My Trip Journal update - 12 Sep
We left the Taupo region today for a very special visit to Hobbiton, but first we called in on a famous local craft shop, Lava Glass. The products we saw were exquisite and generally inspired by the local area, such as Lake Taupo and the mountains. We were treated to a very good description by Liz? And, of course, bought a piece! At least we don't have to cart it around NZ as they will ship it back to Australia for us. They also have glass blowing demos and a beautiful glass sculpture garden which, unfortunately we didn't have time for.
Our next stop was at the Orakei Korako thermal park. It's a little way off the main road to Matamata, but well worth the effort. While Craters of the Moon left us a little underwhelmed, Orakei was brilliant. The tour begins with a short ferry ride across the lake and from there you are on your own - with a handy guide map to show the way. From the first step to the last, there are wonders and sights to delight. Within a few minutes we had seen our first geyser - small, to be sure, but a geyser nonetheless! - and there is an almost endless variety of hot springs, bubbling mud pools, brilliant colours and a deep cave. The walk itself is partly on a boardwalk and partly through rainforest. Hopefully, the pictures we post will do the place justice.
Another could of hours along the road, we reached Matamata, our rest stop for the night. The Motel is somewhat dated, but was still clean, comfortable and close to Hobbiton. We had enough time to get ourselves spruced up, the drove the 15 kms to Hobbiton. The farmer who was lucky enough to have Peter Jackson select his paddocks for the site of The Shire, for the Lord of the Rings movies, was doubly fortunate that the Hobbit was also to be filmed there. This time, he persuaded Peter Jackson to construct the set fro durable materials, rather than polystyrene and plywood, to take advantage of the tourism potential - they must be making a fortune!
We were hosted on our tour by Dan, a self-proclaimed Middle Earth nut, who has worked on the tour almost from the beginning. His wealth of knowledge, stories of the making of the movies and general knowledge, really made the tour of the set hugely enjoyable. We saw inside some of the Hobbit holes;heard of Jackson's attention to detail and how apple trees were made to look like plum trees; and discovered that Bilbo's oak tree is actually imitation - we now possess one of those famous oak leaves! OK, so the oak tree isn't that famous....
The tour around the set lasted close to two hours, then we retired to The Green Dragon for a glass of beer and a banquet. The food was plentiful and delicious, and the company - Aussies and Germans - were great. On the way out, we made our way through Hobbiton by lantern light and finished on the party field with a Hobbit Dance - luckily, there are no video recordings of this! All in all, we had a superb evening.
Tomorrow, we head back south for a couple of days around Rotorua. More thermal discoveries and Maori culture await.