Havey’s Australia & New Zealand Adventure Part 16 – Hobbiton & Kaituna River Rafting, North Island NZ

Lord of the Rafts

From the relatively calm and peaceful raft through the glowworm caves in the previous blog to all out adrenaline as some of us in the Dobbler tribe went white water rafting down a 7 metre, grade 5 rapid! Add to that a morning of venturing around the Hobbiton set where they filmed Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit, it really was another awesome day on my travels in New Zealand from earlier this year. Hold on tight, we’re going on an adventure here!

Hobbiton

For those of you who thoroughly enjoyed (or still enjoy) the Lord of the Rings and the Hobbit movies then you must absolutely make your way over to Hobbiton if you’re in New Zealand. I’ve only seen the films a couple of times but safe to say after visiting, those of us in the travel group who went watched the films again later in the evening at our accommodation. And yes, we all said “WE WERE THERE!” whilst pointing ever so excitedly at the television!

I recommend booking yourself on a guided tour to make the most of it. The one I went on cost $119NZD from the Hobbiton Movie Set Shop in Rotorua and this includes a transfer and a drink at the Green Dragon. More information about other transfer locations is on their website. It is a long drive over from Rotorua, which will take around 60-70 minutes, but you do get some videos and documentaries to get you in the mood and feeling all “hobbity” 🙂 When you start getting towards Middle Earth, you will see rolling hills after rolling hills and it’s a beautiful landscape.

Rolling hills as you enter Hobbiton (Middle Earth)
Getting closer to Hobbiton…
…and here we are!

On the tour, we learned about how this location came to be the spot for Middle Earth. In 1998, the scouting team of the director, Sir Peter Jackon, discovered the green hills of Alexander Farm in Waikato and when Jackson came to visit this 1,250 acre sheep farm himself, he knew it would be the perfect place to home our beloved hobbits.

Welcome to Hobbiton!

Obviously, they didn’t need all 1,250 acres to create this set but the land owner gave around 10-12 acres for them to work with. After Lord of the Rings was filmed, the production crew went to destroy the set although some parts couldn’t be removed for one reason or another. Then when they filmed the Hobbit in the late 2000s, the crew decided to make the set permanent. Ever since 2002, this has been a fully fledged tourist operation. Let’s see if you can name some of the hobbit-holes 🙂

Some of the doors were made about 60% full size to give the perspective effect
I don’t think I’d make a good hobbit 🙂
Which hobbit’s house is this then?
View of the lake and the Party Tree from “Bag End”

As you walk around you will notice that there is absolutely no man-made things like electricity pylons, buildings, roads, air plane noises and the like. It gave Jackson the chance to be totally detracted from the modern world and immerse everyone in to the land of Middle Earth!

At the top of Bag End, you’ll notice a magnificent tree which stands atop of the hill. It’s not real. What?! Yea, it’s not real, it’s completely artificial! They made this because the natural tree they wanted to use and move there died at some point whilst filming and so they made an exact replica and each individual leaf is hand painted. Jackson was pretty meticulous hey!

The fake tree sits above the yellow tent to the left on top of the hill

As we made our way towards the Green Dragon, we stopped at the Party Tree to see what was going on down there and do a little dance (well, it is the Party Tree)! There’s a lot of information thrown at you on this tour but I always think it’s better to have too much than not enough. You get to learn about just how intricate every little detail was and what it took to make this compelling movie series. What’s good is, you get a free drink at the Green Dragon to help digest it all anyway 😉

Anyone want to dance under the Party Tree?
Who knows which hobbit lives here?
To the pub of course!
It looks like they’re restocking the bar with a fresh barrel!
Cross the bridge to get to the Green Dragon…
…and enter!
Inside looks pretty cool, not a bad place to order your drink…
…cheers 🙂

Then of course, once the guided section of the tour has finished, you have the visitor’s shop where you can buy all kinds of souvenirs like the good old fridge magnets, postcards and special edition books. I’d recommend this tour even if you’ve watched the films and aren’t an avid fan (like me) as it’s a pretty cool experience and you get to see what life is like as a hobbit! Check the website out here which has more information about the whole shebang.

