Now I know we’re a tad older than some of our fellow Kiwi Ex passengers, but The Lord of The Rings films are an institution and it is mesmerising to me that some people haven’t seen them. Maybe it was just the fact that they were released during our university years at Christmas time when as students we had nothing else to do but go to the cinema during the day. Sounding familiar to anyone this December? Anyway, I completely forgot about the Hobbit films as well, the third of which we’d seen within the last year. A trip to the set of Hobbiton was one of the automatic ‘we’re doing without question’ excursions of the Kiwi Ex tour and thanks to Keith and Lina for purchasing this as a wedding present. The bus was getting very excited on the way to Hobbiton and Mangee the driver started playing LOTR music to entice us. The best thing was the weather, it was beginning to look like the hottest day in NZ we’d encountered so far.
The Hobbiton area is very secluded and the only way in is via a coach even though it’s all in the NZ countryside. The site of the branded Hobbiton coaches were a hint of what was to come. Tour guides joined us on the Kiwi Ex coach and talked us down the drive pointing out fakes trees, real sheep (it’s a working farm) and explaining the background to the site and stories of Peter Jackson Vs the NZ government. We were allowed to wander round the village and toured the hills still set up as if Hobbits really lived there with washing on the line and vegetables growing in allotments. Several Hobbit hole front doors were accessible and it was a great photo opportunity for peering in or pretending to come out of a door, behind which was simply a wall. The end of the stroll was at the Green Dragon pub where we were presented with a free cold beer to choose from. It was a very exciting tour all-in-all and I left feeling I’d truly experienced something I didn’t know anyone personally had, apart from everyone else on the Kiwi Ex bus of course.
Strict rules were applied to leaving shoes outside and never sitting on pillows, the head is sacred you see.
Having driven that morning from the Waitamo caves, spending two hours in Hobbiton, we were then to go straight on to a Maori village for an overnight excursion. We were required to appoint a chief to represent us and were given strict instructions for the welcoming ceremony which included girls and boys being split up. This gave Andi and I a chance to make a few new friends over lunch, a lunch that included cream tea! More English than Moari me thinks. We learnt a lot over that evening, even the dorm of 14 beds had stories depicting the wall art, the pillars, the roof and the door. Strict rules were applied to leaving shoes outside and never sitting on pillows, the head is sacred you see.
I chose unwisely to stand to the left of Andi throwing a stick at him.
We had fun learning a Moari song to be sung to an audience over dinner, some weaving techniques and a stick throwing game where I chose unwisely to stand to the left of Andi throwing a stick at him. You think that would be fun dear reader but he kept telling me I was doing it wrong! It’s all in the catch though and if anyone else had stood to his left I bet they wouldn’t get a telling off! In the evening we were joined by three other tourist groups each with a nominated chief who would be joining us for dinner. We toured the village learning Moari teachings of musical instruments, tattooing and the Haka. We were all looking forward to dinner though for the traditional hungy. We had experienced this in Fiji however tonights included the famous NZ lamb, and we were promised it was an all you can eat affair. For a coach full of backpackers living on noodles/pasta/rice, this was a key highlight.
Dinner was a great meal that we all gorged on including several helpings of pavlova. We entertained the evening guests with the traditional song that we had learnt earlier and the boys were invited up to perform the Haka. Once all the dinner only guests had departed, the hot tubs were turned on. This is where the night got interesting. As over night guests we had three hot tubs and an outdoor bar open until Midnight to entertain ourselves. All the Moari village staff departed and we were left to our own devices the Kiwi Ex drivers. The hot tubs were HOT, Mangee kindly filled them up with the cold water hose and then the party started, they were designed for about 8 people I think but there were at least 12 in at one point. As the night wore on people drifted to bed, after some panic wine buying before the bar closed the hot tubs settled down. Then the dares started, our hot tub was in casual conversation getting to know the people we hadn’t chatted to before then all of a sudden there were people streaking around us. First one person, then all the boys, then an entire hot tub had to streak due to a backfired dare! Brent being in our hot tub felt he was missing out on the fun and before we knew what was happening he had lost a dare to shave off an eyebrow. Quick as a flash Joy ran off to get her razor! It was at this point Andi and I gave each other a ‘I hope you can read my mind’ look from across the hot tub that signaled “I neither want to lose an eyebrow or streak, I thinks its time to leave”. So off we went to bed realising it was already 3am and only half of our dorm was in bed, oh what a night. I was first to get up the next day and surveyed the dorm to assess if any bed was still empty. The rest quickly rose as breakfast was also promised to be all you can eat, that’s one way to guarantee hungover people to get up and leave when you need them to. The realisation of the night before hit us all when Brent joined us with his new monobrow look, shortly after someone took pity on him and drew a comical one to balance out his face.
Thanks to the Moari’s for a great welcome and trusting us to drink and be stupid in hot tubs until the last, I believe, went to bed at 5am. The song we were taught will never leave us (seriously, it’s all we sang whenever we got drunk again).