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OTHER ITA SITES:
In Search of Hobbits: A Small Adventure
We couldn't very well visit New Zealand without seeing some of the Lord of the Rings locations and our first stop was the small town of Matamata on the North Island, which became famous as Hobbiton was filmed around there.
All either of us knew was that it was filmed somewhere on a sheep farm near there, but that was about it. My husband John was driving and I was navigating with a map we'd just bought a few days before in Auckland. The map had Lord of the Rings locations marked on it, but places still seemed to take a little bit of finding.
"What does the map say?" asked John.
"It just says 'Matamata' for 'Hobbiton'," I replied, which wasn't much help to us as we both knew that the film location was not in the town but somewhere outside of it. We decided to go into Matamata and see if they had a tourist information centre who would know where the location was.
As we drove into town, there was an information centre sign three hundred metres ahead. Three hundred metres ahead of us was a car park and a small building that looked as if it was in the process of being built or being demolished. There was no information sign anywhere and we wondered if we'd taken a wrong turn somewhere.
We parked the car and decided to have a look around the town, which took about ten minutes. Coming back to the car from a slightly different direction, we finally came across the information centre, which was at the other side of the dilapidated building we saw. And in big golden letters plastered across the window was 'Hobbiton Tours'.
At last! You could only go on a guided tour as the land was privately owned, we just made it in time for the second to last tour of the day. There were about 15-20 people in our tour, although the bus could probably seat about forty.
It was about a twenty minute drive outside of Matamata to get to the Alexander sheep farm, where the movie was filmed. Of course, most of it has returned to its natural state of rolling hills and lots of sheep, but there are a few Hobbit holes left, including Bag End, Frodo and Bilbo's house in the Shire.
The day we went, it drizzled constantly, but it didn't seem to dampen anyone's spirit, everyone was smiling and excited that they actually got to see the Shire. John and I decided that yes, we could quite happily live there. There was just something so peaceful about the area, you could see why they decided to film the Shire there.
Our guide Theresa pointed out the various places where some of the structures had been which were no longer there. There weren't meant to be any structures left at all, but before all of them could be taken down, there was a very bad rainstorm and it was deemed to dangerous to remove the rest, so there are about eighteen Hobbit holes left altogether.
You really do feel that you are walking through the village of Hobbiton, not a film set, despite the Hobbit holes just having a wooden facade now, not gardens and brightly painted doors like in the films. It's just the sense of the place. I
Once we arrived at the steps to Bag End the guide mentioned that she had a tour once where a girl kissed the top step because Elijah Wood had once stood on there!
"I wouldn't recommend it," she said. "There've been a lot of sheep walking around here since then!"
Despite her warning, there were a few people who seemed to be considering it!
Of course as you may know, Hobbits are very shy of the Big Folk, so don't expect to see any on your trip, but if you look closely and are very quiet, you might just get lucky.
For more information, you can visit the Hobbiton Tours website: http://www.hobbitontours.com/
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