Captivating Auckland City


From among the cities I have been the past 12 months, I have left a piece of myself in the City of Sails. The moment I have set foot in Auckland, I knew right there and then that I would love the city the way I have always loved my ex-girlfriend. I tried my best to think through the reasons why I have been enamored by Auckland but I almost always end up lost for the right words.

Because of this dilemma, I just opted to let you see this beyond alluring city through my lens. Here are some of my uncountable Auckland City photographs.





Don’t be a wasted soul, be Juanderlust. Take it easy everyJuan.

Whakarewarewa, The Living Māori Village (New Zealand)

A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.                     – Mahatma Gandhi

When I am being asked about which 3 things I enjoyed the most during my New Zealand trip, I usually enumerate the following: my Hobbiton trip, the sunset, and ganet experience at Muriwai Beach, and the visit at Whakarewarewa, a Living Maori Village. (And yes, the challenge when you have to say the name of this village).


The Māori are the indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand who are said to have originated with settlers from eastern Polynesia and arrived in New Zealand by way of canoe voyages. They come in different tribes, and in the town of Rotorua, a tribe called Tuhourangi/Ngati Wahiao have welcomed local and foreign visitors into their village and has openly shared their way of life, including their land’s geothermal reserves.

Whakarewarewa, the Living Māori Village, allows every visitors a chance to experience a genuine Māori Village wherein the people live on a daily basis as they make use of the natural geothermal resources to bathe, cook, and even provide warmth to their homes.

The village features the renowned Pohutu geyser, several boiling mud-pools, steam vents, and even bubbling pools. During the village tour, I also saw how the residents prepare Hangi meals in using in-ground steam boxes and cook corn in the bubbling water of their geothermal hot pools.


Hāngī food is said to be traditionally wrapped in flax leaves however, the modern Hāngī is likely to substitute the leaves with cloth, aluminum foil, and or even wire baskets. The baskets are placed on hot stones at the bottom of the hole. The food is then covered with a wet cloth and a mound of ground that traps the heat from the stones around the food. It is left for about three to four hours, depending on the food (whether fish or chicken) and quantity being cooked. I tried their hangi pie and it was surprisingly good.


Our group was very fortunate to have a highly enthusiastic and informative Maori guide during the village tour. It was a great avenue to understand the history of the area, how the people manage to live in a challenging environment like Whakarewarewa Valley, and of course get to know more about the different historical landmarks within the village. This includes an active Marae (a fenced-in complex of carved buildings and grounds that belongs to a particular iwi or tribe), a World War II Memorial Archway, two historical churches, and tapu (sacred) burial grounds.


The most exciting part of this visit was the cultural show wherein performances happen at 1:15 am and 2:00 pm. It was such a delight watch and listen as the Kapa Haka group of performers sing and dance some beautiful Maori song and dances. It was such an entertaining show.


Fast Facts about Whakarewarewa Village:

  • Opening hours Daily (except for Christmas Day) 8.30am to 5 pm.
  • Guided tours on the hour from 9.00am with the last tour at 4.00pm.
  • Maori Cultural Performance times are 11.15am and 2 pm.
  • It is best to book online.

Whakarewarewa, The Living Māori Village

Phone:    +64 7 349 3463


Physical Address: 17 Tryon Street, Whakarewarewa Village, Rotorua, New Zealand

Postal Address: PO Box 6148, Whakarewarewa, Rotorua, New Zealand

You can check their website for booking and for more information.


Don’t be a wasted soul, be JUANderlust. Take it easy everyJUAN.


Windswept Beauty of Muriwai Beach

Another thing I like to do is sit back and take in nature. To look at the birds, listen to their singing, go hiking, camping and jogging and running, walking along the beach, playing games and sometimes being alone with the great outdoors. It’s very special to me. — Larry Wilcox


Muriwai Beach, a natural wonder on the west coast of the Auckland Region in the North Island of New Zealand, is a windswept volcanic black sand coastal wonder. The impressive waves rolling into the shore, the serrated landscape across the Maori Bay, and a fascinating colony of gannets are some of the highlights of a visit to this beach.


This beach is just 40-minutes to an hour away from the bustling ‘City of Sails’. The ruggedly beautiful landscape and seascape are just beyond mesmerizing. A friend of mine suggested that I should visit this place for two main reasons. One, to wait for the magical sunset at this side of New Zealand; and two, be amazed at the colony of breeding gannets.


According to what I have read, prior to my visit, between the months of October and February each year, the gannets hatch and nurse their young on the cliff tops of Otakamiro Point. This can be accessed after a short walk from the regional park’s parking area. There is a lookouts where one can view the nesting gannets and the Maori Bay. This also serves as a good vantage point during sundown.


Various activities abound the area. It includes surfing, windsurfing, paragliding and hang gliding, fishing, bush walking, or just strolling along the beach. Muriwai is definitely one New Zealand beach that will make you want to be one with nature.

Don’t be a wasted soul, be “juan”derlust. Take it easy ebri”Juan”.






Hobbiton (Matamata, New Zealand)

I’m going on an adventure!” – once uttered by Bilbo Baggins to a farmer who asked about his rush while running through Hobbiton.


Despite not being a fan of “The Lord of the Rings” and the “Hobbit” movies, I am definitely a person who loves to go for almost any sort of adventure. So, when a window of opportunity to see the famed Hobbiton movie set came about, I didn’t have second thoughts (despite the quite pricey fee).

Hobbiton is actually a 1250 acre active farm (Alexander Farm in Matamata, New Zealand. Despite being more known as the home set of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, it also houses roughly 13,000 sheep and 300 Angus beef cattle from which mutton, wool, and beef are their primary exports.


The way to Hobbiton was beyond picturesque… verdant, rolling hills with seemingly limitless numbers of cows, and sheep. Every corner is really postcard-worthy. Upon reaching the set, visitors are transported to a bus going to The Shire. Again, the view along the way is beautiful!

Upon arrival at the entrance, you will already be greeted with hobbit holes. As you go on with your walking tour, one will get to see more hobbit holes that come in various scales according to where they were seen on camera. According to our guide, the smaller ones were in far-away shots while the larger ones were used for the close-ups. FYI: Most of the hobbit holes are just frontages with more or less 4 feet in size.


It is worthy to listen to your guide for some very interesting stories. He told us that during filming, those hanged washings were changed every day so that it always look fresh. He also said that moss we see around the farm isn’t actually real, they are instead made of paper. (It looks real to me, though). One of the most interesting things shared was the creation of the tree atop Bilbo’s hobbit hole. Had not we were informed, I would never think it is a fake one! I must say that the touches for the film are extremely detailed.

The highlight of the tour is definitely seeing Bag End, where I had a few (not so good) shots. (By the way, another interesting fact shared was about the sunset scene – Bilbo and Gandalf smoking together in the movie — wherein it was actually taken here during the sunrise.

The tour ends at the Green Dragon Inn (this is where Bilbo Baggins met Thorin Oakenshield prior to their adventure) where each visitor was given a mug of beer of his/her choice. I tried the ginger beer and it was surprisingly good.

It was an almost 2-hour sauntering through the emerald set. It may not be the cheap kind of visit, but it is definitely a one for the books kind of experience. By the way, it is much cheaper if you just book a ticket online than going for a package tour. This is exactly what I did (with a little help from a good friend of mine). So there…


Hobbiton Movie Set
•    Address: 501 Buckland Rd, Hinuera, Matamata 3472, New Zealand
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