On Saturday 3 December, a group consisting of 4 people from South Korea, 2 from Thailand, 4 of my extended family and myself went to Waitomo and Hobbiton. We met at Auckland Institute of Studies at 7am and drove 2 hours 30 minutes to Waitomo, stopping for a short break at Pirongia on the way.
Destination: Hobbiton and Waitomo
It was a pleasant day with mild temperatures early and late (about 20 degrees) but the temperature rose to 28 degrees in the middle of the day. We checked in at Waitomo and went first to Ruakuri Cave and our tour started at 10am.
Ruakuri Cave offers the opportunity to walk for nearly 2 hours through the cave network, looking at stalactites (the ones which hang from the ceiling), stalagmites (the ones on the ground) and many other fascinating rock, especially limestone, formations.
We could also get close-up to glowworms and easily see them and their delicate threads hanging down which they use to catch food. Ruakuri also has a spectacular spiral ramp for an entrance.
Next we went to Glowworm Cave and our tour commenced at 12.30pm. Our guide told us about the caves, showing us formations and leading us down deeper and deeper into the cave until we reached the underground river. We got into the boat and were taken into the large chamber of the cave which is covered with glowworms. I have been there many times but it is still a magical sight.
We had a picnic lunch on a grass area at Waitomo and I enjoyed the heat from the sun, although some of the group felt it was a little too hot. After lunch, we drove to Hobbiton, taking about 1 and a quarter hours.
We checked in to Hobbiton Ticket Office at 3.50pm and our tour started at 4pm. A short bus trip though farmland took us to the entry of the Hobbiton movie set.
Our guide led us through the village which is nestled in the hills of the farmland, explaining the features of the movie set. Our group often lagged behind the main group while we were taking photos of the 39 Hobbit holes (houses).
The Hobbit holes are all distinctive – most have small gardens around them, one had fish fillets hanging out to dry, while another baking and another had honey.
Hobbiton is especially beautiful at this time of the year because of all the flowering plants. The tour of Hobbiton finished at The Green Dragon Inn where we were given a complimentary drink.
There was a choice of 2 beers, an apple cider or a non-alcoholic drink which was ginger beer. It was a still day which was perfect for reflections in the lake of some of the Hobbit Holes that we saw as we were making our way back to the bus.
The bus returned us to the starting point for the tour – the Hobbiton Tours Ticket Office and Carpark, getting us there at 6pm.
From Hobbiton, we drove into Matamata and had dinner at a roast meals restaurant there, and we all enjoyed the meal.
The journey home took much longer than the usual 2 hours 15 minutes because we stopped a couple of times to admire the sunset and then when it got dark we stopped on a dark side road to look at all the stars, including the Milky Way. When we finally arrived in Auckland, we drove up Franklin Road, from Victoria Park to Ponsonby Road looking at all the buildings dressed up in Christmas lights. Finally, we got back to AIS at about 11pm.