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.
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!
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.
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’Gorman, Sylvester 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.
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.
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 dayin 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!
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.
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.
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.
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…
THIS BLOG IS PART 4 OF MY JOURNAL ABOUT MY UNEXPECTED JOURNEY TO NEW ZEALAND, AS WINNER OF THE HOBBIT FAN FELLOWSHIP CONTEST!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
One of my personal favorite hobbit holes was the home of Samwise Gamgee, the gardener, and my hero from The Lord of the Rings.
I just can’t get enough… More pictures! (I’ve warned you!)
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’.
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.
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.
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…
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)