Part 5: The Hobbit Fan Fellowship Contest | Day 3: Hobbit & LOTR Filming Locations

This blog is part five of my journal about my unexpected journey to New Zealand, as winner of The Hobbit Fan Fellowship Contest. Today we flew to Queenstown and did a tour around filming locations of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit in Paradise.

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THIS BLOG IS PART FIVE OF MY JOURNAL ABOUT MY UNEXPECTED JOURNEY TO NEW ZEALAND, AS WINNER OF THE HOBBIT FAN FELLOWSHIP CONTEST!

Day 3: Hobbit & LOTR Filming Locations

We had to get up early upon our hobbit feet to the airport of Rotorua. With Air New Zealand we flew in a private Hobbit Fan Fellowship airplane to our next destination: Queenstown!

Queenstown Air New Zealand
On our way to Queenstown with Air New Zealand
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Arrived in Queenstown!

Queentown is located on the southern island of New Zealand. My jaw dropped when we got off the airplane: what a different landscape! On the northern island we saw green little hills, but the airport of Queenstown lies in a valley formed by huge mountains with beautiful white snowy tops, close to the azure blue lake Wakatipu. This was probably the most beautiful place I’ve ever seen.

We were greeted by the crew of Nomad Safaris to take us on a tour around filming locations of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit triologies. The jeep’s license plates were even in style: our jeep’s called Eowyn.

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With Nomad Safaris touring around Queenstown
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In the jeep with the lovely Emma Bell, our host from Tourism New Zealand
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Jeep’s licensce plate Eowyn

We were brought on top of Queenstown Hill, the filming location of the most epic safety video ever made by Air New Zealand, starring Dean O’GormanSylvester McCoy, Elijah Wood, Richard Taylor and Peter Jackson. 

Here we had a gorgeous view over Queenstown, lake Wakatipu and The Remarkables, or Extendables as Peter Jackson called them, the mountains which he used to represent the Misty Mountains. Moreover, we saw the hill from which Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) falls after the fight with Sharku (Jed Brophy) during the Warg attack in The Two Towers. 

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View from Queenstown Hill: The Remarkables or the Misty Mountains
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Me on Queenstown Hill
Panorama Queenstown Hill
Panorama Queenstown Hill
Lake Wakatipu Queenstown
Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown

Next stop was Arcadia Station in Paradise near Glenorchy. To get here, we drove alongside lake the gorgeous lake Wakatipu surrounded by mountains. As the name predicts, Paradise is absolutely stunning! The colors, the mountains, the forests… No wonder that this area were the filming locations of Isengard and Beorn’s home.

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Paradise, filming location of Isengard
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Isengard in The Lord of the Rings
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Gandalf and Bilbo meeting Beorn
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Paradise, the filming location of Beorn’s home
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With beautiful trees

On the road to Arcadia Station we received another video message from Peter Jackson in which he announced a treasure hunt. In the forest around Beorn’s home there was something hidden. The one who would find it, would earn a seat next to Peter Jackson during the private screening of The Battle of the Five Armies on our last day in Wellington. The 150 contestants tried to find this treasure, which was a kind of chaotic. But Ann from Belgium and our Wizard team found the precious: a huge golden ring. Go team Wizard!

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Wizard Ann from Belgium with the precious (Photo by Tourism New Zealand)

After our afternoon tea and picknick with mr. Frodo scones we travelled further from Glenorchy to Twelve Mile Delta. Alongside the road where the filming locations of the Elven Lothlórien Woods and the site of the battle of Amon Hen, where Boromir is fatally wounded in the battle with the uruk-hai Lurz and Merry and Pippin are captured.

Hobbit Picknick
Hobbit Picknick
Battle of Amon Hen
Battle of Amon Hen
Battle of Amon Hen forest filming location
Forests where the Battle of Amon Hen is filmed

Twelve Mile Delta is the filming location of Ithilien. Here is where Frodo, Sam and Gollum cook some ‘paters’, encouter the Oliphaunts and are being captured by Faramir and the rangers of Gondor.

