Friday, November 30, 2012

Get off the Road!

A shortcut to Mushrooms? Wait, those aren't Hobbits - those are three Germans and a Frenchman. The Frenchman is on the bottom - that is so typical!

Frodo meets an old friend at the Weta Cave.

This concludes our broadcast day - please enjoy this lovely lily while I share the super-tip-top-secret portion of this post.

For $20, you could actually take a tour of Weta Workshop - not the store, the actual Workshop. Only myself and one other person on my tour of about 35 people opted to do this, and the rest are completely crazy stupid, because it was completely wonderful. No pics allowed, though, so you'll just have to imagine it.

OK, you don't see the entire place, only a small portion of it, but they have lots of items on display and even though there are 'Do Not Touch' signs everywhere, Jade, our tour guide, said, 'you can touch that' at just about every step on the tour, so I've touched Sauron's armor and the miniature of the castle in 'Prince Caspian' as well as bits of armor and other things. You can peer into the shop where they artists are actually working (if you're there before 5 pm) and we got to meet one of the artists, Craig, who was working on a sculpture and let us 'help'. Tid had to come back and shoo us out, it was so fascinating. Highly recommended if you ever have the chance.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Embassy Theatre, where the premiere was. Sigh.

The quarry where the Helm's Deep and Minas Tirith sets were built. Surprisingly, it's right on the highway where anyone driving by could see what was happening.

Imagine Gandalf riding up to Isengard.

And then conferring with Saruman in the garden. That's our tour guide, Tid. I think it's really Ted, but he said it was Tid. Kiwis!



Look, I'm famous!

OK, I know it doesn't look like much. The plot is actually rather small, and the removed all the plants for filming, kept them in a greenhouse then replaced them all when filming was done. So the Rivendell site just looks like a bit of 'bush' now. It's still pretty darn cool.

Blogger's not letting me add any more pics, so I'll do another post of this tour tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sorry for the long lag between posts - I was hit with a double whammy of a bad fall which injured my back and a bad case of food poisoning. I ended up at Urgent Care Sunday night, and spent the next three days throwing up and taking pain killers. I ventured out today to the last day of the Hobbit Artisan Market, but I didn't take my camera along. I missed my premiere party and I'm currently missing the Red Carpet walk at the actual Premiere, but I am feeling much better now - just don't have enough energy for fighting the crowds or standing for hours on the street.

I do have a movie location tour booked for tomorrow, so I'll try to have pictures posted for you from that in a day or two.

Frodo and I did make it to the attempt to break the Guinness World Record for the most sandcastles built in an hour, held Sunday morning at beautiful Lyall Bay.

Frodo was allowed to sit on the big castle built by Weta - he had a good time and is being a very good sport about having to sit in the hotel room for days on end. I promise him he'll get out tomorrow and have a better time than we've been having.

The trip to Urgent Care was surprisingly inexpensive, although the drugs were a bit overpriced - but very competent. I was in and out in a bit over an hour, which I don't think would have been the norm in the States. Another guest at the hotel, Maria, was kind enough to accompany me - there are angels everywhere!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Yesterday was the day we visited Mt. Doooooom!

This was one of our tour guides. Frodo was very happy to find out that his name was Sam!

Our first stop was a view of the recent eruption on Mt. Tongariro - it's still steaming. Sam was within 200m of it when it blew. He says lots of people ran up to him asking, 'What do we do? What do we do?" He told them, "Run away!" Perhaps he should have said, "Fly, you fools!"

Mt. Ruapehu - this part of the Whakapapa Ski Field is called Happy Valley for no obvious reason.

As you can see from all the ski lodges, this is actually a quite busy ski area in the winter.

Meade's Wall, where the Last Alliance made its stand against Sauron.

The location in The Return of the King where Sam and Frodo are pressed by the Orcs into their band.

And here come the Orcs now! Actually, 20 agriculture students from Iowa State University.

The students loved reenacting scenes. Why, yes, it was foggy that day.

The other tour guide, Kyle, reminding Frodo where he and Sam shared the lembas bread (not bad for foreign food).

One of the many, many places where Sam and Frod climbed up in the movie. I must say Frodo did a good job of keeping his PTSD under control.

This is where Gollum climbed down to attack the sleeping Sam and Frodo.

Our last stop was a visit to the Forbidden Pool. The students had a lot of fun swimming in it - for about two minutes! It's fed by snow melt. Brrrr!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Oh, noes! Mt. Doom!

And the other Mt. Doom!

Actually, both Mt. Ngauruhoe (first picture) and Mt. Ruapehu (second picture) 'played' Mt. Doom in the LOTR movies. Most of the action was filmed on or around Mt. Ruapehu, but Mt. Ngauruhoe looks more like a perfect volcano (although both are active) so it got most of the good shots.

Ruapehu is supposed to erupt sometime in the near future, but it was Mt. Tongariro (the peak on the left) that actually did yesterday afternoon. No one was hurt, but there's a famous 'trek' called the Tongariro Alpine Crossing that takes about 8 hours to complete and is very popular that had to be evacuated after the eruption. It was very exciting around here yesterday.

We take the tour of the filming locations tomorrow afternoon. Should be very exciting, although Frodo's afraid it will set off his PTSD.

A couple of days ago I visited Rotorua. Rotorua is home to numerous steam vents. . .

. . .and hot springs. The town smells like sulfur, although I didn't find the smell at all unpleasant. And I had a wonderful lamb and spinach salad at The Pig & Whistle pub. Yum!

And here is proof that it is spring here. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Random observations:

Matamata is probably the most un-touristy tourist attraction on Earth. Aside from the film set itself and the 'Welcome to Hobbiton' sign, there's not much here that caters to tourists. Which made it a wonderful place to spend the 'decompressing' portion of my vacation. Everyone I told was surprised I was spending four days here - 'are you getting a job?' Steve, the tour bus driver asked me. Most tourists come, see Hobbiton, and leave. Which is why the town is still just a nice small town.

Things you can by in New Zealand groceries:

Large ketchup-bottle sized bottles of mint sauce;
Coffee and milk in a squeeze tube (just add water!);
'Tasty' cheddar cheese (AKA 'sharp' cheddar. Well, it is pretty tasty!

There's a bakery on every block, both sides of the street. I am addicted to meat pies now. They're nothing like our American pot pies - the sauce is thick, the fillings are scrumptious, and the crust is like pastry. I'm going to be sad not to have any more when I leave.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

The friendly folks at Air New Zealand - the best airline in the world!

Yes, I'm really here.

Apparently, Hobbits are a bit more cosmopolitan than they were in my time.

We're still not speaking to each other until he gives me my finger back.

My first view of Hobbiton in a long, long, long time.

If only someone were at home.

Bag End! I'm almost home!

Still no one home. Where did everyone go?

I don't know who that Big Folk is, but she won't leave me alone.

The perfect shot on a near perfect day - Bagshot Row looking out to the Green Dragon and the mill.

Bag End! And the door is open!

But they won't let me in - grumble, grumble.

On to the Green Dragon! I need a drink!

The mill from the bridge (yes, that mill and THAT bridge!)

Under construction? Come back in a month? Phooey!

Friday, November 09, 2012

Greetings! My name is Frodo Baggins, and next week I will be travelling back to Middle Earth (known nowadays as New Zealand).

I will be visiting my old hometown of Hobbiton, as well as the premiere of a new movie about my Uncle Bilbo called 'The Hobbit' (Nice name).

Join me as I chronicle my adventures travelling from one end of that beautiful country to the other. Who knows who we shall meet or what we shall see?