Hiya everyone! As I explained briefly in my Mystery Blogger Award post, I’ve been in New Zealand for eighteen days! (2nd of August to 20th of August) It was such a great and unique experience! I’m going to run you through some of the highlights and post a few pictures.
On the 2nd, I left at 11AM for the airport. I live in the UK, and you can’t get much further away than New Zealand. From Heathrow airport, to LA airport, and Finally to Auckland. I’ve never flown before, so chaining two, 12 hour flights was an experience. I was dreading the flights. but all went mostly smoothly. On my second flight, about nine hours in, I had a mssive nose bleed due to all the pressure changes. That was an experience, considering I wasn’t at the isle and trapped between people.
I arrived in Auckland at around 6AM local time on Sunday the 4th. After getting a taxi to my hotel, I had to wait eight hours before I could get into my room. I spent most of the time reading a book and playing on my switch in the hotel lobby. I was way too tired to explore the city.
I don’t really remember the rest of sunday. I remember having dinner with my adoptive family who came with me (my two adoptive sisters and adoptive dad) but other than that, I think I spent the time sleeping.
On monday, during breakfast at the hotel, I met two of the people who were joining our tour group. We were travelling with Red Carpet Tours. A tour that is mostly about exploring the Lord of the Rings locations. there was much more to it than just lord of the rings though. I spent the rest of monday morning exploring Takapuna, Auckland. Off the east coast of Takapuna is Rangitoto island, an active volcano. England is remarkably flat, seeing the peak of Rangitoto was breathtaking for me, it was one of the first mountains I’ve ever seen.
I spent most of the afternoon in my hotel room. However, in the evening was the first meeting of our Fellowship. We met in the Lobby where I had spent eight hours the day before, before we were taken into a boardroom in the hotel. We all gave a brief introduction of ourselves. We were then greeted by our first special guest, Sarah McLeod. Sarah portrayed Rosie Cotton in The Lord of the Rings, She was a delight to meet and had wonderful stories about the cast. After eating, we departed for the first night. Our fellowship had a total of nineteen people.
Day 1 of the Tour
Tuesday morning was a day all of us were looking forwards to. A two hour coach journey to Matamata to see a very magical place; Hobbiton. We were given a guided tour around the whole of Hobbiton, a lunch fit for halflings included. Hobbiton has two types of Hobbit holes, Human scale and Hobbit scale holes. The Human scale ones make you feel like you’re the size of a halfling. all the famous Hobbit holes are human sized, including Bag end and Bagshot row. The hobbit scale holes have doors that are only 4 feet tall maximum, and makes you feel like a giant and that there can be hobbits running around.
After exploring Hobbiton, we were taken to the Green Dragon Inn. We were treated to a free ale. I was asked for ID, but I left it on the coach. The kind bartenders at Hobbiton took my word for it though. The Green Dragon inn is such a cosy place, warm fires, soft armchairs, and cold drinks. I took over 100 photos of Hobbiton, and we were only there for a couple of hours.
I was really lucky to get a picture of The Green Dragon without any people in the shot. Hobbiton was full of tour groups. We had nineteen people, but we were one of the smallest groups wandering around.
After leaving Hobbiton, we left for the town of Rotorua. Rotorua is known for it’s geothermal activity. Due to all the hot pools and geothermal activity, there is a large amount of Hydrogen Sulphide emmissions, giving the city the nickname of the “Sulphur City” The city did smell heavily of rotten eggs. Rotorua was our second hotel on the tour. I’ve never seen a town like Rotorua. the geothermal activity gives the area such a unique look.
While we had arrived at our hotel for the night and had our suitcases unloaded from the coach, it wasn’t the end of the day for most of our fellowship. We were invited to a Maori cultural evening. For those who don’t know, the Maori people are the original settlers of New Zealand. creators of the world famous Haka.
