Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Tauranga and Hobbiton

Our next stop was Tauranga. The main reason that this was on our list was because we wanted to go swimming with wild dolphins. In fact, these dolphins tipped the balance in New Zealand's favour when we were deciding where to go. So, there was definitely a lot of build up in my mind and expectations were quite high. You can probably guess that it didn't turn out exactly as I hoped it would. 

It was a beautiful sunny day but the water were incredibly choppy. Adrian was the first on the boat to get sea sick, followed by eighty percent of the other tourists. Even I had to throw up once and my childhood weekends were spent on old fishing boats. Surprisingly, Aaron didn't feel anything and was first mate for the day - he had a fantastic time.

The nausea I felt subsided momentarily when I saw the first dolphin - that was exciting. The law is that if we had to observe them for 20 minutes before getting in the water and if they had babies with them, or they were feeding, we wouldn't be allowed to go swimming. Well, I saw a beautiful little baby dolphin. Shortly after that, we lost the pod and couldn't find them again. I can't decide if I am justified in feeling disappointed since these are wild creatures and are not on a wage to show up whenever I want to go swimming with them or watch them play in the water. 

We had a free afternoon after the dolphin trip in the morning. It was not planned and had no expectations associated with it. Naturally, it turned out to be fantastic. We decided to walk up the very steep Mt Maunganui - an extinct volcano. There were no complaints from Aaron and he even enjoyed making it to the top. Adrian had nothing to complain about because Richard backpacked him up. The views from the top were definitely worth the 40 minutes of hard work.

Here we are on the way down, Adrian walked down himself but in a way, I found the return trip harder because there were a lot of loose pebbles.

No trip to New Zealand would be complete without a photo of at least one sheep. So, here is one of ours. They were quite fun to be around as the children were constantly trying to chase one down.

After the walk down the mountain, we headed off to Rotorua. Thats where the bulk of our touristy geothermal exploration was going to happen but before all that, we headed off to Hobbiton, about an hour's drive from Rotorua. 

Everybody needs to go to Hobbiton. Hobbiton is definitely one of my favourite places from our trip. Its exactly like what you see in the movies. It is full of detail, down to different door knobs for each house and mold on their signposts and it looked like Hobbits were living there. The tour was very informative and peppered with stories of the incredible efforts that Peter Jackson and his team took to make the place look authentic. The place had a slightly messy, lived in look, just like how you'd imagine Hobbits to be. The only thing I didn't like were the other tour groups before and after us. There were tours every 15 minutes starting at 8.30am in the morning. If I were to visit again, I think I would pick either the last or first tour of the day so there would at least be one direction that I could look in and not have my daydream of hobbits walking around be ruined by another tourist. I have plenty of photos of Hobbiton but when I look at the ones that I am in, I feel that I'm ruining the picture. (Oh, Hobbiton must really be a faraway land because the postcard I sent my brother Sydney, on New Year's Day, only just arrived on 17 Jan. Of course, I had to send Bilbo a postcard from his homeland but I don't know when its going to get to him.) 


Here is one of the many vegetable gardens we passed. They were planted a year before filming began so that they would look like real gardens. The cabbages you see are real but in the movie, the brought in many more cabbages and just placed them on top. 

 Bilbo, I tried to visit you but you weren't home.

We saw a 30 second window where there would be no other tourists in our photo, so here I am with Bag End in the background. The entire top of the hill was part of Bag End - a mansion by hobbit standards! 

Some other hobbit's house....

Thats Dragon's Rest where Frodo goes to meet Gandalf in the first movie. 

Sam Gamgee is my favourite character from the movies and here we are outside his front gate with a New Year's greeting.

The big round tree is the party tree where they had Bilbo's birthday celebrations. It was this tree, and the lake that caught Peter Jackson's eye on an aerial scout of potential sites in the area. Coincidentally, the road leading to this farm is Bucklands Road and has been that even before the idea of the movies. In the trilogy, Buckland, was one of the hobbit areas.

Ah, Hobbiton was magical. I wish they had kept the other filming locations around New Zealand as it was in the movies but this is the only one.


Bilbo said...

I so envy your opportunity to go to Hobbiton, and can't wait for the postcard! I have ordered (from the special effects firm that worked on the movie) a parchment interior plan of Bag End, suitable for framing...it'll go on my study wall, right next to my picture of Bilbo at his desk in Rivendell! Agnes and I went swimming with dolphins on our cruise to the Eastern Caribbean a few years ago, and we have the pictures to prove it ... I'll have to find them and send you one so that you can be jealous, too! Glad you had such a wonderful time!

Mike said...

I probably should read up on Hobbits.

Amanda said...

Bilbo - I saw that parchment interior plan at the gift shop, VERY COOL!

Mike - REALLY? The tour guide was laughing at a tourist from another group that had asked, halfway through the tour, "Whats a hobbit?"