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Vanesa/ Nicole’s Travel Diary

Tuesday, 05 Jan 2010

Location: Taupo, New Zealand

MapMerry Belated Christmas and New Years Everyone!

On one of our last nights in Whitianga we got a knock on the door from some of our friends. Apparently that particular night low tide was at 10:00 pm and they wanted us to head to hot water beach. This is one of the neatest things we have done thus far. You go with a shovel, dig a hole in the ground, and once you dig deep enough the water from underground makes an all natural hot tub.

So here we are now on the second part of our New Zealand journey. It started on the 22nd when we made our way from Whitianga to Auckland. After Vanesa got off to a rough start with a rather embarrassing display of car sickness on the bus ride to Auckland, we finally began our vacation. We thought shopping would help us get into the Christmas spirit, but sadly when you are use to having snow and crazy Christmas decorations there is just no getting into the spirit in this country. Christmas comes and goes with minimal commotion or celebration.

We were fortunate to have Julie (Cynthia’s Sister) and her fiancé Mike take us in for the holiday season. We spent Christmas day with Mike’s family, having lunch on the back patio in the sun. We could not have asked for a nicer family to take us in for their family get together.

We got up super early on Boxing Day and made our way to Matamata, the home of Hobbiton (One of the Lord of the Rings film sets.) It was fascinating getting a look into the world of movie production. During an aerial search the director of the movie Peter Jackson (A Kiwi) spotted the location on the Alexander farm and loved it specifically for one particular reason, the party tree (in the movie the hobbits have a party with fireworks, and Bilbo is standing next to a giant tree.) This was the tree that was spotted from the air. After speaking with the family and getting permission the view the location by land they discovered that this site would also be perfect for the entire shire. They brought in a building crew and it took them 9 months to set-up the site, and only 3 months to film all the scenes that they needed for all three movies. In the contract that was agreed upon by the Alexander family at the end of production all sets would be removed and it was as if they had never been there. Part way through demolition it began to rain and didn’t stop for days, causing conditions on the land to become dangerous for the demolition crew. They decided to return to the states and come back months later to complete the demolition. During this time the Alexander’s were approached by numerous tourists wanting to get a look at the site where the movie was filmed. After 2 ½ years of negotiation with new line cinema Hobbiton is the only Lord of the Rings movie set that remains. It was a good thing that they left it because when we were there they were in the process of beginning restoration so that they can film the new movie, The Hobbit.

SIDE NOTE: Apparently the requirements to be a hobbit in the films were: you had to be less than 5 foot 3, have puffy cheeks and a nice smile. Looks like Vanesa passes all three components. Too bad she wasn’t in New Zealand when they were doing casting. Nicole on the other hand could not be a hobbit; she is just going to have to settle for being an elf.

Earlier in the week Nicole had broken a pair of her new favourite sunglasses, as we were preparing our bags to leave from Julie’s place Nicole got a brilliant idea. She was going to super glue her sunglasses back together. While trying to glue the ear piece back to the lense, the glue began to come out at a faster pace then she had expected. With the excess of glue that was coming out she decided to wipe it on the super glue package. After gluing her finger to the sunglasses she took a seat back in the chair, only to realize that she had now super glued the package to the rear end of her new nike shorts. Down one pair of sunglasses! And one pair of shorts!

This morning we boarded the naked bus to make our way to Rotorua. Bus requirements, nothing but sandals! Just joking, it is only the name of the bus. Rotorua is a cute little town that free of charge comes with a lovely aroma of sulphur. This is due to the vast amounts of geysers situated throughout the town. Immediately after getting off the bus we waited an hour in line at the information booth, only to book our accommodations for the evening.

“Hello, we are looking for a campsite that is close to here and affordable.”

“I have just the place for you!”

After an hour of walking with our suitcases we finally reached the campground. Apparently the ladies definition of close is our definition of Tim-buck-too. Upon arriving at the campsite our arms and legs were ready to fall off. Thank goodness we have a thermal hot pool on site!

On December 30th, we boarded our naked bus again, this time on our way to Gisborne for New Years. After a long contemplation on whether or not to make an appearance at the festival of the year for New Years Eve (Rhythm and Vines) we decided to just make our way downtown for a free concert in the center square. The band was really good, playing cover songs from both new age and older classics. As Gisborne is the first city in the world to see the sun rise on a new year, there was no way we were going to bed without witnessing the sunrise on 2010. In an attempt to stay awake, we made our way to the beach (which was located a hop, skip and jump away from our campsite.) There were numerous groups of people who had the exact same idea we had. They were all having bonfires and socializing. We met so many people from various locations around the world.

After the sun rose we attempted to sleep, but were awoken three hours later to unbearable heat in the tent. We decided that the beach was a much better place to sleep. At least we could tan, as we slept. After some reading, listening to I-pods and tanning we decided that the waves were just too inviting to refuse any longer. We spent the rest of the afternoon playing around in the massively large waves and watching the surfers in amazement. The evening festivities involved a fireworks display and live music in the wharf. After the fireworks were done, we could not deny our beds anymore, they were just calling our names so loudly.

The night granted Vanesa with another sleepless evening, as the wind was howling and shaking the tent so horribly that she almost thought it was going to collapse on their heads. Nicole on the other hand was completely unconscious and didn’t hear a thing. It is a good thing that there was no emergency going on.

January 2nd brought a very once in a lifetime experience for Nicole. While lying on the beach we noticed that the individuals in the ocean began to suddenly clump together in one big group to see something. Nicole decided to go check it out and discovered that it was Gisborne’s celebrity dolphin Moko. Moko is an adult male bottlenose dolphin who prefers to travel by himself instead of in a pod and hangs around the beaches of Gisborne. He loves interaction with humans and responds particularly well to female voices. While out there Nicole decided to try calling the dolphin’s name. Immediately he responded to her voice and brought her over a stick. He wanted to play fetch just like a dog would. She through the stick and he retrieved it, bringing it back to the group of people by pushing the stick with his blow hole.

The day before we left Gisborne Nicole decided that she wanted to have a surfing lesson. Vanesa, being really nervous with her knee opted out and decided to be the resident photographer for the day. Nicole was a natural, getting up on her first try. The instructor was very impressed and told her to check out Bali if she ever wanted some amazing surf beaches.

Today we left Gisborne and made our way to Taupo. Upon arrival we checked into our hostel and made our way down to the waterfront where they have a cute little mini-putt course and decided to check it out. On our walk back to the hostel we noticed that over the lake they have a hole in one contest. Vanesa was brave enough to give it a shot in front of a crowd of people and was just too far to the right of the whole. The wind was working against her.

Tomorrow morning we are hoping on a shuttle to Huka falls, Nicole may attempt bungy jumping, and we are making our way to Wellington, the capital of the country to visit one of Mike’s relatives that we met over Christmas (Nicola.)

Almost to the South Island!