We were invited by the Mitai Tribe. I was way too fascinated by their culture to take pictures. We were first taken into the dining hall, where a man named John greeted us. John took time to find out where everyone came from, and greeted them in their native language. He was really impressive knowning Japanese, Chinese, English, Gaelic, and many more. there was about sixty people in the room, all of them spoke english, but he took the time to greet us. They then took us to see a Waka, a Maori War Canoe, and then into a theatre where Maori men and women showed us some of their cultural dances and instruments. The Mitai chief, Mike, was an delightful host, teaching about their culture and meaning behind their dances. With the sun setting, we gathered back in the Dining hall to feast on a buffet of Maori food.
Finishing our feast, we were given a short night walk through the forest. We were taken to the springs that the Mitai keep sacred. the water from the springs are so clear that the bottom is magnified. a rock that looked like it was just below the surface was in fact six feet underwater. As we passed through into the forest, we were shown a recreation of what a Maori village would look like. I wanted to take a few pictures, but it was pretty much pitch black on my camera, we only had flashlights at this point. We left the Mitai tribe happy, full of knowledge, and with full bellies. The Mitai tribe were really inspiring, and I am definitly basing a race of peoples in a future book project on the Maori people.
Day 2 of the Tour
After sleeping in Rotarua, it was time to leave. Hobbiton and Rotorua were the first day of the tour, and it seemed like three days had passed. It was only the second day now, Wednesday the 7th. We travelled from Rotorua down to Waitomo, specifically to see the Waitomo Glowworm Caves. The famous caves have been used for weddings, concerts, and many more things. The Waitomo caves were discovered by a Maori Chief; Tane Tinorau. along with an English Serveyor; Fred Mace. As they explored, the saw the hundreds of lights on the ceiling, like a starry night. Nower days, the tours of the caves are mostly given by descendants of Chief Tane. The tour seemed to pass by quickly, our guide taught us about how the caves were formed, and then took us down into darker tunnels. We climbed aboard a boat and our guide took us along the river. above our heads were thousands of lights, the glowworms. It was a stunning view to see.
Travelling a bit further in Waitomo, we arrived at Hairy Feet Tours. The land that they own was used in The Hobbit as the location of Trollshaw Forest. Watching the film and the behind the scenes, I believed that Trollshaw was all a set built for the film. But I was wrong, most of Trollshaw forest was a real location, and now we were looking upon it. Warrick and Suzie Denize, the owners gave us a warm welcome and made sure that our tour was private. Warrick gave us the main bulk of the tour, explaining his involvement in the film and his meeting with Sir Peter Jackson and the team. Warrick was enthusastic about the tour. He first took us up to see where they filled the Farmhouse scene. As the film crew were packing up, Warrick stated he’d take down the fence that needed to be packed up. however, 8 years later, he still hasn’t packed it up. it felt like I had stepped into the film. I took
Warrick then took us further into the forest, showing us where all the different scenes were filmed. The forest felt enchanted, straight out of a mobie. I’ve never seen anything like it. Since the path was thin and we had a large group, I didn’t get many high quality photos since I couldn’t stop. My leg was also sore and aching, so I was walking with a stick, so the photos were taken with one hand.
The forest felt so magical, Even more magical than Hobbiton. Since we were the only tour group, we felt a lot more immersed too. I used to live in the woods in England, but seeing this forest was something I’ve never seen before.
With the sun starting to set, it was time to leave Waitomo and head for our hotel for the night, Located in New Plymoth. The rain set in heavily in the evening and for the night. Our hotel in New Plymoth didn’t come with dinner included. So my family had to find a place to eat. After eating full meals every day, there was only once place that seemed suitable to eat; McDonalds. As it turns out, My adoptive family and I weren’t the only one’s with that idea. When we arrived, three of our fellowship were already eating. Over the course of half an hour, a total of fifteen of us had been in the McDonalds. Only four of our fellowship didn’t eat at the McDonalds that evening. I found the fact that so many of us had eaten there hilarious, I had to include that fact.
