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Published: March 13th 2018
Auckland has been fun but I’m excited to get moving. Today we pick up our hire car and head south. First stop – Matamata, which has rebranded itself Hobbiton since its use as a film location in The Hobbit. I’m not a Lord of the Rings fan but the old man has bought me a set location tour ticket regardless.
The Matamata tourist information office has been converted to resemble a hobbit hole and there is a sign which says ‘Welcome to Hobbiton’ in the street outside. They’re keen to milk their LOTR link for all it’s worth.
We drive to the set location; a 1250 acre sheep farm in the middle of nowhere. Despite this, the place is heaving with tourists and set tours depart every 10 minutes hosting up to 4000 visitors a day. I can’t believe how many people are willing to forego £42 of their hard earned cash and 2 hours of their life. We have a guided tour of the hobbit village. It’s a pretty location in the rolling hills which Peter Jackson chose from a helicopter because of its lake and huge ‘party tree’. The tour is full of interesting facts like how
the buildings are constructed in varying proportions depending on what characters are going to stand outside. Big ones to make hobbits look small, small ones to make Gandalf look big etc.
The tour finishes with a complimentary mug of cider at the Dragon Inn, which improves the experience somewhat.
We continue to our overnight destination, Rotorua. It’s a fascinating town. As you approach, you can see random gushes of steam escaping from the earth here and there.
We check in to our cabin at the Cosy Cottage Thermal Holiday Park. It’s on the shore of Lake Rotorua and has its own thermal springs and a pool of boiling mud (in the children’s play area!?). The swimming pool, central heating and the showers are all powered by the geothermal springs. It even has a steam oven where you can cook your dinner over a spring. It sounds fun until I read that it takes 5 hours to cook a chicken. Who has the patience for that nonsense? They sell ready roast chickens in the supermarket round the corner. You can be in and out in 10 minutes.
We take a drive to Kuirau Park for more geothermal
activity. It’s like a normal city park but peppered with steaming springs and boiling mud holes. It’s quite spectacular but rather smelly. By now we are in the grips of Cyclone Hola. The rain is getting steadily heavier and we are soaked through so we admit defeat and return to our cabin to dry off.
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