After a leisurely start to our morning, we jumped back in the campervan and headed for Matamata - otherwise known as Hobbiton! This was the place on the trip that Craig was most excited to visit and he was like a kid at Christmas on the drive over!
We arrived just in time for elevenses and headed to Robert Harris Coffee Roasters whilst we waited for check in for our Airbnb for the night. (Why did you have an Airbnb booked when you have a campervan we hear you ask! Well, our trip to Hobbiton was likely to include partaking in some alcohol so it was far more convenient to stay centrally & use public transport than having to drive to a campsite).
Once we arrived at our Airbnb we had a quick turn around before heading for our 15:30 bus out to Hobbiton. On the journey out, we were shown a number of clips from the Lord of the Rings movies (ya know just in case anyone hadn't seen them, pfft!!) On arrival we had a chance to wander the gift shop (it will come as no surprise to anyone that Katy bought another pin badge) and then grab a coffee to wait it out for our 17:45 start time. We had a flat white each, seeing as it originated from New Zealand. We then caught the bus that would take us through the surrounding farm area of the Alexander Farm and to the Shire.
We had booked the Evening Banquet Tour, on Craig's request, so this meant we were on the last tour of the day in Hobbiton and were able to spend as long as we liked exploring and taking pictures. Craig's favourite spot was Gandalf's cutting where we first walked into Hobbiton and could look up, all the way to Bag End which was Katy's favourite due to its iconic status in the films. We were guided throughout by Luke and Mike, both Lord of the Rings/Hobbit superfans and so, so knowledgeable. They explained to us how the movies were filmed including how Hobbiton was designed and built to make different actors look taller or shorter using different sized doors, forced perspective amongst other ingenious solutions. After a couple of hours exploring we were taken to the Green Dragon Inn where we enjoyed a drink in the cosy chairs before moving on to dinner. The dining area was concealed behind a doorway covered by 2 curtains that we were chosen to open for the grand reveal! With delicious roast chicken, honey glazed salmon, beef & ale casserole, roast potatoes, mash and vegetables aplenty it truly was a banquet fit for a Hobbit! After dinner we then got to walk back through Hobbiton, guided by lantern light and were able to see it all lit up at night. A very special evening for Craig indeed!
Post hike and both ravenous we were delighted to be on the road to Rotorua, our home for the next two nights. We had a speedy check in at the Top 10 Holiday Park and walked in to town to grab a quick lunch at the iconic Fat Dog Cafe & Bar followed by a walk around Kuirau Park to see some of the geothermal activity that Rotorua is well known for. We then enjoyed a very chilled evening back at the holiday park and an early night. We did however discover that our decision to stay in Rotorua for two nights may have been a slight error in judgement as come night time the wonderful geothermal park next door to the Holiday Park left off the most foul sulphur smell (which we only realised after Katy had accused Craig a number of times of stinking out the campervan!!)
The next morning we had an early alarm to make it to Hells Gate Spa and Geothermal Park before the crowds where we were able to enjoy a peaceful 20 minute mud bath followed by a soak in the hot springs. It was an extremely relaxing experience if a little odd soaking in mud!
The next morning we packed up Tiffany and headed for Wai o Tapu Thermal Wonderland for 10:15 to witness the Lady Knox geyser erupt. However, we were both pretty disappointed to discover that the 10:15 eruption is 'man-made' whereby a staff member adds surfactant to it, causing a reaction and then the resulting eruption. The actual eruption time is usually once every 2-3 days. Exploring the park made up for the disappointment however as we got to see the Champagne Pool, not quite as exciting (or intoxicating) as it sounds - the gas in the water causes bubbles on top of the water akin to those in champagne, and the Roto Kārikitea where the minerals in the water make it the colour of a green highlighter pen. It was a very fascinating place however the smell of the sulphur eventually got too much for Katy and we decided to hit the road before she went from being extremely nauseous to physically sick!
From the thermal wonderland, we headed to Huka Falls, New Zealands answer to Niagara! We took the 15 minute hike down to the viewing platform and it was a stunning view of the falls. The volume of water going through a relatively narrow space caused a huge amount of noise.
After the falls we made our way to Motutere Bay Top 10 Holiday Park to park up for the night. A competitive game of table tennis where Craig was able to redeem himself after his previous loses and we got caught up on the Great British Bake Off and the Apprentice (can't help but keep uptodate with British TV!) before an early night!
Campervan packed back up and we are heading Eastward!