Literary Pilgrimages: Hobbiton, Middle-Earth (Part 5)

Middle-Earth Literary Pilgrimage
Earlier this year, I spent three months travelling around New Zealand. My primary reason for doing so? Exploring locations in featured in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, of course! Come along as I revisit what will likely remain my most extensive ‘literary pilgrimage’.

Hobbiton

My final post in this literary pilgrimage series features Hobbiton, home to Bilbo and Frodo, protagonists of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Some might say I’ve saved the best for last. That was my intent when I planned out my trip. Of all the locations one can visit, Hobbiton is the only one preserved as seen in the movies (the set was dismantled after The Lord of the Rings and rebuilt permanently after The Hobbit). I booked the evening banquet tour. The tour is absolutely worth it. You explore Hobbiton by day and by night (as the tour runs from something like 4300PM-7:30PM), and enjoy an impressive hobbit feast in the Green Dragon. I have also read the evening tour only runs one tour at a time – you can see Hobbiton without the crowds of Big Folk, which I found essential to the experience.

Hobbiton is about a 15 minute drive from Matamata. As the bus approached the site, I felt like I was really leaving New Zealand for the Shire. The rolling green hills, trickling brooks, and bright sunbeams set the mood. I felt a bit odd as I walked the paths of Hobbiton. I kept wondering where all the hobbits had gone! It seemed to me that they’d been shuffled out by a real estate agent who wanted to show off their homes to likely buyers (those of us on the tour).  This was one of my most surreal experiences.

Hobbit hole in Hobbiton

View of Hobbiton from Bag End
Looking down over Hobbiton from Bag End. Can you spot the Green Dragon?
No admittance except on party business
An iconic notice…
Bag End, Hobbiton
Anybody home?
Bag End, Hobbiton
Bag End, home of Bilbo and Frodo
Sam's hole, Hobbiton
If I recall correctly, this is Sam’s hole (note the gardening supplies out front)
Hobbiton
By the time we wandered down to the Green Dragon, the sun had set and the lights of the village were coming on.
The Green Dragon, Hobbiton
Behind the counter at the Green Dragon
Green Dragon, Hobbiton
Enjoying my Sackville Cider. You can enjoy four brews exclusive to this inn.
Hobbit feast, Hobbiton
The meal was one of the most expansively and beautifully prepared I’ve ever had the pleasure of enjoying. I only wish I had been able to eat more!
Inside the Green Dragon, Hobbiton
Choosing a dessert was a difficult task! I had one of the baked apples. I enjoyed reading the notices that were posted up around the inn. The cat looked especially cozy, curled up by the fire.

Walking through Hobbiton after dark was an entirely different sensation. (I don’t have any great photos as I was relying on an iPhone). As we wandered through the village with lanterns in hand, I imagined the hobbits were now home, snug and cozy in their holes. This was an easy thing to imagine as lights came on outside the holes and in the windows. We visited the field were the party tent was set up. We sang the tribute to the Green Dragon that Merry and Pippin sing in The Return of the King. I had a wonderful evening. This tour was the perfect event to round off three months of exploring Middle-Earth.

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Literary Pilgrimage: Visiting Middle-Earth (Part 4)

Middle-Earth Literary Pilgrimage
Earlier this year, I spent three months travelling around New Zealand. My primary reason for doing so? Exploring locations in featured in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, of course! Come along as I revisit what will likely remain my most extensive ‘literary pilgrimage’.

Wellington and Surrounding Area

Wellington, New Zealand’s capital and hub of the film industry, is home to a number of locations used in filming. Wellington differs from Queenstown in that it doesn’t have the most photogenic locations (many filming sites were dramatically altered for filming). The majority of these locations benefited from direct comparison to screen shots. Wellington’s big draw is that it is home to Weta Workshop – the company that created the special effects, digital effects, and props in the film. I did the ‘Ultimate Movie Tour Plus+’ from Adventure Safari. If you have a car, you probably wouldn’t need to do a tour. I wanted to get out to Rivendell and Weta, so the tour worked for my needs.

Lower Hutt Quarry
Quarry where Helm’s Deep and Minas Tirith were built. Not a lot to see here! The set building and filming (especially the battle at Helm’s Deep) that was done in this location was very impressive – some of my favourite stuff from the film.
Harcourt Park
This public park was transformed into the Gardens of Isengard. The rough patches are remnants of the path on which Gandalf rode into Isengard.
Harcourt Park 2
Gandalf and Saruman walked through this area. The bench was covered up with a digital bush in post-production.

The following shots are from Mt. Victoria, in Wellington. The forests of this hill were the locations of the Old Forest, which the hobbits flee through while being pursued by Nazgul.

