Hobbiton

In 1998, when a scout knocked mr. Alexander’s door, little did he know that 16 years later his farmland near the small town of Matamata would be visited by thousands of people every single day. When mister Peter Jackson saw mr. Alexander’s farm for the first time during an aerial film location scouting trip, he knew he had found what he wanted. Rolling hills, clusters of trees, no buildings, roads or signs of electricity anywhere in sight – that area would later on become the Shire, the safe haven of Middle Earth.

Neat and tidy bunch of hobbit holes
Neat and tidy bunch of hobbit holes, visible on the last Hobbit film for whole 3 seconds.

The site building started in March 1999, and involved the New Zealand Army building a 1.5km road to transport everything in place. The 3 month filming period started late the same year. For Lord of the Rings, all props were not durable and were demolished after shooting, but for The Hobbit films, the Alexander family smelled tourism and asked to leave the set in place. Building of the current set took 2 years, and the attention to detail is impeccable. Already in 2002 Russell Alexander was conducting tours, and today the Hobbiton attracts anything between 1000-4000 visitors every single day besides Christmas Day. They have had wedding ceremonies, wedding parties and proposals with 100% success rate.

Feast outside of one of the Hobbit holes.
Feast outside of one of the Hobbit holes.

I was lucky to have the biggest Tolkien fan I have ever met as my tour guide, so I really felt like I got the best possible experience. The walk itself is totally overpriced fast stroll around the village of 37 individual hobbit holes, made with untreated timber, ply and polystyrene, a village that was kept alive just to make money, getting more and more popular every year!

Party tent.
Party tent.
PartyBusiness, the famous Bag End.
PartyBusiness, the famous Bag End.

We did learn fun facts, like that the tree above Bag End is artificially made, the leaves are made in Taiwan and it costs about 10,000$. During filming, catering was organised for 400 people every day, with three 2-course meals daily. Hobbiton has plenty of lovely plants, like apple and pear trees. In the Lord of the Rings books, however, the trees were plum trees. New Zealand plum trees are way too big and not suitable for tiny hobbits, though, so they had to pluck out all the leaves and apples from the trees, and remake it digitally to be plum trees.

The Mill, built for The Hobbit.
The Mill, built for The Hobbit.

After the tour, we were treated to a “free” special brew beer (pale ale or lager), cider or ginger beer. I opted for the cider: lovely tart and not too sweet at all. Pleasurable ending to the tour, but it would have been rather ridiculous to have to pay for the drink. The Green Dragon Inn also serves some small sweets and snacks, and the cheapest coffee I’ve seen so far in NZ ($1)!!

The baker's house, probably my favorite hobbit hole.
The baker’s house, probably my favorite hobbit hole.

Was it worth it? The fangirl in me who went to see The Two Towers in cinema 3(!) times says yes!! The rational person that I am, I knew I would have probably regretted not going, even though I found the whole thing a bit on the $$ side. Luckily I had this trip bundled together with the Waitomo caves, so I didn’t have to make two separate trips in that general direction, they are quite near each other. Apparently heaps of people who visit the village have never even seen the films, some haven’t even heard of them, before visiting. Having read the book 3 times, I reckon I can just justify my enthusiasm towards the attraction.

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Waitomo caves

One of New Zealand’s most renowned tourist attractions, Waitomo’s glow worm caves and limestone landscape has been a major attraction and the centre of caving tourism since 1889, when the maori first led people to see the magnificent caves, formed 30 million years ago!

After pondering my adventure level, I decided that I would regret just walking through the caves and be frustrated with watching the mind blowing scenery only from a boat. I opted for black water rafting, a 3 hour trip to the pitch black darkness and 10 degree water, 65 metres below ground. And I was so happy I did.

The Wai (water) tomo (hole) caves boast lofty chambers, long galleries, stalagmite and stalactite formations, small tunnels and caves, mysterious rivers and waterfalls. Before heading to the caves, we geared up and practiced jumping the waterfalls on the river – even that was scary for me! After the practice jump, I decided that I would go all in and go first in everything if I had the chance to. Into the darkness I went, with no other directions but to hold on to my black tube, my adventure vehicle. We crawled trough a tiny labyrinth, jumped 3 waterfalls, had some chilled (truly, chilly) out floating with the flow, paddled and at the end of it all, let the glow worms’ glow guide us out of the cave in pitch black darkness.


I didn’t make this time lapse, obviously.

The rafting was definitely an experience I will never forget – we learned about these glowing maggots (not actually worms!) who have very interesting lives: from mating for 48 hours and then dying, to their cannibalism and webs that have neurotoxin. After the adventure we were treated to a (not so hot) shower, followed with a cup of soup. That experience definitely woke me up, but then I fell asleep on the bus to Hobbiton – the ultimate more new tourist attraction of New Zealand.

Visa issues and actions

When traveling to the Republic of Indonesia as a tourist (from most Western countries at least), one obtains a 30 day Visa on Arrival (VOA) after paying 25USD at the immigration on the airport. This 30 day visa can be renewed once, totaling your trip to paradise for 60 days. If one does not leave the country within the 30 days from arrival and has not extended their visa, each extra day will have to pay a fine of I don’t remember how much. Another popular option is to make a visa run to either Singapore or Kuala Lumpur, but I decided just to stay here and do the extension the easiest way – through a Visa Agency.

There are several agents around Bali (mostly in Kuta, but I found mine in Ubud), who help people with their visas and basically do all the work. The procedures take 7 working days, so usually it is best to be safe and sorry and give it at least 10 days. So after a week in Bali, today I went to the visa office, and was told to bring my passport and a picture (which I went to get with wet and dirty hair, most likely one of the worst photos ever taken of me) with 700,000 IDR (card machine not working). So I walked around to passport pictures, went to get money, then walked back to the office just to find out that from this date onwards (12.11.2014) there is no longer a need for the picture. Go figure. I handed out my passport and gave my email address so they can contact me regarding the next steps. Next week I somehow will go to the Immigration office in Denpasar to give my fingerprints and some other neat stuff, then I will receive my passport back. But since I am no longer staying in Ubud next week, my Agent (how cool!) suggested we meet in the KFC in Sanur. Oh, my…

Random picture of the day: Juice. I’ve had my share of that!

Random shot: Green juice by the rice paddies.
Random shot: Green juice by the rice paddies.