Trip Start Feb 15, 2013
Trip End May 03, 2013

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Flag of Canada  , Alberta,
Friday, May 3, 2013

We left at 7:00 this morning for Hinuera and a tour of the "Hobbiton" film set. The day started out cloudy but by the time we arrived it was warm and sunny. The tour took 1 1/2 hours and we had to take a bus in. The film set is on a 10 acre parcel of the 1250 acre sheep and cattle farm owned by the Alexander family. The set cost $70 million to build and they were going to dismantle it when filming was finished but the family renegotiated and kept it as a tourist attraction. The rolling hills and man-made lake were a perfect setting for the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy and "The Hobbit". There was one small area off limits for the tour in case Peter Jackson has to go back for more shots. There were a lot of hobbit holes built into the hills and every detail was perfect, even down to the fake moss. The gardens are real and they use some of the produce in the cafe. The Green Dragon Inn has been fully restored as it was burned down in the movie. We had ales and ciders in the Inn after our tour. It was a great way to end our time here in N.Z.
We heard some interesting stories about the filming. Peter Jackson was very particular about duplicating everything exactly as described in Tolkien's books. The sheep on the Alexander farm were not right so he brought in 75 black-headed sheep from England. The tree that grows over the Baggins' home was cut down in Wellington into 40 pieces and reassembled in place with thousands of fake leaves. He was not happy with the colour of the leaves when it was all in place so he had a lady spend 15 hours a day repainting them all. The frogs in the pond were too noisy so those shots he didn't use. For "The Hobbit" he had them taken to a new home. There was supposed to be a plum tree in one scene. He couldn't find the right size so he used another tree and had plums glued on to it. Unfortunately, they kept dropping off during filming so he scrapped that scene. He also had someone walking through the "village" making paths through the grass so that it would look well used. To keep the fake chimneys smoking, a man went around lighting the beeswax in each one. It took 45 minutes for him to light each one and then he would have to start over as long as they were filming.
We had about a 4 hour wait at the airport for our flight and it was a little late leaving. We arrived home the same day and almost the same time.
We thoroughly enjoyed our time in Australia and New Zealand. Australia is a big country and though we only touched the eastern side, what we did see was beautiful. Some of the coastline is rugged and interesting with wildlife and some, like Sydney and Cairns, are beautiful sandy beaches with lots of surfers. The snorkelling at the Great Barrier Reef was definitely a highlight. Of course, the main purpose of the trip was to see New Zealand but you can't go all that way and not visit Australia.
New Zealand exceeded all of our expectations. We were in awe as we travelled around at the diversity of scenery. There was an amazing view around every corner. From the mountain ranges to the coast it is a spectacular country. They really cater to the tourists here with clean and well-equipped public washrooms everywhere and lots of places to eat. And it is not as expensive as Australia. In the towns, the main streets are paved with patio bricks and the gardens are filled with flowers, bushes and trees. Even the trees have flowers. There are hedges everywhere and some are at least 20 feet tall out in the fields. The fall colours were out in full "bloom" and with the backdrop of the forests and mountains, were spectacular. Recycling is everywhere even in the campgrounds as they are very concerned with the environment. All the school children wear uniforms and look so smart. People in general dress so much less casual than in N.A. In fact we only saw one young man with the crotch of his pants down around his knees. We definitely came at the right time too. The weather couldn't have been better and the roads and tours were much less crowded than they would have been earlier. We encountered people from all over the world though Australians make up most of their tourists. We also found a lot of young people from England and Europe backpacking around the country. A great way to travel if you're young. The only thing we would have done differently is get a little bigger campervan but we survived!
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Cal & Nancy on

Glad you're home safe and sound. Sure enjjoyed your trip log. Hope to see you in the fall

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