We were staying in another well kitted out holiday park, this time with its own swimming pool, hot pools and hangi cooking area. We all liked it, but dad was still struggling with the eggy sulphur smell that lingers throughout all of Rotorua town. The hot pools and hangi were heated naturally from the volcanic activity underground and as you drive through the town you can see steam rising up from the ground in the local park.
We'd got a jam packed itinerary planned for our time in Rotorua. On our first day we drove to Matamata where you can find Peter Jackson's amazing Hobbiton set. I'd not seen The Hobbit at this point (but I have now) and didn't much like Lord of the Rings, but our day at Hobbiton turned out to be a brilliant tour. I was expecting a theme park style, over the top, cheesy tour production and actually what we got was a cute, authentic and comprehensive tour (no gimics) of the original set. You get picked up by a coach that takes you to the farm site of the set and your driver gives a description of the farm, its family and how life has changed since Lord of the Rings.
We then walked around the set on foot with a guide, who explained every detail about the Hobbiton landscape.
We saw Bilbo's home, Bagend...
The vegetable patch (where Jason managed to acquire a green pepper).
The oak tree, which turns out to be artificial, that sits above Hobbiton.
The Green Dragon Pub, where you can enjoy a complementary beer by the roaring fire (if you're Jason you can scam a second free beer) and of course, my dad had to try a Hobbiton pork pie.
Samwise Gamgee's house...
The only bit of 'cheese' you get is to dress up as a Hobbit (no obligations) and mum dived straight into the fancy dress box!
On our way back to Rotorua we stopped in Tirau, a cute little village famous for corrugated metal (even the public toilets are a corrugated dog and sheep design). And we stopped at Bugger Cafe for a bite to eat and coffee.
By the time we'd arrived back at Rotorua it was nearly time for our pick up to Mitai Maori Village, which my parents had treated us to. The evening starts with a run through of Maori culture and what a traditional Hangi is; they'ed prepared enough food for about 100 people and cooked it underground from the volcanic heat all day. We had slow cooked lamb and chicken with hangi kumara potatoes, as well as tonnes of salad and vegetables and a selection of desserts (to which me and Jason got very excited about because we hadn't had a warm pudding and custard for ages).
Before you eat there's a short tour through a wooded area and you watch a reenactment of Maori fighters in their long boats by fire light.
Then there's a brilliant performance by Maori men and women; singing, dancing, traditional acrobatics, and of course the haka.
It wasn't that late when we got in but my parents had been fed, wined and entertained, and all they wanted was their bed (at 8.30pm!). These old folk just can't keep up!
The next day we'd sat and had a leisurely breakfast debating what to do with with the rainy day ahead of us. Sometimes you just have to get on with it... we got wrapped up and went for a walk around Okere Falls. It's just a nice short walk through some woods and there's lookout points over the river to some waterfalls.
Quote D.Findler: "Bring it on!": when mum saw a raft dive down a 7metre waterfall from a lookout point on our walk. Ha, we'll see... when we got back to the car there was a company van parked up next to ours and I telephoned Rotorua Rafters to see if they'd got space for 4 adults on their afternoon trip. Yes they had... Mum soon went very quiet in the back of the car on the way home.
We headed back to the holiday park to get ready for the rafting. We also prepared our very own lamb hangi that we put in the accommodations' own volcanically heated underground ovens... It meant we'd got a nice hot meal to look forward to after our rafting adventure.
Rotorua Rafting was sooooo much fun! Couldn't stop laughing.
Even though mum was apprehensive she got stuck into everything! Well done mum, proud of you! There's photographic evidence of you jumping from the top of a cliff edge...
Being pounded by water at the front of the raft with dad (our guide Amy called this surfing).
Diving down a 7 metre waterfall, having been told that they'd flipped two rafts over on the morning tours. Apparently this waterfall was one the biggest ones you can go off as an amateur.
I was asked to sit on the front of the raft for one of the smaller rapid sections, however I lasted about 2 seconds and ended up heading down them on my back with my legs in the air... not very James Bond.
However the hilarity award goes to... Debra Findler (again!). Mum had managed to stay in the raft throughout the whole trip, right up until the photoshoot in the shallow waters at the end. I LOVE these series of photographs that explain the story...
1. Mum falls in and panics
2. Everyone is shouting for her to stand up on the rock she's landed on, but instead Dad dives in to rescue her...
3. In the process of pulling mum out of the water Dad elbows the lovely girl in our raft!
4. Mum needs a minute to recover... Haha!
5. Don't worry, it all ends with smiles.
Jason's got some brilliant video footage from the afternoon.
After all that adventure we went back to our cabin and feasted on our lamb hangi...delicious! I'd had such a brilliant day!