Sunday, April 22, 2018

New Zealand: Pit stop at Huka Falls

Huka Falls was on the way to Taupo from Rotorua. We checked out of our apartment in Rotorua and went to Te Puia, which was just about 10 minutes drive. From Te Puia to Huka Falls, it took about an hour's drive. Then it was another 10 minutes to reach Taupo.

Huka Falls was originated from the Waikoto River, which had an abrupt narrowing of just 15 minutes causing the powerful falls of the waterfall. I read that the volume of water over the waterfalls goes up to 220,000 litres per section. It even gave the description that this volume is enough to fill one Olympic sized swimming pool in 11 seconds. Wow!

We didn't linger long. Really just a pit stop and to stretch our legs. It was park, walked to the falls, took some photos, attempted some wefies, watchedthe Hukafalls Jets spinning, wrote and posted a postcard as the little souvenir hut sells both postcards and stamps. Then we went on our way.

If you run on adrenaline, there's Hukafalls Jet to fuel your heart. The jet gets closer to the falls and did some 360 degree spins.

Side note: Need to get my cooking mojo back...

Friday, April 20, 2018

New Zealand: Te Puia, the home to Pōhutu

We were in Rotorua where there are ample of geothermal activities, so naturally we wanted to see a geyser. We decided on Te Puia because (1) geyser and (2) Kiwi bird. Haha.

There are a few different types of entrance tickets on offer but as we already went to Mitai Māori Village, we got Te Rā (Day Pass). Ticket for single adult costs NZ$ 48.60 at the time of our visit. We bought our tickets from Rotorua I-Site Centre, I remember there were a small discount but we paid NZ$ 48.60 (which matches the current price online). The website did mention of a slight increase after September 2018 so it could've been a price increase when we were there too.

Note point (1) and (2) above. Photography is not allowed on the Kiwi bird because Kiwi is a noctural bird and endangered birds. To compensate, I ended up with a few hundreds photos of (1), like this. Haha

Pōhutu (pronounced as 'poor-hoo-too') means 'constant splashing' in Māori . It is the largest active geyser in the southern hemisphere and it 'lives' in Te Puia. Pōhutu did put up a very spectacular show, so naturally I ended up with so many photos. On top of that, there are actually 5 geysers at this Whakarewarewa Geyser Terrace.

In fact the geyser next to Pōhutu, Te Tohu erupts before and after Pōhutu, so we were treated to a fairly long eruption. It was fairly dry with no rain during our visits, so the mud pools were pretty quite. There were only very minimal bubbling effect. After utilising the burst mode, I only managed to the pitiful 2 drops of 'jumping' mud. Haha...

See left of photo, I promise the 2 pathetic drops of mud were 'in the air' and not some cracks.. lol
After that, we went around to looking at Māori architectures before lunching.

As Te Puia is pretty much a Māori village, there was option of hāngi meal.

As we already had hāngi meal from the day before, we went for other options. I shared my meal with MMC so we get to try more food. The food was pretty good, despite being a tourist spot.

Beef mince and cheese pie + carrot cake

Angus beef burger

Our last stop of the day at Te Puia and Rotorua was at their souvenir shop. It was a fairly big one too. Everybody bought something! Ahem... Hobbiton's souvenir shop could learn something here.. hahaha.. 

Side note: Short week again next week! ^^

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

New Zealand: "Returning" home to Hobbiton

Ahhh... I planned to finish up my New Zealand stories before taking this hiatus (it is the studying/exam period again) but I didn't write as fast I as planned, hence the long break even though the trip itself was only a week long. Exam is done (I won't know of the results till much later) but now let me finish the NZ stories.

Between the two islands in New Zealand, the southern counterpart is more popular as travel destination but most of my friends lived in the North Island. Before I read up on North Island, the only place I have on my list to visit was this - Hobbiton. In fact, I could enter the house without bending over (the one opened to public for entry). My friends joked that it felt like I returned home to Hobbiton.

All visits to Hobbiton are via guided tour. We wanted to get the one from The Shire's Rest which is where the movie set is located but the tickets were already out of sale. Little P got us tickets from Matamata I-Site which meant that instead of going directly to the movie set, we had to detour to the I-Site and hopped on one of the LOTR buses to get there. Same price for both though. Little P assumed the heavy responsibility of getting us there on time, no thanks to our failed lunch location at which no food at sight even after 40 minutes (we ended up having to get them to change to takeaway instead of eating in). Food wasn't great either, not recommended, so I won't mention here.

Our assigned guide joined us at The Shire's Rest stop before we made our way to the start of the tour. He was pretty good and entertaining, cracking cold jokes along the way like...

Question: Why do you not borrow money from Hobbits?
Answer: Because they are always short... *insert flying crows* (but I do find them funny... haha)

It was a pity that some times we can't hear him because of open space and crowd. We were one of the last few groups but it was a busy time, despite everybody is moving in group but we had to take turns to take pictures, etc, so there were times where we had to play catch up. Not to mention, it started pouring at some point and only MMC came equip with umbrella, rain jacket and rain coat! You'll see from the photos that it was sunny, then gloomy then sunny again. Ha!

