Trip Start Aug 31, 2009
9Trip End Aug 29, 2010
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We had quite the adventure today! We left Ngaruawahia and headed for Matamata, the home of Hobbiton, the only set still standing from the Lord of the Rings' film shoot. But that was not to be our only adventure of the day.
About 20 minutes outside of Ngaruawahia we were pulled over by a police officer. We found this odd since we hadn't been speeding and we certainly weren't driving erratically. The officer asked for Peter's license and told us there was a string of robberies and they were looking for people who "looked out of place." Well we unfortunately fit that description perfectly! Luckily the officer instantly recognized us as two tourists and certainly not thieves. He chatted with us for a few minutes about WWOOFing and Massachusetts, introduced himself (Neil, nice guy) and then sent us on our way
We arrived in Matamata around noon, and luckily there wasn't much of a search for the Hobbiton information booth since the town is literally full of signs for it. We found out there was a tour leaving in 40 minutes and, despite the high price of tickets, we decided to go!
Our tour bus' name was Gandalf and our tour guide was just as old. He spoke a mile a minute so we were only able to catch a few words here and there, but he was nice enough so we didn't complain. Upon arriving at the farm where Hobbiton was built it was easy to see why they had chosen it for the movie. Alexander Farm is full of rolling, green hills and picturesque views for 360 degrees. It's still a working sheep and cattle farm, and there were 12,000 sheep and 2,000 cattle! The sheep weren't used in the movies, but they did help keep the set tidy by grazing all around the fields and hobbit holes. For the movie they trucked in special sheep that were more of the look Peter Jackson was looking for, which was an English look to fit the rest of the decor.
We were able to walk all around the set, which was very interesting. They still had 17 hobbit holes built into the hillside, only painted white and with no landscaping. Fortunately, however, they are in the middle of re-building the Hobbiton set for their next movie, The Hobbit, so it was more detailed than it had been a few months prior. There were slats of particle board built all around the hillside with circles spray painted on them to indicate where future hobbit holes would be built. We got some great pictures of the Party Field, the Party Tree, the path where Gandalf's cart enters Hobbiton and Bag End
We were in for a surprise at the end of the tour, as we were taken to a special sheep shearing demonstration! There a nice man in a black tank top removed the wool of one sheep in what seemed like 30 seconds. We also got to feed some lambs and hold them, which was a unique experience as well.
After our tour ended we got back in Errol (our adorable Audi 80) and headed for Rotorua. We arrived towards sundown and were able to see why it had been voted New Zealand's Most Beautiful City for 5 of the last 10 years! We'll have plenty of pictures and stories of Rotorua to follow as our adventures continue!
Thanks for reading!