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“That’s where they sat, yeah!”
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Oliphaunts in The Two Towers
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The filming location of Ithilien, Twelve Mile Delta
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Frodo and Sam at Ithilien in The Two Towers
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Our best acting skills as Frodo and Sam
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Shot by a Gondor ranger’s arrow
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Matagouri thorns were used by early Māori as tattooing needles
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Some beautiful landscapes around Queenstown
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Some beautiful landscapes around Queenstown

We ended our safari at AJ Hackett Bungy, above de Kawarau River. In The Lord of the Rings this is the river where the Argonath are located. Here we had diner and had the opportunity to zipline and to bungy jump: a 43 meters drop. Like Peter Jackson mentioned, “My brain isn’t wire to jump off a bridge”. I couldn’t agree more, so I didn’t jump, but the brave Arjen did.

AJ Hackett Bungy
AJ Hackett Bungy diner
Bungy platform AJ Hackett Bungy
Bungy platform AJ Hackett Bungy
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Argonath in The Lord of the Rings
AJ Hackett Bungy jump
Arjen at AJ Hackett Bungy

I really understand now why New Zealand is called real Middle-earth. The filming locations we saw today were almost unreal. Everywhere we looked felt like we’re out of this world… in Middle-earth.

Here’s the video blog of day three by Tourism New Zealand:

In my next blog I will tell you about day four of The Hobbit Fan Fellowship journey, when we did a tour with Southern Discoveries around the beautiful area of Queenstown and we shot some zombies in 4D…

Part 4: The Hobbit Fan Fellowship Contest | Day 2: Hobbiton Movie Set

THIS BLOG IS PART 4 OF MY JOURNAL ABOUT MY UNEXPECTED JOURNEY TO NEW ZEALAND, AS WINNER OF THE HOBBIT FAN FELLOWSHIP CONTEST!

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DAY 2: Hobbiton Movie set

After we enjoyed our first day in Rotorua, New Zealand, we slept for eleven hours this night (our bodies were desperately trying to catch up the jetleg). After a delicious breakfast in the Millenium Hotel in Rotorua there was a fire drill, but luckily we already were heading outside for today’s activities.

Beware: this post contains a lot of pictures. 😉 Click on the photos for a larger view.

Skyline Rotorua gondola
Skyline Rotorua with view over Lake Rotorua
Skyline Rotorua
Skyline Rotorua with Matthew, Floris and Alex

The first stop was the Rotorua Skyline. With a Gondola cableway we were brought on top of Mt Ngongotaha with a beautiful view over Lake Rotorua. Here we got to do some exciting activities, like ziplining, luging and the skyswing. We tried the luge, a kind of race car, in which you can race down the mountain across the stunning Redwood forest. Unfortunatley, it was raining quite hard, so our ludge cars filled with water and we were soaking wet. But it didn’t matter, because it was so much fun! I felt like the wizard Radagast the brown on his sleigh with Rhosgobel Rabbits racing through the forest! After we had a superb lunch, especially the deserts, in the Stratosfare Rotorua Restaurant we got back onto the coaches to our next destination: Matamata.

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Radagast the Brown on his sleigh with Rhosgobel rabbits
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The local cat was drinking out of the luge cars
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Delicious buffet at Stratosfare Rotorua Restaurant

In the little town of Matamata we visited the information centre build in Middle-earth style. 150 crazy hobbit fans wanted to buy merchandise here, so we bought only a few things: a replica of the ‘No admittance except on party business’ sign, magnets and post cards. We also drank some coffee with our lovely Swedish friends. We got another chance to buy merchandise at the Shire’s Rest gift shop close to the Hobbiton Movie Set, where we bought hobbit beer, a Green Dragon replica mug and a replica of the key  to Erebor.

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Striking a pose in front of the visitors centre in Matamata
Gollum statue Matamata
Stealing a kiss from Gollum

After a ten minute drive we were very close to Hobbiton. Our four wheel drive coaches drove us through the picturesque 1,250 acre sheep farm owned by Alexander family. This area was scouted in 1998 as a perfect place to depict the green hills of Tolkien’s Shire in Peter Jackson’s adaptation. The road to Hobbiton was build by the New Zealand army especially for filming The Lord of the Rings. After filming, everything had to be stripped down again. But for filming of The Hobbit the whole Hobbiton Movie Set was rebuild and this time with permanent materials: real bricks, wood and stone. I got goosebumps when we were given an unusual welcome by masked men on horses (probably the Alexander family). When the coach turned around the corner, down in the valley we saw the first glimpse of Hobbiton.

