Monday, May 31, 2010

Day 2 – The Lord of the Rings

We awoke to strange jungle sounds in the bush outside our window as a gentle rain fell. Imagine the excitement of waking up in a strange, yet comfortable bed and hearing exotic birds and wild animals that live nowhere else in the world. If only I could get a glimpse of these hidden creatures!

The smell of fresh coffee got us out of bed. Breakfast was local cereal, toast and a strange native fruit that tasted like a tart, figgy papaya and looked like a little green torpedo - Fijroa.

The kids made it off to school, dressed out in New Zealand public school uniforms. Their Dad was chauffeur today so Deb and I sat at their hugh kitchen table and began planning a four day itinerary – really too short for a visit anywhere but with local savvy, we carved out a plan. Later after lunch in Rotorua (the largest metropolitan town in the Lakes District) we said goodbye to our new friends and hit the road with plan in hand.

As we drove northwest from Rotorua, we saw evidence of the underlying volcanic activity in the form of hot springs. A number of tempting opportunities presented themselves but our goal was to reach Matamata by early afternoon. I had promised my son back home that if we were anywhere near where Lord of the Rings was filmed, I would go there. As luck would have it, Matamata is the town where “Hobbiton” is located and it's on the way to our next overnight location.

It's a soggy, wintery New Zealand day so there is plenty of room on the Hobbiton tour bus. It turns out that there were numerous filming locations throughout New Zealand. The one we are visiting today is where Frodo and the Hobbits lived, hence the name, Hobbiton. We were able to see where some of the scenes were filmed and our tour included walking the grounds of the final 'party scene'. The film's producer, Peter Jackson, hired a New Zealand brewery to create a special non-alcoholic beer called “Sobering” (available for purchase at the gift shop!) so all actors during the party scene's filming could partake. It's a good thing because the scene took something like 12 hours to film and there would have been a lot of drunk little hobbits falling around otherwise.

Our tour concluded with a sheep shearing demonstration by one of the owners of the land that houses the movie set. His darling young son, about 4 years old, was an eager helper and not at all concerned with tourists and their cameras. He was in charge of letting the sheep into the demonstration area and hanging around to watch Dad make fast work of shearing a sheep. Mark was able to give a bottle to one of the yearlings and later we realized the little guy pissed on Mark's shoe.  Life on the farm.

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