We left Whitianga/Mercury bay early and headed South towards Rotarua. On route we stopped at Karangahake Gorge for a walk, 'Karangahake' means 'Meeting of the hunchbacks' - quite an apt name for all the hills there. The walk goes through a 1 km track of old gold mining caves and involves crossing 2 swing bridges as well. It was really good, although a bit scary at times in the caves as we didn't have any torches and were just feeling our way and holding onto the person in front!
We stopped at Matamata for lunch, Matamata is also known as 'Hobbiton' aka where Peter Jackson filmed the scenes of the Hobbit village for Lord of the Rings. I had decided to get off here and do the movie set tour, so said goodbye to my friends on the bus and went to find some hobbits. I mean accommodation.
I got on the 2.30pm tour of Hobbiton, being taken on a 20 minute journey out of Matamata to the Alexander family farm. Apparently the dad of the Alexander family didn't know what Lord of the Rings was about when Peter Jackson turned up saying he wanted to film it on his land!! Apparently he knows all about it now. You could see why it was chosen, there were lovely rolling hills, like in England, but most importantly there was a lake and next to the lake was a pine tree. Most of the set had been demolished and of 35 hobbit holes, only 17 are left, and these only because demolition had to cease due to bad weather, however after the films had been released, people started knocking on the farm door asking to see the site, and so the tour was born, with strict guidelines of course.
Due to there not being much left of the set, different coloured pegs have been put in the ground to represent where certain events happened or where certain things were, so at times you needed a good imagination (and memory, it's been a long time since I watched the films). But we did get to go into Bag End which was exciting, and see where Frodo first disappeared and also the part of the set that was used for the scouring of the shire.
It was an excellent tour though and I'm glad I got off the bus to do it, even if I was the only person!