I had a brilliant time today. First I got a call at 7 am local time (5 am as far as my body was concerned!) asking if I wanted to change trip as I was the only one booked, after advising no I was told no problems.
I was picked up at 8 am. We drove down to Matamata (Hobbiton). Passing through the historic gold-mining town of Waihi to Waihi Beach and the picturesque mural town of Katikati via a coastal road. On to the beach resort of Mount Maunganui. After stopping to admire the stunning beach in the very wet and windy conditions (I was nearly blown over), we headed to the impressive Kaimai Ranges with time to admire the panoramic views over the Matamata plains below (what I could see because of the fog).
Then the main event. After a picnic lunch I was collected by the Hobbiton tour group and we spent the next 2 hours going over the set. It was awesome to see the Hobbit houses and party area, it’s a pity they took down a lot of the set (this is the only remaining set in NZ as per New Line directive – this place only survived due to flooding if you can believe it).
I learnt that they actually shoot the ending of the 3rd book (were the hobbits are killed just before the Fellowship return and take control back of the Shire). This is not on any edition of the DVDs, will be interesting if it ever gets shown. The farm is stunning, and we were lucky enough to only get a little bit of the rain (during the day it was the hardest rain I’d seen since Ireland in 2000). One of the visitors managed to slip into the mud, after that we were all very careful (especially me since I didn’t have share clothes for me work trip coming up). Only the outdoor shoots happened on location (plus those just inside Bilbo’s house showing the outside area). Great fun and very much worth it. On the way back to Auckland I got to watch special edition of the Fellowship of the Ring. Very cool to see as I could pick out all the places I had been in. It was 7 pm local time when I got back into Auckland and raining so I settled down to Sky News and found out my footy team had won!!! A great day and worth the trip to NZ.