New Zealand 2013: Week IV

29 August—03 October, 2013

DAY 21 — 20 SEPT

I promised you dolphins, and dolphins you shall get.

But first, we had to get from Christchurch to Kaikoura. I’m not going to go into the entire boring story here, but we barely made it to Kaikoura in time to check into the hostel and get to the offices of the company offering the dolphin tour we’d planned on doing. Thankfully, everything worked out in the end, and we were off on a double-hull boat.

We were the only ones on the boat who hadn’t booked a swim with the dolphins, which ended up being a great choice because we got the best seats in the house, as it were, for watching them, especially while everyone else was sitting in the back, throwing up nearly the entire time.

The dolphins were a delight to watch, so I’ll just give you a ton of photos to look at.

a dolphin!

two dolphins!


I made a friend


rush hour


For dinner, we went to a restaurant in the middle of town, and as it turned out, there was a vintage car festival that day, so we were surrounded by lots and lots of old cars and their equally old owners. I don’t care much for cars, but being able to watch a lot of those vintage ones drive by made dinner much more interesting.

DAY 22 — 21 SEPT

Kaikoura didn’t have much else to offer us, so we moved on to Picton. The plan was to hop on a mail boat and take a tour through the Marlborough Sounds. But when we got to Picton, it was pouring down with rain. Definitely something I want to do next time, though.

bad weather in Picton

DAY 23 — 22 SEPT

After being cooped up for most of the previous day, we were definitely looking forward to getting out again, especially with our next goal in mind: Wellington. That, of course, meant it was time to say goodbye to the South Island.

The ferry ride was uneventful, as was the rest of the day. We did go back to that little Italian place for dinner, and it was heaven this time around, too.

DAY 24 — 23 SEPT

Olli is a huge fan of the Lord of the Rings films, so naturally, we had to take a LotR-themed tour of some kind. No sooner said than done!

We started off in Lambton, overlooking Wellington, where we were told some general stuff about the LotR ‘verse.

back in Wellington

Wellington from above

We then went to a little park, which happens to be where the scene was shot in which the hobbits roll down a hill and find mushrooms. All smack in the middle of Wellington.

some Lord of the Rings location

tumble down

Next up was Weta Workshop, where we fought some trolls, err, I mean, where we learned all about the props, weapons and costumes made for and used in the films. Sadly, we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside, so I only have the trolls and a Gollum for you. Oh, and Olli insists I mention they even had a life-size, operational Warthog inside the building. For the Halo folks among you.

my precioussss nasty trolls

The tour through Weta Workshop was super interesting even for someone who isn’t that big a fan. Another film location followed: the river Anduin. You know, where Boromir is very much dead. 🙁 But he gets to float along this beautiful riverbank, so… you win some, you lose some?

on the rocks

The next location was supposed to be Rivendell, but there were no elves anywhere. 🙁 Or anything else, for that matter. None of the props were left, but the landscape was still pretty. It’s certainly a place where you can imagine elves running around. We even got some props, a sword and a cloak, so we could pretend to be elves and have our photos taken.


tea break in Middle Earth

Last on the itinerary was Isengard. We got a prop again—a large wooden stick like the one Gandalf has, and then we got to play Gandalf and Saruman in that scene from the first film where they talk while walking through the gardens in Isengard.

the end of the Lord of the Rings tour


If you’re ever thinking about taking a LotR-themed tour, I can definitely recommend Wellington Rover. Our guide was simply amazing.

As the perfect end to a wonderful day, we had dinner at Nando’s and promptly passed out.

DAY 25 — 24 SEPT

Another not so exciting day, as we were on our way back to Rotorua from Wellington. It looks like I only took one photo, but as far as I remember, the weather was nasty, so there wasn’t much to take photos of anyway. And apparently, we were on the road for ten hours straight, so there’s that.

one travel coach, two travel coaches, three...

No, wait a minute, I lied! Something did happen. Remember the two little baby sheep from week two? We saw them again! And I even got to feed them. They were incredibly adorable. And incredibly loud. Sadly no pictures of that, but if you’re ever faced with the option of feeding baby sheep, do take it!

Back in Rotorua, we had dinner at the nice Indian restaurant once again. Mmm, so worth enduring the sulphur smell that even managed to seep into our hostel room.

DAY 26 — 25 SEPT

This one was not a boring day at all.

We had decided to take a tour through Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland, the geothermal area near Rotorua. The smell was, as you can imagine, awful. And some of the pools and ponds looked positively nasty, too. But also cool, let’s be honest.

First, we had a look at the Lady Knox geyser, though.


And then came the slightly unhealthy pools:

walking through hell


Champagne Pool

straight up from hell looks healthy

Originally, we hadn’t planned on going to Hobbiton because it’s so expensive, but Olli really wanted to go by this point, and we still had half a day left, so we decided to splurge. Also worth it. Hobbiton is really cute; I took more photos of the little hobbit huts than I did of most other things in New Zealand. I won’t subject you to all of them, but you can’t read this report without seeing at least some. :p

in a hole in the ground

East Farthing or West Farthing

firewood for Hobbits

Party Tree

my favourite hobbit

(Look! It’s a hobbit!)

then world behind and home ahead

Hobbiton even has an actual version of the Green Dragon! Including delicious ginger beer.

inside the Green Dragon

Green Dragon Inn

party time!

And there’s the infamous mill and bridge!

saying goodbye to the Shire

And with that, our stay in the Shire was already over. 🙁

the Shire

DAY 27 — 26 SEPT

Another day, another GreatSights coach. And we’re not even ending this week on a low note! Look at me go.

Sadly, I have no photos of this day, but not because we didn’t do anything, but because of what we did do.

On the drive from Rotorua to Auckland, we took a detour to the Waitomo Caves. They don’t allow photos there so you don’t disturb the glow-worms. Which is what Waitomo is all about: glow-worms!

We boarded a little boat in the semi-dark and then took a tour through the caves. Not my photo, but to get a sense of the place, look here.

So yeah, cross that off the bucket list, too, I guess. 😉

Week five is coming up soon; stay tuned!

© Isabella Valenza; all rights reserved. Do not repost or copy without permission.
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Week I | Week II | Week III | Week IV | Week V

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