Not all of the houses can be entered, many were just with a closed door.

Mini clothes line with mini clothes

If my memory didn't fail me, the tree at the back is a fake one too
This one is opened to be entered!
All these props were chained down... yes, you cannot steal them
En route to Green Dragon for a complimentary drink

I was telling my travel mates I was ready to spend some money at the souvenir shop but sad to say that the souvenir shop at Hobbiton is sub par. There were not a lot of varieties in the merchandises on sale, even the standard fridge magnets didn't catch my eye. Umm.. but well, I got a free beer.

Side note: Is "Closed for Renovation" the code word for closing down or not continuing the business? I've seen so many shops putting out "Closed for Renovation" sign and they don't re-open again for months :-?

Thursday, February 8, 2018

New Zealand: Food in Rotorua

Little P's hot chocolate
As I was looking through the photo and about to write this post, I just realised that aside from the Hāngi feast, our other food options were non New Zealand origin.

First up, French influenced Le Cafe de Paris. We stumbled on this one when we were really hungry, travelling from Rotorua and not many shops were open on a Boxing Day. The food luck was on our side though, because these were good.

I wanted the La fermière initially, which was smoked chicken, aioli, camembert but as I made my option known to my friend, the owner heard me and replied that it was not available. So I went with La marine (smoked salmon, sour cream, chives) instead, NZD 13.90.

MMC wanted to share a muffin, guess which one she picked? Ha - salted caramel because caramel. If I was the one who suggested it, I would've gone with lemon curd.

Dinner on day 2 was our first choice prior to eating at Le Cafe de Paris, a Spanish/Mexico/Morocco cafe bar - Abracadabra Cafe Bar. If you only have one meal quota to Rotorua, go with this one.

This was New Zealand Fire Dragon chilli hot chocolat, NZD 7 and it did have a kick
Y's Spicy lamb salad, NZD 22
Little P's tapas option #1 of spicy prawns, NZD 11.50
Tapas #2 was chicken enchilada bites, NZD 13 (not in picture)
MMC and I shared the Moroccan seafood tagine, NZD 28
We also shared a bar platter which consisted of calamari, prawns, falafels, sirloin beef kebab, lamb sausages, chicken strips and chips, served with tomato jam and garlic aioli, NZD 32 
Another of our lunch was at an Italian restaurant near Eat Streat, that was forgetable. In fact, the food that we ordered did not arrived even after a 40 minutes wait. We wanted to cancel the order as we needed to make a move to be in time for our next appointment but was told that we cannot cancel as they were already preparing it. So we asked for a takeaway and made a dash out of the door.

Side note: How long does it take to build a habit?

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

New Zealand: Mitai Māori Village Experience and Hāngi Dinner

There are a few option of where you can try this in Rotorua according to my friend, Google. A quick search will yield return of Tamaki, Te Puai and Mitai. Little P booked us in to Mitai Maori Village because it is the closest to our accommodation, performance include  war boat and glow worm.

We did the Mitai Maori Village Experience which includes introduction to Maori culture, see warriors in traditional dress paddling an ancient warrior canoe (waka), an after dinner walk to see glow worms in their natural habitat and, very important - hāngi dinner.

Upon arriving, we showed them our booking confirmation and prompted ushered to our table. It was a 10 person table from memory, so we shared the table with some other people. We got ourselves a drink from the bar, this is not part of the buffet. I (because I'm not sure if the others shared my view) think, on hindsight, if we have known earlier then getting a drink later probably is a better idea, unless you are rather early (i.e. long waiting time) or a fast drinker. Reason being shortly after we got our drinks, we were being brought outside for our Māori culture introduction.

Some blue specialty cocktail which I forgot the name
It was a rather big group but they were organised, we were split into smaller groups and followed our own respective guides. Our group started off with some Māori words and we were brought to the riverbank to wait for the arrival of the warriors by paddling the waka (war canoe).

After that, we walked back to the main area passing by this blue pond due to presence of minerals. The bottom is constantly bubbling due to water flow. The source of this pond is from the earth via the sacred "Fairy Spring". We were told that despite it's appearance, it is about 3-4 meters depth and this is also their source of drinking water.

After this, we were brought to see a waka up close and given some information of their history and culture.

Then it was time to check our food status in hāngi. Hāngi is a traditional New Zealand method of cooking food using heated rocks buried in a pit oven. Food is put into aluminium foil and wire baskets. These baskets were lowered onto hot stones at the bottom of a pre-dug hole. The food is then covered with wet cloth and a mound of earth that traps the heat from the stones around the food. This is left in the ground for about 3-4 hours, depending on type and quantity of food.

This was only teaser because it wasn't dinner time yet. We were treated to cultural perfomance of songs and dances, showed how weapons were used, explained meaning of the tattoos. 

Village Chief
Haka dance
Then it was time to get back to our abandoned drinks. Buffet service was fast, empty trays were filled again quickly. 

It didn't finish with dinner. There was after dinner activity of seeing glow worms at their natural habitat, which was near the blue pond earlier. On our way there, we were also shown some plants that they use on daily basis, as well as the New Zealand famous silver fern. 

Side note: How long does one need to learn a language to reach conversational level?