After I left the South Island, the fight seemed to go out of me a bit. After only one night in Wellington, marked by dodging soused cricket fans and would-be Irishmen (an English-New Zealand cricket match and St Patrick’s Day are a perfect storm of English lousiness and public drunkenness. I find it all embarrassing), I headed to Rotorua for a stab at Maori culture. I found the performance a bit lame and sad: a great people reduced to putting themselves in theme park villages for the sake of curious tourists. Fat British tourists made up the bulk of the crowd, and the fidgeted through the cultural performance, eager to tuck into the buffet provided. I left early, having no stomach for this. But it wasn’t just a disgust at the zoo-like atmosphere of Rotorua. The town itself is depressing, with many shops closed. The only ones that seem to be thriving are rent-to-own shops, gambling dens and bars. The local Maoris wander the streets looking fierce and menacing. And like most other native populations that have been displaced by euro-settlers, they’re not doing at all as well (4.9MB PDF) in the various social development indicators. But at least the Maori aren’t invisible like the Australian Aborigines. They’re much more integrated into the social fabric of New Zealand, but still.
Take a flight from Christchurch to Rotorua, the Maori and geothermal hub of New Zealand, and also LOTR town! We 'SuperShuttled' to our acco. Walk into the city (about 2km) to check out one of the most photographed buildings in New Zealand - the Rotorua museum, and other local attractions and go for a Hobbitton tour - they pick you up from the city center and drop you off too.
I spent my time in New Zealand wine tasting in Marlborough and driving through North Island up to Auckland. On the way we stopped for a little adventure in Rotorua and decided to try Zorbing (where they put you in a plastic ball and roll you down a hill). It was quite an experience! I have to say, Napa Valley is beautiful, but Marlborough is just amazing. Though the wine region there is very small by comparison, I enjoyed it so much more since all of my favorites are made there. And, we were able to taste a number of other wines that are not available in the States. However, the most fun part of New Zealand was the local invention: Zorbing. It was impossible to stand up once we started rolling and even more impossible to stop laughing as we sloshed around inside the zorb with water splashing everywhere; elbows and knees flying. Luckily, they gave us towels and there were hair dryers in the changing room so we were able to get pretty again before getting back in the car and continuing the drive up to Auckland.