Monday 9th October
Waking up in a car park was a first but it meant we just had to throw on some clothes and eat some breakie and we were ready for our tour of Hobbiton!
It was absolutely stunning and although pricey for the 2 hour tour and pouring with rain it was absolutely worth it.
Our tour of middle earth and the Hobbit holes finished with an ale in the Green Dragon and a lovely walk back through fields of lambs. The set was kept in so much detail with Hobbit size washing on the line, cheese and fish outside the holes and the oak tree outside Baggins Hall had been brought in and had each leaf individually stitched on.
As Dave said, New Zealand is ridiculously idyllic and Hobbiton was no exception.
Man did that farmer strike gold! He had a knock on his door to say his farm had been spotted by Peter Jackson (the Director of The Lord of The Rings) from his helicopter whilst scouting for locations and was in the last 12 sites to be considered. His farm was chosen on the basis of one particular tree in the party field and the set was made out of polystyrene for The Lord of The Rings, the first of which (The Fellowship of the Ring) came out in 2001. In 2011 when he came back to film The Hobbit, one of the farmers conditions was that the set was made to last permanently. He now has a great little earner in the most amazing setting. The luckiest farmer in the world!
Our tour complete, we had to buy the film (the 1st Lord of The Rings) in the shop to watch that night and after a quick sandwich in the van we set off for Rotorua and a Top10 camp with its own mineral hot tub (that we didn't have to dig) and heavenly hot showers. Simple pleasures!
In the i-site (valuable information points at every town and village) we saw randomly that The Americas Cup was going to be at The Rotorua Sailing Club that evening so we wandered along. What we saw couldn't have been a more intimate view into the local Maori culture, as we joined the local people in their meeting place (a wharenui) to see a blessing of the cup and team by the Maori elder of the town. The congregation sang and chanted, and the team was honoured in the traditional Maori way of touching noses twice. We really felt honoured to have been there.
We had a very surreal (and very smelly) walk back to our campsite along the thermal springs walkway seeing mud bubbling and smelling the sulphur - it was like The Hound of the Baskervilles! The evening was complete with BBQ 🍗 steak and we settled in to watch the Lord of The Rings while the rain continued outside.
Tuesday 10th October
On the route from Rotorua to Lake Taupo, we stopped at New Zealand's biggest mud pool
and the Haku falls which was tremendously noisy, fast flowing and the most unbelievable turquoise.
We also put our feet in a natural thermal pool where a hot spring and river meet to make it a lovely hot bath temperature.
Lake Taupo came into view soon after and it was hard to imagine it was actually a lake and not the sea - it's the size of Singapore! We parked right on the lake for the night (freedom camping is commonplace for RV's as long as they're self-contained) and walked to town via a playground and had a great dinner out.
As we walked past the boat club we asked if Sophia could use the loo. The lady on the door said "Yes. You can see the Americas Cup as well if you like!" It was also on a tour of the North Island and would be following us (or are we following it?) to Napier the following day. As Jake went to pose next to it he leaned on the table which moved. I've never seen security guards step in so quickly as it wobbled. Probably why he looks a little sheepish...
Wednesday 11th October
A beautiful view greeted us in the morning as the lake came to life.
It was forecast to rain though, so after a walk to the park and I-site, we opted to take the children indoor rock climbing which was a PE lesson with a difference after hitting the books that morning!
I left Dave holding the ropes, with a great excuse for shopping as my cousins daughter Hayley back in Devon had just given birth to the first of the next generation. I also grabbed lunch for us from an amazing local sushi bar, which we all tucked into before setting off for Napier in Hawkes Bay and our next adventure into wine country! 😊 🎉 🍷