Landscape south of Auckland - Bombay Hills
8:30am After breakfast, motorcoach thru Bombay Hills, Waikato Valley, Hauraki Plains to township of Matamata (Hobbitown in Lord of the Rings). Lunch at dairy farm. Continue thru Mamaku Ranges to Rotorua and Rainbow Springs Nature Park with visit to Kiwi Encounter. Evening free
Our bus driver, Tomati, is Maori and very knowledgeable about Maori culture.
Longlands dairy farm
His commentary adds a lot to our trip.
For instance, the Maori greeting is “Kia Ora” or Good Morning/Greetings/Well Met”.
Sort of an all purpose polite greeting.
The tour left Auckland (the first time we had suitcases out by 7 for pickup and on the bus by 8 - not as hard to do as I’d thought. This is the first time we’d taken a bus tour and I was a little apprehensive about it). We drove south on Highway 1 through market gardens on gently folded hills. There were deer farms, dairy cattle and corn fields; the corn had developed tassels here which it hadn’t yet north of Auckland (must have been the result of lower rainfall to the north). There are few wild flowers here in the Hauraki Plains which is where much of the movie “Lord of the Rings” was filmed.
Carol with a rose at Longlands
A tourist industry has grown up around places shown in the movie including Hobbit Town
The only scenery from the movie we saw was later when we rafted through the gorges on the South Island
We stopped at the Longlands dairy for a demonstration of the milking machinery and the farm manager, Hilton, explained about the New Zealand dairy industry and the methods used at Longlands in particular. The dairy farmers have formed a co-op which tests and rates each day’s milk from each dairy. Holsteins (the black and white cows) are valued for producing milk in quantity and Jerseys (the brown cows) produce quality milk with a higher fat content.
We had lunch at the dairy farm which of course was lamb (I guess you don’t eat beef around dairy cows and you certainly don’t in New Zealand) served with a great mint sauce.
Dave and Leslie at lunch
Instead of using green mint jelly, which is usually too sweet, sticky and not very appetizing, they served mint infused in vinegar as a sauce.
Light, slightly tart and pungent, it was a very nice enhancement for the lamb and roasted vegetables.
I was so impressed that I even bought the Longlands Cookbook, much to my husband’s amazement since I don’t cook.
(I have what is known as a “cooking finger” which is unsuited for anything more complicated than setting a microwave oven or dialing for reservations at a restaurant)
After I photographed some amazing flowers in Longlands gardens, we got back on the bus and traveled to Rainbow Springs Nature Park. There were a lot of interesting birds there (some of which I’ve tried to identify in the photos), a reptile which can live to 300 years old (in spite of a strange reproductive system - see photo for more) but my favorite was the fish.
Normal sized duck with those giant rainbow trout
Rainbow trout the size of small boats!!!
Well, maybe not quite but almost that big.
Unfortunately there weren’t any opportunities to purchase the trout for dinner later.
The next stop before we arrived at Rotorua was the Kiwi Encounter. This time we saw live Kiwis (the birds obviously) but weren’t allowed to photograph them. They are nocturnal birds which can’t fly and have no known defense system so are extremely endangered. In order to have them active for us to view, the Kiwi Encounter people (who are primarily in the conservation business and use tourists for financing their research) have convinced the birds that day is night and night is day thru artificial lighting. To see the birds you are in a very low light room separated from them by glass panels. Not good for photographing active birds which run around a lot.
Kiwi and egg - no wonder they can't fly. Look at the size of the egg compared to the female.
However, that is taken care of by lots of displays of stuffed and mounted kiwis.
(I doubt if a kiwi ever dies in a research lab and is not stuffed and mounted.
There seem to be displays everywhere in New Zealand
Our exit is, of course, through the Gift Shop.
We were deposited in our hotel in Rotorua, a Millenium hotel, which was thankfully very near a large grocery store. Since we hadn’t managed to buy any rainbow trout we purchased cheese, crackers and some wine for dinner. Some others in the group reported they had a good dinner at the Pig and Whistle (a converted police station that had gone on to better times as a pub).