Day 3 – “Today is the day that I get to seeeeee, Hobbiton, Hobbiton for meeee! I will frolic in the Shire, who can tell what will transpire!” I sang some version of this song all morning. Waking up, on the drive, in the parking lot. I literally skipped back to my car after breakfast. Today – Hobbiton, The Shire, Bag End, HOBBITSES – is pretty much the #1 reason I came to New Zealand. And here it is. At long last.
The drive up to the hub was a disgustingly beautiful pastoral scene of sheep and rolling hills. I parked, heart beating fairly quickly. Bought my ticket, boarded the bus, and as we started driving towards the Shire… well, remember how I told you I’d share any weepy moments inspired by this place?… this might have been one of those. Choked up would be more accurate than weepy. Still, I was glad I had the row to myself.
Now, I will caveat this experience with a big but. This has been the most touristy thing I’ve done so far. There were a lot of them. And the annoying kind. The I’m going to put the camera in front of your face so I can get a better shot of this hobbit hole and I don’t care if I completely obstruct your view kind. That wasn’t my favorite. But the company running the tour is unbelievable, and very good about getting masses of people in and out in a way that minimizes the discomfort of being around tons of tourists. I was very pleased overall with the whole logistical end of the experience.
Caveat done, on to the good stuff! Our guide, Jonelle, was brimming with excitement and also incredibly knowledgeable about Lotr lore and all of the odd bits of interesting info around the filming of the movies. I will sheepishly admit that I might as well have introduced myself as Hermione during the tour. Whenever she prompted us with a trivia question my hand shot up, or an answer happily popped out of my mouth. Pretty sure everyone hated me, but I loved me in that moment. Jonelle did get a couple pieces of hobbit info wrong (she asked what marks a rich hobbit – windows and gildings for their homes was her answer, the real answer is they live in actual furnished hobbit holes not wattle and daub or thatched houses.) I shared a moment about this with another uber dork that was grumbling about her explanation of Sam Gamgee’s house. Not to mention at every chance I got I stopped and read some of The Fellowship.
Ohhh it was a dream. A dream of a day with the weather to match. Some good tidbits learned during the tour:
- The land that was scouted out belonged to a family farm. They allowed the creation of Hobbiton, and of course the filming of the Lotr and Hobbit movies. For the Hobbit though, they negotiated to have the Shire built in durable materials rather than the impermanent stuff sets are usually made of. Now the family and Peter Jackson own a 50/50 share of Hobbiton and the profits from the tours.
- You know that scene where Gandalf comes into Bilbo/Frodo’s home and bumps his head? That was an accident! But he acted through it and they kept the footage. Ian McKellen, the man.
- There were different scale hobbit houses, so they’d shoot Gandalf in front of a tiny door to make him look huge, and hobbits next to much bigger doors.
- All the fireworks for Bilbo’s eleventy-first birthday were real except for the dragon one.
We ended the tour at the Green Dragon Inn, where we were given our choice between a couple ales and a cider. I took the cider and it was icy cold and more tasty than I had expected. I sat down next to the fire and finished a chapter in The Fellowship and felt more content and placid than I have in a good long while. Sadly we only had 10 minutes at the Green Dragon, but I soaked in every single second of those glorious 10 minutes.
I think I was in shock after the tour. Didn’t know what to do with myself, and it was 3ish in the afternoon, so I booked it to Waitomo where the plan was to go see some glow worms in caves. The drive is when I realized I hadn’t put any sunblock on my neck. Oh and did I mention New Zealand is apparently beneath a giant hole in the ozone? This short hair has unexpected challenges…
Arrived in Waitomo too late to really do anything, so decided to spend the night at my very first hostel!!! Figured I had to do that at least once before I turned 30. It was kind of scary! But not bad. Didn’t talk to any people because after dinner and a beer I just needed to pass out.
Tomorrow, I go spelunking. 7 hours of spelunking. 100 meter abseil. Holy crikey. It won’t be Hobbiton, but should be another good one. Here’s hoping I don’t run into Gollum.
Total Travel: 1 hour drive to Matamata and 1 hour drive to Waitomo