Our Visit To The Shire:
Hobbiton was one of the BIG “must do” things on our NZ list, and we woke up very excited to be heading off on our Adventure.
A little trepidation was involved though, after having enforced down-time in Rotorua, due to the insidious thermal sulphur fumes that you just can NOT get away from, as from what we had seen in the tour stuff, it looked like Hobbiton had some serious hills…
A bit of background here: We’d both got a very large smothering of the fumes, when we had gone to one of the local parks in Rotorua to see the bubbling pools, and had been caught in a particularly thick, dense and inescapable cloud of the stuff – which knocked us for a sixer – resulting in severe nausea for about 24hrs, and difficulty breathing – which was worsened by strenuous activity.
So, with unshaved legs, toes, and tops-of-feet (just so we’d fit in and feel more ‘Hobbit-y’ of course!) we drove to the farm where many of the scenes from The Hobbit & LOTR were filmed.
Winding our way through the hills, we were more than a lil kid-like, with our excited grins…
So – we round the corner – and there sits “The Shires Rest”.
Now, The Shires Rest is touted as being “Hobbiton’s resident cafe that sets the scene for the village beyond.”
Well, we both took one look, and nearly cried…
They HAD to be kidding!!!
This was a double storey, brand shiny new, corrugated iron shed, that housed the gift shop, and an upstairs cafe.
It couldn’t have looked any LESS Hobbity, unless it had had a spaceship plonked on its roof!!
Our bellys and spirits just dropped…Time to re-think this little adventure maybe.
Hobbiton entry, whist not break-the-bank expensive, was going to cost about the same as a nice dinner out, instead of our planned toast and soup.
We decided on a coffee out in the garden, and a bit of ‘google-ing’, as ya do.
So, I snagged us a table in the sunshine, while Suzey went to get us some takeout cups of coffee.
As i was sitting there waiting for google to load – a Swedish grrl, who had just been on the tour, was walking past, talking to her friend, who hadn’t gone. She was delighted, and was so happy that she had gone – and was giving little snippets of her favourite parts to her friend.
Ok, thinks I, maybeeeee seeing as this was on our ‘must-do’ list, AND we’re here, AND we already have soup and bread, AND this random chic thinks it was ok, AND the google pics still give hope, maybeeee we should do this…..
Suzey returns with the coffee, and i relay my thoughts.
Cool, says she – and once we’ve scoffed our coffee, she goes and gets us 2 tickets.
We board the bus, with about a dozen or so other people, and are taken off on a winding road, through the farm, that Hobbiton is nestled in.
And i DO mean nestled.
The bus-driver gives us a run-down of the farm, and about the building of the sets, and about how incredibly well kept under-covers, the whole filming was.
Peter Jackson had even managed to get a no-fly zone for a 5km radius over the farm from the NZ government, which included jets, helicopters, ultra-lights – the whole works!!
The Army had come in and done the roads, and security around the entire perimeters was unbelievable for the duration.
For those who had been ‘brave’ (stupid) enough to try and breach the area for some media pay-off, they had been charged obscene amounts, and had never got a photo or story out anyways!!!
This bloke had picked the location well!!
There is no way it can EVER be seen, unless you are actually in the valley where Hobbiton is nestled.
Well, from the moment we walked in through the gate – we were smitten.
You walk in at the bottom of the valley – and gaze up the hills to your right – where you can see the doors of many a Hobbit-hole hidden in the hillside.
Each hole has its own front garden, tended beautifully, but wild enough to be Hobbity…
There are clothes on the line in the gardens, there are vege patches, there is just visual delight everywhere you look!
To the left, you look past the Party Tree, across the Lake, and on to the Green Dragon.
I should not need to explain any of these places to anyone with good reading-breeding….!! 😀
(seeing the movies soooo doesn’t count!!)
Now, looking up to the Hobbit-hole at the very top of the hill – which of course was Bilbos(!!) – its a reallllly long way up – and steep!!
Ok, i admit it – i was worried if i would be able to make it up there or not.
Ever the optimist tho – i took one look at one of our co-tourists, a woman in her 50’s, who was about 130kg, and had ankles like tree-trunks, and figured if SHE could make it through this adventure, then i sure could – or die of embarrassment trying!!
(yes, yes, I know i’m not a good politically correct grrl!)
So – off we set on our Adventure, with our guide – young Sam.
And he was a good and knowledgeable guide!!
One of the VERY interesting things surrounding Hobbiton, is what is and isn’t ‘fake’.
There are actually only two fake things in the entire valley.
One is the tree above Bilbos home, and the other is all the lichen everywhere – and i do mean everywhere!!
Its on every single fence, post, tree, branch, everywhere that lichen would naturally grow over the time of 100+ years…
The lichen was made from a blend of cement-powder, plaster, saw-dust for texture, and paints all mixed up together.
It truly was impossible to pick as being fake, and even on touching, it was only sometimes, that you could feel the difference – truly amazing stuff!!
(I think Suzey is seriously a lil worried i wanna try this at home…)
As for the tree, part of it is real, and part isn’t.
This is because the LOTR movies were made before The Hobbit, (so so wrong, but ya get that!) and in LOTR the tree was obviously much much older, bigger etc, than in The Hobbit.
It was pretty cool though, to try and actually work out just where the real and the fake merged – so well done, that it was very hard to pick – even up close!
So yes – i made it to the top!!!
I made it to Bilbos house!! ~swoon~
As a bit of an aside, I was introduced to the wonderful world of Tolkien by my sister Helen, who raised me a lot in my childhood.
Some nights, even when I technically was really far too old to still be being read to, she would read The Hobbit and LOTR to me in bed, before i went to sleep. So i’m guessing that my dreams were filled with Shire life, and our living locations were almost always rolling farmland type places, so that too was conducive to daydreaming of Hobbity matters.
(I also think it may well be the reason i have hairy toes and tops-of-feet!!)
Ok, back on track!
After Bilbos place, we meandered down through the clearing, under the Party Tree, over past the Mill, across the Bridge, and into the Green Dragon.
Oh what a continuation of the visual feast!!
We were given a beer or ginger beer, depending on yr alcoholic choice each, and just left to our own devices for 15 mins or so.
Inside was just awe-inspiring.
A mammoth open log fire, roaring away. Beautifully carved beams and supports – there just wasn’t any question about where in the world you were!!
Had Gandalf strode through the door, calling out for where Bilbo was, I would not have been the least little bit surprised – for we really were in The Shire!!!
After we’d all had our drinks and wandered round a bit, and soaked up some more sunshine and atmosphere, we slowly wound our way back past the lower Hobbit holes, to the bus.
All up, the tour was about two and a half hour.
So – would we go on the Hobbiton tour again?
Yes, yes YES – tomorrow if we had the chance!!
These are just some of many photos. We’ve only put a sampling up.
Clicking on the thumbnail gets you the full size pic 🙂