NZ: Rotorua and Hobbiton

April 9th:

It was a very relaxed day today as we allowed our bodies to recover from the hike. When we finally left our cozy resort, we stopped at the Spa Park next door so I could get photos of it. We’d meant to swim, but the wind was cold and we were clean. It didn’t sound appealing to jump into a dirty hot pool just to freeze getting out again.

We arrived in Rotorua, the smelliest city of thermal hot pools later in the afternoon. We hung out in the fanciest McDonald’s, decorated with Māori carvings while eating cheap food and chatting with our families. I’m so tired of junk food, I never want to eat in another McDonald’s for another 10 years. img_2614-1.jpg

April 10th:

It’s rafting day! We arrived at 8:30am for our rafting trip down the Kaituna River. The rafting trip we’d picked out would take us down the worlds tallest commercially available waterfall: the Tutea waterfall, sitting at about 7m tall. After a security briefing, we hit the water! We were on a boat with a super chill guide and three other excited girls. We first went over two small waterfall rapids, which was perfect practice for what was to come. The guides were great, they stopped before each major rapid, worked as a team with the other board and reviewed directions so we’d all be safe. The first two rapids were a blast and pumped up all of our adrenaline. Andrew and I sat in the very front so we had the best view as we dove headfirst through each rapid!Then came the big one. There was a 50/50 chance of flipping, over which we had no control. The first boat went… and popped out just fine. Then it was our turn! We started heading down, ducked into the rafting, starting falling and… our raft flipped! I was thrown to the side of the raft and came up spluttering, excitedly shocked that we’d actually flipped! Most of the others had come up under the raft, where there are pockets of air to breathe in and then swam it from under it. It all happened so fast. Next thing we knew we were swimming quickly, myself and another girl were near a canyon wall where there were indents and then our raft was pushing us up against it. The guide from the first raft quickly came over and with great skilled hauled everyone onto his boat. When everyone was in the clear, we transferred back to our our raft, laughing shakily. What a thrill!From there on, it was easy as. We floated on the river down in the canyon, with thick tropical tree above us. It was beautiful. There was a pooled area where we were allowed to jump out of the raft and float around for a bit. A bit further on, we kept out of the raft and actually swam through a rapid on our stomachs. We were thrown through the rapid and then swam back to our raft. On other rapids, the guide brought us in nose-first and “surfed” so we’d become engulfed in waves as we floated atop of them. Every time the nose dived into the water we were showered with a solid spray. It was so much fun!! The tour ended all too quickly and it had been a blast.After getting changed back into warm clothes, we had lunch at our car. When every other guest had left, I approached the main guide and asked him if he could give us any deals on the really excellent pictures they’d taken during our trip. He couldn’t give me a discount but he did offer to let us go on the next trip for a ridiculously low price since there were only two people going and he was already losing money. Seeing as how we had no other plans for the day, we went for it!Half an hour later, we were suited up and ready to go again! Already knowing the river, we felt way more comfortable on the raft and this time sat in the middle rows. It felt a lot more rushed this time around, since the guide knew we knew what we were doing. But the two other guests were new so it wasn’t great for them. The first two rapids went by fine, but when we went down the big waterfall, our raft folded upon impact at the bottom. Somehow, Andy and I fell onwards and he collided his lip and cheek with the side of my helmet. When we bobbed out of the water, the girl had fallen out so the guide and safety kayaker were focused on rescuing her. Andrew on the other hand looked dazed and was holding the side of his face. Thankfully only his lip was cut and swollen, not his eye or cheekbone. He thinks he received a bit of a mild concussion from the impact, and the side of his mouth was throbbing. But as far as injuries go, it could’ve been much worse.The rest of the trip went really well. We swam in the pooled area, letting the currents take us around as if in a toilet bowl. We swam through the rapid and we surged a little bit. But Andrews injury put a damper on his enjoyment of the rest of it, and I was worried for him throughout. The photos for this tour also came out terribly, so after getting changed we headed for a McDonald’s to ice his face and get some food in us. After a couple of hours and some painkillers, the swelling had reduced and he was feeling much better. What a story! (Actually we’ve just been telling people I punched him when he tried to steal my desert, which is just as likely really.)

