Day 8 was a very busy and emotional day. It was the day that I finally fulfil one of my dreams, which was to visit the Hobbiton movie set, and after that, we had a day full of Maori culture which I found so fascinating!
So here how this day went!
The day started early as we had booked our tour for 10:30 in the morning so that would leave us with plenty of time to visit Rotorua.
We drove to the ticket office grabbed our ticket and after waiting for a little we hopped on the bus for a 15 minutes ride inside the Alexandre’s (the family that owns the land) property to the Hobbiton. I won’t lie during the drive I had teary eyes.
After 15 minutes we finally arrived at the movie set. There the guide told us that the first thing he’ll do is destroyed our childhood dreams. And he kind of did…
See there is a small detail that I don’t remember seeing on their site when booking our tickets (maybe it’s there but I didn’t see it) although…. when you really think about it makes total sense. That is that the set was left exactly the way it was for the movies. And the thing is that all the scene inside hobbit holes were shot in Wellington in a movie studio. Which mean that all the hobbit holes are empty and you can’t get inside. There is no inside of Bag End nor any other little house. Which was heartbreaking.
Some people will comment that they could have created one hole where you can get it just for the illusion and I’ll be honest I disagree. Because it would mean that you’ll see something that was never used in the movies in the first place, something that is not authentic. And I prefer to visit something authentic than something fake jut for the sake of a photo. But this is my opinion.
Also, another thing that is worth mentioning is that this is a movie set, not an amusement park! Which mean that there are not people dressed as hobbits(es) walking around and pretending to live there. The place is more like a museum and I personally appreciate that tremendously. Both the Alexander family and Peter Jackson wanted to keep it as it was for the movies and that what they’ve done.
So if you expect to see an actor playing an ugly version on Frodo you won’t get that. And for me, that was perfectly fine. You might see some visitors dressed as elves though, we had a sweet couple with us. I still believe that the place was amazing and worth it.
So the tour started at the bottom of the village. There were little doors with tiny little gardens everywhere and the number of details they put it were mesmerizing!
It’s also worth mentioning that at that point the area was going through the worst drought they had seen for many years in that region of New Zealand and the people working there worked hard to keep the hill green for us to enjoy.
We follow our guide through the village as he constantly gave us facts about the movies.
Fact. The Alexander family own thousand of sheep that run free through the hill. And for one of the long-shot Jackson needed sheep in the background. But unfortunately, the Alexander’s sheep weren’t the right breed. So he asked the family to take away their sheep, and he brought thousands of sheep that where the breed Tolkien had described in his books. All that for one long-shot scene that we see for less than a couple of seconds!
He also told us that after the first trilogy the whole set was taken down. And then Jackson came back for the Hobbit trilogy and rebuild everything as it was 10 years ago. This is where the Alexander family told Jackson that they would like to keep the movie set as it is and not taking it down again at the end of the new trilogy. And I’m so glad they decided that!
We slowly made our way to the top of the hill where Bag End is situated on top of the hill.
Fact. This is the tree on top of Bag End, although everything in the set is real even the fruit and vegetable that you can see on some photos… The tree is the only fake thing on set. Yes, the tree is fake and you can’t even tell unless there is wind.
Fact. When they first build the tree and Jackson came to see it, the colour of the leaves was not the colour that Tolkien described in the book. So guess what? He put two people to repaint all the leaves one by one, by hand! That’s sound crazy but I guess this is how you win Oscars!
I admit that when we arrive in front of it was quite emotional.
The above picture is Sam’s house. And this is the last shot we ever see at the end of the LOTR trilogy. When the guide mentioned that it gave me goosebumps!
After the last hobbit-hole, we made our way towards the field of Bilbo birthday and across the bridge next to the mill.
The Green Dragon Tavern
Our tour ended at The Green Dragon tavern where we were offered complimentary drinks and enjoy the place for a good 15 minutes.
Note, in the evening tours you have the option to also have a diner there, which sounds amazing! I was tempered to book an evening tour to be able to experience the banquet but to be honest, we had so little time and so many things we wanted to do that we had to sacrifices some things. If I ever have the opportunity to go again I’ll definitely go for the evening banquet.
And that was it. We made our way back to the bus which took us back to the ticket office. By then it was around midday, so we grabbed a quick lunch in the cafeteria, and we were on our way to Rotorua.
Whakarewarewa is the New Zealand’s only living Maori village. It’s situated on the Whakareware Valley which is an active geothermal area with hot pools, boiling mud and geysers. The Maori people have lived there for centuries and have learned to co-exist and utilities the geothermal forces all around them.
When we arrived we were lucky enough to have a guided tour starting in half an hour. So we wander a little around the village until the tour started. I have to say that as soon as we stepped out of the car we were taken aback by the “interesting” sulfate smell. And no, we didn’t get used to it, unfortunately.
It was interesting how while walking around you have all the villagers, young and old, minding their own business while you walk around and observe them, the houses and the landscaper around. They even have a school there.
Fact. For many years the Maori language wasn’t taught anywhere. It’s only recently that the government recognize the Maori language and the need to preserve it so now parents have the option to have the child0enr in an English-speaking school, and they can choose Maori as a second language, or send their kids to a Maori speaking school. Today in New Zealand also have two Universities that do classes in Maori, which I think it’s awesome. Cultures need to be respected and preserved!
Anyway, back to the villages. As mention above the village is situated on a geothermal valley and the people have taken full advantage of the hot water running all around them. The have boiling pools where they boil or steam their food, and they have built an exterior stoned bathtub. Water fills the bathtub, they have a bath and then empty the tub for the next person to come.
The tour lasted around 45 minutes, and then we were free to walk around as much as we wanted. Unfortunately, it was a very hot day and with the combination of the “interesting” smell, a headache started building up, so we decided to make our way to town.
We had around 2 hours to kill until our next experience so we drove around Rotorua Lake.
To end this beautiful day we had booked a cultural experience at the Mitai Village that also included dinner.
We arrived at around 7, and we were directly sited at our table with 4 more people. I’ll be honest the first 20 minutes gave me the feeling that this will be a very disorganised experience, and I was a little worried. But I was wrong.
When all the customers arrived our main host came on the stage to make the first introduction and to give us a summary of the evening events.
Then we were split into two groups, and we left the dining area and follow our guide.
Our first stop was just next to the dining area where our hangi (food) cooked in an earth oven (Hangi Pit) in the ground and learn the preparation and contents of the traditional hangi.
We then stop next to a waka (canoe), if I remember correctly this specific one was used in a movie but my memories might be failing me, and there our guide/host told us about how the first Maori came to New Zealand using canoes.
He also told us how his family still build canoes by hand and that the one that we would see just after was one of those.
So we then made our way toward the Wai-o-whiro stream to see the fierce warriors in their traditional dress paddle waka down the stream.
After that, we when to the stage area. There, we had a good full hour of traditional songs, dances and games. We also learn about the art of Ta Moko (tattoo), Maori customs, musical instrument, Poi dance, carving, flora and fauna, and the medicinal uses. And finally, the show couldn’t have ended in any other way than with the Haka.
After this lovely entertainment, it was time for some lovely food. We when back to the dining area and where a large buffet with a range of meats, vegetables, fresh salads and desserts was waiting for us!
The evening didn’t end there. When everyone’s belly was full we went for a night walk in the bushes, for some last history and cultural facts on how the Maori built their house and then to finish on a high they showed some glowworms!
Want to see more? What our video on YouTube
So here you have it. Day 8 another unforgettable day, full of childhood dreams and Maori culture. I once again recommend every single one of the above.