The Shire

Foot pools, Hobbiton, mountain biking in flip-flops...
Jacob shares his perspective on his recent trip to New Zealand.
|  @emilyeunice

Kia ora! I’m Jacob Foose and I would like to share some memories Emily and I enjoyed while traveling from Rotorua to Hobbiton.

With only three days to explore most of the North Island, we scurried over to the town of Rotorua. After spending a night in a caravan on the beach, we decided to continue treating ourselves to a hotel suite in Rotorua. This was another Holiday Park for $150; you wouldn’t find a nicer hotel room anywhere in New Zealand for that price.

We had a kitchenette and picked up supplies for spaghetti and meatballs at the local grocery “countdown.” The suite came with everything from a pasta strainer to the heated bed (as well as instant coffee, another awesome thing New Zealand has…it isn’t as bad as one would think). But don’t ask for an iced coffee anywhere on these islands because it’ll have two scoops of vanilla ice cream in it, or they’ll just look at you like you have four heads.

We went to the Quota Scented Garden, a free thermal pool park located right downtown and within walking distance to our suite. After feasting on our pasta we relaxed with wine and books before a good night’s rest. Our tour for Hobbiton (that we booked through the Rotorua I-site) was midday so we decided to do a little mountain biking right outside of Rotorua early the next morning.

Emily forgot her sneakers in Palmerston North and only had flip-flops to work with. After making sure the trails were smooth enough to handle this terrible mistake, we set off on some rental mountain bikes we found for $35 each for a few hours, including helmets and a map. These trails were indeed smooth enough to ride in flip-flops; I would compare the smoothness of them to that of a fresh shave. Boy they were fun…flowy…and smooth. The trails wove in and out of redwood forest and jungle. There was everything from beginner mountain biking terrain through to the expert free rider routes. A few trails we did multiple laps because the scenery was breath taking and it just had fucking awesome features.

After two hours of riding immaculate terrain, we made our way back north to Matamata, home of Hobbiton. We had an hour to kill before our bus to Hobbiton, and that’s where I found the Chinese gift shop where they had tacky magnets, fine wool blankets, authentic New Zealand/Chinese goods, and mostly Chinese speaking tourists.

Fun fact number two, my dog’s name is Shire. This is because I’m from the Berkshires, not because of my love for the Lord of the Rings. After getting on the bus it took fifteen/twenty minutes to the farm, the driver kept us occupied with some rich history about the farm where the Shire is located. The Alexander family farm is where the Shire sits.

The twelve-acre movie set shares its rolling hills with thirteen thousand sheep and four hundred beef cattle. I knew right away that our $80 a ticket adventure was worth it. There was a tour scheduled every five minutes all day every day, so you can imagine the type of revenue Hobbiton sees each year. Our tour had about fifteen people in it, and at times it could be difficult to get a shot of the pristine landscape and the Hobbit houses without a tourists face or ass in the frame. But by sticking to the back of the group we were able to get quite a few great shots. Here are a bunch of amazing pictures from the tour.

While the Hobbit houses are imitations, we did have a chance to “walk out” the front door of one home. All the interiors of the Shire that you see in the movies were shot in Wellington. Fun fact number three, there’s a tree on the Shire that is completely fake. Composed of thousands of faux leaves that were re-painted last minute by a few people before the final filmography took place.

After our “free” drink (don’t forget your passport wherever you go!) at the Green Dragon Inn our tour came to an end. We made our way back to Palmerston North, dropped off the Yaris and prepared for our South Island excursion! Planes, trains, buses awaited. Stay tuned for part two of the New Zealand adventure!

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