Friday, March 2, 2018

Day 14 - Thu Mar 1, 2018 Tauranga, New Zealand (Day 2) - Crystal Symphony - Sydney to Tahiti

Day 14 – Tauranga, NZ – Thurs, Mar 1, 2018

We decided to have room service for breakfast. The night before, you fill out a form of what you'd like, hang it on your door with a time for delivery and viola it arrives. Room service works great! One well designed feature of our cabin is the table is normally a coffee table, but by pushing a button it raises up to be a dining table. Very clever.

Tauranga is the largest port in New Zealand. And, they have a BIG ship’s container problem.  The goods that they import come in those containers that can be loaded on trucks/trains.  Unfortunately, their primary export is the wood/logs that we have seen piled up in every port.  Those logs are loaded in bulk directly onto cargo ships.  The other big exports such as kiwi fruit is so small compared to imports that they just don't need that many containers. So, there are empty containers piled up everywhere.  They have unsuccessfully tried to build homes out of them, and looked for other uses to no avail.  They just keep piling up and looking for more space to store them. It sure doesn't seem sustainable.

Our tour to Hobbiton today was through Zealandier Tours.  Shona picked us up promptly at 10 am, with 9 of us going from the ship.  Hobbiton provides 2 hour guided tours through the movie set.  It is well orchestrated, and while very touristy, they throttle the people into scheduled groups which makes it so there are not hordes of people in the same place.

In 1998 a location scout flew over the Alexander farm.  He immediately advised Peter Jackson (Director of Lord of the Rings and Hobbit) that he should come take a look.  It was the perfect location for Hobbiton.  They had previously found 12 locations to film various scenes, but realized that they could do it all in this one place. Construction was started in 1999, initially by the New Zealand Army who built a 1.5 km road in to the site.

Thirty-nine Hobbit Holes were created with untreated lumber, plywood and polystyrene.    Peter Jackson was obsessed with detail and wanted to be a true to JRR Tolkien’s book as possible. In the book he described the oak tree at Bilbo’s hole and had to recreate it perfectly.  There was no oak tree, so the oak tree that overlooks Bag’s End was cut down and transported in from near Matamata. Artificial leaves were brought in from Taiwan and individually wired onto the tree.  

The artificial tree above Bag End.

The Mill and double arch bridge were built.
  Thatch for the roofs of the Green Dragon In and The Mill were cut from rushes around the Alexander farm and installed by roofers flown in from England.

Another issue all through the movies is the issue of scale.  Hobbits stand 3’6” tall, and the structures were built to create that illusions.  Structures were built to demonstrate that humans and Gandolf, who are normal size look that way in the movie.

In 2009, the structures were rebuilt for The Hobbit Trilogy.  They were then built out of permanent materials including rebuilding the artificial tree (they had to make it look 60 years younger) which was made out of steel and silicon.  The entire reconstruction process took two years. 

Filming for The Lord of the Rings Trilogy started in December 1999 and continued for three months.  Filming for The Hobbit Trilogy began in October 2011 and took only 12 days.  At peak, there were about 400 people on site. We took a zillion pictures, so bear with us. It was incredibly cool. Note - all of the inside scenes of the hobbit holes were filmed in the studio in Wellington. So, there is nothing on the inside except supports to keep the hill up.

They have many gardeners on staff, all of this is real.

Green Dragon in the background.

We are hobbits!

Bag End.

Human or wizard sized Bob.

As a part of the tour, when we got to the Green Dragon they gave us a free beer.

Outside the Green Dragon.

After doing a little shopping and having a snack at the Shire’s Rest Café. The countryside around Hobbiton was incredibly lush and green. We heard that normally at this late in the summer, the fields are all brown, but they've had a lot of rain and thus the green.

We proceeded on for a tour of McLaren Falls, the city of Tauranga and Mount Maunganui.  All in all, it was a fabulous day.

McLaren Falls trail was very jungle like.

We stopped and looked at Kiwi fruit vines (yes, they grow on vines).

Dinner was in Umi Uma, the Nobu restaurant.  We shared a variety of sushi, Lobster Tacos, Rock Shrimp Tempura, Broiled Eggplant (amazing), Shrimp Tempura, Spicy Creamy King Crab.  

Sommelier Noell in Umi Uma.

For an entrée Julie had Broiled Salmon with Anticucho Sauce and Bob had Grilled Chicken Breast with Wasabi Pepper Sauce.

The evening entertainment was comedian Keith Scott, Australian’s leading comedy impressionist.  He was amazing.  He did about 40 impressions of people that were spot on.  He also has been a voice actor for many cartoons and movies – including for Disney and Warner Brothers.

Today we walked 5.8 miles, 13,958 steps, 33 flights of stairs.  And, Julie is pleased to say that when she weighed herself this morning she weighs exactly the same as when we boarded the ship almost 2 weeks ago despite eating and drinking more than at home.

Update on the Apple Watch. Bob walked for 61 minutes today and did 4.21 miles (a pace of about 14 minutes 30 seconds). The ship was docked, so we got an accurate reading. Julie doesn't walk that fast, but Bob was really moving.


  1. No Black Cod? I think I could make a meal of just that, it was fantastic!