It's A Dangerous Business, Going Out Your Door
We left Auckland early in the morning, picked up a rental car, and drove on to Matamata and the site of Hobbiton, the movie set village from Lord of the Rings otherwise known as Shire's Rest. Unfortunately, to our great dismay, it was a bleak and rainy day. We almost considered skipping the Hobbiton tour but decided to stick it out and schlep through the mud for 2 hours. I can't say for certain that it was entirely worth it, but I can say that it was clearly a beautiful area that would have been so nice had it been sunny. We wandered around hobbit holes and learned more about the filming of the movies all whilst huddled under umbrellas. If you're a LOTR fan, you'd have been thrilled, though despite the fact that I've seen all the movies, I haven't seen them in awhile and I wasn't entirely sure what some of he references were...
After the tour we made our way southwest, stopping for lunch in Cambridge along the way, to the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. Glowworm caves are one of those famous things you're supposed to see while in New Zealand, though they wouldn't let us take photos during our tour into them, which I found pretty upsetting. The worms are larvae and they produce a light at the end of their tails to attract insects, which they snare in a line of sticky string not unlike a spider web. Down in the darkness of the cave, floating along an underground river in a boat, the ceiling above looks like a night sky with the thousands of little worm lights as the surreal stars. They're strangely beautiful in their ethereal way. Although there are no photos, if you click here and here you can get an idea of what the journey underground looked like.
We left Waitomo and drove southeast to Taupo, where we were staying overnight on our way south. Of course, the drive to Taupo was sunny as could be -- too bad we couldn't have had that sun in the morning for our Hobbiton tour, but oh well. Exhausted by this point and considering it had resumed raining steadily by the time we reached Taupo, we ate dinner and headed to bed pretty quickly. But as we got to the hotel room and shut the door, something very strange happened: the room began to shake and jostle. We looked at each other and I somehow immediately knew what was happening. I experienced my first earthquake and it wasn't even a bad one, only a 3.8, but it was super weird nonetheless.