Day 26. Friday 1 December.
The day needed some magic after a TERRIBLE night at Cambridge; the bridge workers arrived back at the motel at 0221, with headlights pouring through the curtains and then the party started! T had invested in a new pack of earplugs and had them at hand. Even with this barrier, the sounds of doors slamming, voices etc came through. D shouted at the guys to please turn it down, that people were trying to sleep: ‘Yes, boss’, so the noise moved indoors to the room next door but grew in intensity as dawn arrived. We were still grumbling about this at breakfast and compared notes with the couple on our other side. Their report was identical to ours. To add insult to injury, the wifi and internet connections were lousy, so all in all, the motel was not to be recommended and T told the owner/manager how bad it had been.
D couldn’t wait to be clear of Cambridge, even though it was coffee o’clock, so we arrived at our next destination Hobbiton, with 2 hours to kill before our tour. T did an immediate re-think and approached the bookings counter and yes, we could get on a tour within 20 mins! Just time to grab the coffee.
So why were we at a movie set in NZ? We went to Hobbiton with no real expectations (and not having read the book nor seen the trilogies) apart from a few travellers commenting on their experience.
The bus starts at the gates to the Alexander family farm. And there could not have been a more bucolic scene! The hills roll, the sheep graze, there are scatterings of poplars and cypresses.
What an exercise in diversification! The sheep/beef farm family had seized an opportunity: after the filming of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the film set (mostly plastic) had been demolished but the remains became an odyssey for fanatics. Then when Peter Jackson came back to the setting to film The Hobbit, a business deal was struck with the Alexander family; the film set would be ‘real’ and live on as a tourist attraction.
With this background information we embarked on a 2- hour magical adventure wandering through Hobbiton, marveling at the detailed workmanship, the quaintness, the ingenuity involved in creating the illusion of the mega-adventure tale. The Hobbit holes, the gardens, the vegetable patch, the lake, bridge, the Green Dragon Inn were all for real.
However, there were a number of unreal items: a huge oak tree at the top of the hill above the town (200,000 plastic leaves threaded onto the most expensive movie prop ever made!),
Plus the giant pumpkin, veges in a barrow, drying fish and cheeses to remind us that this was not the real world.
The tour guide, Heather from Glasgow with an Irish accent, gave details re film scenes & cinematographic techniques, explaining how scale was created…Even though we are ignorant of the film, we delighted in the ‘real artifice’. And where else in the world does a real council building code apply to Hobbit Hole construction? Because the second Tolkein trilogy was negotiated on a very different business arrangement, i.e. the set becoming an ongoing living enterprise, a new set of construction regulations came into play.
And now that it’s almost 10 years since filming The Hobbit, the set needs a refurb; so we came across a couple re-doing the render on a Hobbit house. When we sympathized with them about the ‘awful job’ they had, they spoke of trying to make the holes look ‘lovingly old’ but not ‘dowdy’.
The tour concludes pretty much at the Green Dragon, where complimentary refreshments were available and the ginger beer was very passable.
And a selection of the many hundreds of pictures taken!
D has it right……
Hsard at work…
And all Patricia needs is a pony to pull her Pinot!
And as we left, this lovely scene in the next farm:
On to Whitianga, via Hahei, where cabin accommodation was available but not suitable, because the beds bounced (aah – for the good old days when that’s what you wanted!). We gave a short hitch hike ride to two German lasses at around 5 PM – they were embarking on a 5 hour trip south to their beds, but in the opposite direction to us. We saw them again 20 mins later – someone had delivered them to the main highway, providing better options for a ride.
By evening we were whacked, so went into town for pizza at Dino’s, which was very pleasant, followed by a relaxing red and non-bouncing beds.