The second half of Tony's visit
Before our SCUBA diving and our trip around the north, Tony and I were down in the Waitomo region to do one of the many cave tours. It's the second visit to the caves for me. This time we did a more physical tour than the one Kel and I did. This one also started with a long (50m?) abseil down the entry shaft into the cave. Some of the highlights were being dropped one at a time down a dark shaft into a deep pool, swimming through a waterfall into a waterslide like tube, and a medium long abseil down a waterfall. I highly recommend the caves to anybody visiting. I'll definitely go again!
After the caves, we met up with Kel in Hamilton to go see the All Blacks play Canada. Speaking of the All Blacks, they were put out of the Rugby World Cup (by France!) in the quarter finals . . . suck. New Zealand is hosting the next world cup in 2011, if they can ever get their stadium controversy sorted. Maybe Jesse Ventura can come over to help? ;-) Anyway, good fun was had watching them crush Canada at Waikato stadium.
After the trip around Waikato and the northland, we headed to the Bay of Plenty and Kel's hometown. We had a nice relaxing time sightseeing there, before driving on to meet up with Brent and the gang for fly fishing on the Tongariro river. After getting skunked on the river, we headed back up through Rotorua. Though it turns out that we missed quite a lot of excitement the next day as Brent's friend Steve leapt from the car to tackle a couple of Kune Kune piglets with moves reminiscent of Jim Fowler from Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. ;-)
In Rotorua, we went to the Tamaki village to do the "Maori Experience" thing. That was fun, though a bit too touristy for me now. I've had really amazing Hāngi with Kel's relatives in Opotiki, and seeing a haka performed by the Rotorua locals doesn't quite make the same impression as seeing it done by the All Blacks, or for that matter this crew of badasses that Tiki Taane rouned up for his "Tangaroa - God of the Sea" video. Speaking of Māori, Kel and I have started taking community ed classes. Our teacher just happens to be an old classmate of hers from Whakatane.
After Rotorua, we headed up to Matamata to do the Lord of the Rings tour of the Shire shooting location. As much as I love the LotR, this was definitely embarrassingly touristy. There's this little hobbit hole looking bus stop/information station in the middle of town where you wait for the hobbit van to come and pick you up. It was a brisk fall day, and it was just Tony, myself, and a fat bearded european uber geek hanging around the bus stop. I kept having 80's movie visions of the bus dumping us off in front of the local rugby club, and somebody yelling NEEEEEERRRRRRDDS!! as the team came thundering out to pummel us.
Once we got into it and there were only sheep around to see us, it was a great experience. A lucky break with the weather prevented the site from being demolished on schedule, and the farmer who owns the land managed to negotiate some rights to what was left behind. Unfortunately, those rights don't include the ability to do any restoration, but what's there is enough to line up the landscape with the movie. Listening to our tour guides tales of some of the people who've made their pilgrimages to the site made Ye Olde Minnesota Renaissance Festival sound like a stuffy old law firm. ;-)
After that it was back to Auckland and back to work for me. Tony had a day out on the east coast, and a day to bum around the city, then he was off.
Long rambling late night post brought to you by the weekly maintenance outage in Blizzard's World of Warcraft servers. ;-)