Good morning... every morning starts new page of my story. Although the sky was not as bright as my heart but warmer than the temperature itself. After getting everything packed in the car, checked out and cruised to ticket counter in 5 minutes (it's only 3 minutes drive from the hotel). Seems like we were the early bird but sorry, no early birds discount.
Due to time concern we took only the glowworm caves tour itself only, but there are Ruakuri or Aranui that made to package. Independent Glowworm Cave costs $50/person. At 9am sharp, we were quickly lined in group of 25 (maybe, unsure about the number of people), led by a tour leader to enter the cave. Unfortunately photography is strictly prohibited (read that other cave is allowed), but it was nearly impossible to get a good photo of them inside anyway. The cave itself is impressive with the stalagmites and stalactites but the story of the caves is interesting. It was first found in 1887 by a local Maori Chief Tane Tinorau, and after several exploration trips in the dark, they found easier access (the same access used till today) and it was opened to public in 1889 with a fee, in 1906 it was taken over by the government.
The most interesting story was about the wedding of great grand daughter of the Chief (if not mistaken heard) which was held on the hall inside the cave, wow it must be very interesting to prepare a wedding ceremony into the cave. And for sure the “Glowworm Grotto”, its a boat ride, since we were quite a big group (at least doesn't fit into 1 boat), rest of us (8 people) have to wait for around 5 minutes for next in silence and darkness. The ride is pretty short but what amazed me is actually the tourleader "ride"the boat with his feet, relying on the "rope" set along the ride, on the top you can see all the glowworm like stars in the dark sky. You might also try the black water rafting inside the Ruakuri cave if you feel a bit adventure, pictures on the website looks interesting though. To us, this is a bit pricey for a short time in the cave but the only source of knowledge is experience (Albert Einstein), not all classrooms have walls.
If you watched trilogy of Lord of the Rings, a lot of movie scene were taken in NZ and Hobbitton is one of the "must-visit" touristic place, the home of Bilbo, Frodo, 13,000 Romney sheep and 300 Angus cattle, located in Matamata, and somehow become compulsory to visit for every tourist so here I am. I watched trilogy of Lord of the Rings, but I am not a big fan of it, how can it be? guess what, so are those people that wandered around with me, most of the questions we weren't able to answer to prove that we are a big fan.
Ticket is $79/person, in drizzling, the bus took us to the farm of Russel Alexander, they said, the fantastic views and rolling countryside closely resembled that of the 'Shire’ in the popular classics by J.R.R Tolkien. The surrounding roads, lake and even the pine tree was already ideally placed in front of the lake made it the perfect setting to recreate the home of the Hobbits which why this farm is chosen after the director flew to a few places and why bother if can have it in one place like the Alexander farm.
It is a guided tour, they try to reveal every single secret, the whole movie set was dummy, the door can't be opened although a few is opened in half to take a peek but you can't really go inside even you are as tall as the hobbit, but the outside looks exactly like Middle Earth, please bare in mind that all the indoor filming was done in film studios in Wellington, not in the actual Hobbit holes. What fascinated me is the details, from the leaves, plants, trees, vegetables in the gardens, fishes, apples, everything just how you see in the movie. And all these 2 years construction were done only for 12 days filming, some set only for 3 seconds. One secret is, the oak tree on the hill? It is fake, with artificial leaves imported from Taiwan and wired onto the tree, when the leaves faded in the sun, someone was employed to repaint them, one by one, but it was the only fake tree in the entire movie-set
with the details
Perfect ending, the tour eventually brings you down hill, passing the mill house and ends in the Green Dragon Inn – sit down with a cup of beer like a real Hobbit and then take off to my own Middle Earth adventure.
"Let us drink like dwarves, smoke like wizards, sing like elves and party like hobbits"
I will not say the day is done nor bid the stars farewell (JRR Tolkiens) but with this end our middle earth tours and back to reality. You really need to try this salad in the restaurant upstairs (downstair is the souvenir shop), although costs $14 but tastes super yummy (food is credited to my travelmate), I only tasted as I had a big bowl of soup in the Green Dragon Inn :)
Full tummy we hit the road and roll to Rotorua, where our next adventure will sail. Booked family room in Four Canoes (it's actually a motel) a day before when we sleep in Waitomo Caves Hotel, for IDR 951,786 including continental breakfast.