Even with only two hundred thousand inhabitants, Wellington manages to boast a lot of cafés, bars, parks and museums. The city center has a lot of art around on the streets as well as nice places to meet, have a picnic or just relax. One of the days, despite winds and only 10 degrees in the air, we went swimming on the city harbour front where there was also dive boards and towers free for everyone to use.
Wellington also attracts Lord of the Rings fans from all over the World as most of the movies were filmed in studios around the city. Together with some British I met in my hostel I took the local bus (as it was much cheaper than doing a tour!) out to the Weta Workshop where they had made the effects for the LOTR and other blockbuster movies as well working on future films. It was quite interesting to see how they work as well as get an understanding of all the work behind making the perfect outfits and items for the movies. As it was Halloween they were also doing professional make up of scars, bulletholes etc for those willing to pay enough for it..
Halloween night was also the night for the Rugby World Championship Finals between Australia and New Zealand. Some people pulled an all nighter and went straight from Halloween celebration to the sports pubs to watch the games, but I found it easier going early to sleep, then waking up at four am and then just have a couple of beers for breakfast while watching the game fully rested.
The Weta Workshop has made sculptures, make up and items for all kinds of movies and even for private events
An hour driving on narrow gravel roads from National Park Village we got to the Blue Duck Lodge in Whakahoro where we would be staying the next couple of nights.
Upon arrival we where told a little about the endangered Blue Duck and why the lodge was named after it. The people in the lodge were all in some way working on protecting it from extinction. One way this was done was to hunt goats and boars, which are not native to New Zealand and are today considered a pest here, and then use parts of the meat to set up traps for the predators that otherwise could have killed the Blue Duck. The best meat was of course eaten, bones and the rest was fed to the pigs.
Me and a British guy called Frankie were so lucky to go hunting with a guy called Flake. He drove us up to the hills and taught us how to track, aim and shoot goats. When we walked uphill and already after an hour found a pack of goats with two huge Billie goats he got super excited. In his whispery voice he said that he had not seen as big goats for about seven months and that we should take our time sneaking up on them to make sure they did not get away. We approached them from above and Frankie would took the first shot on the alpha male that fell straight to the ground. Me and Flake grabbed the rifle to chase the rest of the goats running away and then laid down when they started slowing down. I shot my bullet shortly after that landing at the other billy boats chest and we were then shown how to gut the goats before carrying them an hour down to the car.
At the bottom we were shown how to skin the goats and cut meat from them that we got to keep and cook. It all gave me quite a taste for the wilderness and the lessons learned were priceless.
Before getting to Rotorua I spoke to some people who had been there and advised me not to go. My guess is that they must have just judged the place from the smell of the sulfuric geothermal pools and not really looked around as there is heaps of stuff to do here!
The main attraction of the town is the thermal park Wai-O-Tapo where you can walk among geysers, mudpools, and thermal lakes in all colors. Watching the main geyser, “Lady Knox”, get off was more interesting than I had expected. Instead of waiting for it to shoot naturally they triggered it by throwing bars of soap into it, making it shoot out boiling water just like a bottle of coke would do when throwing mentos in it.
Rotorua is also a hub for some quite good hiking trips. One of the days I went with a couple of new gotten friends from France and Austria to Rainbow Mountain situated less than an hour drive from Rotorua City. The hike up to the top was quite easy and quick taking just one and a half hour but the scenery was quite beautiful. The mountains had been colored by iron oxide, sulfur and other chemicals found naturally here which then had given the mountain its name. From the base of the mountain we walked another few kilometers Kerosene Creek, which were natural hot springs where we were swimming for a few hours. The hike and swimming was quite an easy excursion to do from Rotorua and except for a few dollars for the bus the trip was a hundred percent free, just like the best parts of traveling sometimes is!
Top pics from Wai-O-Tapo. The last one from one of the lakes seen from Rainbow Mountain.
What I love about traveling with Stray is that they take you to places off the beaten track. The buses don’t just go from city to city like the local buses, but they make sure to stop for nice small walks and places of interest along the way to break up journeys.
Our next stop on the North Island journey was Lake Aniawhenua where we had another Maori cultural stay. Just like at most other stops travelers can sign up for the things they are most interested in doing like cooking courses, weaving course or the option I went with which was drinking a couple of beer by the lake while fishing for freshwater eels which was nice. Especially when I managed to catch one that would be smoked and served the next day. The main meal for the evening though was a huge Hangi which is a traditional Maori way of cooking where chicken, ham, beef and vegetables where all dug down under a lot of coal and left there for cooking for three hours. Delicious food!