Day 6: You Will Believe a Man Can Fall!
We lit out of Rotorua and were well past many of the geysers when we were stopped in a mandatory traffic stop. I’d never had a breathalyzer test before (as a teetotaler that was probably due to a complete lack of anything approaching probable cause) but this one was administered in a jiffy. The nice policeman saying (in his nice Kiwi accent rendered here as phonetically as auto-correct will allow): “hee’s ya mandatory breethalyzer test. Weea troin’ ta mike shua droivas sty awoik – so theys coffee and free ois cream ova thaya.” indicating the small crowd of confectioners and baristas on the left verge. When I didn’t look like I’d be taking them up on it, he handed me this box – branded with the local safety mascot and filled with jelly beans.
The drive past Lake Taupo and the climb up past Tongarira Crossing were beautiful. As were the escaped horses on the highway, despite the clear danger they presented to themselves and others (like the car-carrier who’d stripped the driver’s mirror off the car in front of us). But after that it was smooth sailing at the speed limit.
Until the madness of The Flying Fox that is. There, we far surpassed the usual 100km speed limit, and without worrying for the safety of our rental car. We went down the zip lines of Gravity Canyon face-first at 100 MILES per hour. Words do not do it justice, but this video (of others, because I’m not going to pay $45 to watch myself fall) might begin to suggest the experience.
Venetia was deeply worried going in, but her screaming stopped almost immediately as we enjoyed the surreally calm and beautiful flight. 2 seconds in, my thought was “This ride is already too short!”The winching-up backwards was a rather different matter, but despite that uneasy feeling (and their motto on the shirt below) I cannot recommend this adventure strongly enough.
A few more hours’ drive south led us to the very southern tip of the Northern Island and to the Wellington home of Stacy & Eric where we enjoyed delicious food among the locals – many of whom are colleagues of our hosts at Weta Workshops – an easy view of which lies a couple blocks down the hill from their house). A brief shopping run yielded licorice, chocolate, ‘tasty’ cheese (for ‘cheddar’ is curiously unknown here despite John Cleese’s protestations to the contrary “But it’s the single most popular cheese in the WORLD!” ringing loudly in my head) and other delicious (if pricey) Island goods.
Day 7: An Expected Journey
We awoke early and got loads of stray ducks in a row. Photos, blogs, hygiene – we did it all. And then we headed for the Roxy. Apparently when one makes several of the world’s most successful films, one can purchase and renovate an amazing art deco theatre – stocking it with posh seats, lovely food, a giant bronze of Sir Ian McKellen as Gandalf, and a massive mural and finest Deco fittings by Greg “Dr. Grordbort” Broadmore and company. Who knew?
Stacy had only mentioned the theatre in passing, but since we knew we were coming, why not wait to see the Hobbit until we could see it on its home turf? And after we’d visited Hobbiton ourselves? And when we could nip over to WETA for the tour after?
We spoke at some length with sculptor Craig Campbell about a secret commission, and got a flavour for the wonderful work environment at Weta. We later ate smashing Thai food and happily chatted the night away with our hosts