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Published: October 15th 2014
Dear friends and family,
We've arrived back in Australia from our tour of the North Island of New Zealand. We spent a couple of days in Auckland, "the city of sails". On our first day we took the ferry out to Devonport and hiked both Mount Victoria and North Head. There were lots of historic fortifications where we could wander through the tunnels and gun emplacements, as well as a dicey section of the trail where we clambered over the rocks to reach the maritime museum. We just had enough time to visit with the penguins at Kelly Tartan's Antarctic Adventure. Riley particularly liked the sharks swimming over our heads in the shark tunnels. We even spotted the elusive Woebegone! The next day, we trekked up to Mount Eden and the Auckland Museum.
Our driving tour began on the Thermal Explorer Highway, heading to Rotorua. On the way, we stopped at Waitomo Glow Worm caves and The Lord of the Rings' Hobbiton film site. We were really lucky that when they filmed the new Hobbit movies (with a cameo by our friend Frodo), they reconstructed the sets using permanent materials, so we were able to visit every hobbit hole,
including Bag End. We particularly enjoyed the Green Dragon Inn, which was fully furnished and served full sized pints of ale (not Hobbit sized!)
Some of our highlights in Rotorua included the free mud pools downtown, Waiotapu thermal area, Millennium Hotel's buffet breakfast, and Tamaki Maori Village haka performance and hangi feast.
Just south of Rotorua, near Lake Taupo, our highlight of the day was the Aratiatia Rapids and the dam. At set times during the day, the dam releases water downstream, creating a spectacular deluge through the Aratiatia Gorge. It was quite a sight to behold! We had a great plan to circumvent Toronga National Park on the following day, but unfortunately, we ran into a snowstorm. No seriously! They closed down the number 1 highway due to snow. We got as far as Whakapapa Grand Château before we had to turn back and make our way to Napier.
In Napier, there were lots of opportunities for wine tasting and a magnificent hiking trail through the countryside to a historic Pa (Maori fortress). We spent the next night at the fabulous Seascape Villa B&B in Tauranga. We highly recommend it as the hosts were so friendly!
We followed the coast road of the Corremandel Peninsula and visited the Hot Water beach. We could dig out our own hot tub on the beach where the natural hot springs flowed. We flew out of Auckland headed for Adelaide and the Great Ocean Road.
Hope everyone is well. Ann, Riley and I are having a fabulous time.
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