Hobbiton & Waitomo Glow Worm Cave Tour

Hobbiton & Waitomo Glow Worm Cave Tour

I’m not a Lord of the Rings super fan, but I did enjoy the movies and I can do a decent schmiegel impression. I like activities that cannot be replicated elsewhere. So, I decided to visit the Hobbiton Movie Set. The problem was it is a two hour drive away, and the tour itself only lasts two hours. That’s a long drive for a short visit. In order to make it more worthwhile, I paired the tour with a visit to the Glow Worm Caves in Waitomo.

Admittedly, I missed much of the landscape on the journey there because I slept most of the way, due to a 6am start time. I awoke near the final destination and the landscape was magical. Rolling hills, white specks of sheep every 100 meters or so, and cows just as often. The fog was slowly lifting between the valleys and allowing me to see even more.

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Can you imagine being the farmer who was sitting watching a Rugby match on a Sunday afternoon and answered the knock on the door which would change his life? He received millions to let them build the movie set on his land.  How genius was it to keep it and turn it into a tourist attraction..why don’t they do that more?! Fun fact: they almost ignored the knock on the door because they were super into the Rugby match.

Have you ever been anywhere and thought, this is so cute it looks fake! Well, that is exactly the feeling I had there. It was all real, but so perfect it looked fake (actually there were a few fake things such as trees). They take you on a bus with the LOTR music playing and it sets the scene perfectly. You step out of the bus and make your way to a winding footpath that eventually opens up to a garden. The most charming and perfect garden you’ve ever seen. Everything is well maintained, and the flowers and vegetables are blooming. An extra large pumpkin sits on the ground surrounded by cucumbers. Monarchs land softly on the flowers. The first Hobbit hole is to your left.

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The hobbit holes are different heights which is a television trick called forced perspective. The bigger doors will actually make the actors look smaller and more hobbit-like. Every bit of detail was considered, and no two were the same. Trinkets sit in the windows, letters pop out of the mailbox, chickens lay eggs in the front yard, shirts are being hung to dry and many more touches were added to reflect everyday living.

As I mentioned, most things are real, but if Sir Peter Jackson (the director) didn’t fancy something, he would go as far as building a fake tree and hand painting thousands of leaves on it. Of course, he wasn’t he one doing the painting 😉

You guys… I want to move here! I feel like this would be the most peaceful place to live! Birds are chirping, sheep graze in the distance, all life is thriving, and nothing lacks color or charm. Sure, the houses may be a bit small, but I’ve become accustomed to less this trip, that’s for sure! They even have an inn where you can get a pint to drink, the Green Dragon Inn. I feel like I would wake up, feed the chickens, skip and whistle down the path while greeting my neighbors, sit by the lake and paint it, then go fishing in it, followed by a drink and dinner at the inn during sunset and finally sing and dance in courtyard until it’s time for bed. Then repeat. Unfortunately they keeps a hawks eye on you, and they’d notice if I’d snuck off. I’m wondering now though…why hasn’t anyone built a similar place as a bed and breakfast. Shotgun rights to that.

Following the Hobbiton tour, we went to the Glow Worm Caves. We couldn’t take any pictures there which was too bad. They do a quick tour of the caves- educating us on stalagmites, stalagtites, cathedrals, columns, etc. Then we hop into a boat where we float into a dark abyss. I felt like I was entering the river boat scene from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. That, or escaping from jail in an Indiana Jones movie on a far away island. You see, you have to be completely silent in the pitch black, otherwise you risk the worms getting nervous and turning off their glow for protection. We stealthily made our way down some stairs and loaded into a boat… drifting off into what we only hoped wasn’t a waterfall.

Then, I looked up. It was as if I had drifted outside at nighttime! The glow worms were by the thousands and looked like little constellations in the sky. We drifted through and I just looked up in awe. It was a serene moment that made me appreciate all of the life that lives on the planet, some that we often never see!

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Photo Credit: Didactic Encyclopedia – Blogspot glowworm-caves-waitom-1
 We headed back (oh by the way, my group consisted of Canadians, Texans, Australians originally from Thailand, and our British guide) and stopped at this placed call Giapo for crazy style ice cream. There as this one “selfie cone” that had a gold frame stuck to the cone via chocolate. I really wanted to get it but couldn’t justify spending $35 on an ice cream cone. Instead, I went for the $15 cone :p

Tonight I had to sleep in an 11 person dorm room because I forgot to book an additional day. It was surprisingly quiet, and the only downside was the limited space for you stuff. I found a corner for my bag and tried to keep everything consolidated in it.

You are what you eat; today I had Kiwi.

You are what you eat; today I had Kiwi.

 

My initial reaction to Auckland is that it has a cool vibe. It kind of reminds me of Sydney but with a smaller town feel. I really love my hostel! It smells like a log cabin and my bunk bed for once has a reading light, outlet and a privacy curtain. I landed at 9pm so I was ready for bed, but everyone else on the block was apparently ready to rage, it’s Saturday night after all. I almost lost my love of karaoke last night while listening to the patrons singing get worse and worse until they finally closed at 3am. The singing was occasionally covered by the noise of cars drag racing. Crossing my fingers Sunday Fundays aren’t a thing here.

Friends born in New Zealand recommended I visit Waiheke island while in Auckland. So that is what I did today and I am sure glad I did! You take a ferry to the island, and then most people do a hop-on-hop-off bus ticket. I’m not a big fan of those as you always feel a bit rushed, despite them coming every 30 minutes. So instead, I rented a scooter. I ride one back home and I missed the joy of riding one! I didn’t go as fast as I typically do and I didn’t have my headphones in so it wasn’t quite the same experience. But, when driving on a windy island on the “wrong” side of the road, I wasn’t going to risk it.

I took myself on a self guided tour around the island. I first stopped in a little town to get a bottled water. Then, my tour consisted of me driving wherever I felt like it and stopping wherever I wanted to.

First stop, a cute little fisherman area.

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Second stop, Stonyridge Vineyard (They had the best seating areas on the hill).

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Third stop, a sandy beach (Ate some ice cream that was hokey pokey flavor, a kiwi favorite I guess. It was great).

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Third stop, a lookout point.

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Fourth stop, Oyster Inn where I had locally farmed Te Matuku oysters (I only started eating oysters a few years ago but these are the BEST I’ve ever had), whole grain sour dough bread paired with olive oil from olives grown on the island (super strong and spicy flavor), a delicious green salad with lemon and olive oil (I’ve been slacking on my greens), and paired of course with a Sauv Blanc from the island as well.

 

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Considering my lack of sleep last night, I’m going to have a pretty uneventful night, probably do some laundry, put on face mask I just bought from a corner store and continue watching Sinner on Netflix. I’M ADDICTED.