'Get off the road!' scene, filmed on Mt. Victoria
Where the hobbits fell off the slop and into the road. I have long dreamt about standing in the spot where Frodo shouted ‘Get off the road’…dreams do come true, haha.
Black Rider at the top of the path
Three guys from our group trekked up this path to recreate this shot. It was an amusing process, but it does look like the film!
Forest through which the hobbits dart while being chased by Black Riders
Rivendell gate
This gate was not used in filming. It was recently built so visitors to the Kaitoke Regional Park could get a better feel for Rivendell. I certainly appreciated it. Lovely area.
Map of Rivendell
Map of the locations built for the filming of Rivendell (structures are no longer there)
Post indicating height of LotR characters
This post indicates the heights of LotR characters (according to the books). I didn’t realize Gandalf was so short 😉

The closing piece of the tour is a trip to Weta Studios. The workshop tour was my favourite part of the day. I felt like I was in a museum, looking at all the objects that were used in filming! I had an emotional moment viewing Pippin’s Gondorian armour, haha. Unfortunately no photos allowed during the tour. I did get to take a photo of the armour (Theoden’s, worn by actor Bernard Hill) that I fangirled over in the shop, though. And of course a few shots of the trolls from The Hobbit outside. 🙂

Trolls outside Weta Cave

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Literary Pilgrimage: Visiting Middle-Earth (Part 3)

Middle-Earth Literary Pilgrimage
Earlier this year, I spent three months travelling around New Zealand. My primary reason for doing so? Exploring locations in featured in The Lord of the Rings/The Hobbit, of course! Come along as I revisit what will likely remain my most extensive ‘literary pilgrimage’.

Queenstown

Queenstown serves as New Zealand’s hub of adventure activities. You can paraglide, jetboat, bungy jump, and visit a variety of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit filming locations! …That’s adventure enough for me. (I did have plans to go mountain biking but I scrapped that to save some cash.) Queenstown was a key hub of filming for both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, making it a must do for any literary pilgrimage like mine. To see all the locations in the area, you would need two or three days. I picked a half day tour hitting the sites that most interested. I took Pure Glenorchy‘s half-day tour.

Frodo and Sam see an Oliphaunt This is the ledge that Frodo and Sam peered over to spot the Oliphaunt in The Two Towers.Rangers cross the river

Although this little river doesn’t look too impressive, I was excited to see how similar it was to the film (where it appears for about two seconds), and to be standing to close to where Faramir stood…

Dead Marshes panorama

Kepler Mire served as the Dead Marshes in the distance shots. We had excellent timing with the weather I loved seeing the fog rising above the marsh. Dead Marshes Jenna in Lothlorien This bit of forest is where the Fellowship first entered Lothlorien and were caught by Haldir and company in The Fellowship of the Ring.

Fangorn mountains

This tour comprised of many small locations that you think wouldn’t be recognizable from the film, but they somehow are…these mountains are great example of that. They appear a few times in distant shots of Fangorn.Fake tree at Beorn's house

See the odd tree out? That’s a fake tree that was erected to stand by Beorn’s house in The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. I would have loved to get a bit closer to it!

Although I didn’t come away with as many great shots as I would have liked (I had some camera issues ;_;), that made me more grateful for the CD the tour company provided with numerous shots of the locations throughout the seasons. Which of these locations would you like to visit the most?

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Literary Pilgrimages: Visiting Middle-Earth (Part 2)

 Earlier this year, I spent three months travelling around New Zealand. My primary reason for doing so? Exploring locations starring as Middle-earth in Peter Jackson’s films, of course! Come along as I revisit what will likely remain my most extensive ‘literary’ pilgrimage’.

Twizel

Flag of Rohan
Flag of Rohan used in fliming o.o

My next destination after visiting Mt. Sunday was Twizel. Twizel, a town in the Canterbury region with a year-round population of about 400, played host to thousands more cast and crew for filming of the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. This is the greatest battle scene in the trilogy, taking place towards the end of The Return of the King.  I took the two hour tour offered by local tour operator OneRing Tourstour. The location can be accessed via tour only as it is on private property. The vast, grassy fields bordered by mountains were stunning. This was my first tour with other LotR fans, and it was fun to geek out with people from around the world. The tour was very informative. I learnt a few facts I hadn’t heard before. For example, Peter Jackson initially wanted to bring in trained cavalry,  considering Canada’s own RCMP. But that idea was squashed once they realized the horses would have stay in quarantine for something like three months. I recommend this tour for fans who like to learn about the behind-the-scenes and how a big battle is brought to life.

This little water made an appearance as a larger river in The Return of the King, as Gandalf and Pippin travel to Gondor. The camera angle makes the river look much larger than it is.