Day 3 of the Tour
Thursday the 8th. We spent most of Thursday morning travelling. Leaving New Plymouth, our destination was Wellington, Capital City of New Zealand. Around five hours on the road, and a brief stop to pick up lunch from a cafe, we soon arrived at Wellington. We picked up three new members of our fellowship, increasing our numbers to twenty two. We first started to head to the “Get off the road” location, the area where Frodo, Sam, Merry, and Pippin hid from the Ringwraith. Many of our fellowship were eager to recreate the scene, hiding under the same roots in the movie. Most of my pictures of this location had people in the picture, so I don’t have anything to show really. After the breathtaking Trollshaw forest, this forest on the side of Mount Victoria wasn’t as impressive. Although moreso than my home woods.
After taking pictures at the Get off the Road location, we drove up to the peak of Mount Victoria. As I mentioned earlier, England is flat and I’ve never been on a mountain. the view from the top was stunning.
Day 4 of the Tour
Friday the 9th. Since we were staying in Wellington for three nights, we didn’t have to repack. We jumped on our coach and headed for our first location of the day; Weta Workshop. I love behind the scenes of movies, and Weta Workshop was a must see for me. Unfortunatly, while Weta makes all the props for films, they don’t have ownership to photography of the props. So we werent’ legally allowed to take photos of any of the props. It is an excuse to go and see it for yourself though. We were taught about the creative process of Weta, the history of Weta Workshop, and shown props from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. After all our tour, we were allowed to do something special; Special effects makeup.
I’m putting this here as a gore warning. It’s all special effects makeup. Silicon, paint, cornstarch and water.
With that out the way, here’s the cut I gave myself.
I wasn’t the best at it. for those who are wondering how you do it, you get a mix of silicon, apply it in a lump over your skin, spread it and smooth it into the skin, use a blunt sculpting tool to cut down the middle. you use dark pain in the middle, lighter paint on the outside, and then you use food die, cornstarch and water to make the “blood” I think it was cornstarch and water… I wasn’t taking notes.
After I peeled off my cut, we went to Wellington Airport. Weta Workshop made large models to be displayed in the Airport, and we were allowed to take photos of them. they have Eagles in one part of the terminal, and Smaug’s head in another.
Sorry for the low quality of pictures, apparently this wasn’t my day. Smaug was hard to get without anyone in the photo, and I took the picture of the Eagle with my phone above my head for better framing.
We then went to the Roxy Cinema in Wellington. It was the middle of the Wellington Film Festival, but we were allowed into the cinema alone to watch a history of movies, which showed clips from many different movies, leading up to the early 2010s. we were also treated to a lunch at the Roxy Cinema.
Our day didn’t end there, we proceeded to the Weta Cave. A shop run by Weta Workshop, selling a variety of products mostly themed around Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. I’m not much of a spender on merchandise, However, I saw there were coins from Smaug’s hoard there… and when I found out there were five different coins, I had to buy them all. I love collecting coins.
Outside Weta cave, they also had the Three Trolls from The Hobbit. The detail on them is stunning and grossly realistic.
We left Weta Cave happy and satisfied. Some of our fellowship left with very light wallets and heavy bags. The five coins were about $45NZD I think one of the members of the fellowship spent $300NZD
Day 5 of the Tour
Saturday the 10th. Waking up in the same location as the night before was a bit of a weird experience after changing towns each day. Today was a special day, two special guests were coming to visit us. At 11AM, we moved into a boardroom and met Actor Jed Brophy. Out of all the Dwarves in The Hobbit, he was my favourite. Jed was wonderfuly kind, he had so many stories from all the different films that he worked on. He is such a comical person and great story teller. He asked what I wanted to do with my life, and when I told him I wanted to be a writer, he joked about writing scripts for him.
After our meeting with Jed, we then got to meet Daniel Reeve, Artist, Calligrapher, and Cartographer. As an artist, I really appreciated his art. He’s so talented. His different art and writing styles are why he’s in the industry for sure. I bought a map of Middle earth and got him to sign it for me. a few in our fellowship got him to write something… Special… Picture below.
