The Sky's the LimitA WANDER DOWN UNDER, CHAPTER 30: IN WHICH WE TRAVERSE HOBBITLAND
Day 34: Rotorua, to Auckland NZ. Back on State Highway 5, we left Rotorua and its clouds of steam and pungent aroma around 9 a.m., aiming northwest for Auckland, New Zealand's most populous city with two million people. That's almost a third of the national population, 1.4 times the entire South Island, and more than twice the size of Christchurch and Wellington combined.
Around 10, we stopped for relief and refreshments in the quaint village of Tirau (pop. 730). At the crossroads of SH-1 and SH-5, the town has transformed itself from a rural service center to a tourist stopoff. Recycled corrugated iron, embraced as a building and unique signage material, has given Tirau a signature look.
|Fortunately these two seem to peacefully co-exist. (Photo from Wikipedia)|
Today hobbit hounds can take a two-hour guided tour of the set for the princely sum of $75 each. By the time we arrived at the ticket office at the farm, the morning's intermittent showers had become a steady downpour, which the gusting wind flung into your face and down your collar. Thankful we were not diehard Tolkien devotees, we easily made the choice to pass on the Hobbiton tour and press on toward Auckland. In our drives around the country, we've seen so many mystical, magical landscapes, it's hard to believe we missed more than a few hobbit houses.
|Middle Earth wherever you look|
Riding up on the elevator, we chatted with John, a 20-something Brit wearing a bright blue and yellow jumpsuit. And that is literally what it was—a jump suit. From John, we learned about the Sky Jump activity offered at the tower. Between the observation decks is a jump platform at 630 feet. Harnessed in and guided by steel cables to prevent wind gusts from slamming them into the tower, brave souls step off tower firma into thin air, aiming at a target 53 stories below.
For the entertainment of those who prefer to experience such thrills vicariously, an LED message board on the main observation deck two floors below alerts visitors four minutes prior to a jump, allowing spectators to get into viewing position. Benches are actually provided. So we watched John, who had also bungee jumped off the Auckland Harbor Bridge, take the tower tumble.
|John takes a dive|
- Started in Rotorua, ended in Auckland
- Mileage - 167 (Trip total: 15,721)
- Weather - 45° to 57°, damp and drizzly to partly cloudy
- Sky jumpers we watched - 4
MONDAY, 6 OCTOBER, 2014
More Photos from Today
|More signs of Tirau|
|One scenic vista after another|
|The textured hills look so soft and plush.|
|Scenic drive or what?|
|Playing with the camera|
|View of Auckland from the Sky Tower|
|The small red square at the bottom center has the jump target painted on it.|