THIS BLOG IS PART 3 OF MY JOURNAL ABOUT MY UNEXPECTED JOURNEY TO NEW ZEALAND, AS WINNER OF THE HOBBIT FAN FELLOWSHIP CONTEST
Day 1: A Maori Welcome
After a 25 hour flight, we arrived on Sunday the 2nd of November at 7.00AM in Auckland. We were given a warm welcome by our hosts of Tourism New Zealand and Air New Zealand (dressed up as elves), and a huge statue of a Durin dwarf (on loan from Middle-earth). We’ve made it!
In the Novotel Auckland Hotel we finally got to shower, put on clean clothes (after 25 hours in airplanes this was such a good feeling) and enjoyed our second breakfast like real Hobbits. This was the first time all the winners and their guests were together. Everyone was still a wee bit shy, but already very enthousiastic. The head of the organisation officially welcomed us in New Zealand and told us that we were the 150 winners out of 140.000 entries worldwide! I really felt incredibly lucky.
We also received our Hobbit goodiebags with official Hobbit Fan Fellowship Contest t-shirts, Hobbit feet socks and lots and lots of other goodies. We were divided into groups with whom we will be travelling the rest of the trip. We expected that we were in the Europe group (aka the dwarves), but that wasn’t the case. Besides the elves (Asia) and the Hobbits (USA) there was a ‘rest of the world group’: the Wizards. The Wizards were people from New-Zealand, Australia, Norway, Finland, Sweden, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Belgium and Holland. Our hosts were Emma Bell (Tourism New Zealand) and Natascha Webb (Air New Zealand). What we didn’t know yet, was that the Wizards were going to be the best group ever.
We were given a special lanyard to enter the airport of Auckland. After an inspection by police dogs, we entered the runway to make a group photo in front of one of the Hobbit airplanes (a Boeing 777-300ER) of Air New Zealand. Did I already mention that Air New Zealand is the coolest airline in the world?
By (the Wizard) coach, we really started our journey and travelled to Rotorua. I couldn’t believe my eyes when the first landscapes of New Zealand passed by: little green hills that reminded me of the Shire with trees like those in Lothlórien and Mirkwood. Since we were with the locals/kiwi’s in the Wizard group, they could tell us some lovely details about the area. We also got a personal video message from Peter Jackson (how cool is that), who told us about our first destination: Te Puia.
Te Puia is New Zealand’s living Maori cultural centre. Here we got a tour by the hilarious guide Carla around the geothermic area with boiling mudpools and geyers (which smell like rotten eggs because of the sulfur). And we got to see a real Kiwi bird! I always thought it would be the size of a small parrot, but it actually had the size of a big chicken!
After the tour, we were given a traditional Maori welcome, the pōwhiri, followed by the Wero or challenge. Two chiefs had to pick up a leaf whilst being challenged by a threatening Maori warrior (don’t worry, it all went very well). In the behind the scenes of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit I’ve seen that the crew and cast were also given a traditional Maori welcome at the first day of shooting. It felt really special to have witnessed this too.
In the meeting house, the Maori gave a concert, but we couldn’t just sit back: we also had to participate. The men learned the haka, a traditional ancestral war cry, dance or challenge and the women learned a poi dance. After the titi torea, a dance with sticks, a traditional diner was served: the hangi. While having this delicious diner, our host sang a birthday song for the birthday girl Manesha from our Wizard group.
The first day went by so fast! We came as guests to Te Puia, but we left as family. It was a really special experience to witness these old traditions of the Maori people. It was a beautiful way to be introduced to New Zealand on our first day.
Back at the hotel, there was a little surprise. On our bed there was a bottle of Hobbit Southfarthing Frogmorton ginger beer, a hint for tomorrow’s destination:
I can’t wait to tell you about day two, one of the most exciting days of The Hobbit Fan Fellowship Contest when we went to the Hobbtion movie set! Read about this in my next blog. In the meantime, I highly recommend to watch the first video dairy made by the film crew of Tourism New Zealand (gosh, they have the best job in the world). They captured the first day beautifully:
“This will be a night to remember,” – Bilbo Baggins (FOTR)