After meeting the two professionals, we had a free afternoon. Myself, and one of my adoptive sisters and adoptive dad went to Te Papa museum to see the Gallipoli exibit. It was an interesting experience. Unfortunatly, I didn’t appreciate it enough, I’ve never been a fan of the history of wars.
Day 6 of the Tour
Spending our last night in Wellington, it was time to depart to the South Island. But before we left, It was the end of the journey for one of our fellowship members. As we left for the south island over an 1.5 hour ferry ride, she stayed in Wellington.
After the Ferry, we travelled down towards Nelson. Our first hotel in the South Island. before we arrived, we stopped at the Pelorus river. I’ve got to say, that the south island is wildly different to the north island. it’s much more mountainous in the south, not to mention colder. The rivers are all a beautiful blue colour. Back on topic, the Pelorus river. The river was used in The Hobbit for the Barrel escape scene. and we were allowed to Kayak down it. My partner for Kayaking, My adoptive Sister, was motion sick from the Ferry. As we walked down to the Kayak, I was counting numbers. Inevitably, there were odd numbers. I was left alone. I was given my own Kayak and double side paddle and took the Kayak alone, while everyone else had partners. I picked it up really quickly and had a lot of fun. I got wet feet and trousers though.
We continued into Nelson, where we made home for the next two nights. Most of the Fellowship decided we would eat together at a Pizza place in the town. The small resturant seemed delight that seventeen people turned up, almost trippling their customers at the time.
Day 7 of the Tour
Staying in Nelson for the day, we had an early start. For today, we were visiting Mount Owen, only accessable by Helicopter. We travelled to the Helicopters and were taken to the mountain. At the time I was in New Zealand, it was the middle of winter. the mountains were all snow capped. As I got out the helicopter, the snow was incredibly deep. In england, the country shuts down for half a foot of snow. The top of Mount Owen was knee deep in snow. and the view was breathtaking.
We couldn’t stay for long since the weather was starting to pick up. but I managed to get a few photos. The landscape was amazing, I’ve never seen anything like it, and I don’t know if I ever will.
Our day didn’t end there. We went to Jens Hansen, a jeweller in Nelson, The creators of The One Ring in the film. We met Halfdan Hansen, the son Jens Hansen who designed the original ring. He gave us a tour of the small shop and showed us the different rings used in the films.
I don’t wear a lot of jewellery. I only wear a necklace that I’ve leant to a friend, so I didn’t end up buying anything at Jens Hansen.
Day 8 of the Tour
Leaving Nelson and heading down towards Christchurch, we were mostly travelling that day, However we made a few stops along the way. the first stop was to watch the Fur Seals that make their homes on the rocks by the road. We stood watching them for about half an hour, watching the cubs play with eachother. We then continued on to Tekapo hot springs, where some of the fellowship took a rest in the springs, and others were tubing down snowy slopes. due to the altitude and the snow, it really was feeling like winter.
Day 9 of the Tour
Day 9 was something different. Today, were were to visit the Location of Lake Town. Lake Pukaki. The land where it was filmed is owned by a farmer named Ian. Ian is an interesting character. We arrived on his farm, and while we were waiting for his arrival, he stepped out a wardrobe, shouting something, then fired a wellington boot cannon. He took us to his house, where he has prop stairs from lake town attached to his house to get in. He then took us into a shed and showed us the part of The Hobbit where his farm was used as a location. he also took the time to point out where his stairs were seen in the film, and now every time I watch The Battle of the Five Armies, I will always think of Ian. if that’s a good or bad thing, I’m not sure.
Ian then took us into his “Man cave” which was a bigger shed. there were a couple of mannequins, a shoe rack that he built that rotated, and a scooter that his neighbour bought him to persuade Ian to sell his farm. Ian told us about his favourite Mannequin, Robert, who he used to play jokes on the crew of The Hobbit. One of these pranks was to leave Robert sitting on a chair on a road and getting someone to go tell him that lunch was at 12. Dressing Robert up as a security guard to keep people away from set.