April 11th:

Happy birthday mom! Love you to the moon and back!

It was raining this morning when we visited the Redwood forest in Rotorua. These trees were planted in 1901 and they’ve been growing ever since. It took a short walk through the forest, but the wind and water were cold so it wasn’t long before we were back in the car with the heat cranked up on our feet.

We hung out at burger kind around lunchtime, just to mix things up a bit, before continuing on to Matamata. The landscape in this area was beautiful. It was all green, rolling hills and littered with sheep. We didn’t end up driving through town because google maps was sending us in the silliest of directions, but we still made it to our final destination: Hobbiton!

We arrived well before our tour was set to start, so we visited the gift shop. It was pretty unremarkable as far as gift shops go, but they had some nice things. At 4:45pm, we joined up with the others and climbed onto a bus that would take us to the village of Hobbiton. We had not booked the regular village tour, but the special evening banquet tour which featured smaller groups, dinner and drinks.

The tour began with a short bus ride to the Hobbiton village. In this time, the guide introduced the Alexander’s family and their land, and it came to become both the filming location of The Shire and the attraction it is today. Our guide was perfect. She was interesting and provided secret tidbits of information for the super-fans, but explained it well enough that even non-fans could understand it. She kept the tour moving at a perfect pace, allowing for enough time to take pictures. I was so in awe of her.

Throughout the tour, we walked through Hobbiton and the village was alive. Everywhere there were fresh flowers growing, real vegetables sprouting, smoking chimneys and incredibly crafted decorations. Each hobbit hole looked lived in, even though they weren’t built past the door.

We learned about the different sized holes, built on different scales depending on whether it was the hobbits or Gandalf being filmed for the forced perspective.

We visited Bag End at the top of the hill and learned about a secret artificial tree, and saw Samwise Gamgee’s home. We were wide-eyed and wildly running around taking as many photos as possible the whole time. It was so stunning.After touring the village, we headed into the Green Dragon for a drink. They have four specially crafted drinks only found here: a dark beer and an ale, an apple cider and a ginger beer. The cider was Andrews favorite and the dark beer was mine. We sat for a little while before the had a big reveal into the dining hall. There were long tables set up with an incredible amount of food. Roast chicken, lamb chops and sausages; roast and mashed potatoes, mushrooms and squash, little pickles and more sat in old little bowls. Everyone helped each other out, passing plates and scooping food. It was here we sat across from some fellow calgary and next to some frenchies. It had been a long time since we’d had a home cooked meal so Andrew and I ate so much food. By the time I’d tried everything, I was so full it was painful to move. I couldn’t even finish my last drink or move. I’d consumed so much food it hurt and i looked about four months pregnant but it had been so good!! When desert came out, I couldn’t have more than a single bite. So I did the next best thing and wrapped up a lemon pie and fruit tart and stuck them in my pocket to enjoy tomorrow. (They turned out to be the best damn tarts I’ve ever had!) Sorry for the crap photos, I was too excited for food.

After dinner they took us outside to the party field, where Bilbo celebrated his eleventy-hundredth birthday. It was incredible that we weren’t just standing in a recreated hobbit village, but on the actual filming location of these famous scenes. They had dance around (slowly as we were so full) before we headed back up to the buses. We slept in their parking lot that evening, hiding from the cold but passing out quickly into a food coma.

This tour met and surpassed all of our expectations. It had been so vibrant, alive and incredible. It was Fergburger amazing!

April 12th:

This was our last roadtripping day. We stopped in Hamilton long enough for me to find the statue of Riff Raff from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Richard O’Brien found his inspiration in this town and so it was born. It was a neat find!From there, it didn’t take us long to return to Auckland, back to Johnson & Chelsea’s. We made it back! It’s amazing it’s already been two months. It feels as though it was just yesterday we left, and also somehow that tons of time has passed. We have less than a week left before going home, and all of the big milestones have been achieved. Now we can relax, sleep in real beds and prepare for the homecoming. This was a brilliant way to spend our last week visiting this country.


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