White Water Rafting, Kaituna River

Oh. My. Goodness! I’ve done a few white water rafting excursions in my time and they are really good fun but nothing quite like this! The thrill of going down the river, not knowing if you’re going to fall in, up against one of the forces of nature, I love it! However, the biggest grade rapids I’ve done are Grade 3 in a kayak when I was 15.

There are 6 grades in total. Grade 1 being a slight ripple in the water whilst grade 6 is basically like Niagara Falls! So when I heard this was a grade 5 with a 7 metre vertical drop… I was a little bit apprehensive but to say you’ve gone down the biggest commercially available white water rafting drop, well, I couldn’t turn that down!

We look happy enough now at the beginning but little did we know what was ahead of us!

The rafting company we went with is called Kaitiaki Adventures and you can book this in Rotorua (it’s actually right next to the Hobbiton Shop) or on the website but I’d recommend booking it a few days in advance. For $109NZD, you get a 3 hour adrenaline rush that takes you through the Kaituna River and on a trip of a life time! We had such a cool instructor who was remarkably chilled out and made fun of (and with) everyone, which took the stress out of what we were about to embark on! You get all the equipment of course and transit to and from Rotorua.

Before the main event, there was about a 3 metre drop that we had to navigate through and we all thought that WAS the main event… the heart was pumping as we approached this one! Rest assured, we were informed that there were 4 scenarios that would happen.

  • Scenario A – we all make it through, no dramas.
  • Scenario B – you fall out and try to sit up with your feet pointing forward to protect you as you go down the river, no dramas.
  • Scenario C – you fall out and you end up under the raft, make yourself in to a ball, you pop up and adopt the sit position, no dramas.
  • Scenario D – the raft goes upside down, you end up under it, find the air pocket and side of the raft, hold your breath, pull yourself under and outside, no dramas

(I think that’s what they said anyway disclaimer, don’t listen to me, listen to the instructor 🙂 )

Approaching the first 3 metre drop…
Hold on!!!
Phew! Made it!

Well that was a rush and definitely the biggest drop I’ve ever been down! I hope you enjoyed living it with me! Oh… wait… the REST of the rafting trip and that 7 metre drop…? Well, there were a few more rapids to navigate, child’s play really

Pretty calm waters to get through…
…yea no problems here!

Errr… what’s that colossally loud rushing of water up ahead? Why is our fun instructor suddenly getting serious? “Guys, seriously, listen to my instructions, hold on as tight as you can and I’ll try to steer us in to safety”… Suddenly, the heart was pounding a deeper, heavier rhythm, the colour was draining from us as we started to approach “it”. 7 metres of surging torrent awaited us as we were instructed to paddle “Paddleeeee”…. “STOP”…. “GET DOWN, HOLD ON!”…

Approaching the falls, just getting a firm grip on the ropes (I’m middle left in the picture)…
Hold on tight, here we go!
Carnage…
I felt a huge tilt to the left and thought I was going in…
… when I look up, the person in front and behind me were gone!
Assessing the damage, who did we lose?
All’s well that ends well 🙂

Looking back at these pictures now and I remember the shear carnage that happened as we went down. There is SO much water dropping on you and we actually got pulled a little bit back in to the waterfall! We had scenario A, B AND C here as five of us made it through (no dramas), one fell off the side but held on to the rope (no dramas) and the other went out, down and under then ended up at the front – NO DRAMAS! But all’s well that ends well! We then watched the other raft of 6 come down and nailed it scenario A! Well done to them but I think we had a bit more fun 😛

So who wants to go rafting here then? Haha! If you want to feel the thrill, check out Kaitiaki Adventures and give them a Kia Ora when you do. Friendly people, fun day out 🙂

Take it easy (if you can)!

Nicky

PHC Top 3 – A Chance To Win From A Growing Prize Pool

Well, whilst I’m here, I might as well take the chance to tell you about a new contest that I’ve been a part of with the Power House Creatives called @phctop3. All you need to do is tell us what your top 3 favourites for a chance to win from a growing prize pool – more info here.

Electronic Music Alliance (EMA)

EMA is a growing electronic music community run by electronic musicians FOR electronic musicians. We have weekly playlists on a variety of platforms to cater for all streaming preferences – make sure you follow our blog for your weekly dose here. We’re also launching a new community run label called Electronic Alliance Records which aims to spread the word even more for our artists – check the latest developments and what music is coming up here

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