The journey didn’t stop there, we went back outside to try our hand at archery, to see who could kill ‘Smaug’ a poster of Smaug on a hay bale. I got the most shots into the poster, half of the fellowship missed. I have had some archery experience before.
Ian then pulled up in what could only be one of the most dangerous looking vehicles in New Zealand. A cinema on wheels to give our large group a tour of the farm.
Ian took us down to the lake, where we took several photos and a few group shots. The lake has minerals in it which turn the water the blue colour. It’s that colour all year around too.
We soon leave Ian and head to Twizel for the night.
Day 10 of the Tour
As we start to reach the end of the tour, the days aren’t as packed as they once were. A short drive away from our hotel in Twizel, we arrive at the location of the Pelennor Fields, Location of the fight outside Minas Tirith in Return of the King. Our coach guide bought along prop weapons for us to recreate scenes from the battle. Luckily for me, and unfortunately for you, I don’t have any pictures or videos from the fields. A member of our fellowship was able to recite King Theoden’s speak from memory. and I was one of the more dexterous shield-maidens in the group.
Continuing our day, we headed towards Cromwell. We did stop at Highlands Motorsport park, where several of our fellowship participated in go-kart racing. Last minute to sign up for the go-karting was our coach driver. Spectating the racing, it was obvious that our driver for the past half a week had a need for speed, coming first place. We all boarded the coach a bit warily that afternoon.
The fellowship also split up temporarily, half of our group proceeded to an optional wine tasting, while the other half were taken to the hotel to unpack for the night. After a short break, we regrouped with the wine tasters and proceeded to a free honey tasting session.
Finally, it was time to end for the day. Cromwell was the last hotel that we were only spending one night in. Before dinner, a large majority of our fellowship met on the patio outside the hotel rooms. I think it was at this time, that I really realised how close our fellowship had grown. We had started with nineteen, and now had twenty one. I’ve always been bad with faces and names unless written down. But now, I could name everyone and knew a fair bit about their personalities too. It was warming to know that we all thought of each other as friends, even the three new members who had only joined for the south island of the tour.
Day 11 of the Tour
Today was a packed day. We started immediately for Queenstown, our final hotel. At the hotel, we picked up two new people. these two have been on the tour several times and bought a house in Queenstown. the Tour guide allows them to join for this day to help with all the different locations we were going to visit. The first of these was Fangorn forest. The location, Snowdon forest, is in the Fiordland National Park. Our tour group has special permission to go onto the land which is normally off limits to the public.
At the forest, we found the site of the Orc funeral pyre. I, along with several others, volunteered as a dead orc for another reenactment. The scene where Aragorn kicks a helmet and lets out a gut wrenching scream.
Fangorn forest in the film has been edited. the trees look different to how they look in real life. I’ve included a picture from The Two Towers to show the difference. but you can also see the similarities. To the right of Aragorn, there is a lone rock with grass around the base. the same rock is in my picture of the forest more to the centre of the shot.
From here, we continued further into the National Park, to the scene where the breaking of the fellowship was filmed. This film location was also the last place that our fellowship would visit as a group. This location is where they filmed the Uruk-hai and the Fellowship battle, Boromir’s death, Merry and Pippin throwing rocks and getting kidnapped. I didn’t take any photos inside the forest that I can show you, All of them have people in the picture which I’m avoiding uploading for privacy sake. However, just outside the forest is the river that Frodo uses the boat to leave the group. this scene is where Sam wades into the water and tries to swim to Frodo. The river is just as beautiful in person as it is in the film.
With a final re-enactment from two members of our fellowship, omitting the part in the water due to the cold temperatures, We got on the coach as a group one last time. From here, we left for Queenstown for the night.
Arriving at Queenstown, we were given numerous vouchers for shops and restaurants in the town by our tour leader. We ate that night at The London restaurant, A pizza restaurant. I loved the irony of eating at The London, since I only live an hour away from the city of London. I highly recommend The London, best pizza I had in New Zealand. After eating, we turned in for the day.
