It took me a few seconds before I realized what she actually said. And no, it had nothing to do with the accent. I can’t actually remember what I said, but I think it went something like ‘Oh my god. I get Frodo’s room!’ in a squeaky excited voice, as I snatched the key out of Julie’s hands. Or maybe not quite like that. But it was the first time that I felt true geeky excitement since the tour started. Not that I wasn’t excited when I went to Hobbiton yesterday on Day 4 or when we went to see the Trollshaw Forest today on Day 5. Both locations were fantastic, in their own way. And I thought it was cool to be sleeping in the same hotel as the stars but it never occurred to me that I would actually get a star’s room for my own, but when those words came out of her mouth, I could’ve jumped for joy and given her a hug! But before I continue gushing, I have to backtrack a bit and tell you about Day 4.
The first day of the tour started out beautifully. The weather was great. We met our driver, Craig who as it turns out is a very good commentator as well as a good driver. Did you know that there is a prison in the middle of Auckland city? Not something you’d read about in Lonely Planet. Did you know that the possum is probably the most hated animal in New Zealand? But they make very warm knitted mittens when their fur is mixed with merino wool. Mmmm Possum Merino wool! I wonder what I can knit with that?
Sorry, got distracted. Okay, first stop was Matamata aka Hobbiton. We stopped briefly to get a photo of the local tourist information site, called i-site in New Zealand. It was built up to look like a hobbit style building. Very good way to get into the mood. After a few snaps, we were back on the bus and on our way to the Hobbiton location. Yes it has been commercialized, but I say good for them. The books were fantastic and the movie brought it to life and if the land owners can keep as much of the movie locations going to bring in the tourists, then why not? It’s no different from the people who go to Prince Edward Island because they are fans of Anne of Green Gables. Like I said, it was fantastic. The scenery was so beautiful. The first thing you see as you round the path are the hills and right at the top of the highest hill is this massive tree and any fan would know that right next to that tree is Bag-End. But of course there’s no running straight up to Bag-End. Our Hobbiton tour guide, Georgie took us in a very round about way through Hobbiton showing and explaining to us all the little details about the hobbit holes. There were stories about the stars and how certain filming was done. Occasionally we would get more information from Julie as we followed the rest of the Hobbiton tour group. I’m not really gonna say too much since I don’t want to butcher the stories but take a look at the photos. It was just absolutely amazing to be on the location where Peter Jackson did the filming for the LOTR films and then later on for the Hobbit movies. Every single door, every window, even the little mailboxes were amazing to see and touch. Yes, touch! We even had a drink at the Green Dragon, before it was time for us to head back to the bus.
So after we had our fill of Hobbiton, each tour group gets about two hours on location before we are bussed out of the location, it was time for lunch at the Shires Rest. This little restaurant is located just where the busses pick up and drop off each tour group. Very strategic. But the food was really good. We had sandwiches, little meat pies, sweet muffin and fruit. Very tasty and very filling.
Then we were back on our own tour bus and on our way to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. This was an optional activity that I decided to take up. It cost $48 for a 45 minute tour. The tour guide took us in to the cave where she explained stalagmites and stalactites and then pointed out formations that looked like animals. It was when she started to talk about the glowworms that it became much more interesting, not that I don’t care about the formation of caves and stalactites, but I’ve been on enough cave tours to know this stuff already. But when she led us to the boats and explained that we had to be quiet so that we don’t disturb the glowworms, it was very interesting. We could already see the occasional spot of blue in the ceiling of the cave but when we sat down in the boats and started to glide away, the sight of all these blue glowing stars in the cave ceiling was awe inspiring. Our entire boat was silent. It was almost spiritual. Bizarre but true. It was an amazing experience that ended too quickly. But all in all, a fantastic first day of the tour. Our night was spent at the Waitomo Lodge in Te Kuiti. It was a very decent place to stay considering how small the town was. I had dinner at the Riverside Lodge with some other members of the tour group. The food was pretty good. I had a Thai Beef Salad that was very filling. The portion size was very large. I am going to have to be very careful about how I eat in this country. After dinner, it was time to head back and get ready for an early start to Trollshaw Forest on Day 5.
The next day started with good food. We had breakfast pre-ordered from Bosco’s Cafe. I had the eggs benedict with smoked salmon. Holy Crow that was good. I haven’t had eggs benedict in months. This was a really good breakfast. After stuffing my face, it was time to check out and get back onto the bus to head to Piopio where the Trollshaw Forest scenes were filmed. The landowners had a little slide show put together which we all sat down to watch before we were split into two groups and driven out to the location. Hobbiton was beautiful scenery in a civilized-hobbit way. It was gentle rolling hills. But Trollshaw was completely opposite. It was raw and rugged and with the rain in the morning, it was damp and dreary like a forest with Trolls would be like. It was the complete opposite of Hobbiton. Luckily for us, the rain did not last long and the sun was out quite quickly. Comparing the two, I almost have to say that I loved seeing Trollshaw Forest more than Hobbiton. But it’s two very different locations, which really cannot be compared. However I do have to say that comparing the number of photos I took while in Hobbiton versus the number of photos in Trollshaw Forest, I took more shots in Trollshaw Forest, about 100 more shots. But still I have to emphasize, these are two completely different locations. Both should be experienced. If you’re looking for something that embodies LOTR and the Hobbit, then Hobbiton is you’re best bet. If you’re here for nature and still want a flavour of the Hobbit, then go to Trollshaw Forest. After an hour and a half of seeing the rock formations and then traipsing through the forested area, we were back to the start where we got to play around with some very special weapons. I really wish I could come home with my own Orcrist. Seriously. That is my kind of weapon. I mean kickboxing is great. But to swing the sword and lop off a goblin’s head, that would be cool.
Anyway, after playing around with my dream weapon, it was time to head off to Mordor, filmed on Mt. Ruapehu. Again this is a totally different location from the other two. First there were gentle, rolling, civilized hobbit hills, then there were raw and rugged troll forests and then there’s Mordor. And Mordor was all misty and cold and damp and even colder with the wind. It was rough and more than just raw. Rough! I won’t say dead, since there was actually quite a bit of vegetation but it was Mordor and it was amazing. And it actually gave me a very good experience of how terrible it would be to be out hiking the Tongariro Alpine Crossing ill-prepared for sudden changes in the weather. I know how cold it can get since I experienced this weather today. I will make sure that I am prepared for all forms of weather, not that I wasn’t going to be prepared before today’s experience, but it was an eye opener and just helps to re-emphasize the importance of being prepared. This would be an interesting challenge, to hike Mordor. Something to consider. Unfortunately due to the weather, we could not see Mt. Ngauruhoe aka Mt. Doom. Hopefully the weather clears up for tomorrow and we can see it then.
So after traipsing through Mordor, we were off to the Powderhorn Chateau, where the stars stayed, which brings me back to, ‘Oh my god, I get Frodo’s room!’ This is a lovely place to stay. If you ever get the chance, you have to stay here, and I’m not just saying that because I am sleeping in the same bed that Frodo slept in. The towels are fluffy, the bathroom is huge and the shower and spa bath tub is to die for. Dinner at the Powderhorn Keg restaurant was really good. I ordered the vegetarian burger and it was huge! I only ate half and I barely touched the fries. I actually feel bad that I wasted all that food, but it was too much for me. But oh so yummy. Their ketchup tastes interesting. Definitely not the same as home. But acceptable. I can’t wait till breakfast tomorrow!
And just a quick update about my previous post on Rangitoto Island, photos are added for your viewing pleasure!
Wish you could be here, Aunty