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…