Monday, October 16, 2017

New Zealand Thermal Wonderland and Hobbiton

A 30-minute drive from Rotorua to Wai-O-Tapu took us to what some refer to as the Yellowstone Park of New Zealand.  It was Thursday, March 16th and Bob and I were in for another full day of exploration.  Wai-O-Tapu is a park in an 18-square kilometer scenic reserve covered with collapsed craters, cold and boiling pools of mud, water and steaming fumaroles.  This volcanic area is not nearly as impressive as Yellowstone, but was interesting to see nonetheless.

The small "Lady Knox" geyser on site is forced to erupt daily by dropping a surfactant into the opening of the vent. Eruptions produce a jet of water reaching up to 20 meters.  The spout is made of rocks placed around the base of the spring and over the years silica from the eruptions has built up to give a white cone-shaped appearance. The idea of forced eruption was discovered by prisoners in the area who washed their clothing in the hot waters there.  When they added soap to the spring the geyser would erupt.  It's a cheesy tourist trap, but one we couldn't skip.

We began our drive north toward Hobbiton.  The rural route for driving to this golden triangle of attractions was quite picturesque, but there were no "fast food" eateries or restaurants along the way.  We had brought some snacks with us, which thankfully sustained us for the first couple of days of driving.  We arrived in Hobbiton and hour and a half later - just in time for our 1:00 tour.  Hobbiton is the "Shire" movie set where The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit Trilogies were filmed.  The location is a spectacular 1250 acre sheep and beef farm just outside of Matamata.  The movie studio has some kind of arrangement with the Anderson's to use their property for tour purposes.  Pictures don't ever adequately portray the beauty of a place, but perhaps sharing that Bob and I both absolutely fell in love the the tranquil and charming green rolling hills of "the shire", will enhance your perceptions of this lovely home of hobbits!  


There are 39 Hobbit Holes, none of which we were allowed inside.  Each had it's own distinct character, often reflecting a different trade and daily responsibilities of the Hobbit family who would have dwelt therein.

The large oak tree that overlooks Bag End was actually cut down and move to it's position on the top of the hill.  Artificial leaves were brought in from Taiwan and individually wired to the tree.

Walking toward the Green Dragon Inn, we passed the Mill and double arch bridge.  What a quaint town center located on the shores of a large pond.  We were treated to a refreshing (non-alcoholic) Apple Cider and Ginger Beer at the Inn before departing the Shire.

Bob and I left the farm thinking we might just have to retire somewhere nearby!  After all he is a Hobbit at heart, always dreaming of a "green" home built into the side of a hill.  But for now, we had a two hour drive ahead of us back to Auckland.  The one lane highway became congested with some roadwork, and we became a little concerned about making it to the airport in time for our 7:00 flight to Christ Church.  But all was well and though worn out from another exhausting day of fun, we safely arrived in Christ Church around 9:00 pm, picked up a rental car and tumbled into bed at a small local motel.