Thursday, March 26, 2015


Some filler events before and after Hobbiton. Since it was a day trip we stayed at the beachy city of Tauranga.

On our way through the gorge again we got stopped for about seven minutes while some construction guys worked on the side of the road, where rocks and debris were falling.

An hour out we drove through Opotiki and stopped at Two Fish cafe. I really took this pic to capture the sign behind the register but I was too far. It said "We will not serve you alcohol of you are pissed (drunk) or under 18." The food was absolutely delicious.

I realized I haven't been posting pictures of the copious amounts of food I've been eating. So this is my grilled veggie wrap. The best I've ever eaten.

Along Papamoa Beach near Tauranga, there are lots of beachfront mansions, which are occasionally neat, but for the most part obnoxiously monolithic, like this one.

In the morning before Hobbiton, we took a walk around this mountain which looks like it's from Lost. There's also a path leading straight up it. Mt. Maungaui.

Blurry trail. There were many moms with baby strollers jogging past us the whole way, which really boosted our self-esteem. (Not.)

Around the base, it's a little over one mile of walking. This is looking back at the beach next to it.

These are the view to the side, while walking around the mountain. It's on the actual beach, like the tip, so ocean is on three sides, sort of.

Bad pic, but gives you a more overall visual.

Half hour away from Hobbiton we stopped at a small cafe on the side of the road.

Where I had this yummy quiche. See, more food!

And this farmer drove into the parking lot with his sheep trailer.

I wish there were more cool cafes at home!



What's a trip to Middle Earth without visiting Hobbiton? Of course we had to! The set is actually way in the middle of nowhere, yet has a steady stream of people who make it there. We had to get pretty specific directions, and still didn't see a single sign of it until about 6km out.  I like this subtle decision for advertising, because people who really want to see it, are going to look it up in advance and know what they're doing, and drive hours into the middle of farmland with purpose. No need for obnoxious signs in a 50km radius or anything. So it was pleasantly low key.

(Today was cloudy and rainy so sorry for darkish pics.)

Oh! The "Tourist Farm" eh? All right...

We arrived, paid a moderately outrageous price, and got on the bus to the set.

Our tickets look super duper cool and nerdy.

And there it was, our first sighting of this magical little place. I mean this magical 15 acre place. It's pretty extensive, and there is an incredible amount of detail down to like seriously everything--If I didn't know better, I would have guessed it was all real and running, and a Hobbit would appear. The cool thing was most of the plants and gardens are real and there is a team of gardeners who work to make it perfect all the time, all the way from when it was initially completed for hobbit movie one.

(This is not the shire set for lotr, because that wasn't meant to last, and was ripped down right after filming the original trilogy.)

This is the path known as Gandalf's cuts a think? I have to re-look that up. Anyway, it's the path Frodo and Gandalf go through initially on the wagon in Fellowship opening scenes. And also where Bilbo tears through 45 mins into hobbit movie one saying "I'm going on an adventure!"

In front of a hobbit hole. Fake honey jars. With fake honey combs inside. Actually looking back, I wonder if they were real..

And of course Bag End! I wasn't allowed in because I didn't get invited to the party. I'll have to call ahead next time.

Then we headed down Bagshot Row to Sam's house.

And I checked his mail.

The Party Tree! I think the guide said it was 180 years old, but it could have been 100...(thank you random dude for giving the picture some scale.)

Then came a little walk through the bush.

To the Green Dragon!

Had some drinks.

Looked around the fine establishment.

And noticed a cool guestbook. Look at the names closely. 

And went to the gift shop to buy some stuff, and not buy these Lothlorian gloves, however tempting it was.

Fun fact. These sheep living on the farm  it was filmed on were not in the movie at all. (The set is on a family's actual running farm.) Peter Jackson thought they looked too 'modern' and shipped a different kind in from England or something. These fleecy things missed their window of fame.

One last fun fact. When we arrived on the set, our guide said there was a current record for the most pictures taken during the guided tour. It is 3,400. (Individual and focused, no burst.) He said by that point though, to stay on track we would have to have been up to 400 already. I chose to enjoy the tour firsthand, and take just a few dozen pictures... :)

What a magical experience!


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Hedgehog

The time has come. A hedgehog spotting. 

I am fascinated with the little creatures, and have never seen them--I don't think they even live anywhere in the States. Anyway I heard they live in NZ, and so I made it one of my goals to see one during this visit!

In the past couple weeks I learned a few things about them. They're nocturnal. And they hibernate. (It's fall here now.) My chances of seeing one quickly plummeted, and I quickly came to terms with the possibility of having to do a headlamp search in the middle of the cold night, digging a hole and waiting for a hedgehog to fall into one. (The neighbor boys' suggestion.)

But on our morning walk...I see a tiny little snuffling poofy thing meandering toward us over a hill. I stopped in my tracks, disbelief etched upon my face...alas, a hedgehog in the flesh!

Dramatics aside, I was pretty speechless in my excitement. So I took out my camera and took about two dozen pictures as it made its way toward us.

The sad truth is, something was probably wrong with this little being. Out strolling the road at 10 in the morning? And we are literally able to touch it (but didn't) without it scurrying away or rolling up into a ball? It was most likely sick. But I wish it luck in its little journey in the wild, and hope it hibernates soon...thanks for the photo op, tiny spiky dude.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Waioeka Gorge

Went on a little drive through Matawai and into the gorge. It was another perfect green sunny picnic day. Not much to say for this one, I basically soaked in the sunshine and green-ness.

We did go about 25 minutes on a tramping trail, but then things started to get a bit precarious like this step, and we turned around soon after. Lots of slips had occurred, and I would rather walk than half hang on to the green-wall. It was a sheer drop into the small river below.

We had another picnic in near the river below, after the hike.

On our way out we stopped by Gibson Bridge, which was right near the land Sarah's dad grew up on. 

Me posing with the green stuff.

Back at Painui sat in the sun with the kitty.

Then we took a little ride on the Rhino up to Makihoi again, which was super fun and a little terrifying. Ali and I got to stand up in the back while we went around the newly created path. It had been rebuldozed over the week. If you want to see before pics, refer to the Makihoi post.