I’m back! It has really been far too long since I’ve updated, but life has been insanely busy (and doesn’t look to be slowing down any time soon). Nonetheless, I’m setting a goal for myself to post more regularly, so stay tuned for some upcoming new posts on New Zealand!
THE SUM UP
What is it: Rotorua Museum
What you pay: 20.00NZD
TL;DR: People used to bathe here, now people look at art. Fun!
Known for its sulphuric smell and relaxing hot springs, the Rotorua museum was not something I had on my itinerary. Conveniently sandwiched between the beautiful government gardens and the historic Blue Baths, I couldn’t help but find my interest piqued by the architecture of the museum, and soon I decided it might be worth the trip. After discovering this was actually the building of the old Bath House, I was intrigued enough to dole out the price of admission. (Side note: luckily most museums in New Zealand are free!)
The museum was truly worth the time and money. The basement remains largely as it was when the bath house operated, a creepy system of tunnels to pump up water from the hot springs. The main floor has plenty of interesting stories of the believed healing properties and health benefits of bathing there. Continue upstairs for your traditional museum fare – artwork, history, etc. Continue even further up and you can actually go on to the roof. You’ll be treated to a lovely view of the gardens and parts of Rotorua – especially if you have the same clear summer day I was treated to.
While $20.00 is a lot to ask of a budget traveller, this museum has enough unique offerings to make it worth the price.
THE SUM UP
What it is: Hobbiton Set Tour – Matamata, NZ
What you get: An adorable tour around the constructed movie set for the Hobbit movie series (essentially the same one as for LOTR, although that original set was burned). Plus, the price of the tour includes a pint at the Green Dragon to finish things off.
What you pay: 75.00 NZD
TL;DR: Go here if you love Hobbits or cats named Pickles. Probably not worth it if you’re not particularly interested in LOTR/film industry.
To say I was excited to see Hobbiton is an understatement. To say I was ecstatic to see Hobbiton gives you a bit better of an idea. Lord of the Rings marathons were a key component of my childhood, and drinking while marathoning Lord of the Rings a key component of my university experience. (Side note: in many ways this series is responsible for Pat and I ending up together, and now we found ourselves in Matamata together.)
Walking through downtown Napier you can almost trace an imaginary line through the buildings. On top, you’ll find lavish ornamentation and pops of bright colour, remnants of the art deco style the city is famous for. At street level you’ll find bustling cafes and mannequin-packed storefronts that reveal the transformation these stylistic buildings have undergone to serve modern functions.
That is not to say that some buildings don’t retain full Art Deco status. Many still effectively take you through time and momentarily transport you to the days of cloche hats and Fitzgerald stories.
Like nearly every other tourist in Waitomo, this was a quick stop. We had only budgeted half a day in this town: just enough time to see the glowworms, find a campsite, and head out back on the road early in the morning. While I expected the glowworms to be impressive, I figured there wasn’t much else to Waitomo, but in true kiwi fashion, this town surprised me.
A quaint little place, the infrastructure is almost entirely based around the tourism of the ethereal glowworms. It is impossible to pass by tourism materials for New Zealand and not be transfixed by the photographs of these glowing larvae, dangling from delicate silk strings above a reflective pool in a looming cave.
Delicious healthy food, a real-live bed, and gorgeous ocean views? Sign me up. Being at the Leigh Marine Station of the University of Auckland was basically like being in heaven, except in heaven I had to write a lot of essays. Even without a pillow, sleeping on an actual bed was the height of luxury after our boat bunks. But truthfully the most exciting thing of all was LAUNDRY!!!
The trip from Suva, Fiji to Auckland, New Zealand was without question the best bit of sailing. For fourteen straight days we commanded the SSV Robert C. Seamans. While we still fumbled the occasional line, or plotted slightly off course, we also stood confidently at the helm, and fell into the rhythm of our watch schedule. Even though we were still a little green, we truly felt like sailors at home and at ease on our ship.
Typing on the computer while sipping hot chocolate is approximately 18 times more difficult when you are on a sail boat. Nonetheless, each of us took up this task once or twice on the trip, to let our family and friends know that we were indeed alive. By posting a blog post we managed to indicate that we had managed to figure out (mostly) how to sail and had made it to our ports of call (mostly) in one piece. Every day a new student or crew member would write a post, so here is one of mine!
The “New York City” of the South, stepping into the busy streets of Suva was a shock to the system after the small island of Futuna, and nearly a week of sailing. Even just arriving into the harbour we were all struck by the mass of buildings jutting up across the landscape and the numerous boats zipping by.
I remember finding Apia busy and diverse, but Suva took this to another level. From one street to the next the city would completely transform. From main streets with large air conditioned malls, to shops selling beautiful saris or delicious roti, to streets with unique handicraft markets, this city kept me guessing.