Day 12 of the Tour
For the first time on the Tour, I woke up at 9AM. Since we were travelling far every day before, The coach left between 7:30AM and 9AM. but today, half of our tour was heading to Arrowtown, only about twenty minutes away. We left Queenstown at around midday. A week before we arrived in Queenstown we had a chance to order custom sized jewellery, and in Arrowtown was where we could collect it. As I stated earlier, I don’t wear jewellery, so I didn’t buy anything. But I was tempted to buy an Maori Green stone. My family and I decided to explore Queenstown and the old Chinese Village that had been left behind from the New Zealand gold rush which started in what is now Arrowtown. After a quick drink in a local pub, we headed back to Queenstown.
This evening was an emotion fulled night. The Breaking of our Fellowship and our farewell dinner. There were tears and laughs in the rented boardroom in the restaurant. We reminisced about the adventure we had been on, and greeted everyone as friends. Twelve days ago, we had all been strangers in a boardroom. but now we were all friends.
Day 13 of the Tour
Today was “Optional Activity Day” Since I heavily value sleep, I took the morning off. However, in the afternoon, I joined the Nomad Safari. Half of our Fellowship was also on the tour. Started our Safari for Skipper’s Canyon, along one of New Zealand’s most dangerous roads. The tour guides for this safari were experienced at driving along these roads. The canyon looked beautiful to say the least. New Zealand always finds a way to show off it’s beauty.
After spending a bit of time in Skipper’s Canyon, We headed back to Arrowtown to explore along the river. The famous scene from The Fellowship of the Ring was filmed at the river, where Arwen uses the magic of her people to protect herself and Frodo from the Ringwraiths.
As we drew near to the River, we were expecting to drive along a road. but our tour guides had different plans. They took us into the river to drive up it. The water is shallow, so the jeeps could easily drive up them. It was a bumpy ride and I hit my head once or twice. the river is where they originally looked for gold, we were taught by our guides about how they panned for gold as well as being given the opportunity for ourselves. A couple of our group found tiny flakes of gold. unfortunately, the small size made the gold almost worthless.
After a brief trip up another mountain road, we returned to our hotel. For our final Dinner in New Zealand, we visited Devil Burger, a short walk away from out Hotel. I made a mistake when reading the menu, seeing “onion rings” on the list for my burger, I assumed that it was a side of onion rings. I was very wrong once I received my burger. It was the biggest burger I have ever had on my plate. and rather than a side onion rings, they were included in the burger, Along with bacon, two patties, tomato, lettuce, pickles, and cheese. Through pure willpower, I managed to finish the burger.
Day 14 of the Tour
Today was the last day of our adventure. I have worked the numbering differently to how it is shown on the Red Carpet Tours Website. So my day 1 starts a day later. From here till I got home, I had three flights lined up. Queenstown to Auckland, Auckland to LA, and LA to London. I only had the Window seat for the first flight, I took in the final views of New Zealand before leaving it. I definitely want to go back to New Zealand one day. Maybe when planes get faster so the flight isn’t 24 hours. But the landscapes are so breathtaking that they don’t seem real half the time. it really was like stepping into another world.
38 hours after leaving the hotel in Queenstown, and 18 days after leaving home, I was finally back home. The Tour was spectacular. And I really wish I could do it all again. I feel like the landscapes you can never truly get over. walking around Hobbiton was like being in the film, As well as many of the other locations. there were plenty of times for your own adventure. It really seems like a once in a life time opportunity, and from what others have said, it seems like every time is different too. Since I went in New Zealand Winter, the tour was different to the summer tour. not too different. but that gives me the chance to do it again and experience new things.
And that’s the end of my New Zealand Adventure. it’s taken about seven hours to write this all up, with minor distractions in between. But thank you for reading this far! I hope you enjoyed learning what I’ve been up to, and are inspired to go on your own journey sometime too!
Thank you for reading!