Ok, before setting out, one of the top things to do on the list (for Alex, writing now) was to visit as many movie set locations that the Lord of the Rings was filmed at. And, low and behold, our atlas has these specifically designated icons on the map to show you where they are. I know, it's perfect. So, the most northern of these is The Shire and Hobbiton, in the town of Matamata. Unfortunately the Shire, as it was in the films, has long since been minimized, the decorations removed, and the actual Hobbit Holes/Homes are nothing more than white wooden entryways into the sides of the small surrounding hills. Additionally, they are located on an actual working sheep farm, private property. So, to do a 2 ½ hour tour of the Shire was $60 per person. And it was essentially a tour of the Hobbit Holes, then a demonstration of sheep farming, incorporating the surrounding farm. All in all, simply to see the movie set, $120 was not worth it
. So, even though it was a terrible tourist trap, the surrounding area is lovely. Matamata is home to many Hot Springs and horse farms. Opal Hot Springs, our humble host as of now, has three pools fed by the ground springs here. We have enjoyed them, and hope that they keep us healthy along with our strict diet of Tuna, Peanut Butter, Lamb and fruit. Since we not only have been lacking in variety of diet items these days, we are also in dire need of vigorous exercise. On Sunday we went to the magnificent Waiwaire Falls, a strenuous hike (pic). At first we decided to take what we thought would be a brief hike up to the base of the falls, ETA 45 minutes. After an hour in, we arrived at the base of the 500 foot waterfall, and saw the sign pointing to the top, another 45 minutes. At the start, our goal was simply the base, but seeing the beauty of the falls made us realize "well, we will probably never be here again, so…" We also met a couple from Florida that had just finished their hike to the top, and suggested we do it. Of course this we took as a personal challenge and could not at that point back down. Another hour later, and straight uphill, we were awarded with a magnificent view. This hike was perilous, a steep incline for the entirety of the trek with ankle deep mud. But the views of the tropical forest were quite breathtaking, literally like something out of the film Avatar, and we really hope that our pictures can manage to do it some justice.
To note, our calves are still sore 2 days later as we write this.