While I was writing this, I was very tempted to just type an incoherent string of words, throw in some pictures, and call it a day. Mainly because no amount of writing – sentences or words – would be able to convey the sheer giddiness that was visiting Hobbiton. But I promised a travelogue, so I will do my best.
Hobbiton was actually en route to a place was called Rotorua, and I would be spending several days there, visiting the attractions the locale had to offer. But it made more sense to go to Hobbiton first – at least, according to our driver-guide.
We weren’t allowed to go directly to Hobbiton though – we stopped at a location they called “The Shire’s Rest”, a small shop-cafe place that was just outside the set itself. It was there I learned that “Hobbiton” wasn’t actually a location in itself, but part of a property known as the Alexander family sheep farm. And there were so many sheep, just inside the iron fences as we took a special bus into the Hobbiton set itself.
But we did have to purchase tickets – we got ours when we arrived, and as it was in May and we arrived just after noon, most of the tourist buses had gone. That meant we were left to enjoy the relative quiet of the Shire’s Rest, and get ourselves a quick lunch before our tour started. It was one of the best days for weather as well – just skies and green rolling hills, with no one in sight for miles. No, really. Look at this:
Our guide herded us all onto the bus, and off we went, to a very small part of the Middle Earth that I’d grown up seeing, first in The Fellowship of the Ring, and then in Return of the King, and then in the Hobbit Trilogy. I’ll fully admit to watching the movies (and being a horrific Legolas fangirl) first before actually reading the books, but I love both equally. Book purists, you may now proceed to burn me at stake.
(Not now, put those torches away! Let me at least finish my internship first!)
We first stopped at the crossroads, where the history of the set was explained to us – how it was at first constructed with very shoddy building material, half-torn-down after its initial filming until the New Zealand government intervened, and how it was properly re-constructed with steel beams and concrete after the Hobbit trilogy.
I could go on and on about what I saw in Hobbiton, about the intricacy of the set, how fresh and clean the air was and how well-kept it had been. It didn’t feel like I was in New Zealand anymore – no, it did feel like for a moment, I was in Hobbiton.
There were little clothes-lines hanging Hobbit-sized clothes to dry, a fully-functioning farm (yes! With live pumpkins and vegetables!), child-like benches, beehives, even a fishing pier with plastic fish dangling in the wind. The famous Green Dragon Inn was situated across the river, and yes, you could get a drink there.
The guide recounted a story about the oak tree that was planted above Bag End. In the original Lord of the Rings film, they had a grand oak tree above it, but when the Hobbit trilogy came around, they had to find the correct tree – and then make it younger by sixty years. They couldn’t find the same tree anymore (naturally), so the solution the y used at the time was to build an artificial tree, and then individually wire each leaf onto it.
I jokingly said maybe I should go up there and try to get one. The guide then told me I could try, but that she’d tackle me and get me to security. I could probably not outrun her, and earlier on, she had mentioned she’d played rugby regularly. So I wisely decided against it.
Speaking of the guide – she had so many stories to tell. Not just of Hobbiton, but of herself and her experiences while doing the Hobbiton tours. One of the more memorable ones was when she actually had to break up a fight in the group between two scrawny boys, physically holding them apart and sending each to a time out corner. They tried to have another go when her back was turned, so she spent the rest of the tour physically stood between them!
Another concerned her knowledge of the Maori language – but that in itself deserves a blog post of its own (eventually), as it deserves more sensitivity than this cheerful ramble.
Towards the end, we were guided towards the Green Dragon Inn, where we would be able to get our complimentary drink. And no, it wasn’t just typical beer or ale or stout. These were drinks that were brewed especially for the Green Dragon Inn at Hobbiton, and included an amber ale, a dark stout, and an apple cider. They even had a working fire place, and notices for the latest events in Hobbiton posted up. Not the modern-day events – actual events such as a vegetable swap, or the Buckland Fair, all of which helped to add flavour to Hobbiton.
There’s not much more I can say to conclude this post. Only for me to throw even more pictures at you, the ones that I couldn’t categorise into neat sections. More to come next week, where I explore the geothermal park, and take a walkabout at a gorgeous waterfront at sunset.