Bay of Islands, Rotarua, Taupo and Wellington
Trip Start Aug 22, 2006
94Trip End Ongoing
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There wasn't time to spend a lot of time there, so I was back to Auckland and then heading off for Rotarua, a place I'd recommend to anyone
Rotarua is famous for having the best maori shows in New Zealand - so despite the fact I'd already been to one, I went to another. It was really good - the dancers and actors were all from NZ, bar three, and they came down a stream in a war canoe singing and doing war drills in response to the chief's calls. They were dressed in scanty garments sown from natural fibres, most of the men showing bare rear bottoms with henna designs on them! Talk about bare bottomed cheek! The women were more fortunate and wore full length dresses. Both sexes had cloaks made of feathers and animal skins as well.
The performers then danced and sang for us and we were told maori stories of the past. Two 'chiefs' were chosen from our tourist 'tribe' and they had to take part in the ceremony. They had to respond to a maori who danced and then threw down a branch to see if the other tribe would pick it up or not. If he picked it up, he was a friend. If he didn't, he was an enemy. When dancing, the maori men usually stick out their tongues to show masculinity. Haka is often understood to mean 'war dance' among foreigners, but actually, it just translates into 'dance.' When the performers danced the war dance for us, the men jumped and slapped their torsos and thighs, hard. They made 'blerrrgghhh'ing noises and stuck out their tongues. It was quite intimidating... they danced like that to hype themselves up for battle, to get adrenaline flowing so that they performed better. The women would support the men by dancing behind them, shivering their hands and fingers, swaying their heads and bulging their eyeballs to show their feminity
Another interesting part of the evening was when they showed us their poi skills. The women would dance with them, while traditionally the men would strap rocks into the flaxen balls and flick them up and down hitting each side of their wrists, rhythmically so that they would strengthen them. The actors also played with their long and short sticks to show us their art.
After the performance, it was time for the hangi, or traditional method of cooking. The hangi is an oven dug into the ground, made from a fire that burned strongly for several hours, with rocks or bricks left in the ashes. When the fire burns itself out, heated rocks remain. After this, meat and potatoes are put into containers, or wrapped in leaves, and then earth is thrown on top of it to cover it. It is left for 4 hours, more or less, and then the food is ready. People said that the meat was particularly tender and I know that the sweet 'kamara' potatoes were delicious.
Travellers coming to Kaikoura, I went to Maitai for my cultural event, and I really enjoyed it. But so you know, if you book in advance with the right company, you get $13 discount. I went there and paid $85, but was told if I had booked in advance it would have cost $72.50... when you're on a budget, that's a discount worth having.
The tour was made all the better by the commentary of the driver that took us there and the little bits of info the guide gave us too. Apparently, the secret of how to make hobbits look small and other actors look big was to have three sets. One set was for hobbits, one for Gandalf and who knows what the third one was for. Also, the hobbit actors were all under 5"5 in real life, and their was a camera lens split in half, with one side having a minimising effect and the other half having an enlargening effect. Gandalf is apparently around 6"6 and in some scenes, for when Frodo and Gandalf have to touch, child actors were substituted.