The vast field – no hints of modern civilization to be found! That’s one of the main reasons this location was chosen. The placement of the mountains was also a factor. I don’t have any photos, but there was one line of telephone polls towards the edge of the field that had to be digitally removed. The road in the photo to the left was built to facilitate filming. The farmer who owns the land requested the crew leave it after filming.

I took this photo atop the ridge from where the Rohirrim make their long-awaited appearance at the Fields. Theoden, their King, gives a rousing speech before leading the charge (clip below). I haven’t watched the films since I returned from my trip. I’m a little wary of being removed from them and thinking too often “I was there!!” But when I watched this clip, I got chills. For me, there’s a sense of history about it – it has the same feel as visiting a real place where a real battle occurred in another age.

I spent ten minutes taking landscape photos while the others had fun going through the costumes and swords. I’m not the sort to dress up, but when I saw one person had donned the full Witch-king costume I couldn’t resist getting caught up in the fun…Yes, that’s a replica of Eowyn’s sword! 🙂 If ever I could pull off a real cosplay, I think I would like to cosplay as Eowyn.

Literary Pilgrimages: Visiting Middle-Earth (Part 1)

 Earlier this year, I spent three months travelling around New Zealand. My primary reason for doing so? Exploring locations starring as Middle-earth in Peter Jackson’s films, of course! Come along as I revisit what will likely remain my most extensive ‘literary’ pilgrimage’.

 Welcome to the first in a four post series about my Middle-Earth related expeditions around New Zealand. Although these locations all stem from the films, I consider this trip a literary pilgrimage because of how the filmmakers’ vision intersects with my love for the books. I saw the movies long before I read The Lord of the Rings. I cannot divorce the movie sets from the locations I imagine while reading – and I’m quite happy with that! I get just as much a thrill from visiting a location I know so well from the movies as I do from imagining that I really am walking in a place described in the books.

I could have spent a couple weeks running around the country to see all the Middle-earth sites I wished to see. I wanted to take the time to really enjoy what NZ has to offer, so I expanded the trip to three months and spent the majority of my time WWOOFing. *cue WWOOF spiel* WWOOF stands for ‘World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms’. It’s an international home stay volunteer program, where volunteers work for 4-6 hours at organic farming (loosely defined). I first WWOOFed in 2013 for two months in Ireland. I highly recommend WWOOFing if you want to get to know a place and its people better than if you were just holidaying for a few weeks. It’s a great way to stretch your vacation time and budget, as a month WWOOFing costs virtually nothing. Plus, I enjoy learning about and contributing to sustainable lifestyle.*end WWOOF spiel*

My first post features Rohan. The two specific locations I visited are Edoras (Mt. Sunday, Mackenzie) and the lakeside village that orcs attack (near Alexandra, Central Otago).

 Edoras

Screenshot from The Two Towers (Edoras)
Screenshot from The Two Towers (Gandalf, Legolas, Gimli, and Aragorn approach Edoras)

Edoras has long been my favourite set from the movies. Even though the crew had to remove the town site, I still felt it would be an impressive to visit. I was not disappointed. I highly recommend making the trip to Mt. Sunday, whether or not you are a fan. The isolated location has a very peaceful air about it, with stunning views and hikes to explore. I drove from Christchurch (~2.5hrs) and stayed over night for two days at Mt. Potts Lodge. I did a lovely hike from the lodge that gave me a great view of Mt. Sunday. Then I spent another day actually at Mt. Sunday, soaking up the location and views, taking photos, listening to the movie soundtrack, and reading The Two Towers.

The isolated Mt. Sunday a distinct look and is easily recognizable from the films even without the set (unlike some other locations!)
Approaching Mt. Sunday for the hike to the top. There is a path that heads to the left of the photo. You can hike up the ridge from the ‘left’ to ‘right’.

 

I had a surreal experience reading and photographing The Two Towers from the top of Edoras, in the exact location of Meduseld.
The top of Mt. Sunday is a great spot for panoramas.

 

Rohan plains village

I stayed on a lifestyle block near Alexandra for one month. I spent a lot of time enjoying the landscape. One specific filming location I visited is the lakeside village attacked by orcs in The Towers. My host drove me up one night at sunset. My only wish was that I wasn’t such an amateur photographer, so that I could capture the beautiful scene better! The lake is a reservoir popular for fishing. There was no one else around when we went. Another wonderful place, even without the feeling of having teleported to Rohan.

These pillars are all that remain from the ‘set’ – they burnt the hut that they built hear.
The shacks you can spot in this photo were dressed up for the movies.
Sunset blazing down beyond the ‘village’

I think that’s enough photos for one post! The next post will cover Pelennor Fields (home of the final great battle) and a variety of locations around Queenstown. Are there are any movie filming locations you’d love to visit?