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‘Welcome to Hobbiton’
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“I can’t believe we’re here!”

Visiting Hobbtion was one of the things on my bucket list. I was already planning to save some money every month to visit New Zealand one day, especially to visit the Hobbiton Movie Set. And now we were actually there! When we arrived the sun was shining, like it was meant to be. The moment we ran past the pebble stone wall like Gandalf and Frodo in The Fellowship of the Ring and Bilbo’s “I’m going on an adventure!” moment in The Unexpected Journey was something I will never forget. And yes, almost everyone started to cry when we took our first steps in Hobbiton.

First steps into Hobbiton
First steps into Hobbiton
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“I’m going on an adventure!”

There we were: in the Shire with all the hobbit holes, flowers and laundry drying in the sun. We were welcomed by Russell Alexander himself, some champagne and a lady who looked like a hobbit on the violin, playing some folkish music. Our guide was the enthusiastic local Ethan Wellington (with the best job in the world) who guided us around Hobbiton, the little lake and the party field. He told us about the area, the movie set, the props and funny behind the scenes anecdotes.

Russell Alexander Hobbit Fan Fellowship
Welcome by Russell Alexander, general manager of Hobbiton Movie Set Tours and unofficial ‘lord of the Shire’
Hobbiton Movie Set Ethan Wellington
Our guide Ethan Wellington

Gardeners have spent three years before shooting The Hobbit to plant and let everything grow and bloom. The art department build 44 unique hobbit holes, all designed after the hobbits who supposedly live there: the baker, the fishermen, the lumberjack, etc. The details are absolutely stunning! Some of the hobbit holes are build on a smale scale so Gandalf (Ian McKellen) looked even larger when he stood in front of them when they filmed it.

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A hobbit hole
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The baker’s home
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Me and Arjen with The Green Dragon

On top of the hill,  under the (artificial) oak tree, there was of course Bag End, home of Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, with its green door and the ‘No admittance except on party business’ sign. In the grass we found some leafs of the oak tree, a really special and unique keepsake of this day.

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Bag End
Bag End sign Hobbiton
Bag End
Frodo Shire Bag end sign
Frodo with ‘No admittance except on party business’ sign

One of my personal favorite hobbit holes was the home of Samwise Gamgee, the gardener, and my hero from The Lord of the Rings.

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My favorite hobbit hole: Samwise Gamgee’s home
The Fellowship Of The Ring - Sean Astin as Samwise 'Sam' Gamgee
Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings
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Me at Hobbiton
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Our lovely friends Sinna and Melu from Finland
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Our Bilbo, Bernard from Slovenia
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And our lovely friends from Bulgaria: Viki and Maia

I just can’t get enough… More pictures! (I’ve warned you!)

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Hobbiton Movie Set
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The Wizards in Hobbiton at the party field
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Hobbiton Movie Set
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Green Dragon fine ale

After the tour we drank special brewed hobbit beer in The Green Dragon! All the details are phenomenal: the carving, furniture and little notes with ‘help needed for apple picking’.

Interior The Green Dragon
Interior The Green Dragon
Interior The Green Dragon
Interior The Green Dragon
Interior The Green Dragon
Interior The Green Dragon

Drinking ale in The Green Dragon like true hobbits:

And there was a big surprise for us: behind the curtain there were some unexpected guests waiting for us: Dori, Nori, Oin and Bombur! The actors Mark Hadlow, Jed Brophy, Steven Hunter and John Callen were there to meet us. All night they stayed with us taking photos and to give autographs. They were so nice!

It was a real celebration to be together at The Green Dragon. We enjoyed the food, drinks, music, the company, the scenery and did some archery… We could live here forever.

