A quick look at Rotorua

After our stop in Hobbiton, my girlfriend and I continued on to the town of Rotorua. We would be spending the night here, staying with a couple of families from our church.

Rotorua’s main claim to fame is all the geothermal activity going on in and around the city — steam vents, hot pools, and even geysers! As you can see from these photos, the town is full of steam.

Rotorua borders a lake of the same name which is in actuality the caldera of a quite large volcano (though dwarfed by the supervolcano whose caldera forms the massive Lake Taupo). The last significant supervolcano eruption in New Zealand occurred before it was settled by humans, so we have reasonable confidence that the whole place isn’t going to get blown to smithereens, at least not while we’re here for our one-night trip.

(The volcanic history of New Zealand is fascinating reading, and not at all something one should share with one’s significant other if she happens to be visiting. A word to the wise, chaps.)

I happened to get the time wrong that we were meeting one of the families, the one my girlfriend would be staying with. This wound up being fortuitous because it gave us a chance to tour Rotorua a bit.

As we were driving in, I noticed that Rotorua Hospital was situated on quite a large hill, overlooking the city and the lake. I immediately thought “I want to take photos from there”. Although it was bitterly cold that particular evening, she graciously agreed to come up with me while I took some pictures, which are the ones I’m showing you now.

We happened to arrive as the sun was setting, leading to some quite pleasant vistas overlooking this small town.

The steam you see is coming up from any opening possible: hot pools and cracks in the earth, sure, but also manhole covers and storm drains! It’s a bit disconcerting if you’re not used to it!

My very first time in Rotorua, some three years ago now, I ate brunch in this very Lake Road Tavern before starting my drive to Taupo and, ultimately, Wellington!

After night fell, we drove around the town for a bit. I took her on a drive through the gardens, though we didn’t get out of the car because by that point it had become quite chilly!

These bushes spoiled an otherwise magnificent shot, but it was too cold for me to do my usual awkward clambering around to get good framing :). Rotorua does have some pretty cool architecture though.

Some nice views, too!

The sky was getting darker, so it was time to leave the hospital carpark and head back down the hill to the town.

Rotorua has a lovely pedestrian street, colloquially called Eat Street because many fine dining establishments line the pavement on either side. We went to a quite good Indian place there with the family we were meeting up with, then she went home with them and I went to meet the family I’d be staying with. We’re incredibly grateful for the hospitality we were shown here in Rotorua, and although our time in the town is bookended by much more touristy and more exciting activities, the time we were able to spend with these friends remains a highlight of our trip.

I hope you enjoyed this quick look at Rotorua! Next time, not just the final stop on our trip to Rotorua but also the final post from her visit! It’s a fun one, so do make sure to come back for it :) Til then!

Hobbiton

This is it! We’re making a journey Southeast to Rotorua. On the way, we stopped by Hobbiton!

I’ve been to Hobbiton before, pre-blog, but I was glad to have the chance to go again. My girlfriend is not a big Tolkien fan (or really a Tolkien fan at all), but she still wanted to go see it. She didn’t have to ask me twice!

(She asked very astute questions about some of Tolkien’s writings and geography so I thought for a moment she might actually be showing an interest in the Legendarium, but unfortunately no dice. She’s quite content to have me tell her what she wants to know and remain blissfully ignorant of the rest!)

I was worried that traveling further South would mean it would be colder (because that’s how it works in the Southern Hemisphere), but thankfully we got a warm and occasionally sunny day for our Hobbiton exploration. (I hear my girlfriend’s voice in my head correcting me that it was not a warm day, just not as cold as it might have been. I happen to like the cold more than she does.)

Hobbiton is many things. A tourist center, certainly. But it’s also a movie set, as well as part of a functioning farm! As a side note, the last time I came to New Zealand a few bits of Hobbiton were closed off by New Line Cinemas because they were finishing up work on some of the Hobbit trilogy (this was late 2014 so I’m assuming it was either photography or reshoots by that point).

Coming in Winter means fewer people, but it also means there’s renovations and upkeep going on. Bag End is covered in scaffolding and there’s a definitively non-hobbit-sized stepladder intruding on the shot.

There are two different sizes of hobbit holes: big ones, for the hobbit actors to stand by so they look small, and small ones for the non-hobbit actors to stand by so they look big.

There are also ones like this, small enough to be (pardon the expression) dwarfed by any of the adult actors. I’m assuming that these are just used as part of the background and are sized in such a way as to promote some sort of size illusion or another.

I briefly thought about trying to use forced perspective to make the ducks seem enormous relative to the hobbit hole behind them, but the tour guide was bustling us along and the ducks weren’t cooperating anyway.

This is the Party Tree, which you will recognize if you’ve read the first few chapters of The Fellowship of the Ring or seen the movie. Apparently the presence of a suitable tree was one of the criteria for choosing the location for Hobbiton, and this one fit the bill.

For all their flaws, the Hobbit movies definitely excelled in the set design department. Tourist area or no, Tolkien fan or no, it’s just fun to walk around the set and see how much thought and imagination went into turning Hobbiton into what feels very much like a real community of sorts.

This is my favorite shot of the day, though less because of my skill as a photographer and more because the light actually cooperated and the subject lends itself to great shots.

That’s the Green Dragon there across the lake, home of the finest brew for the brave and true, etc. :)

On the first photo, I love the lighting but don’t love the scaffolding. On the second, the opposite. The struggle is real. Maybe you can combine them in your head into one well-framed and also well-lit photograph :)

Anybody home?!

Hobbiton is full of signs like this pointing the way to various fictional Shire locations. I suspect Tolkien’s Shire was fairly light on such signs, for the same reason that pre-industrial agrarian villages tended not to have them: the presence of people who didn’t know their way around was so rare that making them would be a waste of wood and paint.

A fun piece of set dressing.

Delving & Oatlock is entirely fabricated. There are a few places in the shire with Delving in their name (Michel Delving being the most prominent), so presumably these are place names and not hobbit names. Oatlock is, to be fair, an entirely reasonable-sounding name for a place in the Shire, so clever work on someone’s part to make something plausible-sounding yet original.

I don’t know if this water wheel is connected to anything, but I would not put it past Peter Jackson to have his set designers build a fully-functional barley mill so it can look authentic when it appears in a shot for three seconds.

This cat is called Pickles and has the honor of keeping the Green Dragon free from four-legged pests. Cats are canonically present in Middle Earth, but Tolkien was not a cat person (he admits as much in letter 219 of The Letters of JRR Tolkien) and thus, were Pickles canon, Tolkien would likely have had him belong to the Sackville-Bagginses.

Leaving the Green Dragon, we can see that some hobbits managed to score lakefront property.

Q: How did Bilbo keep in touch with his friends and relatives?
A: He sent them wee-mail!

I’ll see myself out now.

I hope you enjoyed our trip to Hobbiton as much as we did!

Next time, get ready…things are going to get a little explosive!