On the day we left Rotorua Chloe and I made a pilgrimage of sorts to the Shire. Mark and Ryan weren't interested and with the prices for tours, you really do have to be interested! Chloe and I have both read The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings, so this was on our agenda before we even left home.
The Hobbiton movie set in Matamata is still a working sheep ranch, so there are sheep grazing among the hobbit holes. This movie location was carefully chosen for it's complete lack of evidence of modern life. It was also chosen for the incredible Party Tree which is a real tree, right next to a little pond. It was there that they built the inn and mill house that are no longer there.
Of the 37 hobbit holes originally built for the movie, only about 17 are left. In fact, none were to be saved at all. It was in the contract that the site would go back to what it was before filming, but the owners quickly realized they had a gold mine on their hands and, after two years of legal wrangling, got permission to give these tours.
None of the holes are maintained with gardens and such as they were in the movie. That's kind of too bad because it's so pretty there you just want to truly believe that hobbits exist and are about to invite you to tea! Only Bag End, Bilbo's home, is structurally sound for people to enter. So, of course, we all did.
This is the view from Bag End and you can see the party tree on the right.
Thousands of people from all over the world auditioned to be hobbits, but only a couple hundred were chosen. Of those about 13 lived in the area. Chloe might have been perfect for a hobbit role then as she was always small, had the round face and bright smile of a hobbit. Only thing missing would have been the red hair.
Since this is a working sheep farm, sheep shearing and lamb feeding are part of the tour. The shearer here was a bit more "real" than the guy at the agrodome and since we had a small group we all got to pet the sheep after shearing. Her newly shorn skin was just covered with lanolin. That's her fleece you can just see in the darkness inside the door. All in all, it was a very enjoyable tour. Our guide was very interesting and full of fascinating facts and the day was beautiful.
Once we got back to town we got on the road to head for the Waitomo Caves to see something else Chloe had on her agenda! More on that next time.