Our next adventure was Hobbiton.
The drive from Auckland to Hobbiton it just over two hours (nothing to a Queenslander) and it was my first introduction to just how GREEN it is in New Zealand. After rain, it can get lushly green where I live, but it has nothing on the greenness of New Zealand.
Hobbiton exists on an enormous family sheep farm. It’s upkeep takes twenty fulltime employees: gardeners, people to change the tiny laundry on the clotheslines, keeping the smokers going so the chimneys smoke authentically. The party tree is real, but the tree above Bad End is not. They did one day of shooting, and there was a storm that night. When they came back the next day, the tree looked different – so Peter Jackson had it replaced with an artificial tree that needs lots of care and attention. There is so much attention to detail!
Take the Hobbit holes. There are three different sized holes. There a tiny ones to give the landscape depth in wide shots. There are ‘realistic’ sized holes for working shots. And then there are huge ones to make normal humans look hobbit-sized. My family jokes that I am half hobbit, as I am short and round (but I have tiny feet). I felt very at home in this landscape, so maybe they aren’t wrong.
We stayed for the evening banquet at The Green Dragon – the only set that has a proper internal rooms and décor. I got to meet pretty Pickle, the Hobbiton cat. The bar supplies four sorts of drinks: a non-alcoholic ginger beer, an apple cider, a lager, and a dark stout. I tried the cider and it was delicious. I was also lucky enough to get a photo taken of my playing barhobbit. The banquet was suitably gorgeously gluttonous. We walked back through Hobbiton in the dark, with lanterns.
Our tour guides were locals, and had lots of gossip about the actual filming at the set. Many locals were hired to play hobbits in crowd scenes. And now locals are hired to tend to the set. Sounds like a dream job, gardening at Hobbiton!