Backpacking Pensioners travel blog

A view at Cambridge

Shops at Tirau

Waire Falls

Welcome to Hobbiton - no thank you

Sylvia’s Comments

This morning we were up early to say good-bye to Carol and Barry and thank them for a nice stay. Once again we have met some really nice people and hope to see them in Scotland; we keep telling all these Kiwis that they will feel at home in Scotland. Shortly after they left for work we packed our van up and drove into Cambridge, parked and had a wander around.

Barry had told us that at one time Cambridge had been a sleepy little community but not anymore. It is now regarded as the Queenstown of the North Island, it does not have all the extreme activities, but is a sought after area to live. Walking around it has the feel of an English country town with its tree lined streets, which are European, and its architecture. We walked down one side of the main street and crossed the bridge over the Waikato, had a look at the river, crossed over the road and walked back up the other side. The Cambridge region is famous for the breeding and training of thoroughbred horses, including the great Farlap (although the Aussies claim him as theirs). This is reflected in the plaques placed in the pavement, on either side of the road, naming the famous horses trained here. If any of you out there follow the horses, there was a horse from Cambridge running at the Ascot meeting this year. It was also home to Mark Todd, the three day eventer and holder of two Olympic Gold Medals, who will be going to Beijing Olympics this year in the NZ team. It is also home to Rob Wardell and the Ewers- Swindell twins who are also Gold Medal Olympians and in the NZ team for Beijing, not to mention the an Olympic Gold Medal cyclist as well. So all in all it is quite a sporting town.

Our journey now took us along SH 1 to Tiaru, (translated as “many cabbages”). We did not see any cabbages but instead saw the many corrugated iron sculptures dotted around the town. As we entered we passed the giant green grasshopper and in the main street stand a giant sheep and dog, which are bigger than most buildings, and indeed are buildings in their own right. The dog houses the visitors centre and the sheep a large gift shop. Other statues around the town are a pukeko, a big cheese and a cow pushing a shopping trolley. It reminded me a little of the tin horse highway in Western Australia. During the week-end the little town gets very busy with visitors browsing around the many craft shops and relaxing in the coffee houses. After a walk along the street we were retracing our steps to SH 27 and towards Matamata, another town famous for its thoroughbred horse studs. It now attracts lots of visitors, not to see the horses, but to visit ‘Hobbiton’. The film set of the Hobbiton village was built on the land of a nearby farm.

Our camp for tonight was to be at the Opal Hot Springs situated just over a mile from the town. Once again our camp fees included entry to the hot springs, so we indulged ourselves after tea to a nice warm soak before bed. We enjoyed it so much that we decided to stay for another night. During the afternoon we visited the private (an extra charge) Ramoroa Spa, it was like sitting in the ‘Garden of Eden’. The pool was completely surrounded by bamboo trees and native NZ bush and as we soaked in the hot mineral spa we were able to watch the birds flitting about in the trees. Pure indulgence.

On Wednesday morning we decided all good things must come to an end so left the camp and drove a little further along the road to the Wairere Falls. A track took us through native bush and then climbed steeply up by the river over a number of swing bridges and the latter part up a great many steps. Eventually we arrived at the viewing platform to see the 462 feet falls just behind a gentleman with group Japanese students. He ran farm stay holidays and had brought his current visitors for a little exercise; he was now trying to persuade them to continue for 45 minutes further up the track to the summit. Like me they were reluctant to go any further up the track and he did say the track was much better and that we had traversed the worst. I was still not persuaded and used the excuse that we did not really have the time. On a clear day the views from the top are wonderful and Mt Egmont, down in Taranaki can be seen. I will just have to take his word as I am not going; he must have had more success with the students as they did not appear whilst we were having lunch down at the car park.

We now cut across country to the small township Waharoa where we had been reliably informed there was a nice cheese shop and café. After making our purchase we sat outside drinking a coffee in the really warm sunshine. I did wonder if I should put on any sun block, if this is winter NZ style I can cope with it. We now were returning to Hamilton as we intended to visit the Fielday Show, the biggest agricultural show in the southern hemisphere. Our travel route was along SH 27 to Matamata, where once more we branched off the main road and took the back roads towards Cambridge. This proved to be a lovely road taking us into the rolling grassy hills with strange rock formations about, revealing this whole valley was once a river bed. Rocky escarpments are high on the hills that once channelled water passed them. Known as the Hinuera Formation, these rocks are set on alluvial sand, gravels and silts deposited in the basin during the last glaciations between 50,000 and 15,000 years ago. In 1999, these paddocks were transformed into the Green Hill Country of the Shire Middle Earth. The road took us passed the farm that housed the ‘Hobbiton’ film set.

Guided tours take you to the actual location and I had intended to go on one, but had been told that at £20 a head it was not worth it. Most of the film set has been removed and I was told that you really did have to use your imagination to visualise the village. I did not have to face a choice of waste my money or visit the set, as the last tour of the day had gone. After the filming ended most the set was taken away and what little did remain deteriorated through neglect, weather and the sheep grazing around it. It was only when tourists started turning up to see the spot they realised what they had might be worth while trying to do up a little. This week it was announced on the news that Peter Jackson is going to re-create the village here again (but better) for the filming of the Hobbit, which is due to start soon. Let’s hope they are able to keep a little more intact for future tourists.

Our journey continued through Cambridge to Hamilton, branching off to drive to the Fieldays area. We had been told that there is a paddock set aside for motorhomes to park in so that is where we are making for. It was now 5pm and we were meeting all the traffic leaving the show, today was the opening day, and we were very thankful we were going in our direction instead of stuck in all the traffic going the other way. We reached the entrance and the navigator made a fatal error of not letting the driver go the way he wanted. I told him that the route he wanted to go was for permit holders only so we turned into the car parking area only to find the driver was right. We now had to navigate our way out of the car park in all the traffic loop, around and come back in. Eventually we made it and got into the paddock, it appears they moved the cows out yesterday as we discovered when we stepped out of the van.

Although the show was over for the day we walked down into the field area arena and had a quick walk around to get our bearings for tomorrow.

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