The following day, we woke up early (about 6.30am) to the town of Rotorea. Once we had packed our stuff, washed, clothed and ate breakfast (egg bread and maple syrup), we hopped back on the bus. We got dropped off at the Hobbiton Movie set shop as some of us were going to explore Hobbiton. I have to say I’m not the biggest Lord of the Rings fan but it’s a must do thing. It was magical. I was with two absolute fanatics; it was like watching a kid at Christmas. On the coach from the shop to actual Hobbiton, we watched a few clips and the bus driver gave us a tour of Rotorea on the way. The journey took about an hour to the movie set, where we stopped off to catch some wifi and the toilet.
Up at Hobbiton Movie set, we had a guided tour for a couple of hours telling us the different scenes which were filmed in different places. The whole place was just incredible. There were big and small hobbit holes so that they could get the perspective correct with Gandalf being a giant and the hobbits being minuscular. Naturally, we took hundreds of photos of the magnificent scenery: the lake, hills, signs, hobbit holes and of course, the Green Dragon pub. Towards the end of the tour, we sat in the Green Dragon to have a cider and just take in the whole place. Sadly, there were no hobbits running around or famous actors (I wish!). As I was wandering around taking snaps, I hung out with a Dutch guy and English girl, where we had many giggles.
Once the tour was finished, we mounted back on the bus to the gift shop to spend our dosh on souvenirs, then after back to Rotorea to be picked up by the Stray bus.
Initially, I was meant to stay in Rotorea for a night and visit the geothermal lakes. However, I decided as I had a good group of people on the bus and a decent driver, I would change my itinerary to follow the bus. It did mean I missed out on the geothermal lakes, but I still would to see some later on the trip.
From Rotorea, we were driven to Lake Aniwhenua, where we collected our guide, Karl, and a few older Germans. Confusingly, we parked up on the side of the road and were taken to a secret trail to some tribal carvings in the middle of the woods. Karl spoke to us about his tribe and ancestors as well as showing us a marble-like hook, which apparently was used to cut of male genitals.
Back on the bus, we drove a little further on through the town with not much around. To be fair, most of New Zealand is pretty spread out with not too many habitants and a large surface area.
At the lodging place by Lake Aniwhenua, a lovely, bubbly lady boarded our bus to welcome us and explaining her family cultural business, which helps the local community. Once we had paid for our accommodation and found a room to put our things in, we watched our dinner being set up. The hangi is a hole in the ground where coals are placed and heated up by a fire gun until they are white. Then cages of pork, chicken and vegetables layered on top, then a wet sheet for hygienic purposes, then several layers of wet sacks and finally covered in gravel. It was cooked for about two and a half hours, where it is kind of steamed and baked.
Whilst dinner was cooking some of the others joined in some activities of flax jewellery making and cooking. However, I wanted to chill and do some writing in the bar area. However, I got easily distracted by some of the others and ended up playing a quiz game, where the question were extremely difficult, but, somehow, I won myself a free glass of wine.
In the evening, we seated ourselves in the kitchen around a table to stuff our mouths with some delicious food of eel, sweet potato, potatoes, pumpkin, salad, stuffing and gravy, eating from a basket. Once we had washed up and cleared the area, we lounged in the common room to have story time, which basically consisted of telling the group a little about ourselves and asking questions about the Maori tribe. At the end of the session, one of the girls showed us the worm to finish.
Soon after, we all just disappeared to our bed to sleep as we were feeling tired.