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Last of New Zealand / On to Australia

-17 °C

Hello. Dave here. We are now in Australia. We flew into Sydney 3 days ago. But before I get to that, let me tell you a little about our last stop in New Zealand, Rotorua. Its a smallish city on the north island, a 1/2 hour flight south east from Auckland. The town has a lot of cafes, restaurants and some small galleries but it is definitely not a night life kind of place. We found that most places close up shop pretty early.

The first day there we went to the site where they filmed the Hobbiton scenes from The Lord of the Rings movie, which was on a 1200 acre sheep farm about a 45 minute drive out of town. Our shuttle bus to the location was running late so he was flying on the roads to get us there on time for the guided tour. Once we got onto the farm the roads turned to gravel and were very hilly and curvy, as well as cluttered with countless sheep. We narrowly missed running one sheep over as the driver had the pedal to the metal. He was wrong in his assumption that the sheep would move off the road when he heard the honking. We finally arrived at the top of the hill just as the tour was beginning. There's not much left of what the site looked like in the movie because it was mostly demolished after the filming and the land owners are not permitted to reconstruct it to appear anything like it did. All that remains of the Hobbit's homes are the bare white plywood structures set into the hillside with open circular holes where the windows and doors were. But even still, it was neat to see and imagine it as it once was. Only one of the homes had an actual interior space which was used to place the camera gear for a shot looking out the door over the landscape. The rest were false facades. We walked around the site and the guide pointed out where different scenes were filmed and talked about different aspects and challenges of the filming process. I'm anxious to get home someday and watch the movie again to compare the scenes to my photos.

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While in Rotorua we also made a visit to the spa. The city is on the site of several volcanoes and has a lot of underground thermal activity. Geisers, hot springs and bubbling mud pools are scattered throughout the area. Many houses are even heated by the hot springs that the neighborhoods are built around. It was neat to walk down the street and just see steam rising up out of peoples back yards. So the spa touts its hot spring pools which we were glad to try out. We soaked and relaxed, starting in the coolest and working our way up to the hottest pools. Then we went inside for our hydro massages. Other than the exfoliating scrub at the beginning, the hydro massage is pretty much just like a regular massage except you have hot water spraying down onto you as the masseuss works on you. The hot water and resulting steam were quite soothing.

neighborhood with hot springs and bubbling mud pools. Hopefully the children learn to stay away!
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Later we attended a Maori (native New Zealanders) cultural experience with stage show and dinner. This particular place was recommended by a few locals as being more authentic than the others. Of course we have nothing to compare to but we did think it lived up to their claims of it being great and enjoyable.

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The last thing we did before leaving Rotorua was to hike down into Tarawera volcano. It last erupted in the late 1800s and is supposedly now innactive. Our guide was pretty cool. He looked like a little leprechaun and sounded and laughed like one too. He said "cool" a lot and "cool bananas" which, with the New Zealand accent, sounded kind of funny. But he was really informative and had all kinds of facts about the volcano and geology that I will never remember. We walked around part of the perimeter of the volcano and down inside of the huge crater that is left in its center. It was a steep walk on very loose volcanic rocks. The guide showed us this little shuffle walk that we were supposed to use to go down so we wouldn't slip, but right away Lynette and I started to slip and slide down the gravel and were afraid we'd slide all the way down to the bottom. After a bit more trial and error we got the hang of it and started our decent. The perspective of the crater depth was deceiving. I kept thinking we were close to the bottom, but we kept on going. Finally we reached the bottom and got some great photos of the crater walls towering up around us.

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We were sad to leave New Zealand the next day, but excited about getting to Australia. We've been in Sydney for a few days but haven't done a ton of sight seeing yet because we've been working on planning our itinerary. We also had to go to the Indian Embassy here in Sydney to apply for our Indian visas. And to apply we needed an onward ticket showing we were planning to leave India, so we also had to stop by a travel agent to buy plane tickets from India to Nepal. We did have a day to go down and check out the Sydney Opera House which was really awesome to see in person. While we were there we decided it would be quite memorable to actually see a show at the Opera House. We checked out the schedule and there was availablity for a few shows that same night. Even though we wouldn't have time to go back to the hotel and change out of our very casual "touristy" clothes we decided to book something. While most people had on sport coats or dresses I had on shorts and hiking shoes making me look like a Crocodile Hunter wannabe. But thankfully there were other people who were dressed like they decided last minute to see a show on their vacations as well. The choice of performances included, some Australian comedian, a Shakespeare show, Burt Bacharach, and Cinderella the opera. So since it was the Sydney "Opera" House we definitely wanted to see some musical performance. We thought it would be kind of cool in a cheesy kind of way to be able to say we saw Burt Bacharach there, but we opted for Cinderella since it was a true opera. And thankfully it was a much different version from the Disney animated film. We both agree that it was quite amazing to actually see a show there and its something we'll never forget.

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Here's Lynette enjoying the trampoline at one of our hotels.
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One of the people we met on our hike in New Zealand was from Australia. He suggested I try the vegemite. He told me not to be deceived by its chocolatey, sweet appearance, that it was actually bitter. I spread it on some bread and tried it. It was disgusting! But at least I tried it. This is an Australian delicacy with an acquired taste that pretty much only Australians ever learn to love.
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A welcoming sign at the Sydney Airport.
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Posted by schuckley 16:13

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Dave, Lynette,

I just want to tell you that I am really enjoying your stories. I am a big National Geographic fan so this is like getting more magazines... except now I know the writers.

Keep on!
Tim

by tamacall

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