In 2007 I visited New Zealand and I worked for a few months in a backpacker hostel in Christchurch to help fund my adventures. There were a lot of things I really wanted to do while I was in the country; whale watching in Kaikoura, boat trip through Milford Sound, star gazing at Mount Cook, zorbing in Rotorua!
They were all your standard tourist experiences but what I also really, really wanted to do was visit Middle Earth.
The ‘Fellowship of the Rings’ came out in 2001 while I was at university, and by the time the final film in Peter Jackson’s ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy had been released in 2003 and I had fallen completely in love with the locations.
In all the interviews with the cast and crew I saw and read they all raved about their time in New Zealand and I desperately wanted to see it for myself. It didn’t disappoint. I travelled around the North and South islands and went on every LOTR tour I could find. I stood on the spot Frodo first encounters the Ring Wraiths. I’ve worn a beard and pretended to be Gandalf walking with Saruman in his garden. And I’ve held Aragorn’s sword aloft in Edoras. I loved every moment!
I recently unearthed my collection of souvenirs and mementos from my trip, and they included the flyers for the tours I did that covered places like Wellington, Matamata, Queenstown and Mount Sunday. I also found my handwritten journal of my experience which I need to transcribe and post here. I’ve had a flick though and it’s a wonderful personal record, with little details I had forgotten like the tour guide at ‘Hobbiton’ constantly reference to us on this trip as his ‘hobbits’ – his French hobbits, English hobbits, Japanese hobbits!
I thought I’d share the literature I collected here as it’s a little bit of film tourism history. I went in 2007, not that long after the first trilogy was made and a few years before the production started on the ‘The Hobbit’ films, the first of which came out in 2012. I saw ‘Hobbiton’ in the wilderness years when we didn’t even know they would even make ‘The Hobbit’ (let alone milk three films out of it). The set I saw would be rebuilt from its half-salvaged state and left standing to become an officially licensed set tour. It would be interesting to go back and see how the film tourism industry has grown and evolved since my time there.