Sunday, January 6, 2013

Journey to Middle Earth locations

Who is home at Bag's End?
A trip to New Zealand wouldn't be complete without a peek at some of the locations used to bring to life Middle Earth.  We visited a couple of these locations while my father was on vacation.  We hit up Hobbiton, Mt Doom, and Weta Cave and Studio over the 10 days my father spent visiting.  I think he was rather impressed with Hobbiton and the amount of detail encapsulated there.
Are we in time for lunch?

We left Tauranga early one morning for a quick drive over the Kaimais to a little town of Matamata.  From a Hobbit hole themed i-Site we boarded a bus bound for The Shire.  We ran into a little trouble with the online booking system, but after calling we had been charged but not given a booking number.  A quick fix and we are on our way.  The tour is $75 and worth it if you like to wander around a very detailed set.  It is located in the middle of a sheep farm in between Hamilton and Matamata.  There is a bunch of history of the property you will hear on the tour so I wont recap it here.  You are after all paying for that part of the experience as well.  Having just seen the Hobbit, I was able to recall some of the scenes and guess where they were shot from.  It is a stunning location and we were fortunate to get a fine day to go see the tour.  The previous days were overcast and rainy.  At the end of the tour you are treated to your choice of drink at the Green Dragon.  A local brewer from Hamilton brewed some special selections only available at the Green Dragon.  This building had only been completed 5 weeks earlier and still had that new wood smell.  We are talking of having my dad's one hundred and eleventh birthday here.  We joked about it along the tour, but the seed has been planted.
AKA Mt Doom

A couple days later we slogged our way past the shadow of Mt Doom.  We left our hostel at 7 am to do about half of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, which has a side route up the side of Mt Doom.  We packed a lunch and I carried a first aid kit, extra (warm) clothes, and rain gear if the need should arise.  It wasn't my first time doing the Crossing, but the first in the Summer.  I still like to be prepared as I know what it is like up at higher elevation.  The entire route is only open to the Northern Circuit walkers, which should take 3-4 days.  All day walkers have to turn around right before the Emerald Lakes which is a stunning view on a fine day.  Technically the sign is at the top of Red Crater, but if you walk another 10 meters you get some good views of the lakes below.  I can't say I'm surprised by the idiots around us.  I had made sure my dad was dressed appropriately as I didn't want him to be any more uncomfortable with the day than necessary.  We saw several people in shorts and hoodies going up to the top.  The wind was howling and there was definately a windchill not to mention the hail that we received.  The only other time I've seen legs that red before was from sunburn not cold.  I just had to chuckle and think what the paper and news would say when they got rescued.  Oh yeah, I've seen some awesome articles and reports from the rescuing of silly tourists.  Its not called Alpine for nothing.  I actually got into it with a guy who was wearing cut off jean shorts and a nylon pull-over.  He didn't think it got that cold up here.  I tried to point out that we weren't that far from the snow covered Mt Ruapehu and that weather often changes quickly on a mountain ridge.  He didn't want to buy it.  I'm proud of my dad being able to experience this with me even though we got passed by several groups.
Yup Shorts.

A couple days later found us in Wellington and a short drive away from Weta Cave.  This was established to allow people to view collectors items and some behind the scenes footage of projects they are working on.  Beth and I went there with her parents back in July so I knew what to expect.  However, they changed the store around a little for the release of the Hobbit, had a different DVD, and had opened up the boat making room for a display of artifacts presented by Weta employees.  We were lucky enough to get a girl named Nat that is an industrial designer.  She spends her time making guns, swords, and armor. As she put it, anything hard/physical falls into her realm.  She walked us through the different phases of creating a gun.  From conceptual design to aging of the physical item.  It was very interesting to hear about the different things that go into making a prop.  I wish I could have taken pictures as there was a really cool prop from District 9 that wasn't used in the movie and several items from the Halo 3 commercial that would have made some of my friends jealous.  I did get to lean up against the warthog and check over a lot of the little details on it.  So many little warning labels and identification tags on that thing.  This was the first time they did something like this and I'm glad we got to go.  It was very nice touch to have a designer telling us about her job.  She illuminated many different aspects of her role and knew just enough about other roles to give you a high level.
The outhouse is through this hole?
We didn't make it to the South Island where a lot more scenes were shot.  When we make it back, we'll spend the bulk of our time down there as it is the bigger of the islands and I've spent less time there.  There are several books available that give out the locations including the longitude and latitude for specific scenes.  They are a bit pricey in my mind, but if you are a huge fan and already booked a ticket to New Zealand spending another $50 on a book probably wont phase you.  Or just see if you can't exchange your Wheel of Time series for it.

Weta Cave

Te Papa Museum