Friday, March 1, 2013

Vacation 2013 - Tauranga/Rotorua - and a visit to Hobbiton

After 3 Port Days (Dunedin, Akaroa, Picton, and Wellington) we had a day at sea to recover.  Our next Port after that was Tauranga.  Our boat actually docked in Mt. Maunganui.  On this shore day, we decided to head out on our own again in a rental car.  I was more used to being a passenger in a car driving on the wrong side of the road at this point.  It also helped that there weren't a lot of mountainous, curvy roads.

Our first task was actually to pick-up our rental car.  On our way to find get a taxi, we also found some information about public buses that ran to and from Tauranga, which were cheaper than the offered shuttle.  Granted, buses don't necessarily run on schedule, and they do require local currency, which we hadn't really obtained at this point.  Since we were going to the airport to pick-up the car, though, and didn't know of any buses that headed there, we obtained a taxi to get to our destination.

When we reached the airport and picked up the phone for the rental agency, they said they had sent us an e-mail asking if we could pick the car up in Tauranga itself.  This would have actually been much more convenient for us, but we hadn't received the e-mail.  It didn't matter, though.  They said they were going to be at the airport in about 1/2 an hour, so we waited there.  Everything went great with renting the car, and the agent was very helpful giving us maps and advice on which roads to take.  I navigated as my dad drove.
One of the many John Deere Dealerships in New Zealand

We wanted to see the geothermal areas with geysers and mudpots and also some Maori cultural sites/performances, so I chose Te Puia, home of the Pohutu Geyser.  It also has several mudpots, a Maori Carving School, a Maori Weaving School, and some replicas of a Maori village.  We did not watch the cultural performance at the village, as the performance during the time we were planning on being there was sold out.
A mud pot at Te Puia

Carving School
Weaving School
Some Maori Craftsmanship
The Pohutu Geyser usually erupts 1-2 times per hour.  I think while we were there waiting for it to erupt was probably the only time it took more than an hour to erupt.  Our patience did pay off and were were able to see it erupt.  The time aspect really makes you appreciate Old Faithful.  About 20 minutes later I looked towards where the geyser was at, and it was erupting again.
Pohutu Geyser

After Pohutu, we considered a couple of options.  One option was heading over to Hamilton, where the temple is located.  As we calculated the amount of time it would take, we felt like it might not give us enough time to get back to the ship in time.  So we decided to head towards Hobbiton movie site.  This is one movie site that did not have to be deconstructed after shooting was finished.  Unfortunately, when we arrived at the isite in Matamata, they informed us that the next tour left at 2:45 and the tour took 3 hours.  We were due back at the ship at 5:30.  The math just didn't add up.  I did enquire about whether there were any other tour options or whether we could go to the site on our own without taking a tour.  Unfortunately, these were not options.  So, we walked around town a bit, stopped off at a grocery store for hydration, and then headed back towards Tauranga. 
Hobbiton - AKA Matamata - New Zealand

The Matamata isite
 We took a small detour to Mclaren Falls on our way back.
Mclaren Falls through the car window - can you see them?  Many of the rivers we saw in New Zealand were primarily expansive beds of rock with a stream or two of water running through them.  I think there rainfall this year was lower than normal.

We returned our car, and then I checked out some places for a necklace my cousin, Bee, had asked me to obtain for her.  I did not know which necklace to choose, but I burned maybe a bit too much time in the store (Don't worry Bee - I have your necklace.  I picked it up somewhere else).  We headed to the isite so we could learn where to pick up the bus.  Many of the past isites we had been to had offered money changing services, so I thought this one would as well.  It turns out they didn't.  There was a bank across the street, however, so we just went there to change our money, and went back to the bus stop location they had pointed out to us (We had been told we wanted the #1 or #2 bus that morning).

As I was looking at the time schedule, something didn't seem right.  It didn't look as if either of the buses was going to Mt. Maunganui.  I went to talk to the isite people again and maybe be more specific about the direction we wanted to go on the bus.  As I was waiting in line, my dad rushed over and told me the bus was there.  I said I didn't think it was the right bus, and he told me to just ask the bus driver.  I asked the bus driver that apparently just got off his shift, and he told me that the bus we wanted was on the other side of the street.  By this time, we were stressing a bit about time.

We didn't know how long it would take the bus to get to the bus stop we needed to get off at.  According to the schedule, the #2 bus would be the next bus coming, but about a minute later the #1 bus showed up.  It was late, luckily!  We hopped on the bus, asked a few questions, and hoped we would get back to the ship on time.  As we arrived near the port entrance, I saw a long line of people.  I thought they were all waiting to get passed the security to get on the dock.  It turns out many of them were there to see the Queen Elizabeth ship which was also in day.

That reminds me of a funny story from that morning.  The cruise ship photographers from the Queen Elizabeth had thought we were from their boat and they tried to stop us for a picture.  I don't really like getting those pictures taken, but I was tempted to say yes only because I wasn't a passenger on their boat.

Oh, we did make it back to the ship on time - we had about 4 minutes to spare (they probably didn't really stop allowing people on at 5:30, so we probably would have been okay otherwise, but you never do know).

I will post about Auckland, Sea Days/the Cruise ship experience, and possibly other general trip comments in the next few days.  I'm all blogged out for now.


Beee said...

I so appreciate your willingness to get me a necklace. Sorry if it caused you undo stress.

Beee said...

I also wanted to say that parts of this remit D's me of our cross country roadtrip. . . go somewhere and it doesn't work into our schedule, it is closed, consider the temple. . . Etc. Good stories.