TRAVEL DESTINATION: Rotorua and Hobbiton, Bay of Plenty/Waikato, North Island, New Zealand
TRAVEL DURATION: Overnight stay
Rotorua has gone through a serious transformation and changes. At least I remember it differently from some years back. Recently I rediscovered this place that many call ‘Rotovegas of New Zealand’. This past weekend was again just the right time to return but without any specific plans. Going with the flow was the theme, with the only goal to change a scenery. I imagined it would be easy to fill the time of this overnight stay.
Here in New Zealand, I’ve learned to be more flexible and ready to adjust to the circumstances. Mostly because of the ever-changing and unpredictable weather. I’ve also learned to make backup plans. Just in case. It helped me live my life less stressful. ‘It’s all good’ sort of mentality. The late summer climbing season has already been overstretched, and there are fewer and fewer opportunities to climb those high peaks. As the weather (or sometimes circumstances) is not cooperating with Mt Ruapehu lately, a weekend in Rotorua came in as an alternative.
I found myself driving to the Bay of Plenty late in the morning, thinking about the activities I would love to experience. So much to choose from. Water adventures, adrenaline pumping choices, thermal parks, cultural activities and so much more. It all screamed at me: fun fun fun. I experienced many of them before.
Skyline with the gondola ride and Luge were always lots of fun in Rotorua. The Polynesian spa was a relaxing experience for me. I’ve always enjoyed expanding my knowledge by witnessing and learning about impressive geysers and geothermal wonders. I haven’t done any serious hiking in this area, though, and as this was supposed to be a climbing weekend in the first place, why not this time? Quick Google search and I just might be onto something.
The Redwoods (Whakarewarewa Forrest) was my first choice. It encompasses not only walking tracks, but also amazing mountain bike trails and horse tracks. 11.5 km long Tokorangi Pa track fit perfectly into a mid-afternoon. I assessed I might just finish it by the time evening and darkness kick in. Starting off through the Redwoods was very calming and invigorating. Even magical. Afternoon sun rays were making their way through tall trees, painting a surreal experience.
The rest of the hike was enjoyable as well. It wasn’t difficult. The track would actually provide a wonderful running experience. Parts of this Tokorangi Pa track are used by mountain bikers and road needs to be shared with them. From what I was able to notice and see, there are some really awesome riding surfaces across the area and will gladly try them out the next time I’m in Rotorua.
On my previous visit to Rotorua, I discovered Eat Streat in the inner city. It is part of a more recent development changes. In my opinion, it makes a nice central point where you can enjoy good food and company. I am positively surprised by the vibes this place puts out during the evenings and nights. This time, however, Skyline Stratosfare seemed more inviting. There is definitely something about dining up in the high and having the whole city and the landscape laid in front of you. Being transported to the restaurant by the gondola also has its charm.
The next morning was all about the anticipation. Will it rain? Will it shine? Admit it, you too have this perfect sunny image of The Shire (Hobbiton Movie Set) engraved inside your brains. It never rains in Hobbiton, right? I was finally ready to let go of this illusion and decided to visit this fairytale place in spite of the gloomy outlook. It has already taken me too long to come to Matamata’s vicinity.
I’ve loved stories of The Lord Of The Rings and The Hobbit, but have felt that Hobbiton Movie Set and environment would probably be too commercialized for my taste. Boy, was I in for a surprise. It blew my mind how every single small detail of The Shire was well thought off and carried out by Sir Peter Jackson. I respect his work on a totally new level. On my way home, I stopped at a local movie rental shop and borrowed both trilogies for a week.
Some trips and travels in my life are well planned and organized. Others happen in a spur of a moment. This overnight trip to Rotorua was one of those unplanned and spontaneous ones. There is no recipe for a successful and enjoyable travel. Anything can work, as long as you decide you’re going on an adventure.
TRAVEL TIP: Reservations and bookings these days are mostly done online. Last minute travel plans often mean that certain place or activity is overbooked or that last possible online bookable day has expired. Nevertheless, you might want to call the place to double check availability or talk to them in person. You would be surprised what a difference a person to person communication can make.