Peter Jackson, the Kiwi film director who worked on Lord of the Rings is widely liked and admired among the New Zealanders. 'He did more than any man to date for the tourism industry in New Zealand,' our jovial driver informed us. 'Peter was making films since he was eight.' Apparently, the film rights to The Lord of the Rings (TLotR) was originally owned by Miramax. They agreed a US$75 billon production to last two films, despite arguments from Peter Jackson to have three films, one per 'book'
Peter Jackson then took drawings, film clippings and most importantly, an orc head made of latex by plane to Hollywood and persuaded Blue Line that it was the project they needed! Even better, they asked him why he wasn't doing a three film production instead of a two film set - not believing his luck, he found himself armed with a bigger budget, a better movie deal and Miramax consented to having their film costs bought out by Blue Line. They only major thing that Blue Line and Peter Jackson argued about between then and the end of filming was the end of the film. Peter Jackson wanted to make a fourth film, about the scouring of the Shire, true to Tolkien's book. They said no, and Peter had to comply, much to his disappointment. This also apparently led to big arguments between Jackson and the actor playing Sauron. In the book, Sauron is stabbed in the back by his minon in the Shire
Unfortunately, after the films were released, Peter Jackson and Miramax got into a big dispute about the amount of revenue Jackson was getting off the merchandising, in Peter's mind, not the amount they had agreed. So he took them to court over it - Blue Line said, if you don't drop the case we're going to get a different director to film The Hobbit. Peter sued them anyway and they fired him, true to word. Ironically, Miramax were co-producing The Hobbit with another film company (whose name I can't remember) who said that actually, they had a decision in who made the film as well, and as far as they are concerned, Jackson hasn't been fired
I bet that Miramax are regretting their decision now - they have lost out on a serious amount of money.
At the moment, Peter is apparently in the process of filming The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold. Its a fantastic book, about a 14 year old girl who is raped and murdered in the fields close to her house. She narrates it from heaven, talking about the lives of her family after her disappearance, how it changed relationships and how the manhunt of her murderer goes. Its an emotional, bittersweet book, really distinctive. If you haven't read it yet, I'd recommend it.
I travelled around the north island of NZ with Magic Bus, and on the whole, its been good. The drivers will book you accommodation for free, as they have agreements with youth hostels in the places they visit, and are generally knowledgeable about the places to see at each destination. They give a lively commentary about the things we pass by, and are generally very funny. On the negative side, it can be irritating to stop at lots of sub-destinations when you want to just get there as you are on a time limit and once it took 8 hours, to get to a city only 4 hours away, much to my annoyance. Also, despite saying that a company benefit is to be picked up anywhere on route, not just at the official places, they won't drive the extra two minutes to take you to a backpacker hostel that's not on their designated shortlist.
I stopped in Taupo, as I had to, although I didn't want to and enjoyed my day. Then, it was on to Welly (Wellington).
In Wellington, I stayed at Nomads, a fab backpackers place which gives you free food in the evenings and will lend you towls, alarm clocks, hair dryers and other useful things for free, you just need to put down a deposit which is fully refunded
Dan and I walked around Te Papa, the main museum in Wellington, which despite lots of hype I wasn't that impressed with - I preferred Aucklands. Then we took a cable car up to the botanic gardens and walked down. Its a really lovely thing to do on a sunny day, it overlooks the city and has a duck pond, rose garden, orchid house and nice place to have tea just by the rose garden. We had takeaway dinner from a really, really tasty Indian restaurant for just $10 in Cuba St (the free food came in small portions and we were hungry). They gave us lots of free extras with our chosen curry, like rice and nan bread and it was so good.
At night, Dan and I joined the other friends we'd made through the magic bus and went to the only Welsh pub in Wellington! Its called The Dragon and is a good laugh. Only in a Welsh pub, would you find a romantic table for two hidden away in a recess... near a very small window. The window is covered by a curtain... and when we went near this place to have a group photo, low and behold a wooden horsey was poked through the window! Its the ones you used to have as a child, you know, with a happy horses head on a pole, all made of wood. The staff like to poke the horses head through the window while the couple eats to have a laugh. It was hysterical. We have group photos floating around, one with everyone smiling, and one with people laughing and looking to the left, where the horse head has appeared, out of frame
Gordon, a man from Northern Ireland, had got chatting to some of the people to organise a shuttle to the ferry the next day and asked if I wanted to join in. Feeling happy, I said yes - when there's enough of you, it only costs $3-4. We found out on the way that there was a free shuttle service, operated by the ferry companies, but then again, it didn't come to the door of our hostel like the private shuttle did.
Dan and I said our goodbyes the night before I left and I wished him well - I wouldn't be so surprised if I see his name in future film credits. Watch his space!