A far green country under a swift sunrise…
I definitely did not get enough sleep, so pushed my alarm back until after 6am, opting to go to breakfast a bit late. I eat quickly anyway, so soon enough we were packed, checked out and on the coach, ready to drive to our next location – the property which became Trollshaw Forest.
It was a couple of hours drive, but very scenic green farmland and rolling hills with very few people or buildings in sight. Eventually we made our way through Rotorua and to Piopio. Driving up to the property entrance, we were greeted by our tour guides for the day and the land owners*, Sue and her father-in-law(?) Graham (her husband was sick and couldn’t attend).
*Although Graham told us that although he has lived there for over 70 years, they are not the land owners – they are merely caretakers of the property, who have the pleasure and privilege of preserving the land and sharing it with the rest of the world, which is a nice sentiment.
We were lucky to have our own private tour of the land, and be able to take our time walking around, taking photos, asking questions etc. They were both extremely friendly and easy-going, telling us stories of the 6 or so weeks the cast and crew of The Hobbit were filming there. You can tell that they were very happy to be chosen as a location for filming, and are immensely proud of everything they’ve built there (as they should be).
They had a little clearing with some tables, a small shop and very good boy.
After everyone had settled, they gave a short presentation about their experience with the filming, before splitting us into two groups to drive us up to the location.
On the way up, they stopped to let us see and pet one of their newborn lambs which was a rare treat. Soon enough though, we made it to the start of the trail and waited for them to go back and get the other group. In the meantime, we took many photos of the surrounding area, as there were so many interesting sights, trees and rocks just in that area alone.
Once the other group arrived, we were led up through the various locations used for filming (a surprising amount of different locations/shots in the one area).
The whole place is stunning, but we were just getting started. We then headed into the forest itself, which was an instant transportation into Trollshaw Forest, with a very distinct aesthetic and mossy green trees/rocks.
After learning about each area in the forest and what shots they were used for (the main one being the “cave” where Bilbo finds Sting), we walked through and out back to where we started.
We were shuttled back to the entrance, and had some time to take photos with replica weapons and props while we waited for the other group.
Finally, we said our thanks and goodbye, as we made our way back through the rolling hills, getting closer and closer to Mordor (Mt. Ruapehu). It was a long, but uneventful trip, with a couple of stops and a nice packed picnic lunch we had picked up earlier.
Eventually, we found ourselves approaching the mountains. There was a lot of snow and some moderate cloud, but we had a good view of the area without many people around which was nice.
Then it was off to the (very) nearby hotel to call it a night. There were a few options for dinner (cafes/restaurants), so I worked on my photos for a while, then headed to some sort of bar and met up with some fellow group members for dinner.
I had the “Dubai Nights”, which was a standard Mediterranean dish, with skewered chicken, lamb and kefta, as well as a bit of pita bread, hummus and yoghurt. It was actually quite nice, though a little pricey.
After some interesting discussions, I had to leave early to finish up with the photos etc. so I can actually get some sleep tonight (though it’s not looking much better than last). The delay with yesterday’s photos pushed my schedule out a bit, but hopefully I’m on track now.
Tomorrow we visit a few more locations and end up in Wellington, where we’ll be staying for a few days (no more hotel jumping! Yay!). Until then!