So, Hobbiton! Matamata, though a pleasant enough town, must have been a bit if a backwater before the LOTR. Huge numbers of tourists pop in here to visit the site of the hobbit holes. The information centre has been beautifully renovated in hobbit style, and the trio were pleased to find a statue of smeagol inside! Much exitement as we boarded the bus! Our Scottish guide was amusing, and Hobbiton was beautifully preserved. Lots of little hobbit doors, little personalised gardens with honey, woodwork, cheese making ect and little cloths lines with hobbit cloths on! Brilliant to see Sam”s house and Bag End as well as the party tree and Gandalf path. Can’t wait to watch the films again! Great outing, if a little pricey. I asked one of the men in the campsite I’d he had been. ‘No way’ he replied ‘i’m local, I can’t afford that!’
After making some sneaky purchases in the shop for Christmas, we headed onwards. Rotorua is still as stinky! Foul wafts catching you wherever you go. The library was particularly wiffy, but managed to get a couple of good books! An early Christmas present for all – Zorbing! Basically pay a largish amount of money, they shove you into a large plastic ball, hose in some tepid water, then push you down a hill. Waste of money some might say! Not us! We decided on Zorbing, not Ogo, the new competitor. It seems the inventor had a dispute and left, setting up a new company. Despite the pro Ogo feel in the town, we found them slightly smug and inflexible. You also got two for one rides at Zorb. Swimsuits on, we headed to the top in the pick up. We did the straight track first! Diving into the ball, sloshing around, then careering down the hill at top speed! Squealing excitement from me and o, frozen faced horror from E! Popping out at the bottom, she gave it a half thumb, saying she would probably wait in the hot tub, and give her extra go to Paps! The boys all had three goes! O shouting out ‘this is the best day ever’ as he slooshed down the twisty track! It was voted a huge success! We saw some spectacular hot mud pools. Too much like a chocolate fountain for O! On our way to taupo we found lake Okareka. What a find! Tent up right on the waters edge, and crystal clear water. Delightful swimming and paddle boarding. I spotted some locals doing a cliff jump, so we headed over to have a look! The boys loved it! Jump off a rocky protrusion, swim round and through a cave, climb back up and repeat. Much fun! E really wanted to do it, but didn’t at the same time….we climbed down to the cave to have a look. The next day E and I paddled out to get a good view and she loved that! Climbed through the cave and back. They all paddled back and Geoff and I swam. After that, Taupo was a complete dead squib. Campdite in town cost way over €100 for a site, Lake Taupo was a no go zone due to some toxic water weed. We stopped at the playground for lunch and encountered the only paying toilets so far! In order to avoid paying, Geoff went on a longish hunt for another toilet. None to be found. They may or may not have used a tree! Unfortunately this toilet hunt prolonged our stay in the car park beyond the offered 30 mins, and pearl incurred a €15 fine! Poor Papa. Luckily we found another campsite out of town which was cheaper and very pleasant, which soothed his jangled nerves! Taupo, nul points. The Tongariro Crossing next stop. Absolutely amazing. Even though I have done it before, it was still breathtaking. O was all for it! R was keen just so he could see Mt Doom. He debated it though, paring at the 19.4km sign, and the estimated time… G and E stayed behind. O spent most of the walk bouncing along happily. R is more of a plodder, with a few beats starting on the uphill section ‘I almost want to cut off my own head’ came out on a paticularly thigh burning section! I gave him my watch after the fourth ‘how long have we been walking for?’ and that made a big difference. He pearled at it happily every 30 seconds or so. Orlando was very keen to actually climb the mount. This adds 3 hrs onto an already long walk, but he still needed persuading that it was possibly too much!! Rio was more than happy to look at it and eat his ginormous sandwich! I walked in flip flops. The only sensible thing to do. Absolutely no idea why I was the only one, after seeing people strapping up their blisterd feet at the begging of the walk, and peeling their sore, sweaty feet out of their highly expensive walking gear afterwards! Rio walked most of it bare foot to avoid a blister. We were not in the majority. We saw mount doom, climbed up to the red crater and to the emerald lakes. Everyone was suitably impressed with these, and after a fun, dusty, volcanic shale steep sliding path down to the bottom, we saw that we had done lessthan half the walk! I am glad I had forgotten the last 10.3km, or I am not sure I would have done it! O started to fade. ‘This is a never ending path’ and so it felt like. A downhill, twist path which basically went on forever. Luckily we had drunk most of the 6ltrs of water i was carrying (they carried water as well! Luckily there were lots of long drop toilets.) I felt like i was propping all of us up towards the end. Orlando”s legs would nor listen any more, and his feet were dead. We made it. 8hrs. No photo as we just crawled into the car!