“Oh no, we can’t leave already”, I cry to myself panic stricken. People hustle and bustle around me. Trying to leave, but also determined not to waste that tasty cheese scone and cider in front of me, I stuff my mouth with both, mumbling “Mmmmmh coming” to my friends Marisa and Sarah. My friends, and everyone else inside the Green Dragon Inn for that matter, start to laugh as I have my little moment of comedic agony. Only a fellow Hobbit, faced with the knowledge of having to miss Second Breakfast, could sympathize with my agony of having to waste my delicious meal at the Green Dragon Inn, at the end of a glorious guided tour in Hobbiton near Matamata, New Zealand.
Earlier that day, my friends and I were nervously pacing around, waiting for the shuttle bus to arrive, inside the Hobbiton Store at the Rotorua town centre. It is Marisa’s 30th Birthday so the Hobbiton Movie Tour becomes even more special. As our bus driver navigates through the Waikato landscape towards Matamata, ever darkening clouds begin to follow us. Our driver tries to persuade the clouds to leave with his “magic weather hat” and lo and behold, it works! The clouds leave and the warmth of the sun kisses our cheeks. My smile and the sun are now competing against each other with who is shining brighter. The 45 minute drive passes by quickly as our very own Gandalf tells us all about the Waikato region while chauffeuring us in his mechanic coach.
The passing landscape appears familiar. Of course it is, because I’ve already taken this journey seven years earlier when visiting the Hobbiton Movie Set for the first time. While a lot has changed between my visit in 2009 and 2016, it felt as if I knew this place as well as my own home village in Germany. Back in 2009, the Hobbiton Movie Set consisted of nothing but a few bare plywood facades. In 1999, Peter Jackson and his Movie crew built the Hobbiton set across 12 acres on a 1,250 acre large sheep farm for The Lord of the Rings Movie trilogy. By the time the guided tours were started at Hobbiton in 2002, everything you see of Hobbiton in the LOTR movies was destroyed. This didn’t stop countless tourists from visiting Hobbiton because even visiting those bare plywood Hobbit hole facades was an amazing experience. When Peter Jackson began to work on The Hobbit movie trilogy in 2009, only a few months after my first visit to Hobbiton, 44 permanently reconstructed Hobbit Holes were built.
Everything in Hobbiton seems to come alive, giving you the impression that any moment now a Hobbit will run out of their home to chase you off their lawn. As we get closer to Bag End, the clouds reappear. Oh were is Gandalf with his magic staff…err hat when you need him? It is no good, we cannot hope for our wizard to appear. Out come our umbrellas and off we go. As much ass I loved wandering around Hobbiton, I knew that each step would bring me closer to the end. I don’t want to leave and even the rain is trying to prevent us from leaving, or so it seemed. We reach the party tree in Hobbiton when the wind decides to make us dance. With all my might, I try to keep my feet on the ground, but the wind engages them in a tango.
As sudden the wind and rain appeared, just as sudden did they leave again. We must have been terrible dancers. The sun is shining even brighter than before, probably being amused by our involuntary dance. Off we go again. The closer we get to the Green Dragon, an actual, life-sized pub at the end of the guided tour, the more I’m determined to give my friend Marisa an additional birthday gift. I sneak up to our tour guide and explain the situation. Now, she has become my partner in crime.
Inside the Green Dragon Inn, each visitor gets to decide between three beverages as a part of the tour experience. Food needs to be ordered extra. My partner in crime surprises Marisa with a muffin and a birthday candle on top. After a brief ‘Happy Birthday’, I order a cheese scone to go with my cider. However, I’m so distracted by the rich details inside the Inn that I wander around aimlessly, taking one picture after another, while forgetting my scone and cider. Who knows when or if I’ll ever go back to New Zealand or Hobbiton. “I must capture all the things”, I say to myself. By the time I’m satisfied with my photographic documentation of even the smallest dust particle inside the Inn, and I finally decide to sit down and enjoy my Second Breakfast, it is time to leave.
The guided tour went by so quickly that I was caught off guard when we were told to leave. Part of me, it feels, never truly left Hobbiton back then. Now, more than six months later, it feels as if I just could walk around the corner and stumble into Hobbiton. In reality, I’m half-way across the globe. I know that, as a fan of Tolkien’s Middle-earth and Peter Jackson interpretation of it, I’m somewhat biased, but the Hobbiton Movie Tour is a ‘must see’ in New Zealand. From beginning to end, the guided tour is a truly magical experience for people of all ages, Middle-earth fans and non-fans alike.
Adult Tickets: $79.00 and $114.00 (More information on the homepage).