We are going on an adventure! Where? To the wonderful world of Hobbiton!
When choosing our daily activities with the Stray Bus on our North Island tour, I knew I HAD to visit this famous movie set. Yes I may be a nerd but movie sets are so fascinating especially for a movie as aesthetically stunning as The Lord of the Rings! After our long night in the Maori Lodge, we woke up early to drive out to the middle of farm land.
It didn’t look like much beyond endless green hills with dots of white fluff breaking up the mundanity… until we left the bus and began walking. Suddenly the hillside opened up to reveal the quaint world of the Shire!
I’M GOING ON AN ADVENTURE! Recognize this path? Yes that is the path that Bilbo ran down after Gandalf and the dwarves. So cool!
While I think I’m much more of an elf, I felt like I could be a hobbit and live in one of these cozy little hobbit holes. That is until I realized that they are too tiny for a giant like me. Although all of the hobbit homes are just facades in the hillside, the attention to detail is absolutely amazing. From clothes hanging to dry on clotheslines to chimneys on the top of the hill, you really feel like you are in the movie and that Gandalf is going to walk right up and ask you to go on the adventure of a lifetime.
At the top of the hill is Bilbo’s house which is the only fully functional hobbit hole in the Shire. It takes up the entire top of the hill, with a 360 degree view of the farmland. And see that tree? It’s actually fake! Each leaf was individually pasted on the tree and painted a bright green, giving it a disturbingly technicolor effect. It is brilliant.
The bottom of the hill was decorated for May Day with brightly colored ribbons and a full-on maypole! Under the massive oak tree they had a little play area complete with a seesaw which was absolutely hilarious to play on. Across a pond you can see the pub, the final stop of the tour which includes a free pint of beer. Hooray.
The pub was crawling with tourists getting their free pint of beer in the dark and cosy room. We shared our pint with our fellow Stray Bus friends from the UK and Germany. We wished we could stay for a few hours and stretch out next to the fire with the resident tabby cat, but we had to go and catch up with the rest of our Bus.
Cheers to Hobbiton!
After rejoining the group, we dropped off at least half of our bus friends at a hostel in Rotorua while we stayed on to continue our journey south. We were really sad to leave behind so many people but excited to get closer to the friends still with us. Our now small group met up with a local Maori group for a nature walk to ancient cave carvings in the forest. Many of the cave carvings have been vandalized and they explained their conservation efforts to preserve this vital piece of Maori history.
We arrived at Lake Aniwhenua where we would be staying at the Kohutapu Lodge with our Maori guides. This time we would be staying in cute little lodges next to the lake. After checking in, I took some time to listen to music and read alone in my bunk. After 3 days of zero privacy I was craving alone time so badly. It was just what I needed to recharge and be able to fully relax in this absolutely beautiful and calm lodge by the lake. I also made it just in time for happy hour at the bar on the porch. Wine never tasted so good.
We were also able to witness our Maori hosts prepare a traditional ground cooked hangi feast. Basically they place meat and vegetables on hot stones then cover it up with wet sacks and bury it in the dirt, allowing it to slow cook in the ground for three hours!
There were also goats. The goats liked Linda.
That night we enjoyed a massive feast in the main lodge and stuffed ourselves silly with all the slow cooked food as well as delicious salads, wild eel and kiwi trifle. Afterwards we all helped clean up the dining room and kitchen before retiring to the porch again. We laughed our heads off at the funny outfits that our friends put on to go eeling in the lake once the sun had set. YEAH NO THANKS. We finished off the evening listening to stories by the leader of the Maori group before passing out in our bunk beds. It had been a long day!
What a day! We visited the Shire, learned more about Maori culture and spent time with our new friends on a beautiful lake in New Zealand. This trip could not possibly get any better. Or could it?
Catching up? Don’t miss anything…
New Zealand 1: Rain, Wine and Waiheke in Auckland
New Zealand 2: Boarding the Stray Bus and Raglan Beach
New Zealand 3: Waitomo Glowworm Caves and Doing the Haka