It's week three of living in the van, and the hunt for Frodo has been in full throttle while in New Zealand. We are only sticking to the North Island during our two weeks, but that's good for hobbit hunting since the Shire is located somewhere around here.
To quote one of our book of maps "Long before the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy redefined New Zealand's scenic wonders, a 1936 National Geographic article exclaimed: 'here in an area approximately the size of Colorado are grouped the snow-mantled peaks of Switzerland, geysers of Yellowstone, volcanic cones of Java and Japan, and the lakes of Italy: the mineral springs of Czechoslovakia, the fjords of Norway, sea coasts of Maine and California, and waterfalls higher than Yosemite."
We have to completely agree. It has been an experience just to DRIVE around this country. Around every corner we are stopping to take photos and just marvel in the amazing scenery. The hills, spotted with sheep, are the deepest and brighest greens; it's hard to believe it's real.
We started by heading north of Auckland to the Bay of Islands and staying over at a beautiful beach town named Russell. While hiking around the rain forests near our site trying to locate the cute Kiwi bird and somehow stumbled on a bizarre and hilarious ceremony honoring the late Edmund Hillary. It was being lead by a crazy women from New Hampshire - even though the official ceremony was postponed due to an unfortunate canyoning accident from an Edmund Hillary adventure camp. Both of us are completely convinced that she had hit the bottle, hard, before the ceremony. The drive continued through the bay and stopped at the Maori Treaty signing house to take in some of the incredible native carvings (and a few new tattoo ideas for Kate...kidding, kinda). Further south we visited the "Lord of the Forest" the largest Kauri tree in New Zealand. It was pretty much the biggest tree that we had ever seen.
The roads in NZ are not like the usually US Interstates. It's like driving from Aspen to Leadville via Independence Pass to get anywhere, so the going is slow. It's really good that we are only sticking to the North Island on this visit.
We have made our way down to Rotorua via the Coromandel Peninsula. During our pass back through Auckland we realized that our Kiwi transporter, NAV, had some features we had to get rid of: A strange smell of mildew and vomit came out of the vents, so it was time for an upgrade. The VW TDI van is awesome. Her name is Maui and diesel turns her on.
We had a specific adventure in mind for Rotorua, and it is called Zorbing. Basically a Zorb is a large inflatable ball inside of a ball that you can roll around down hills.
They fill it with water (warm today) to make the ride like a slip'n'slide. We laughed ourselves silly today rolling down the hills in New Zealand in large plastic balls. Unfortunately the photos of the adventure are lost, but we do have some epic video footage from inside that we can hopefully post soon.
Rotorua is full of sulphur thermal hot spots, so the town occasionally has a wild odor. That hasn't kept us from our favorite pastime of soaking. Most of the holiday parks we are staying in have hot springs, and we spent a good few hours yesterday soaking away the driving in the lakeside pools at the Polynesian Mineral Pools here in town.
There is one week left in the camper van, and then we head to the island of Nanuya in Fiji for our "honeymoon".