Today we left the beautiful town of Rotorua for an 8 hours drive to Russell. Before we left, we finally saw the lake because it had stopped raining. The black swans were out with their young and the sun was shining fairly bright....most likely because we were leaving.
In our effort to stave off the boredom of driving, we decided to stop in a few places for short visits and a quick pee. The first of these was Matamata, also known as Hobbiton. This is primarily due to the fact that they filmed the scene of Hobbitt houses at a farm near the town, not because everyone here is 4 feet tall with hairy feet. We stopped in at the Hobbiton town hall [aka the Tourist Info Centre] and heard a great story about a ring. Here it goes........
First a bit of background. The ring that Frodo carries in the trilogy is actually a plain gold band manufactured in Nelson. They made about 40 of them and superimposed, via a digital image, the writing on the ring. For the close up shot, a real gold 10" version with real writing was used for the movies. After the release of the second movie, demand became very high for rings that had the Tolkein writing on them. When people went to the shop in Nelson and asked for a ring, they would be presented with.....a plain gold band. This did not sit well with the American, British and Japanese tourist who had trekked all this way for a ring. So, the guy in Nelson asked New Line for sole permission to recreate and sell copies of the ring. Included in this was an agreement to make the giant sized version that they used as a close up in the movies. There are currently very few, even in Hobbiton, as this was not a very popular item at $450USD.
A while back [people seemed to agree on 18 months or so] an American couple, came into William's Jewelers [the only place in Hobbiton where you can buy a ring] and bought their sole 10" solid gold band. Afterwards, they took the Hobbit tour of the old movie sets out at the old farm near Matamata. After that, they chartered a helicopter, flew to the mountain that stood in for Mt. Doom [I think that is the name] and threw the ring out of the helicopter. Talk about people with too much money.
Anyway, the rest of the drive was fairly uneventful. We did stop in Auckland to get snack and managed to get lost. We also stopped in Wentworth to have a spot of lunch. Lastly, we stopped in Kawakawa. This was primarily to view the toilets designed and built by the famous Austrian Architect, Hundertwasser [I can't remember his first name - apparently not so famous]. The toilets are interesting considering they are in the middle of nowhere. They do resemble the apartment building he designed in Vienna. Yes, we did take pictures of a toilet. We did manage to make it to Russell in the Bay of Islands by 7PM. considering we left at 9:30, this was pretty good time.
Russell is a VERY cute little town on the Bay of Islands. It is New Zealand's first European settlement, the first seat of government, where the signing of the treaty of Waitangi took place and the local of the oldest licensed hotel [bar] in New Zealand. It is also about 4 blocks long. Russell has 7 restaurants, 2 grocery stores and 1 ATM. It is quite a fascinating place, full of history, cute buildings and many British tourists over the age of 60, with a population of around 750 people. This number apparently swells to well over 10000 around the holidays [Dec to Feb] when the whole of Auckland empties out any many people with vacation home come up for the summer.
Our accommodations for the five nights we are here are at Arcadia Lodge, a B&B built in 1899 that over looks Matauwhi Bay. Our hosts are David and Brad, a very nice couple who have owned the place for about 2 years. We have a very cute suite that has a beam running through the middle that has a clearance of exactly 6' 2". So does the bathroom doorway and the doorway from the main house living room into the breakfast room. It feels just like home! For those of you who know of my fantastic record of hitting my head on various entry ways and beams at home, I am going to count the number of times I hit my head as report back. Good Times!