We love the fact that New Zealand is so distant. Even though the trip to there took 30+ hours and lots of flying , it is a journey that is totally worth it. Being so far away from… everything, means that this Middle-Earth preserved its natural beauty of landscapes and cultures up to a high degree.
Aotearoa is so beautiful that all you need to get a car and drive! Just make sure you can afford many stops and mind-blowing views. Here we share week two of our 4-week (during December and January) itinerary. We tried to cover as much as possible from the vast lands of this endlessly fascinating country.
Day 8 Haka warriors in sulfur fumes
We started the day in the sulfur land by visiting Wai-O-Tapu thermal park. It enchanted us with its thermal lakes, rivers, waterfalls and mud pools – all in different bright colors. The lady Knox geyser erupted as every morning at 10:15 with little help by a human hand. We moved to Te Puia Maori village to enjoy their thermal land as well the Maori cultural experience. In the evening we visited another Maori village – Mitai, where the cultural performance was accompanied by a bush walk and warriors in a canoe(waka).
These fascinating Polynesian people who know how to travel the ocean in a canoe are quite good singers and dancers – we were amazed by the haka dance and the melodious songs. And I cite here: “We love modern things like cars, lights, and Facebook”.
Day 9 One Ring to rule them all, One Village to astonish them…
We set off to Matamata as the base for our Hobbiton movie set tour. The environment is maintained very well and everything looks as realistic as in the movies. You can never tell apart the real and the fake stuff. The tour is suitable not only for LOTR(Lord of the rings) fans but also for every fan of the beautiful little green villages. The only drawback is the crowds of people, but a cold beer in the Green Dragon pub will settle that issue very well.
On our way to Tongariro National park, we stopped at the small lake town Taupo to have a picnic lunch by the lake. Do it like the locals. On arrival at the park we were warned that the weather conditions may not be suitable for trekking next day, so we decided to hike to Taranaki Falls. Good that it gets dark after 9 pm in summer.
Middle-Earth involves a lot of walking but you shall see the Shire and the ranges of Mordor in the same day!
Day 10 …One Crossing to bring them all and in the scenery bind them
It was sunny and a bit windy morning with afternoon forecast for showers. After some convincing we decided to do the Tongariro Alpine Crossing (TAC). It is a 19,4 km trek and it goes through spectacular active volcanic terrain. So many climate zones – from alpine to rain forest and from dry sandy hills to emerald surreal lakes. The crossing ends on a different place with no shuttle options for return to the start without reservations. We were lucky to find people who drove us to the parking at the beginning of the crossing minutes before the showers started. Then we crossed the Abimanawa range by car to get to Hawke’s Bay just after the pink-sky sunset.
Tramping is the word kiwis use for hiking and trekking. Well, we did some tramping today, my poor feet!
Day 11 Radiant as paua shell, full-bodied as Syrah, lavish as Art Deco
We started strong with Hawke’s Bay vineyards tour dropped by at Napier for a self guided Art Deco tour. And ended up on Te Mata peak where the cloudy weather didn’t shade the views. Wine, art and views along with friendly relaxed people – that’s Hawke’s Bay (and probably an essential part of New Zealand as a whole).
Those few clouds on that day didn’t scare us but showed us a different perspective. Good that we climbed Mt. Doom yesterday!
Day 12 Distinguished creatures in the windy capital
The morning compensated for yesterday’s weather and we woke up with the view of the shining Pacific. We drove to the capital Wellington to meet this hilly and crowded on Christmas Eve city. After some food shopping we managed to ride the cable car to acquire some views from the above of the marina and the city center. We continued with the Weta Cave workshop visit at the Miramar suburb. This is where the film making in New Zealand happens and a lot of artists work in the cave to give us the most realistic perception of almost every creature we see in the movies. We finished the day with a gourmet dinner at the suburb’s vintage cinema theater.
If you ever wondered how is it possible all the creatures look so realistic – creation of just an eyebrow of a model of a person could take up to some weeks. Ever hair is prepared and put manually. Talented artists draw every bit of the iris of the eye. Even the drops of sweat looks real! Photography is forbidden!
Day 13 The silver Christmas coin
By 9 am together with our car we were on a ferry sailing to the South island. Arriving at Picton was a beautiful experience as you navigate around the fiords. We drove a while on the Queen Charlotte drive to be mesmerized by the more and more views of the Marlbourogh Sounds. The secluded beaches were full of people on Christmas picnics. Our Christmas dinner was in Blenheim were we met some new friends in a beautiful garden villa.
It is easy to make friends in this country – everyone is so friendly and nice. And as this is New Zealand, the country that welcomes everyone – we had many nationalities on the table contributing to the multicultural feast!
Day 14 Wilder than Sauvignon Blanc on a lonely beach
We saw Blenheim coming to life on Boxing day and hurried up for a wine tasting before we leave for the west coast. We stopped at Nelson Lakes National park for a picnic lunch at lake Rotoiti and being lunch for the insects at the lake Rotoroa. We reached Granity (Miners Bay) on the west coast just in time for the low tide of the Tasman Sea and to have the whole huge beach to ourselves.
Sandflies and mosquitoes are quite annoying if you don’t have the right repellent or the right amount of wind and local beer!
Do you like this post?
Travel together with us and get instant updates on our Facebook page.