YOU BEST CHECK YO SELF BEFORE YOU WRECK YO SELF, YKNOWHMSAYIN'?
Today we set out for Hobbiton, on a lovely 13-mile route zig-zagging past farms and pastures. Our tour was scheduled for late in the day so we had plenty of time to look around.
"Hobbiton, this-a-way!" (Also, dork doing tai-chi, this-a-way.)
Well, it looks like it might be tai-chi, and I've done it before, but in this case I was just posing for the camera. Check out that beautiful countryside in the background! Sometimes it reminded me of California wine country, but less constricted by walls and highways. The hills can really stretch out and get a good roll going here.
"Caution while crossing. Your mother will guide you, while she searches for her severed left hand."
On farmland, trees often have a clear space beneath them that's a very exact height. I assume it's because the animals nibble off all the low-hanging leaves. This means you could actually figure out how tall the tallest animal in a field is, just by looking at the trees.
Kerry and I both had the same thought when we saw this bike: "If this were Oakland, that would be gone in 20 minutes or less." We're city-folk, yup...
Our picnic stop attracted a FREELOADER!!!! No free rides! Get off!
When the wind's at our backs, we barely have to pedal. If only every day was like this...
And, if only every day you could meet a grumpy long-haired long-horned old goat by the side of the road, and feed him snacks! Check out the video:
Bread! Bread bread bread give me the BREAD. I am the goat, so bread is mine.
OOF! As soon as the goat realized Kerry had bread to feed him, he wriggled his way through the fence and jumped at her. Kerry's reactions are quick, so she fell backwards before the goat could make contact, and I grabbed one of his horns and held him in place. Kerry was back on her feet in a few seconds, no injuries.
It's a good thing that a goat's strength isn't proportional to his smell, or he would have been unstoppable!
"This is MY cabbage! Take a step near it and I will CLOBBER you!!"
When she saw us paying attention to the goat, the owner came out of her house with some cabbage we could feed him. She also told us a few stories about him. The general theme was: "Don't try to mess with the goat!" "Ouch, I got injured!" "Hey I warned you didn't I?"
It was a very lovely visit. But Hobbiton awaited! So we left the goat chomping cabbage and rode on.
The most important thing here is that you be alarmed!! (The details of the message can be buried in grass, for all we care...)
Even if the trees weren't trimmed this way, I'm sure the passing trucks would beat them into shape pretty soon...
Break time! Let's chomp some snacks and look at stuff...
The first highway sign pointing the way! Are you excited? I'm excited!
We made it to the visitor center, where we'll catch a shuttle into Hobbiton. Cloudy weather, but oh well. It'll still be awesome, even if the pictures aren't perfect.
The Hobbiton gathering area was awash in Japanese and Chinese tourists, each with approximately 3.5 cameras, including the obligatory cellphone screwed onto the end of a selfie-stick. I felt right at home among them, fiddling with my own avalanche of camera gear.
We took a look around in the gift shop but, to our surprise, there wasn't anything particularly special for sale. Lots and lots of t-shirts and exactly the same things you could buy online. I was hoping to find something novel to send to the nephews back home. Dang.
About half an hour later, we got in line, and were the first to board the shuttle. It glided across the road and over a hill, arriving at an official-looking gate.
One of our guides had to jump out and open it for the bus.
The sign reads, "before you dig, see site management."
Too late, maaaan, I'm already waaaaay digging it.
In case you're wondering, the electrified wires are to scare all the grazing sheep away. Nothing to do with corralling small children. Though I wonder... Do the Hobbits try to escape?
If it rains, they have an army of umbrellas standing by...
Oh boy oh boy oh boy oh boy! (Can't you tell I'm excited in the picture?)
Here's the first thing you see stepping around the corner. The guide took one look at my Twoflower-style Hawaiian shirt, my huge camera, and my even bigger grin, and pointed at me and said "You. Go first." So I walked ahead of the group and got to stand and compose this nice shot with nobody in the foreground.
The perks of looking like a dork. Perhaps I reminded him of that dorky actor in the video that Air New Zealand shows you when you're preparing for takeoff.
We have arrived! The tour has begun!
Very excited photographer; can't decide what to point at first!
Check out this little video panorama Kerry made, to set the scene:
Lots of things to check out here!
Hobbiton is maintained like a farm. All the gardens are real, and all of the produce on display is grown from those gardens.
The attention to detail is very impressive, especially since all the plant life is genuine.
For example, the trees are all heavy with fruit this time of year, but you won't find a single one on the ground, since that would imply an absence of hungry hobbits. It really does feel like they all just stepped out of sight for a moment as you happen to be wandering through.
It's all just SO CUTE !!!!
This pond was here before set construction began. During filming, a handful of frogs moved in, and made so much noise they had to be relocated.
I've always enjoyed little self-contained idyllic scenes, left unpopulated, as though one could step inside them any time.
At times, this environment eerily reminds me of walking around the Santas Village amusement park, back in Scotts Valley in the 1980's...
... And at other times, it reminds me of a very old fantasy computer game called "Below The Root" that took place in a forest of enormous trees with houses built into them.
Every dwelling is decorated for a particular occupation and it's fun to guess what they are. See the drying rack on the right? Perhaps this is the local herbalist?
I really started to wonder... What would be the logistical problems of a dwelling built into a hillside, instead of over it? Would you have problems heating the place? How would drainage and insulation work? And since I'm from California, how would it fare in an earthquake? (Very badly, I suspect...)
And yet, with all these drawbacks... Wouldn't it just be SO CUTE ???
Just think, you could grow produce on your outside walls, as well as your roof!
It's amazing how much variety the designers managed to cram into such a small chunk of land.
It looks appetizing... But this bread is made from colored cement! Sits out here all year-round.
In fact, it's a pretty close rendition of Terry Pratchett's "dwarven bread".
This is new wood decorated too look aged, using a combination of yogurt, wood chips, vinegar, and paint.
I've no idea if this is actual honey, but I assume it is, since there were actual bees crawling around on the jars.
I'd say these were supposed to be beehives, but elsewhere in Hobbiton is a beekeeper's house with some boxes out front that have removable sections of honeycomb. So... If not beehives, what are these? Bird houses? Special hives for Middle Earth "giant bees"?
Hobbits need to build better ladders if they're going to avoid injury!
More fabulous framing by Kerry.
The central Hobbiton attraction: Bilbo's house!
We made sure to take plenty of photos around it.
The other big attraction was the Green Dragon Inn, where the tourguide invited us to sit down and have a drink. We had the cider and the ginger beer, then mixed them together. The result was fantastic!
Here we are, basking in the warm glow of Hobbiton!
Check out all that fancy design work!
Hobbiton was gorgeous, and worth the price of admission. And for us, it was the high point of a lovely day spent riding through the same scenery that encircled the attraction for miles around. I think it would have been a lesser experience taking a car here. But I've been a bike snob for most of this century, so of course I would think that.
On our way back to Tirau and our hotel we were already plotting about the next visit, and what our nieces and nephews would think!