(Originally published November 10th, 2009)
I stuck my head out of a hobbit hole today.
After leaving Auckland, I was at the film location for “The Shire” in the Lord of the Rings movies which is outside of Matamata. The set (which still has some of the Hobbit homes) is on a privately owned farm land. We had a guided tour showing us around. The scenery was unbelievable. We were out in the middle of nowhere with rolling green hills, a small little lake, and lots of sheep. The experience was surreal while taking in the fact that Sir Ian McKellan, Elijah Wood, Sean Astin, Peter Jackson (the director), etc had all stood where I was standing and had spent three months shooting scenes there. Of course, the scenes shot at this location were just exterior. All of the interior of the hobbit homes was filmed in a studio in Wellington.
Director Peter Jackson apparently found this bit of remote farm land while flying in a plane over New Zealand looking for the perfect spot to shoot the Shire scenes. The farm is privately owned by the Alexander family who are now probably loaded thanks to New Line Cinemas and Jackson’s love of the land.
Our tour guide talked about how meticulous Jackson was as a director and told us crazy stories of his perfectionistic nature. I guess the perfectionism of it all shows in the movies. While the crew was filming at this location, the tour guide explained to us that the government of New Zealand enacted a no fly zone up to 5000 meters so it wouldn’t distract the filming. Two planes were actually caught flying over this terrain and they had cameras/video devices abroad. The tour guide said that these pilots lost their flying licenses forever. Hear that folks…don’t mess with Peter Jackson.
The tour guide also had funny stories about tourists who would come and go on the tour. We are talking diehard, freaky Tolkien fanatics (which one can probably imagine). He said one guy walked into the Shire, sat down in the middle of a grassy field and started reading the first Lord of the Rings book. The tour guide guessed the guy was checking Peter Jackson’s accuracy next to what the book described the Shire as being. Another couple he stated spoke “elvish”. Now that one is bizarre to me personally. He said the husband understood English and would translate to his wife in elvish. Um….yeah, I guess in our world people know Klingon as well.
After wandering around the set of hobbiton like some kind of fanatic, we headed further south to Rotorua. This was a town situated by the lake of Rotorua. We took a gondola ride to the top of a small mountain and I road a luge down the mountain. If someone doesn’t know what a luge is, the best way to describe is “a wider skateboard that a person sits on”. I got some serious speed going down the mountain and the whole experience was quite a rush. The chairlift going up however was annoyingly slow. I rode the luge down the mountain three separate times.
From there we visited the Waiotapu Thermal Wonderland. This is a place of geysers, burning sulfur, lots of steam, and the place smelled awful. Walking around this place gives one the impression of being on another planet. All of a sudden, one goes from the rolling, green forested hills of normal New Zealand to…this rocky, colorful rocks and water place that stinks. Despite the smell, the geothermal place was very cool. I imagine this stop would be a geologists dream come true. They had this exhibit called “Oyster pool” or something. I nicknamed this place “the hot tub from hell” because if someone were to go in that small little pool of water that is big enough to be a hottub, they would probably melt.
Tonight, we are at the north eastern tip of Lake Taupo spending the night. This is quite a big lake that is in the center of the north island. Tomorrow, I get to see Mt. Doom ( I guess this is turning into a Lord of the Rings quest) and I get to do some hiking.
Blessings to you all.