Hobbiton + Rotorua + Dinner
We survived the night without air con, by having the window wide open, the fan on full, no covers on the bed and then Karen covering herself with a wet towel!
Another early start (6am) and for once Karen didn't complain once as it our day for the visit to Hobbiton. Our tour was set for 8.40am. We had been told to check in 15 minutes earlier and knew it was a 45 minute drive.
As breakfast didn't start in the Hotel until 8am we were in the Subway on the main drag at 7am getting breakfast rolls to eat on our journey. After a faff getting out of a ridiculously tight Hotel Car Park (shades of San Diego) we were on the way with no traffic on the road.
Hobbiton turned out to be in the middle of nowhere (on a 1200 acre working sheep farm near Matamata). The whole thing was a sleek operation run by jointly by the farmer and Sir Peter Jackson. The tickets were not cheap but Karen's excitement more than made up for that.
After a quick cup of tea, we were first in the queue for our scheduled tour. We soon hopped on the bus and were off on the short ride across the working farm to the actual studio set. Bearing in mind I hadn't seen any of the films or completed any of the books even I was impressed. They had made the hobbit homes as permanent structures in the rolling hillside. To me it looked like a cross between Telly Tubby Land and a fairy grotto. It was very cleverly done to give the right perspective and the attention to detail was amazing. Our tour guide Megan was excellent and she made it really interesting and fun. There were nationalities from all over the world on our tour, we were the only British ones. Karen wanted to take pictures of every home (there are 44) and every view. The tour itself lasted about 90 minutes and we were then taken to The Green Dragon where despite the early hour we were all given free beer. Karen ended up having 2 cups of Stout.
We went round the obligatory gift shop where Karen bought the obligatory magnet. They were out of stock of the Gandalf hats, shame as I couldn't even try one on.
It was all really well done and I thoroughly enjoyed myself, not as much as Karen who was over excited even afterwards. I must admit that I might actually sit and try to watch the films now. I have started the books on many occasions. I struggle with them for 2 reasons. The first is I get bored in books that are very flowery and descriptive. The second is anytime of fantasy or science fiction loses my interest. Where the reality can be bent in any direction at time challenges my sense of normal and whats real. If the author can just make anything happen beyond the realms of normal physics then I fail to see the point of it all.
After this we drove to Rotorua. Our first impressions were good. We stopped before the hotel to go into the supermarket to buy a picnic lunch which was just as well as our room was not ready. We sat outside the hotel overlooking the lake to eat it.
Our second impression of Rotorua was that it stank. It stank bad, really bad. The sulphur coming from the thermal atmosphere in the Lake is quite foul smelling.
We decided to go on the Lakeside walk before going to our room. It was certainly different from walking around somewhere like Ranworth. The smell, the bubbling mud, the small geysers made each twist and turn a surprise. The Black Swans were just getting on with their lives amidst the steam. Apparently the SeaGulls here do not have webbed feet. Although they are born with them, the webbing gets burnt away as the tend to stand on very hot rocks and mud.
We completed the hour long walk by coming back through the town so Karen could get her caffeine fix at a local store.
After checking in, we then rather adventurous for us decided to walk to the next door Polynesian Spa. We paid for a private sulphur pool overlooking the Lake. Quite out of character for us as it was also quite expensive. It was a really great experience. The water was beautifully warm. It was a bit cloudy and not too smelly. We both wallowed for the full 30 minutes and felt so clean and relaxed afterwards. It was all rather self indulgent.
After than we showered and changed and went off to meet 'Uncle' Chris Clare. Chris and I worked together for a few years. He is no direct relation as he was actually born here in NZ and retired back here in 2006. It was great catching up. Although his wife is a Norwich girl, the move out here was made easier as their daughters and their families all moved here as well. They both love the lifestyle here and were very helpful in suggesting places to go. We learnt a lot about the NZ way of life which sounded great but the ties back to Norwich for us would be far to much for us. We had a lovely walk to 'Eat Street' with them and a great Italian meal. They offered to meet up with the following day to show us around the area which we were pleased to accept.
All in all, a really good day.