Mark Hadlow Dori
Arjen with Mark Hadlow (Dori)
Jed Brophy Nori
Me with Jed Brophy (Nori)
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Showing off my inner Legolas at The Green Dragon
Group photo with actors Hobbiton Movie Set Matamata
Group photo with actors Hobbiton Movie Set Matamata
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Party at The Green Dragon
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Hobbiton by night

And the surprises weren’t over yet! We all gathered inside a party tent and we got to see the newest trailer of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies which came straight out of the editing room, a few days before it was released worldwide. And to commemorate this evening, the dwarves sang for us ‘The Misty Mountain’ song.

When it was dark outside, Gandalf gave us a surprise firework show! Or were Merry and Pippin secretly involved? As icing on the cake, we did a night tour around Hobbiton and danced at the party field.

This was definitely a night (and whole day) to remember. It was one of my favorite days of the whole journey, a memory and experience I will treasure whole my life.

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Jed Brophy, Steven Hunter, Mark Hadlow and John Callen singing ‘The Misty Mountains’ song
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Gandalf’s fireworks at Hobbiton

Here you can watch the video dairy of day two by Tourism New Zealand:

In my next blog I will tell you about day three of The Hobbit Fan Fellowship Journey when we went to a place called Paradise…

Part 2: The Hobbit Fan Fellowship Contest | The most excited e-mail of my life

This blog is part two of my journal about my unexpected journey to New Zealand, as winner of The Hobbit Fan Fellowship Contest!

official winners

On the 3rd of October I got the most excited e-mail of my life: I was the potential winner of The Hobbit Fan Fellowship Contest in Holland! Wait, what… potential winner? What doest that mean?

I was at work when I received the e-mail. My colleagues probably thought I sufferd from a stroke when I tried to tell them the news. They didn’t believe it (neither did I yet), so we all gathered around my desk, reading the e-mail about being a ‘potential winner’. The organisation had to make sure me and my guest met their entry requirements. So like our lives depended on it, we rushed to fill in forms, get our passports (we only had an identification card with which you cannot travel outside of Europe) and an ESTA, all within three days!

Meanwhile on Twitter, #Hobbitfancontest went mad! It was known that 75 winners got a message and how many winners each country had (only one from Holland… a.k.a. me!). People were dying from anticipation (figuratively speaking), but we weren’t allowed to talk about it yet! Finally on the 23rd of October it was official: we were going on an adventure to real Middle-earth, New Zealand! I was so relieved! And we received a lovely postcard from Sir Peter Jackson himself.

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A postcard from Peter Jackson

The winners from over the whole world found each other on Facebook and a secret group was created. It was so nice to speak with everyone about the contest, to see all of their videos and get to know each other better. Only seven days left and we would really see each other!

We got even more excited when we got the initerary! We could not believe what Warner Bros, Air New Zealand and Tourism New Zealand had planned for us: visiting Hobbiton and other filming locations across New Zealand, visiting Weta workshop and of course, meeting Sir Peter Jackson at the private screening of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies in Wellington!

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The Hobbit Fan Fellowship Initerary

This was kind of my reaction:

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I still couldn’t believe that this was happing. But I better start believing, because on October 31st me and my lucky boyfriend got up at 5.00AM to get to Amsterdam Schiphol Airport. We travelled from Amsterdam to London, from London to Los Angeles and from Los Angeles to Auckland. A 25 hour flight to the other side of the world. We got closer and closer to Middle-earth. During our flight from Los Angeles to Auckland, we travelled with Air New Zealand, it’s lovely crew and the most epic safety video ever made in the style of Middle-earth, which they show on every flight.

The time difference between Holland and New Zealand is precisely 12 hours (for us the New Zealanders live in the future), so I felt a bit like a time traveller and had no idea which day it was. But according to our initerary, we arrived on Sunday the 2nd of November at 7.00AM in Auckland, New Zealand! Our journey to Middle-earth was about to begin.

Read about day one of our unexpected journey to Middle-earth in my next blog!

“If I take one more step, it’ll be the farthest away from home I’ve ever been.” – Samwise Gamgee, (FOTR)