Sometimes it’s about who you know…
We have made loads of friends so far, from those that we’ve shared hostel rooms with to those that we’ve worked for, but only a few that we will keep in contact with. It’s not just about catching up though, sometimes it really pays to stay in touch too!
Day 140 – Monday 10th October 2016
Having spent a little longer than expected north of Auckland we spent the whole of today driving south again. Although we planned on getting up as early as possible that didn’t quite work out after the late night last night, but still we were packed and ready to leave by 10:30 which wasn’t too sad. We knew that the drive was going to take at least about five hours and that’s just what Google said without considering the van that we’re driving in. We stopped a couple of times on the way for coffee, then quickly at Lucky Rentals to mention the bed which they finally gave us the missing part for, and still made it all the way down to Papakura by around 16:00. The roads were clear the whole way too which made things a lot easier.
Upon arrival we had a bit of a brainwave and decided to visit our volunteering hosts (from a whole four days ago I know) for a cup of tea. They were more than welcoming when we arrived, couldn’t wait to head about our adventures so far, and even offered us a bed for the night for free. Obviously we didn’t need the bed as we had one in the back of the van, but said yes to it anyway. We agreed to cook dinner as a way of saying thanks, then sat down to catch up properly over a few drinks to say goodbye, again.
The only thing that didn’t quite go to plan was the fact that we missed out on Waipoua Forest, home of New Zealand’s giant kauri tree. It was well out of our way though and would have cost us loads in time and fuel too. We had a free bed to sleep in though which made it all worthwhile – there’s not point dwelling on what we didn’t get to do, because what we did get to do was more than enough!
Day 141 – Tuesday 11th October 2016
We had to wake up early this morning to say goodbye before everybody started work on the farm, which was good and gave us a bit of a head start for the day ahead. We had a plan for the day, and potential to meet up with an old friend later, although nothing was confirmed just yet.
First we drove to Paeroa, home of the famous L&P bottle, which was only about an hour away. L&P is a pretty big deal out here, so much so that they build a massive bottle in the town it was founded, and it tastes pretty damn good as well! Abbie couldn’t resist posing for a touristy photograph next to it either:
Alright so it’s only a bottle but it was on route to our next stop of the day, which was a pretty big one. Hobbiton, part of the movie set from The Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit, is situated in Matamata, which we absolutely couldn’t drive past without visiting. It was an expensive stop, $79 per person in fact, but was definitely worth it. During peak season tickets have to be purchased well in advance, but we were lucky enough to just show up and book two tickets there and then!
Within twenty minutes we were on a tour bus to The Shire where it all started to feel very real. It turns out that after The Lord of The Rings they demolished the movie set, but when it was rebuilt for The Hobbit they decided to keep everything open as a tourist attraction. First we stopped at a couple of random hobbit holes so that false perception which is used throughout the movies could be explained. It’s easy in theory – they just built two versions of each hobbit hole, one being much bigger than the other, then only used particular cast in certain places to make them appear bigger or smaller. Here’s big Abbie and small Abbie, for example:
The Shire looked absolutely huge from ground level. We walked all the way up past the Party Tree along to another hobbit hole which had an open door, but unfortunately Hobbiton is only an exterior movie set, so there was nothing inside:
At the very top of The Shire was Bag End, probably the most famous hobbit hole of them all, and home to Bilbo Baggins. Here’s a fun fact for you too, it turns out that Bilbo’s wealth isn’t represented by his position at the top of The Shire, but instead by the fact that he ‘countless’ windows. His door was also open, and although the inside looked decorated that was in fact trickery as well. The door didn’t actually open any further than it already was, and past the decoration was just a bare wall:
It was downhill from there, along the same route that Bilbo Baggins famously runs before embarking on his adventure, past the famous fine ale cart and alongside the old mill:
Our final stop of the day was the Green Dragon, one of the only buildings that was actually decorated both inside and out, where a complimentary beer was waiting for us. We had a drink, then had a final wander around outside before our tour came to an end:
We left Hobbiton and then focused on that potential meet up I mentioned earlier. About three months ago back in San Francisco we shared a hostel dorm with a girl called Liz, who coincidentally lives Matamata now, literally ten minutes away from Hobbiton:
We arranged to meet up, went for dinner and drinks together (which we paid for on the Bartercard that our volunteering hosts gave us, making it essentially free), and then slept the back of the van on her driveway for free, making it our second consecutive evening without having to pay for accommodation! Okay campsites May have been a bit more scenic, but saving money never hurts does it?