Notes From Down Under: Hobbiton

March 5th, 2017

That time I slept in a Hobbit hole

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I’m taking a shower in a Hobbit hole. That’s the lead I came up with as the warm, delicious water washed a day of caves off me. Contenders were The hobbit hole has heated blankets or No wifi in Baggin’s place. The one ring to rule them all is embedded in our bed and I look forward to falling asleep in Middle Earth, or a reasonable facsimile thereof.

This morning we awoke to a dreary, drizzly Aukland, New Zealand, in a hole-in-the-wall hotel and decided to leave town for an adventure. We didn’t know we’d be trading one hole-in-the-wall for another. “The Road goes ever on and on,” as Tolkien said, but our road — driven in a rented Toyota — headed south to the movie set where The Lord of the Rings, then The Hobbit was filmed.

New Zealander Peter Jackson — or Kiwi Peter Jackson, as they say — constructed, then left standing an entire replica of The Shire or Hobbiton in the middle of nowhere. The hills and dips, holes and trees appear in the beginning and the end of each series, but not for enormous amounts of onscreen time. CGI and green screens could’ve worked just as well, but Jackson was a stickler for detail and wanted things perfect.

The New Zealand government wouldn’t front him any money, but they did say he could use their army for whatever he wanted. They built a nice access road through a farmer’s sheep pasture and then stuck around to play Orcs in some of the battle scenes, until they got a bit too boisterous and were told to tone it down.

Jackson also constructed trees, wired plums onto apple trees and even re-painted every leaf on a cinematic tree just because it didn’t look quite right. Several different hobbit holes of similar style, but different size were constructed in order to force perspective and make hobbits look little and wizards look larger.

Taylor and I spent a glorious few hours in the rain tromping about and soaking it all in. Marci stayed back at the visitor’s center; humans, yeesh! Nah, she was relaxing and busy re-booking our glow worm cave tour to accommodate our late arrival due to our languid journey through Middle Earth and an already-paid-for sip at the on-set Green Dragon tavern.

Yep, I said glow worms. The odd geothermic landscape of New Zealand and its position along the Pacific Ring of Fire fosters some very fun features. A watery cave with millennium-old stalagtites and stalagmites is the perfect habitat for glow worms and for tourists who, if they’re quiet enough and don’t take any photos, can boat through in the darkness. What an impressive site! It was like a natural planetarium with phosphorescent stars as the stars.

Ah, lovely. Then after dinner at a local pub with a 10-year-old New Zealand vs. Pacific Islander rugby match on the tube, we came back to a this delightfully literal hole-in-the-wall hotel, a

modernized version of Bilbo’s and Frodo’s holes. Even though it’s more than an hour away from the Hobbiton set, the fun owner built it a few decades back to cash in on the Lord of the Rings movie popularity. The place is quite nice and cozy. “Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole filled with the ends of worms.” This is for a well-to-do Hobbit.

Later, upon departure, we found out the place is listed in several world-wide guides as one of the most unique hotels to stay in, along with its converted boat, train and airplane accommodations. The Hobbit Motel owner is also a world-record holder in sheep shearing by the way.

The only negative? While booking the hotel over the phone, the proprietor told me my accent sounded like Donald Trump’s.

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