I began my third day on the north island with 2nd Breakfast in the “Shire Café” after short hour drive from Rotorua to Hobbiton also known as the “Shire” home of the Hobbits in J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic literary works and Sir Peter Jackson’s award winning films (Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit Trilogies). It is hard to believe that it has been 20 years since the movie Lord of the Rings was made and 8 years since the Hobbit movies were produced. Time seems to accelerate with each new birthday for me.
Hobbiton was entirely created out of the fertile mind of Sir Peter Jackson. He discovered this location for all the exterior scenes of the Shire during aerial scouting by helicopter. I am told he knew exactly what he was looking for – a bucolic pasture like series of rolling hills interspersed with large old majestic trees. And of course, he needed a piece of property far enough from any road to avoid prying eyes and modern sounds like cars and trucks.
He found the perfect location in Alexander’s 1250-acre Sheep and cattle farm. The selected site was far from the nearest road, had a number of incredibly majestic 100-year-old imported California pine trees, and a topography perfect for building Hobbit Holes.
I’ve included way too many photos of this site because they are all so perfect I could not decide which to use. The photos show the Green Dragon Pub from both the outside and inside, the Mill, Stone Bridge, Bags End, and several additional Hobbit Holes. In total 30 Hobbit Holes were built for the exterior shots of the scenes in the Shire. I have also included a photo of one of the California Pines. Take note of the tree above Bags’ End – This is the only tree that is not real! It is made of steel and totally fake. All other trees are the real deal as is all the vegetables and fruit trees.
The guided tour was excellent and ended with a visit to the Green Dragon Pub and excellent pint of Hobbit dark stout. The Green Dragon is now a licensed Pub serving Ginger Beer, Cider, an Amber Ale, and Dark Stout as well as meat pies and pastries. The Cider and Beer/Ale are brewed in a nearby town exclusively for the Green Dragon and are quite tasty! Interesting side fact – more ale is sold in this pub than any other establishment in New Zealand. Guess Hobbits love their beer!!!!
And for those of you that are not familiar with the movies, a little background. Hobbits are little people – about 30 inches tall with large hairy feet. As a result everything you see in the photos are built to scale for people the size of the average American 6 year old.
From Hobbiton we drove back to Rotorua and visited a second Maori village and cultural show that was pretty much a repeat of the one the night before except the Maori warriors were not Maori and looked a little silly like the Maori version of the Village People. One guy looked like an old heroin addict, one guy was blue eyed balding middle aged white guy with man boobs, another was a kid who hadn’t learned his dance steps and grunting sequences with only the 4th looking anything like the real thing.
A major feature of every Maori war dance is the use of the face to intimidate. At different times the warrior will bulge his eyes, bear his teeth and stick out his tongue like Gene Simmons from Kiss. This is supposed to let the enemy know the warrior is looking forward to eating your organs.
The most disturbing part of this groups dance though was the heroin addict’s tongue work looked much more sexual than threatening and he kept winking at the women in the front row as he alternated between rapidly working his tongue at them and grinning like a demented pervert.
Fortunately, the cultural dance was not the reason for my stop here. In addition to the pornographic version of a Maori tradition this stop offered a rare look at New Zealand’s flightless national bird – the kiwi. These strange creatures are tanga (sacred) to the Maori and held in very high esteem. The birds are incredibly shy and reclusive so no photographs were allowed in the Kiwi House. You will just have to trust me when I tell you I saw two of these ugly little creatures. And I assume they are endangered because they are so ugly they aren’t even attractive enough to each other to mate.
The other purpose for visiting the Te Pura is that there is a large geo thermal reserve on their property featuring the Pohutu and Papakuru geysers, Ngararatuatar cooking pool, Nga mokai-a-Koko mud pool, and Lake Waikaukau.
From the Te Pura village I moved on to the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. Home to the Lady Knox Geyser, Geothermal Park and more Mud Pools. Unfortunately, the sky opened on me here and I got drenched in a monsoon. Perfect timing since from the Wai-O-Tapu I was headed to Hells Gate Mud and Bath Spa.
Hells Gate provided the perfect antidote to the cold rain. Sitting neck deep in a hot sulfur spring and covering my body in mud was quite warming and relaxing even in the rain. Too bad they require bathing suits though. The hot shower after my soak worked great for cleaning the mud and sulfur stench from my body but getting both out of my swim trunks was a much more difficult task.
Well this was my last stop on the north island of New Zealand and my next post will be from the South Island…