Saturday, August 4, 2012

Hosted by Hobbits!

Friday August 3 5:00pm
Some observations from the road.

We drove through a Gorge today. Aside from the incredibly curvy roads being somewhat terrifying, it was beautiful. In general the land is very flat and just covered in green fields (usually with cows or sheep grazing). Then suddenly there’s a mountain, the remnant of a volcano.

And that’s where I see the Pacific Ocean lands’ interconnectedness. The vegetation on the mountainsides is a combination of things, but what I most notice are the Palm Trees. It reminds me so much of Tahiti, even though the flat lands do not.

We went to the Matilda Gold Mine in Waiku this afternoon. It was worth it! Humungous mine, which they are currently preparing to fill in for a lake. Except for the rain, it was a great little hike, and the boys were so impressed. When we first got to the top of the mine, Micah yelled into the walkie talkie “Mom, you’ve gotta come see this. It’s Awesome!” That’s what I call a worthwhile side trip.

Now we are on our way to Matamata for the evening. I don’t think we’ll make it in time to light Shabbat candles, unfortunately. But I do plan a nice dinner - burgers, lamb chops, and chicken legs. Something for everyone (Sofia has been requesting chicken “strings” [leg bones] for 4 days now).

The kids are doing ok today. Micah is so good when he takes care of Sofia. Sam has less patience for her, or for helping anyone. Micah is fine if he doesn’t remember to argue. They did all play with non-electronic toys on the way from Miranda to Waiku, but now the two littles are watching a movie while Sam plays on his iPad. We just told him he should be reading his school books.

The ladies in the Visitor’s Centers have been really nice, but mostly people keep to themselves. Not unfriendly, just not open. The kids do break that barrier more often, especially Sofia, who is just so darn cute.

I love listening to Sofia giggle, which she is doing now as they watch “Madagascar”.

Saturday, August 4 - Hosted By Hobbits!

Well, that was interesting. Matamata is where they filmed the Shire scenes for the Lord of the Rings movies, and many of the locals had parts as Hobbit extras.

We got to the campground well after dark, and actually had to park in the parking lot rather than in a regular site. The host/owner said an unexpected caravan had shown up, and also, many of the campers were getting stuck in the mud anyway.

I did not think twice when I first met the gentleman. He was just a short, squat, friendly campground owner. But when I went back in to the office for something and met his wife, I knew our hosts were truly Hobbits! She was just lovely. Not tall, not thin, with lovely blond hair and chubby cheeks and a friendly air. I kept coming up with excuses to go back in to speak with her; the air around her seemed enchanted.

Aside from being owned by Hobbits, the campground (Opal Springs Holiday Park in Matamata) was not much to write home about. There was a giant hot pool, open to the public, and all evening there was a busload of junior high students screaming around. The campground facilities were simple - only two showers per gender, a separate building for the toilet facilities, a tiny kitchen and TV lounge, and two laundry machine sets that unfortunately were not terrific (and were twice as expensive as elsewhere). I spent several hours after dinner doing laundry, only to end up with a bag of wet laundry.

Sofia had fallen asleep before we got to the campground, and stayed asleep (so no chicken last night). Which also means she woke up at 4:30 again. Sigh. Tonight we’re keeping her up late!

I made a dinner of lamb chops, burgers, and rice & onions. Took a while to figure out the campervan’s grill, but eventually it worked. The guys all went right to sleep after dinner; I read my book out by the laundry while I waited. It was quite warm in the van (to me, at least), and lovely and cool outside.

Despite Micah and Sofia waking up so early, it took us forever to get out in the morning. I think we finally left the campground around 11:30 (usually checkout time is 10am).

Headed directly to Firth Tower & Museum, which was a great stop. Just a bunch of historic buildings, with really nice and thorough displays of how things were in Matamata for the last 130 years. Very personal - displays on the Boer War, The “Great” War, World War II, and the Korean War. A fully furnished great-house. Wonderful audio descriptions. Photos and audio of the actual occupants.

The kids enjoyed it, too. Eventually, however, I felt that the clouds were getting too ominous, so we left and went in to Matamata town. On the way in, I got a blinding migraine, out of the blue. Bummer.

We stopped for lunch at the Kaimai Cheese Cafe. Yummy, but expensive. And here, we met a very friendly couple who gave us all sorts of advice on things to do and see on our next few stops.

After lunch, we headed to Rotorua, where we will stay a few days. There are three large chains of campgrounds, and you can buy a discount pass. We decided to stay in FamilyParks, because that was the first campground, in Miranda, and I likes the facilities. So we are at the All Seasons Family Park in Rotorua. Good choice. The hostess is a very friendly lady who had lots of helpful information. The facilities (kitchen, showers, etc.) are great (and I finally have dry laundry). And there is an indoor thermal hot pool! Rotorua is on a hot springs lake - there is steam coming off the water all day.

We all went for a swim, and then back for showers and dinner. Now, nearly 8pm, Sam is reading, the others are watching Cinderella (Sofia is on David’s lap) and I’m blogging and drying the towels and bathing suits. There’s a lot for us to do in the Rotorua area, so we will stay at least two nights here (maybe three - the third night is free).

I’ll post pictures next time we go to a library. I had to buy an Internet card, and it’s only good for an hour, so I want to minimize my time online (uploading photos takes too long).

Still rainy and overcast, but the lady we were speaking to at lunch said it’s supposed to get better soon. I hope so. Sam and I keep getting headaches from the greyness.