Our family friends kindly dropped me off in town at 7:00am and I was able to quickly check my email before heading out again with our new driver, Buz, who was awesome and a whole new group of people just joining the Magic Bus experience. Before leaving the city we made our way to the top of Mount Eden, the highest natural point in Auckland with stunning 360 degree views of the city in the early morning light.
Next stop was Matamata where you can see the Shire (Middle-earth) or Hobbiton. Here you can do tours of the movie set where they filmed Lord of the Rings. Again I am not fanatical so couldn’t justify the cost to myself but others said it was fantastic. However when we arrived at the Shire’s Rest restaurant they had a team building challenge for us which my group won so we got a bottle of Harringtons Sobering Thought , a beer exclusively brewed for the Lord of the Rings trilogy. In order to not impair the performance of the actors it has a very low alcohol volume but was very refreshing and a nice addition to the backpacker lunch special.
We then carried on through Paeroa again, home of the famous L&P drink, and on to Rotorua.
This time I stayed at the Kiwi Paka hostel which was awesome. They are family run, so welcoming and friendly plus they have their own swimming pool that is geothermal heated to 39 degrees Celsius where we relaxed with a few beers later that night. Bev also knows everything about anything and they can help book any activity often with some exclusive discounts. I only wish I had stayed there on my previous visit.
That night we all went to the Tamaki Maori Village for a cultural show and feast. I thought to myself that I couldn’t come to New Zealand and not learn something about the Maori, well, this experience was fantastic and one of the highlights of my trip. They collect you from your hostel and drive you out to the village. It’s not ordinary bus ride though. Our driver, Mark, explained the meaning of the Maori greeting “Kia Ora” (be well/healthy or hi) in no less than 62 different languages, impressive to say the least. Once there we had a traditional Maori welcome with the women singing and warriors dancing before a peace offering was made and accepted by the respective chiefs that had been nominated from our buses.
We then proceeded into the village where you see and learn about the art forms, traditions and ways of life for the Maori.
Before dinner though we must take it out of the earth oven or Hangi where it has been cooking for several hours.
While they laid the food out for us in the large dining hall we got to sit back and enjoy a concert in the sacred meeting-house. Here the Maori people entertain and share more of their culture with you through songs and dance.
After the show you get to feast and feast you do. There was so much delicious food but you must remember to leave space for the world-famous Pavlova, it was so good I had 3 helpings. The evening ends with a closing ceremony of songs and speeches as well as the appointed chiefs being lead in a Haka. I also got pulled up to do the Haka, probably because of being South African and our endless rivalry with New Zealand on the rugby field.
Then you climb back onto your waka (transport) and Mark drove us back to the hostels entertaining us all the way with songs from all the countries of the nationalities of those on the bus. An absolutely amazing evening and a Maori experience not to be missed if you ever visit New Zealand.