I have finally found the requisite cute, fashionable cafe with wifi, in which I can it with my unfashionably-sized laptop and type. (Does anyone else get driven crazy by tiny phone keys and screens? Is there anything better than sitting down at a good old giant keyboard and bashing some things out?) So, despite the fact I am perched up in sunny Sydney sipping on a ginger beer, let’s go back to New Zealand for a little bit …
Three hours south of Auckland is a town called Matamata. It’s small, with a main stretch that features the key shops; fish and chips, Chinese food, a pub. Back in the late 90s, when Peter Jackson was location scouting for a certain trilogy of films, he flew over a sheep and cattle farm that lies about fifteen minutes outside Matamata. It was perfect. There was a huge tree that was of utmost importance (something about a party) and plenty of rolling hills that would make perfect homes for small people with large, hairy feet. He knocked on the farmstead’s door, interrupting a game of rugby on the TV, and the rest is cinematic history. Indeed, contemporary New Zealand history.
Nowadays, Matamata also goes by the name Hobbiton and from the town’s thatched information centre, you can hop on a guided tour bus and drive out to The Shire, through some truly beautiful New Zealand landscape.
The Shire was originally constructed for the LOTR trilogy, but the hobbit homes tucked into grassy hills were just white doors, the rest taken care of by special effects. For The Hobbit trilogy, The Shire was brought back to life, this time in full, stunning detail. Coloured wooden doors, round windows, front gardens with rocking chairs and clay beer steins, a big community vegetable patch that is tended to by a team of gardners, winding paths, a well. It is magical, as if the Hobbits have left for the day and let you roam through their patch of Middle Earth.
Of course, for the real fans (for example, SG, who has seen each film approximately ten times) the home everyone was keenest to clap eyes on was that of the Baggins family, Bag End, at the end of Bagshot Row. Above it sits that beautiful oak tree which is, in actual fact, a fake, each leaf painstakingly woven on by hand.
Past the party tree and over the bridge, we stopped for a refreshing ginger beer at The Green Dragon pub.
It was sensational weather for the beer garden.