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
Air New Zealand Queenstown
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.

Nomad Safaris Queenstown
With Nomad Safaris touring around Queenstown
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In the jeep with the lovely Emma Bell, our host from Tourism New Zealand
Nomad Safaris Eowyn jeep
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
Isengard LOTR
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
filming location Ithilien Twelve Mile Delta LOTR
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
landscape queenstown
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 3: The Hobbit Fan Fellowship Contest | Day 1: A Maori Welcome

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!

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Dwarf statue at Auckland airport

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?

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Group photo Air New Zealand

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

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!

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Geysers Te Puia

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.

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Our chiefs during the Wero

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:

hobbit southfarthing beer
Hobbit Southfarthing Frogmorton ginger beer

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)