Tuesday, 22 March 2016

New Zealand – Hobbiton, Matamata

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The rolling green hills of Hobbiton
I was thoroughly excited to visit New Zealand’s North Island.  First of all, it meant that we were halfway through our tour.  Secondly, the long hours of travelling by bus were now behind us!  Woohoo!  We flew to Auckland by Air New Zealand.  The safety briefing video was really entertaining.  The only unpleasant thing was that Air New Zealand only allows one piece of check-in luggage on domestic flights.  That’s terribly inconvenient for international tourists. 
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Hobbit hole
We arrived in Auckland Airport and I headed for the luggage carousels, stupidly trying to find out the carousel number for our flight.  It took a while before I realised that there was only one luggage carousel.  I couldn’t help but laugh at myself. 
The weather was much hotter in the North Island compared to the South Island.  It was almost like being in Malaysia.  Once we arrived in Auckland, we boarded our bus to go to Hobbiton in Matamata.  The journey was about two hours long, a piece of cake compared to our journeys in the South Island!  Our coach driver was quite chatty and knowledgeable about the North Island.  He also made a short detour to Countdown supermarket for us so everyone was happy.  After a twenty-minute stop, we hauled all our shopping onto the bus and he exclaimed, “Wow, you Malaysians are crazy about shopping!”  Ha!  If only he knew just how crazy. 

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Pear tree in Hobbiton
We arrived in Matamata during the hottest time of the day.  The farm on which Hobbiton is situated is huge.  It is still a working farm so you will plenty of sheep but they are kept out of the movie set with the help of electric fences.  The terrain is very hilly.  The green rolling hills and a large tree were what made the movie scouts choose this farm as setting for the Shire. 
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The walking tour was very interesting and our tour guide was enthusiastic and knew a lot of trivia about the making of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings movies.  I was in awe of the level of detail that was employed in the making of the movies e.g. importing the right sheep, constructing thatched roofs, replacing the leaves on trees etc.!  Movie buffs will find the tour and the various tidbits about the building of the set fascinating.  I certainly did.  I also couldn’t help but ask the tour guide if she spoke Elvish.  Juvenile of me, I know, but she was a good sport (no, she didn’t speak Elvish)! 
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Hobbit hole with chimney.  Some of the chimneys actually work.  
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Another hobbit hole with pretty flowers
The hobbit holes and gardens were beautiful and well-maintained.  There were flowers, fruiting trees and even vegetables!  We could see gardeners doing their work here and there.  There was a lot of walking involved under the hot sun.  I definitely recommend sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat.  It would be better if you brought your own light, folding umbrella.  There are dark green umbrellas provided emblazoned with “Hobbiton Movie Set” but they were very heavy and I felt like discarding them halfway while climbing those steep hills.  Those who have knee problems should take care. 
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The thatched roofs were specially constructed for the movies
The scenery was breathtakingly beautiful.  Unfortunately, there is no lounging around at your leisure allowed on the tour.  Our tour ended in The Green Dragon Bar with a choice of ale or ginger beer.  The ginger beer was awesome!  By then we were all sweaty and tired.  By the way, even the toilets were very cute.  I really enjoyed myself at Hobbiton.  Everything was so adorable and picture-perfect!  For those who are looking to buy souvenirs, do note that most of them are from The Hobbit movies and not The Lord of the Rings movies.  
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Toilet in Hobbiton (no, they aren't Hobbit-sized)
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Green Dragon Bar

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