This week we became a mini fellowship and were joined by our awesome friend Jon, who has come to visit Middle Earth. He definitely joins Sam in The Lord of the Rings super-fan category and we have had a brilliant week travelling from Auckland to Christchurch via some of the best film locations.
After meeting in Auckland we went to the mother of all Rings spots; Hobbiton. For the recent Hobbit films, the set was rebuilt and you can now walk around the whole of the Shire, see more 40 hobbit holes including Bag End, and have a pint of ale in the Green Dragon. It was amazing! The attention to detail is incredible and it really does look like the films.
That afternoon, we drove south towards Waitomo and had a non-LOTR, but equally geeky time for Jon’s birthday surprise, by sleeping in the cockpit of a real Vietnam bomber plane! Bizarre, but very funny!
On Wednesday we took on Mordor and Mount Doom, which is actually the Tongariro Crossing and Mount Ngauruhoe. This 22km day hike was exhausting, but amazing to walk through the volcanic landscape that does actually look like Mordor.
There was a lot of steep uphill climbing, with Mount Doom right next to us, then an optional extra detour to the top of Mount Tongariro for some awesome views, we passed volcanic craters, steaming vents, and finally walked the really steep descent. It took us about 7 hours and my legs were killing by the end but it was definitely worth it!
We ended our week in Wellington where Jon went on an epic full day tour to lots of different film locations and we joined him in the Weta Cave in the afternoon. This is where they made a lot of the prosthetics and special effects for the films and we had a tour of their studios to see how lots of stuff was made. Apparently two guys took two years to hand-make all of the chain mail for LOTR and they actually rubbed off their own fingerprints looping them all together.
The shop and mini museum were so good we had to go back the next day!
To finish our north island adventure we went to see The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug in the Embassy Theatre, a beautiful building where all of the film premiers were held.
Now we are in Christchurch after taking the inter island ,ferry yesterday and are staying with some lovely, very distant relatives. Tonight we say goodbye to Jon who is heading off to continue his LOTR quest and we pick up a campervan to explore the South Island for three weeks.
It’s been lovely having a visitor! Safe travels Jon.