Day 4 – Auckland to Rotorua

We had an early morning departure from our hotel, with only 20 minutes to have breakfast and check out from the hotel. We made it with time to spare so we can head out to Waitomo, known for its Glowworm Caves.

What are these, you ask? They are actually the larve of a species of fly called a fungus gnat. Sorry you asked?? These “worms” have an organ similar to kidneys and have a special ability to create a glowing light. They make a sticky silk thread that hangs like fishing line. Insects are attracted to the light and get caught in the threads, where the worm pulls in the thread with its mouth and eats the insect. The dryness of these caves is the perfect environment for them.

The caves are in a rain forest but we can walk into the cave to see them and then take a silent boat trip in the grotto to view thousands of pinpoint lights on the ceiling. It is truly a magical experience. Unfortunately, you can not take any pictures inside of the caves and you absolutely can not talk when you are in the boat going through the grotto. I have used commercial pictures of some of the amazing details since I could not take any myself.

From Waitomo, we drove the meandering roads to get a bite of lunch and continue to Matamata, which was transformed into movie set of The Hobbit trilogy movies. This amazingly lush farm of 1,250 acres offers some of the most beautiful hills you have ever seen, green and overflowing with sheep (5-7,000) and Angus cattle. We stepped into the Shire with a guided walking tour of Hobbiton. The actual movie set utilizes 12 acres of the farm and recounts how the area was transformed to make the iconic films. Although I have never seen any of the movies, the transformation into Middle Earth has been a draw for Hobbit fans world-wide. The hills are dotted with the homes of the Hobbits and many in our group had intimate knowledge of the characters and in which homes they lived. (Sorry, it was lost on me and Jim.)

There were many special buses bringing tourists there. Although the story wasn’t familiar, the grounds, especially the flowers, were totally amazing. We had a beer in the Green Dragon Inn and were on our way again.

I was incredulous that this part of New Zealand has no highways that take people from Auckland (the country’s most populated city) to other parts of the North Island. All the roads are two lane windy roads, which add to travel time. Perhaps it is because elsewhere on the island, the towns are very small. It just seemed strange to me.

Our final destination today was our hotel in Rotorua, located about two miles from the center of town. Some folks went into the downtown area but we opted to have a bite at the hotel bar (which was excellent), give me time to write and add some pictures, and then blissfully go to bed… which I will do soon. By the way, Jeremy, our guide, has visited both Waitomo and Hobbiton many times and this is the first time it wasn’t raining. I think we brought the good weather with us.

Tomorrow, we are off to Te Puia, Rotorua’s most prominent thermal area with New Zealand’s largest geyser, boiling mud pools, and silica terraces. Afterward, we are going to the Agrodome to experience the country’s sheep industry.

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