Today we got a little bit of a later start thankfully because we have been moving around a lot lately. We ate breakfast at the hotel and loaded up the bus at 10:00 am. After an hour and a half bus ride to the Auckland airport, we unloaded the bus and headed to check in. After we quickly went through security, we separated to go eat before we would go to the gate. Most of us grabbed some food and after about 45 minutes, we learned what gate we would be boarding at. We then got together at Gate 3. When the gate opened, we were seated without a hitch. After this, we started to think back to everything we had done in New Zealand and that we were all so lucky to be on this trip. So far all of us have been having the best time and we’re all looking forward to the Australian experience. On the plane, we were served lunch. After the 3 hour flight, we got all of our luggage and went through customs. We then met the new tour guides and bus drivers that would be with us in Sydney. We traveled to our new hotel, Cambridge Hotel Sydney. For dinner, we all went our own way. At the end of the day, everyone had a great day and we’re so excited to be in Sydney!
First, we visited Hamilton Gardens, a place chalk full of new adventures and creative garden themes. Some of the popular themes were fantasy, productive, and paradise concept gardens. In each concept there were also sub concepts so we didn’t get to see everything in the 2 hours we had. The gardens didn’t just have plants and flowers there were also cool sculptures, such as wood carvings and floating blimps, and Water art, reflection pool and fountains. The highlight for many was our exclusive tour , to a place that was closed, with a man who worked for the gardens management. Some cool facts about the garden is that it’s 40 years old and still in development.
We also saw glow worm caves. These glow worms were about the length of a matchstick, but would only glow towards the end of their body. They glowed a beautiful blue and when with many other glow worms, they looked almost like stars. Before going to see the glow worms, we walked through caves that were discovered in the 1800s. The company there has been running tours since they were opened to the public. However, since they have been opened to the public, there have been no photos of the inside allowed because of how light, such as the camera flash, can effect the glow worms. The pictures are from the cave where we played bells in, where there also happened to be glow worms. Being able to see these glow worms was amazing because usually animals that have luminous abilities live far out of reach for public viewing, but glow worms were not even 20 feet above our head.
The last thing we did was a televised performance within a cave. There was no room for stands or tables in the caves, so we made human stands, and we had to carry all the bells that we needed from the bus to the bottom of the cave. While they were recording, we had to play some music twice or even three times so they could get “all the angles”. Now because of the spiral ramp that led to the bottom, when we dumped our bells, it sent a really really cool sound up to the top of the cave. It was almost a whah whah whah sound. If you can picture that. After we were recorded, and Scott was done soloing, which sounded amazing, we went on a tour through the rest of the cave there. That’s where we got the pictures of the glow worms. All of this made an amazing day, and an once in a lifetime experience that we can never forget.
Today was a travel day, but first we went to a Maori church named St. Faiths Church to play some pieces for their service and we also got to participate in the service. It was so cool to sing in Maori during the service. The priest was really funny throughout his sermon and the service. The service was spoken in both Maori and English so we could understand most of it. We played during the prelude and the offertory. Following the service we had refreshments, then it was off to Matamata for lunch!
Following lunch in Matamata, we headed to the Hobbiton Movie Set. This is where some scenes took place in The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies. We met our tour guide Tyla just as it started to rain! She began to show us around the Shire. The Shire is a town of hobbits. Tyla told us stories about the movies while showing us the different hobbit holes. It was really cool to see the different types of hobbit holes. It was also interesting to see the movie set in real life while learning about the details that made the movies possible. As we reached the infamous main characters house, the rain stopped! We took pictures and admired Bilbo and Frodo’s house. When the tour was over, we headed to Hamilton and checked into our hotel. We then went to dinner in town. Overall, we had a fun day of traveling, ringing, and touring!
Our day started in Tapua where we got to experience the Geothermal Valley. The parts that we saw were the geysers and mud pits. The 4 geysers were beautiful to see erupting. We learned that the water under the ground gets extremely hot (around 85 Celsius or 185 Fahrenheit!). The water got this hot because the magma from the volcano underground. Even the pool at our hotel was heated by the The heated water came out of the ground as steam! The mud pits were really cool as well. They take just about 110 years to fully form because things like rain cool down the pit. One name the mud pits had were “frog mud pits” because sometimes the bubbles of mud would pop and look like frogs jumping around.
Following the geothermal, we headed to the Agrodome where we had the pleasure to see a farm presentation. The presenter showed us the huge variety of sheep New Zealand has to offer, bringing each on one at a time. After they all arrived on stage, we were showed the shaving process along with milking and the herding of the sheep by sheep dogs. It was incredible to be up close and personal with these animals we have been seeing on our bus rides and we all really enjoyed it.
Next, we made a trip to the Maori Anglican church in Rotorua. The historic church is in the location of the first church in New Zealand. This beautiful building right on the water combines Christian and Mouri themes in its design. Intricate carvings along with stained glass covers the walls making for a very interesting interior. We can’t wait to be a part of their service tomorrow and play in this important and special building.
Finally we went to experience the Maori culture through dance and food. When we entered we were soon greeted by a ceremony of warriors and the chief who offered peace to our tribe and our leader (Mark White). We then went around their village and learned about their games and dances. They cooked an amazing feast and all from a steam vent from the earth. The food was wonderful and so was learning about their traditions.