We did a lot of driving in the past two days. After our trip to Lake Taupo, we headed down to Rotorua and then on to a place called Matamata where we drove off into the farm country and found Middle Earth. Yes, we went to visit the home of the hobbits from Lord of the Rings! It turns out the location where they filmed many of the scenes of the Shire is now a tourist destination called Hobbiton. The web site says you can tour the film location for the hobbit holes, and see things like in the pictures on their site. So, we planned a visit. What we didn’t realize is that they are using the location for a current filming project you may have heard about. Only, the filming dates were changed so we still got to go see the hobbiton filming site. We can’t tell you what we saw and learned because we had to sign a confidentiality agreement. We can’t even show you the photos. But, we had a great time visiting there, and we saw more than we expected!
After the tour, we drove to Tauranga and immediately stopped when we saw a Wendy’s fast food place (rare in New Zealand). And, they had just started making chocolate frosties! (the other ones we went to only had vanilla). Yum! We drove down and saw the beautiful beach and mountain at Mount Maunganui. Then ended up staying at a campground at Waihi Beach. This was the fanciest Top 10 Holiday Park we had been to. They had a big pool, beach access, and a fresh water stream with fresh water eels – just like in Huahine, but they didn’t say these were sacred eels.
The next day we drove the Coromandel peninsula along the coast. We had plans to stop and see the many beach destinations. But, the real highlight was we happened to show up during the annual 50’s and 60’s celebration weekend called the “Beach Hop“. An entire town was “Americanized” with US flags, and hundreds of really cool classic american cars, hot rods, and motorcycles. It was amazing how cool it was to see these classic American cars so far from our home. We spent a couple of hours in the town having lunch and admiring all the cars cruising around. And, the rest of the day we saw them driving all around the peninsula.
Finally, yesterday, we arrived in Auckland. We had dinner last night with our friends and former crew: Jason and Lara. They are living and working (Jason just got a job) in Auckland. It was great catching up with them to learn about their new lives, and to tell them in person about our travels around New Zealand. We also caught up on the lives of other sailors we know.
I’ll be putting up some photos from the last few days. Unfortunately, not any photos of our trip to Hobbiton due to the confidentiality agreement. Right now, we are getting ready to go visit another friend here in Auckland. Later!