Thursday morning saw almost all of us at the Hobbiton shop in Rotorua waiting for the bus to Matamata (home of the set). The bus ride took about an hour, but we were entertained by video clips of the making of Hobbiton and our drivers chatter. The roads were pretty empty because Cyclone Cook was headed straight for us and residents were battening down the hatches.
It had been raining on and off all morning and even though it looked like it had stopped for the tour, it started again as soon as we were out of the bus. Luckily we were all prepared with our raincoats and the tour has giant umbrellas that you can use.
Our guide started us off at what they call ‘Gandalf’s Cuttings’ which is where you see him enter Hobbiton in the first film. We then moved through to the bottom of the hill and the first Hobbit holes.
Our guide explained that you could see what each Hobbit does for a living by looking at their homes. There are lots of little details on and around them. As we moved further up the hill our guide explained that when looking for a place to film, the green rolling hills were a perfect fit for The Shire.
There was also a house which you could pose inside of.
There’s only a couple of feet of space inside, but it’s perfect for pictures. The whole place felt magical, even in the rain. As we got to each new detail the guide explained it. I think my favourite titbit was that the costume designer walked from a Hobbit hole, to a washing line every day for months, just to make it look like someone had been living there and using it for a long time. How crazy is that?
Then we got to Bilbo’s house.
We were told that you could tell a Hobbit’s wealth by 1) how high in the hill their house is and 2) how many windows they have. By these standards Bilbo was a pretty wealthy guy as his is the highest and he has windows all the way around his house.
Now was the time to start heading down to The Green Dragon.
The Green Dragon is a fully functional, working pub and with every admission ticket you get 1 free drink. You choose from cider, a pale ale or ginger beer. All three of these drinks are specially brewed for this purpose. I got the ginger beer and it was really nice.
After our drinks it was time to go to the gift shop and then back to Rotorua. Once back there we had lunch at The Fat Dog cafe and then hit the road as Burto was keen to get to Taupo before the storm as roads were already being closed in preparation for it.
We tried to stop at the Wai-O-Taupo Thermal Park on the way, but they had already closed. We did get to see some bubbling mud pools though.
We made it to Haka Lodge Taupo in good time and after a quick supermarket shop were all checked in. Dinner was a group effort that night, we made spaghetti with salad and garlic bread. A couple of us did laundry and then just chilled out.
We were lucky because the cyclone missed us completely, but it did batter the east coast including Coramandel and the Bay of Plenty. There has been lots of flooding there as well as landslides and trees falling.