I have never read any of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, neither has Sandra, though be both read
extensively neither of us have the faintest interest in science fiction. Sandra reads novels, I read
biographies and history nothing close to the Lord of the Rings.
We were on a cruise with 3 other couples one from Australia who was insistent on visiting the
Hobbiton when our ship docked at a port nearby. He had made all the arrangements and offered to do the
driving, the cost would be our share of the car rental and gas plus our entry fee to the attraction which was
about $100 per person. In 2017 this is on par with a day at Disney which I thought a bit expensive to visit
a movie set of a movie I had not ever and had no intention of seeing.
I did know that the Tolkien series had done well, I found out later 150 million copies well plus
the movies, and a TV series in the works. I agreed to be a part of the day, with less than overwhelming
Until my visit to the Hobbiton my entire exposure was to the concept was a chance meeting at a
trade show with a fellow who had a heritage breed of sheep on his farm in New Zealand and was on the
verge of bankruptcy when he attended a trade show in the US (with the help of the New Zealand
government) where he was promoting the fabric woven from the wool produced on his farm. It just so
happened the director of the soon to be made Lord of the Rings movie was at that trade show, and thought
the material would be right for the cloaks worn by the Hobbits in the soon be shot movie. The near
bankrupt farmer/weaver signed a contract for 1,000 yards (yes, almost a kilometer) of the fabric and the
rest is history.
Ron, being used to driving on the left side of the road was an excellent driver and got us to the
destination two hours early allowing for some time in the gift shop before our appointed tour. The site
handles up to 3,300 visitors a day for guided tours so a schedule is respected. During my time in the gift
shop I wandered from aisle to aisle not filling my shopping basket but being rather surprised by the
prices, an employee must have read my mind because they explained to me part of the sale of each item
when to pay royalties to the makers of the movie. I appreciated the information but was not yet enough of
a dedicated fan to feel I needed a Hobbit t-shirt or mug.
I also learned that I was not alone in being un-Hobbitized, a full 1/3 of the visitors to the location
have not read the book, or seen the movie. Interesting and it made me feel I was part of a group.
We were assigned a tour leader and she did nothing to make the unaware feel less worthy, she
did much more that a movie set tour and just telling us which scenes were shot at the holes in the ground
that had front doors. The true fans were nodding in agreement and smiling at having arrived at the holy
grail of Hobbits while the rest of us were just kids in a fantastical place.
It was not long before I was caught up in the magic of a place build for creatures that appear
somewhat like humans but are from 2 to 4 ft tall and live in a place called Middle Earth at a time long
ago. The little fellows liked their ale and the Green Dragon pub was a favorite destination for devotees
and uninitiated alike. The price of admission did include a glass of ale, and we stayed for just one more at
the conclusion of the tour.
I admit to apprehension at the beginning of the day, but it was not long before I was caught up in
the magic of the place and taking photos and having my picture taken beside famous doors. It was just
plain fun and a great way to spend a day, worth every penny of the admission and I would recommend it
to any one who is in the area.
To round out the day and experience a taste of the New Zealand culture we visited Te Puia which
along with the geothermal experience of geysers and mud pots serves as a training center for traditional
Maori skills like carving and weaving.
It has not been the focus of my travels but my observation is that New Zealand has done a much
better job of dealing with the natives of the country than most, certainly Canada and Australia. The Maori
culture is a respect part of the countries culture – case in point that dance before the All Blacks ruby
The facility at Te Puia not only offered great examples of the culture’s carving and weaving but
was training the next generation in the skills. It gave young people a chance to learn the skills, take pride
in their culture and earn a living. A combination I had not seen anywhere else in my travels. Is it perfect?
No, but a lot better than what I have seen in most countries.
The heat of the day, and the long walk through uneven terrain took it’s toll on some members of
our group and we cut short our visit and headed back to port.
Ron did an excellent job of getting us to the pier and head off to return the rental van with Doug
I found a market/picnic across the street from the pier and wandered the area before settling
down at a stage that featured blues performers and a great Johnny Cash impersonator. I felt all was right
with the world having had a large hamburger with a slice of beet root and hearing a Boy Named Sue. In
celebration I stopped at a stick makers booth and bought a wood carved pen. I spend more on pens than
most people and this was expensive for me, but it was a great souvenir of a day well spend and would
help me record the events of the day.
Beautiful wood carving but the internal workings were less than acceptable, they gave way the
first time I used the fine tool of a writing instrument, or what I thought was a fine tool. Lesson learned, it
was a decorative piece for gift giving, it stayed in the garbage can of my room on board. I was back on
board and the rest of our party asked if I had seen Ron or Doug come back, I had not. The day had not
seen enough adventure, they had trouble returning the rented van, and when they did get it returned were
in an industrial area of the city that had no taxis, they ended up flagging down a motorist on the street and
asking him to drive them to the port. He obliged and accepted no payment for the fare.
Kiwis really are good people.