After an enchanted stay in Matamata, among owls and wizards, I move south and east to Rotorua, on the shores of Lake Rotorua.
This town is known for its ubiquitous thermal activity – and indeed, when I arrived, I saw steam come out of the sewers. I should have expected it, but… wow, so unsettling! Then I started to understand the importance of it: spas and baths make use of it, but not only, for every motel advertises their hot pool, and most houses (if not all) use geothermal energy for heating.
In return, the whole town bathes in rotten egg smell. It didn’t bother me too much, but when I got out in the morning, it was always a shock. It reminded me of Turkey, Iceland and Chile.
The day I arrived in Matamata was glorious: blue sky, warm air, and just a few big white clouds to add depth in the pictures. I checked in at the Matamata Backpackers hostel, a recent venue with a relaxed atmosphere, where I would stay two nights.
Reasons to visit this small, otherwise boring town are twofold: Wairere Falls, and Hobbiton.
The former is the highest waterfall on the North Island, an impressive 153-meter drop with a path leading up to the top. The second is the world-famous movie set, featuring the hobbit holes from the beginning of both Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies by Peter Jackson.
The original plan was pretty complicated: hitch-hike to Waihi, rent a bike, ride hard to Karangahake Gorge, ride back, get a hitch ride through the gorge again to Paeroa, where I had booked an Airbnb. I feared I wouldn’t have much time to see the gorge well, and taking pictures while you’re on a bike is not easy, but it sounded doable. Also, I didn’t have anything else to do.
But a timely encounter on the road changed it all – for the best.
Anton picked me up from the roadside, and told me he was going to Paeroa. That was great, it would take me very close to my destination. However, as we talked, I mentioned the gorge, and he said that was actually where he was going, to visit his daughter Anita at Riverside Accommodation.
Hurray, can I come? 😀
After two weeks around Auckland, it’s time to have a look at this bustling metropolis. I’ve already given some first impressions in my previous article, make sure to have a look 🙂
After a quick jump to Budapest, where I stayed with my friend Marci and had a blast in his studio, I flew to Stockholm for work. The bad idea was to fly to Helsinki on Sunday evening only to fly out again to Sweden on the morning after; it would have made much more sense to fly directly to Stockholm and sleep a bit longer than 3 hours. Still learning.
After two days of work with a new RELEX customer, my colleague Pessi and I were exhausted, but we had a bit of free time before the flight back, and I had never seen Stockholm… so we left the office and had a one-hour walk in the city. It had snowed since the morning, and my excitement had grown consequently: you know, I love the white stuff 😉
On the first Friday of the month, there is free entrance to Kiasma, Helsinki’s museum of Contemporary Art. Since the exhibitions change constantly, I like to take advantage of this opportunity to “culture” myself. I visited with my dad in February, but the first time I was there was in September last year, and I showed it to you here -> click!
The first exhibition was ARS17, showing works heavily influenced by digital media. The best one was maybe ASLAP (AS Long As Possible), by Juha van Ingen. A 1000-year long animation showing but a number for 10 minutes, then the next one for the next 10 minutes, etc. After 1000 years, the animation starts again. Yes.
Today, Finland celebrates its hundredth birthday. I hadn’t planned anything special for it, but I thought I could show you why I love my adopted country so much =)
On July 1 and 2, I went to Rauma, a lovely town on the Western coast of Finland. My friend Bjørn was visiting from Denmark for a few days, but I wanted to do something else with him than visiting Helsinki (I’ve done that a few times already).
So I took him on an adventure. We went there by bus (Onnibus ❤ via Turku, but without transfer) for a few pennies, a tent and a pair of sleeping bags in our luggage. We were lucky, for that weekend was very warm. We arrived on Saturday in the middle of the day, the sun was shining when we “checked-in” at the camping. Unfortunately, it was not a very tent-friendly camping: there was plenty of room available for camper vans and caravans, but tent campers were only given a gentle slope with trees, rocks and roots aplenty… We found a spot that was kinda flat, raised our shelter and set sail to Rauma itself.
We walked, we didn’t steal the truck
… beginning of darkness.
As night fell over Finland, I went to Suomenlinna. Again.
Viaporin Kekri, the night of the spirits, was organized there. The revival of an old festival of harvest, this celebration brought forth culture and history, opening hidden places to the public for all kinds of performances that exposed echoes of ancient times.
After our escape to the wilderness, we were back in Budapest for a few days. Then I would have to fly back to Finland, but in the meantime I had things to do… the first one being to see the sun rise over the city. This time, the second day in a row, I couldn’t enlist Marci, so I woke up alone, tried not to wake up the cat who had elected to share my bed, and ran for the bus. I drowsed the whole way to Széll Kálmán tér, but then I energized myself and started to climb the Castle Hill.