Aha! Part 2 has arrived. Just in time for me to hit 100 days in NZ tomorrow and not derail off Beeminder.
So, the moment you’ve all been waiting for…
Sunday morning, we drove down to Matamata from Hamilton, arriving about midday. There’s a big sign in the middle of the main square which welcomes you into Hobbiton, like this (picture courtesy of Brittany):
We checked in for our tour, and wandered around the iSite’s (information centre) little gift shop for a bit before grabbing a quick coffee nearby. We then piled onto a tour bus, which took us up into the hills of the Alexander farm– the location of Hobbiton– all the while, giving us more information about the actual filming. It turns out that although there had been many sets built all around New Zealand, most of them had to be torn down when filming stopped and the land/property restored to the way it was before the filming started. Hobbiton had originally been a temporary set, built for the Lord of the Rings movies, and had been mostly torn down afterwards. It wasn’t until later that the set was made permanent and into the tourist attraction it is today.
We had a good tour guide, but a very large tour group. I guess this is normal for the amount of people they try and put through in one day, but it makes it difficult to keep the group together. He was really good though– knew all his info. The first part of the tour, you end up just looking at tons and tons of Hobbit holes, because they’re everywhere! Full-size ones, half-size ones… the half-size ones were there to make the full-size characters look massive, and the full-size ones were there to fit the scenes with Hobbits. There were lots of cool props and “signs of life” everywhere too, which made it feel like Hobbits actually lived there. Here are some examples:
You may notice that everything is extremely green? Hobbiton employs a couple of full-time gardeners who keep everything looking fresh and blooming. There’s actually a real vegetable garden in the middle of it! However, the reality is that Hobbiton is in the middle of a real sheep/cattle farm, which at the time was going through a period of drought. Take a look at this picture:
You can clearly see where the Hobbiton boundary ends. Kind of sad, seeing the contrast like that.
After touring all of the Hobbit holes, and taking tons of pictures, we walked around the pond and ended up at the Green Dragon pub. They have their own brewery which brews beer specially for Hobbiton– and they give tastes! (They also had a ginger beer for the non-drinkers). I had the stout, and it was incredibly good. We all sat and rested for a bit, enjoying the atmosphere of the pub.
There was only a little bit left, but it was gorgeous. The pond was actually so peaceful, I would’ve liked to stay for a bit, but you’re not supposed to. We headed back into town, and visited the gift shop again before we had to get on the bus back to Matamata proper.
The sun was setting by the time we got back on the road to Auckland, and it was a really pleasant drive. We took the back roads (unintentionally– for some reason, the GPS pointed us that way), so there wasn’t much traffic. We did get snarled in Auckland traffic for a bit on the way in, but otherwise, it was uneventful. And now we can say we’ve visited Hobbiton!
On a related note– I did do another LoTR tour in the first couple of days of being in Wellington. A large chunk of filming was done here, as well as the creatures/models/special effects. Learned a lot, although I didn’t realize I had a limit to how many times I could watch a tour guide make part of a tour group do film re-enactments, complete with props. Whatever that limit is, I definitely hit it on that tour! Otherwise really cool though. I’ve now rewatched the first LoTR movie, and I’m tempted to rewatch the other two now as well. I have also not yet seen the Hobbit movies, which now I really should do after all of that touring!
More posts to come, hopefully with a little more frequency!