in the Christmas Spirit. 


The main plaza in town didn’t have a lot of decorations but it did have this giant tree all decked out and the Salvation Army was hosting a concert to raise funds.  Matt got to talking to one of the SA workers who told him that it’s hard to raise funds here because the country has become so secularized.  People just aren’t interested in religion for the most part.  We loved the Christmas music, the band was from the Catholic Church.  They were really good, made me wish I had musical talent. 

These are just a few other cool pictures from Rotorua:


New Zealand is really good about helping people know where they are going.  This is a typical sign.  All along our way we’ve seen signs telling where everything from small businesses to schools are located – even toilets.  Some are even the big brown signs like we have on our freeways.  I’ve wondered if the business have to pay for these or if it’s just something NZ does?  Either way it’s nice for tourists and others who need help with directions. IMG_4976IMG_4977

Showing the Maori influence on the local culture.




Loved the cool car that drove by while listening to the concert. 




We passed this great house on our way out of town.  It’s now a bed and breakfast.






Now, it’s on to Napier….

Friday, December 7, 2012


We had so much fun today.  I’m not even a big Tolkien fan.  It was just so cool to see Hobbiton and recognizing scenes from the movies.  This is the spot that convinced Peter Jackson he should shoot his movies here.  He loved the rolling green hills.



The set today is a working farm with both sheep and angus beef.  When the Lord of the Rings movies were made the sets were made of plywood and other temporary materials.  This time around for Hobbit, all the sets were made with materials destined to last closer to 50 years.  The filming ended on a Thursday afternoon, the first tour came in the next day at noon.  They’ve been holding tours ever since.  An average of 600 people go through each day. 

Here’s someIMG_4722 pictures: IMG_4701IMG_4702IMG_4721IMG_4728IMG_4732IMG_4735






The house on the bottom left is Bilbo Baggins house.  The tree you see above it is totally fake, made of fiberglass.  The leaves are all glued on.  It cost about 1.7 million dollars and is seen for about 4 seconds in the first Lord of the Rings. 








This is the party tree where the celebration is held before Bilbo leaves on his adventure.








                                                                            This is the gate Bilbo jumps over as he’s leaving.


This is Sam’s house.









On the bridge leading to the Green Dragon.

















Having a cup of ginger beer at the Green Dragon.  (Nick didn’t seem to mind it, Ian thought it was nasty, I knew it was nasty and only took a sip of Ian’s).  We can now say we had a drink at the Green Dragon.







The Green Dragon also has a functioning kitchen geared up to serve the tour guests.  Nicholas and I ordered a mouse trap (a slice of bread with ham and cheese) and a sweet biscuit (chocolate chip cookie).










One of my favorite pictures.  It’s easy to see why Peter Jackson chose this area.  It’s spectacularly beautiful – and it comes by it naturally.







I loved the flowers throughout the area.  They were stunning.  I’d love to recreate some of the looks at home.  Not sure I could get the same effect without all the natural green.  Oh well, It’s worth a try at least.