Driving North Island of New Zealand

We had 4 relaxing days in Auckland which gave us time to visit a museum, cook in our full kitchen, do laundry and get together for dinner with our friends, Michael & Sam, whom we met in Philippines. John made moussaka for dinner and we enjoyed catching up with them on their travels, sharing stories and plans for the next few months. Next stop for them is Fiji! Actually, Auckland is a great place for meeting people as it’s the travel hub for anywhere around the South Pacific.

Me, Sam, John and Michael making fun of ourselves as we all ended up wearing the very fashionable zip-off travel trousers!:

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The next day John and I picked up our rental van and we headed north to Paihia to see the Bay of Islands. The weather was sunny but pretty chilly requiring all our normal layers plus our new jackets. We stayed two nights and did a nice morning hike to a view point overlooking the bay and a boat dolphin tour. But what I will remember Paihia most for being the place where we learned that new immigration rules will prevent my spousal visa from being approved so we won’t be able to live in the UK! John spent hours that evening reading up on the changes and drafting letters to Theresa May (MP), the Home Office, the newspapers and anyone else we could think of.

And meanwhile, these dolphins probably have a better chance of getting a work visa in the UK:

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Fourth of July! We head from Paihia south to Cambridge stopping in Auckland briefly for a camera filter and Starbucks:) Not much to do here except enjoy fish’n chips and spend the night before we go to Matamata. The light rain and sun made a beautiful double rainbow on the drive.

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Next day we visited Hobbiton- the set of the Shire in Lord of the Rings. It is really cool and we learned a lot from our guide who worked on the farm during the filming. There are 44 hobbit holes – all newly created for the new Hobbit movies as the hobbit holes from the first movies were made of foam and destroyed. The farm and land is owned by the Alexander family who required Peter Jackson to return the land to its original state after they filmed the first movies. This time they decided to leave it for public tours. There is a large crew responible for maintaining the look of the “set” and match exactly the matching set located elsewhere in New Zealand – and Peter Jackson is a perfectionist for detail so everything from the size and age of trees, the details of the mailboxes (all 44 are different) and the number of logs in a basket are managed. They even cut the middle of the trees out in order so they don’t grow too tall. The objective is to have the shire look exactly the same for our grandchildren as it does now.

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And the heavy fog, whilst annoying in the shire was absolutely beautiful once we drove above it. It was a sea of clouds:

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July 6 we drove to Wellington and met up with some of John’s friends and ex-colleagues from his SQS days. We had a great time chatting over a few beers before heading back to our hostel.

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Saji, Jess, Julie, Me, Andrew & John at Molly Malone’s Pub in Wellington

We spent a leisurely morning in the city the following morning, Starbucks for breakfast then caught the premier of TED which we really enjoyed! Then we headed back north toward Auckland with French Polynesia on our minds!!

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