No doubt crosses my mind that it was a completely nerdy thing to do by visiting Matamata, New Zealand for the sole purpose of visiting Hobbiton. However, visiting the partial set of where the hobbits lived in The Lord of the Rings can only happen if you are in New Zealand, so hey, it seemed like a valid plan.
Before I go further, I feel I must make a few things clear. No, I didn’t visit dressed as a hobbit, or an elf. No, I didn’t dance on the party lawn. And, no, I didn’t meet Frodo or Gandalf or Bilbo in the process. Sorry to disappoint all you crazy LOTR lovers out there. Visiting the Hobbiton movie set was merely the viewing of the remaining hobbit holes and the grounds of the beautiful rolling hills that made up the shire.
The tour, however, was quite amusing because of such stories of people coming dressed as hobbits and elves and their kooky ways. Apparently a guy from Germany, being about 7 feet tall, came dressed as a hobbit and refused to leave the movie set stating that it was “his home” and “where he belonged”. Others also came dressed as hobbits and would perform orations from the movie whenever they saw fit. Better yet was the story of an entire busload of people dressed as elves that came only to dance on the party lawn for the entirety of their tour. You just have to love it when people take fantasy a bit too seriously.
There were only a few people in my tour group, but two of them were from Chicago. I didn’t know this at first, and everytime I heard them talking it was strange that it kept subconsciously pulling my attention. I finally realized it was because of the accent when their hometown was made public that I kept turning my head. Even though I often meet other Americans or Canadians in Oz and NZ, the Chicago accent (a fresh version that hasn’t been softened by months of travel or living around other accents) is one that I hadn’t run into in a while. I, myself, probably talk a lot differently after being in Oz for 4 months.
Anyways, being a small group, it was easy to get all those funny little photos taken that should happen when in Hobbiton.
After filming, the movie set was supposed to be fully torn down and returned to its original state. However, halfway through the process, it started raining and teardown was delayed, finally resulting in the opportunity for the landowners to cut a deal and keep the remaining set alive. Even though there was not much left of old Hobbiton, the information presented during the tour made it quite interesting. It was really amazing what level the film makers went to in order to achieve the perfect look. Stories of paying 11 grand for the perfect tree – one which was disassembled and reassembled with the painstaking task of gluing on thousands of fake leaves imported from Taiwan (or other country) -purchasing a styrofoam factory to mold a bridge, and even importing stunt sheep that looked more “shire like” ran rampant throughout it.
In addition to a cool tour, we even got the chance to view a live sheep shearing after which we fed baby sheep. We all didn’t quite understand why this was part of the tour, but I guess since the set is on a working sheep farm it just seemed like a logical addition. Either way, I enjoyed it and my nerdy little trip.