April 11, 2015 Hamilton, New Zealand

We enjoyed our stay in New Plymouth regardless of the rainy weather.  Our last night there Bill was able to connect with some Kiwi ham radio operators on his hand held ham radio he brought with him.  He really enjoyed chatting with them.

The next morning the rain continued and we drove to Otorohanga for an overnight stay on the way to Hamilton.  We don’t usually stay at bed and breakfast lodgings, but this place had excellent reviews and the choices in tiny remote Otorohanga were very limited.  This bed and breakfast was located in the countryside and the proprietors had chickens, horses, a donkey, dog and cat.  We had a nice room with an outside entrance and private bath.  Breakfast was included in the price of the room so the next morning Bill enjoyed Eggs Benedict made with fresh eggs and I chose croissants with homemade jam.  It was nice that the proprietor was a chef by trade.

The next morning we headed to Hamilton for a three night stay.  Not far from the bed and breakfast lodging we came upon a field of several ostriches.  One was particularly friendly and quickly came over to see us.PicsArt_1428824829414 The weather was horrible for most of the drive to Hamilton with heavy downpours and wind.  We planned on visiting a Natural Bridge and a waterfall, both of which required a small hike.  We refused to let the weather defer our plans so we put on rain gear and trudged on.  We knew we couldn’t say “we would do it tomorrow” or “next time”.  It was now or never and we refused to let the rain stop us.

Our first stop was Mangapohue Natural Bridge.  A walk over several suspended catwalks and a swinging bridge led us to a beautiful limestone double archway.  Due to the lack of sunlight on this rainy day and the cave like interior, it was hard to get pictures to do the natural bridge justice. AfterPicsArt_1428825077344PicsArt_1428825293060 a short drive further down the road we came to the trail leading to Marakopa Falls, advertised as one of the most picturesque falls on the north island.  This one hundred foot waterfall was spectacular, made even more so by the heavy rains.PicsArt_1428825424436PicsArt_1428825669990

We were traveling on back roads and passing through small towns.  Our bed and breakfast proprietor did suggest we stop at one tiny restaurant that had great pies.  In New Zealand, pie always means a meat pie, similar to a chicken or turkey pot pie in the States.  There pies are usually beef, steak, lamb or kidney.  They never have fruit pies and you never see a slice of fruit pie on the menu in restaurants.  I find this so strange since they have so many orchards and farms here.  We stopped at the pie shop and Bill chose a steak and cheese pie which he said was “okay”.  I think he expected more since the motel proprietor said they always stop there and buy pies when they pass through the area and commented on how good they were.

We arrived in Hamilton still wet from our hiking excursions and glad to reach the hotel since the weather continued to be wet and miserable.  We have been really really lucky with the weather so far so we can’t really complain. Hamilton is a large college city with a vibrant downtown area with many restaurants to chose from.   Like most downtown areas with an abundance of restaurants within a small area, we had to circle around for awhile looking for a place to park.

Besides having several grocery stores they also had a Dunkin Donuts, our first since arriving in New Zealand.  We were excited and went there for breakfast one morning.  It was a bitter disappointment.  They don’t use Dunkin Donuts coffee blend which was a huge disappointment to Bill.  We buy Dunkin Donuts to fix at home in the States and he was looking forward to some coffee that tasted like home.   Instead he got the same stuff he gets everywhere.  Second disappointment was the price.  $12.50 for a half dozen.  Third disappointment was they were stale.  Bill mentioned this to the clerk and she said they are made at the Dunkin Donuts in Auckland an hour away and trucked in to Hamilton.  On top of that they freeze them.  So after almost two months we are still waiting for a good donut and a decent cup of coffee.

Our main reason for coming to Hamilton was to take the tour of Hobbiton in the nearby town of Matamata.  We drove on Saturday to Matamata for our 12:30 tour.  The Hobbiton bus took us thirty minutes into the countryside to the Alexanders’ spectacular 1,250 acre sheep and beef farm. PicsArt_1428827939323PicsArt_1428825946475PicsArt_1428826131629 This farm was selected by Sir Peter Jackson as the setting for many scenes for the “Lord of the Rings” movies.  The bus took us on a narrow winding road constructed by the New Zealand army so that the set could be constructed.  Sir Peter Jackson sent the Alexander family on an all expense paid vacation for three months and took up residence in their house where Jackson and his team went over daily film takes and conducted business.  Sir Jackson was a stickler for detail.  He didn’t like the sheep on the farm and brought in black face sheep from England.  He had members of the crew walk each day on the path to and from the various clotheslines so the path would look worn down.  He had a huge artificial tree built with over 250,000 fake leaves. When he didn’t like the color green of the leaves he had each leaf repainted to the shade of green he wanted.PicsArt_1428826841017PicsArt_1428826357250PicsArt_1428826981174

After the filming ended the sets were all taken down.  Then in 2009 the sets were all permanently rebuilt for the filming of ” The Hobbit Trilogy”.  PicsArt_1428826231025PicsArt_1428826300832PicsArt_1428826582829PicsArt_1428827150135Today daily tours are given of the movie set.  We had a great tour and at the end of the tour we stopped by the Green Dragon for a complimentary alcoholic beer or non alcoholic ginger beer.  PicsArt_1428827238082PicsArt_1428827790143We were so fortunate that the rain had stopped overnight and it was a beautiful sunny day.

On our last day in Hamilton we found a geocache, walking on a path covered with fallen leaves with leaves softly falling around us in the breeze.  Autumn in New Zealand and springtime awaiting us back home!  One week to go!

1 thought on “April 11, 2015 Hamilton, New Zealand

  1. karnold249

    I completed the Lord of the Rings this Winter in Texas and just this week, The Hobbit trilogy. So interesting to see you in that very location! Never thought I’d enjoy those but I sure did. God bless you in your travels and safe journey home.

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