New Zealand roadtrippin p3. the magic continues
Hobbiton!! Obviously, since we were in New Zealand, we had to visit Hobbiton. We booked our visit a couple of months in advance and planned it as Haythim’s birthday party. So we also decided to do the evening visit + banquet! Ain't No party without food! We arrived about an hour beforehand at the spot, because the clouds on the horizon looked really dark and scary and we wanted to make sure the tour was actually happening. Since the tour through Hobbiton is an outdoor-tour, we were really hoping it wouldn’t start raining cats and dogs. We noticed the crew had a cupboard on the side full of umbrellas, so even if everything would go shitty, the tour would still happen.
We first boarded a little bus and drive about 15 minutes to the starting point of our tour. Once arrived, we felt the tension rising as people all around us starting getting giddy at the sight of the first guidepost. We headed into the set through the famous passage, that we see Gandalf come into view in the first time (LOTR). Those first steps through the passageway felt like a dream, or like stepping into another world. all around us were entrances to colourful little hobbit houses with pathways woven into the green hillside. A pumkinpatch here, a clothesline there, flowers everywhere. If it would ever be an option to live here and never leave, you wouldn’t even have to ask us. Our guides were very patient and gave everyone the time to just walk around and take pictures before starting the tour and providing us with sooooo much information! The houses were actually made on a 60% scale and were not fully built. It was just an outside, with maybe a 1-2 meters space into the hill to give it some body. But they weren’t fully functioning houses. Interestingly enough, you are allowed to make your own hobbit house as long as you do not use it for commercial use. We’ll keep that in mind (I admit we have been thinking about a house built into a hill or the landscape for awhile now and this was just an extra incentive for us).
We slowly followed the little path up on the hill where the most famous house is located (this one in 100% scale). That of Bilbo, and later Frodo, Baggins. Interesting fact: the tree on top of the house is not a real tree but it is modeled after a real one. With every leaf printed, hand-painted and stuck to it with wire. The amount of detail that went into this whole town is mind-blowing. A tear came to our eye, seeing such a gorgeous little housie! Next to Bilbo’s house there are like little steps into the hill that lead to the clothesline. To keep everything as real as possible they had one person would walk up and down those steps every day and hang up different laundry. This way the path through the grass would be real! The list goes on and on.
When twilight was upon us and the end of our tour was in sight we headed towards the Green Dragon. Yes! the pub is real and yes you can go and get a drink there! We crossed the bridge and took our time to take every little detail in. At arrival, we could choose between 3 different alcoholic drinks. All from the region of Southfarthing. Much to our surprise these drinks were actually very tasty… So of course we had to try all three. A cider, a pale ale and a stout beer. As I was going to drive afterwards, I had myself a nonalcoholic ginger ale (which was basically the same as a canada dry). We had about 30 minutes before the banquet started, and settled ourselves at a nearby table overlooking the lake and the hobbit houses near it. This evening was perfect! And the banquet was… completely in hobbitstyle! Lots of different kinds of food for sharing and large but cosy tables where everyone sat around. We stuffed ourselves before being told that there was still dessert coming… But no worries, we both have an extra stomach for deserts as our families probably know by now. Especially if the choice in desserts has sticky toffee pudding!!! This had been awhile but omg it was still as divine as we remembered. And just as filling really. All too soon our evening came to an end and we would have to go back to the real world. But not before taking a nice evening stroll, with cute torches, through Hobbiton and one last story near the big tree.
As it turned out not a drop of rain fell during the whole day!! Lucky us! We went back to the car with another fantastic memory richer. We drove all the way back to the parking lot in Matamata where we slept like wee babies until the morning! Yesterday, was like a dream. It was so much fun and we wished we could go back again. Of course we don’t complain, we were already doing this once in a lifetime journey so onwards we went! Next destination: Wellington!!
We spend the whole day driving down to wellington where we camped the van on a DOC (department of conservation) site near Upperhut. Why there? because it was very close by to other LOTR filming locations. The first one being the forest where the scenes of Rivendell where filmed. Sadly, there is little to say about this, since it was a forest, without spectacular cliffs, waterfalls or any cool remnants of sets. Quite disappointing. It is just a regular forest with nothing to see except for a (smaller) replica of an elvish gate. There are some infoboards where you can read that the tree in front of you is tree nr 192 and can be seen for a millisecond in scene X or Y. Woop-ti-friggin-doo. The second LOTR filming location nearby was the amazing WETA cave! But more about that below!
The next morning we drove to Wellington city centre, to see a lil’ bit of what the capital of NZ was all about. We chilled a bit and had some lovely muscles and fries with a tasty Stella at a local Belgian bistro cafe. It had been too long that we ate a Belgian dish. Though these muscles were far from Belgian. The were at least 4 times bigger green lipped muscles!! But they tasted too very deliciously. That evening we parked the van at a local camping in Shelly Bay, right next to the Chocolate Fish bar (tiny diner where lots of the LOTR cast came for some drink/grub). Our campsite had a beautiful view over the bay, with a stunning view of the sunset too. Next morning we headed again to the city centre because I was meeting up with Nathan (@mythos_tattoo) at Ninjaflower for a project I challenged him with at the convention in Rotorua. No not a goofy challenge or anything. I simply love his style of tattooing, and asked him if he felt like doing both my knees (full artistic freedom). And that’s why I called it a challenge, since my knees are quite muscular (due to a lot of bicycling when I was a teenager). And doing something symmetric is also not easy. But seeing his work, I know I could trust him blindly, and at the sight of the design that day, I couldn’t wait to hop on the tattoobed. A very long day later of eating oreos and drinking sprite, while enjoying the most interesting conversations, this lil' lady took her swollen legs back to the campsite for a refreshing shower and an early night’s rest. We stayed for another day, so I could enjoy the facilities a bit more, and rest enough so I’d heal fast. We enjoyed a nice meal at the Chocolate fish cafe, which seemed to draw in a lot of locals, young and old. Do try their creamy sea chowder! It is absolutely divine!
So of course being at Wellington we could barely wait to go to the Weta Cave, another LOTR hotspot. This place contains the studios that make all the special effects for not just LOTR, but also the Hobbit and loads of other cool movies!! It’s where the magic becomes real!! We booked an inside guided tour through their studios, and lets say it really doesn’t disappoint. Though we were only allowed to take pictures at certain areas, as to keep the magic safe and secret inside the studios. But what I can say is that from armour to weapons to animatronics. The list goes on and on of what they make and put together. The people working there are the best of the best and seeing them work up close was so fascinating. We were also given an intro on how they made miniature sets, and shown various sets of the Thunderbirds old series and new movie! I can only say it must have been a real treat for the actors to be dressed in such realistic looking suits and working with such cool props and all.
After a few days, we made the crossover with the ferry, which was a straight 3 boring hours of just sitting inside (way too early in the morning), and we arrived in Picton. We immediately took off and drove almost all the way to Christchurch. But as we were quite on schedule, we stopped the van for the night at Kaikaura, where we parked it next to another campervan with some very nice Dutch ladies. the next day we had a chill look-around. Kaikaura is also a very enjoyable place next to the shore, with very cute shops, pubs, diners and more. Though their internet was almost like there wasn’t any, we actually enjoyed the peace that laid over the little town. At noon we made our way to Christchurch and settled in at a local airbnb. Tomorrow would be another big day, as I prepared my gear for the next guestspot!