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Sunday 4th October

The first official day of our overseas journey commenced today. Our flight was scheduled for 0810, so we aimed to get to the airport by 0600, meaning a cab ride from our hotel in East Melbourne at 0530. What we hadn’t planned for was leaving the hotel at 0445… on the first day of daylight savings.

Once at the airport, everything went to plan. The line for check in was empty and we got through very quickly, only to be told that our flight was going to be 20 minutes delayed. No worries, we’re on holidays, everything will be fine. We fill out our outgoing passenger cards and head through customs; again, breezy.

We arrive at the departure lounge about an hour before our original departure time and get a seat nice and close to the departure gate. Unfortunately, our 20 minute delay wound up being an hour. Other than that, nothing particularly eventful. Flight was smooth, food was good, and we were on an A380… which I thought was odd, considering the short flight, but I wasn’t complaining. Did you know you can get wifi on board the flight? It was woefully slow, so the novelty wore off quickly, but what a time to be alive!

I passed the time catching up on season five of The Walking Dead. I’m still half a season behind.

Considering the hour delay on take off, we still managed to arrive in Auckland airport on time. Again, we breezed through customs and Rhi was compelled to tell the customs agent about her stash of various medications. Luckily, he waved us through to the green lane and we were straight out to arrivals, grabbed drinks, the keys to our sweet ride and set off to Rotorua.

Our North Island chariot

Our North Island chariot; not only is it late model, but also brand new with only 320km on the odometer

The drive to Rotorua was smooth and easy, with pretty much all of the traffic we saw (quite a lot, actually) heading towards Auckland. We arrived at the Holiday Inn in Rotorua in the late afternoon, freshened up a bit, and ordered in room service, which was delicious!

Monday 5th October

Happy Anniversary day!

Today, we head back to where our marriage journey began; Hobbiton. We jumped in the car and drove to the visitor information centre in Matamata to catch the bus to Hobbiton, only to discover that the ticket we purchased this time around meant we were supposed to drive ourselves up to the Shire’s Rest Stop - oops! Luckily we were able to rebook to the next tour only half an hour later, and set off to the right location.

From here, we walked the tour with fond memories and - for my part at least - way less nerves. There were a few new sites that had been built out for the later Hobbit films that were yet to be released when we visited, but for the most part it was very much the same place. There was some additional construction going on, and they were building out a couple of the sites to make them more touristy. Before finishing up the tour, we grabbed our complimentary cider and ginger beer (with actual ginger, not just ginger flavouring, which I’m told is very important).

Returning to the scene of the crime

Returning to the scene of the crime

Enjoying tasty Hobbit-brewed beverages

Enjoying tasty Hobbit-brewed beverages

We had back to the hotel for a bit to relax, before heading out for our Mitai cultural dinner experience. There were a few less people than our last trip, so we were hosted in a smaller tent, but the entertainment and food was just as good as our last visit.

Unfortunately, Rhi wasn’t feeling well, but luckily one of the bus drivers was eavesdropping on our conversation as we were outside getting some air and offered to take us back to our hotel early. This worked out really well, although the driver was a mad man! Speed limits meant little to him, he overran the intersection at every red light he had, and the slow zone near the hotel he manouvered the van with ease at 60km/h. I don’t think that bode particularly well for Rhi!

Tuesday 6th October

After enjoying a good sleep in - a common theme for this trip, I’m sure, we checked out of the hotel and jumped into the car and headed off to Palmerston North by way of Lake Taupo (about an hour South of Rotorua), where we located the BP we visited on our last trip for fuel and coffee, before heading onwards to Palmerston North.

We got on to the lakefront and saw that there was still snow atop the mountains of (I think) Tongariro National Park near Lake Rotoaira, so found an appropriate scenic lookout and took some photos.

Tongariro National Park mountains from Lake Taupo

Tongariro National Park mountains from the banks of Lake Taupo

Fortunately, we did manage to get a closer look at the mountain.

Tongariro National Park mountain

One of the mountains, which we managed to get a close up of from the car

We arrived at our Palmerston North hotel late in the afternoon and settled in for the night with Burger King and Alvin and the Chipmunks.

Wednesday 7th October

Today, we made the journey from Palmerston North to our final stop on the North Island; Wellington. First on the agenda was to grab a mocha for the road. Unfortunately, Siri felt it was a better idea to direct us to a BP 30km away, which meant we missed the first one we drove past. We turned around at earliest convenience and got back to the first venue.

Once back on the road, we past yet another BP about five minutes after passing Massey University. I think Siri was just having an off moment. Interesting point about Massey University, which we only learnt tonight - it was the subject of a bomb threat today, so, there’s that.

The drive was quite nice, again, lacking in any real traffic, though it seems that Kiwis would rather drive behind a truck than pass it - even on a long stretch of passing lane. I ain’t got time for that. The drive was really nice, and a bit surprising when the ocean suddenly appeared as we went around a bend about 45 minutes from Wellington. It’s quite spectacular how close the roads are to open ocean. I’m sure Rhi tried not to think too much about it, though.

The weather was very different today to what it has been since arriving in New Zealand. It was a bit cloudier and much, much windier in Wellington. They were expecting gale winds up to 110km/h. It didn’t get quite that bad while we were out and about, thankfully.

We went to the information site to check in for our Lord of the Rings ‘there and back again tour’ - bumping into ol’ mate Azog the defiler - but decided to reschedule for tomorrow morning as we were already in town, and had a stroll around the area. Rhi had found a couple of burger places online, so we went to check out one of those for lunch - Fork and Brewer - which was a really nice boutique brewery and bar. I’m not a big drinker of beer as many will know, but the Low Blow Session IPA I had wasn’t too bad at all. Would buy again.

Ol' mate

Ol' mate Azog

Lunch was a chicken burger, in some kind of oven baked crust and some absolute genius came up with the idea to put brie on it. The only thing missing was a bit of crispy, streaky bacon which seems to be quite popular around here. Definitely check it out if you’re ever in Wellington; it’s on Bond Street.

Brie on a chicken burger

Brie on a chicken burger - stroke of genius!

As we rescheduled our Lord of the Rings tour, we went to check out the time-limited Gallipoli: The Scale of our War exhibit. This was fantastic; much better than the exhibit at Melbourne Museum earlier in the year. They had some massive (2.4x human-scale), super lifelike figures of various New Zealand war heroes; right down to the hair on their arms and legs, the sweat on their faces, and tears welling in their eyes. The figures were all made by WETA Workshop here in Wellington. The detail in this exhibit was amazing, and I recommend it highly, even if it is probably a little more difficult to get to than Melbourne.

After the exhibit, we made our way (eventually) to our hotel. A typo in our travel itinerary meant we were off by 100 on the street number and ended up having to turn around and come back. We’re pretty much on the side of a very sheer hillface, and Rhi is convinced we’re going to slide down the side of it overnight. This particular establishment isn’t quite as good as the last two we stayed at, but I think we’ve been spoiled thus far.

This evening has been taken care of with peanut M&Ms and Disney’s Peter Pan, which I’m pretty sure I had never seen before tonight!

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