Or “Not what we expected”
After a couple of relaxing days which we spent catching up on some reading and resting, watching beautiful sunsets every evening and just dangled our feet, it was time to hit the road and start our New Zealand tour in full throttle (or as fast as our Sirloin would go at least :-)
As the Coromandel Peninsula had so far not been at all what we expected, now with the almost rainforest-like waterfalls and surrounding jungles, we decided that we would follow the coastline a little more and see what else this gem of a region had in store. So far we had not seen too many other tourists and we enjoyed the winding roads almost by ourselves, my photo addiction popping every now and again! But when you have these views alongside the road, I mean, wouldn’t you stop as well and go ‘click, click, click’ like a Japanese on discounted steroids?
Anyhow, the ever-changing scenery was enough to keep us entertained – here some fields, there some rainforests, oh look, there some dropping cliffs into the ocean, and over here some more dead gorgeous rolling green hills. And with the fond sounds of a 90’s rock station music in the background we rolled down the road, scaring some of the locals with our inappropriate karaoke!
We got to Hahei on the east coast and decided to take the detour to Cathedral Cove, which should be one of the most beautiful places in the area and location for the “Prince Caspian” movie (incredible how many movies have been shot in New Zealand...).
The sun was at its peak by now, and smart as we were we had nothing to shade us from the sun. But we had developed a certain biological sun block in the last 6 months, which meant that although we might turn red like tomato-Gringos we wouldn’t get sunburnt (at least that was my theory!). The walk to the cove took us along the coast, with little bays on the way to catch some shade and tranquillity.
We even got to see what seemed to me like a very peculiar looking growth from the bushes. Although very artistic, it reminded me of carnivore plants I heard existed on this planet – maybe these are the very ones and all they are waiting for is someone to be curious enough to stick their head/hand/foot (pick ANY bodypart...) into the bush...
Finally we got to our destination – Cathedral Cove. And at first I was perplexed as this looked more like a secluded beach in Thailand than New Zealand.
White sandy beach, turquoise water, a feeling of ....awesomeness! Forget the Caribbean, forget Thailand or Malaysia- the best beaches seem to be in New Zealand of all places :-)
So we decided to take a break, take out some lunch and enjoy one of the most beautiful places we had seen so far! A little seagull wanted to be part of our private lunch, but left when he saw that the only thing he would get from us was some banana!
We headed back to the car in order to continue with our drive south towards Matamata. Why go there? To a place which in Hebrew means ‘downdown’? Only one reason really – Hobbiton!
This was one of the places we had on our list before we even set foot in New Zealand. Being the location for most of the shots of ‘The Shire’ from Lord of the Rings, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to get a glimpse at a real life movie set that was built into its surroundings. And although hobbits aren’t really good-looking creatures, they are adorable little ‘uns.
So here we were, following the footsteps of Gandalf (sorry for all those that DIDN’T watch Lord of the Rings – be ashamed and go watch it...like NOW!) into the heart of The Shire. And what did we find you may ask? Well, small hobbit-holes of course :-)
It was a little weird, walking in the middle of something I recognized from the big screen, eating my popcorn in loud silence as I watched the fantasies of Tolkien unfolding themselves. And I think that at least part of me wanted to close its eyes, as this was like glimpsing behind the curtain of a magician’s show, knowing the tricks, losing the belief in magic. Yes, it was fascinating to be walking in a place that I remembered from those movies, but it was also a little sad to know that these doors were only facades and that there was no real hobbit-hole behind them, no little creature ready to greet me as I knocked on the door...
It was beautiful though – and a lot of fun to get to know the behind the scenes, envisioning how more than 400 people worked here, giving life to Tolkien’s vision, creating a movie that enthralled so many people...
The guide told us that in order to be considered for the role of a hobbit you had to be less than 160cm. Too bad, I think I would have been a GREAT hobbit, but for now I will root for Ronni, as she fits these requirements perfectly! And me? Well, I at least, fit in the door :-)
At the end of the day, there remains only one thing to answer...where should we go from here?
That mystery, dear reader, shall be revealed very soon!