Tag Archives: Sir Peter Jackson

Concerning Hobbits

Lou had been determined to see Hobbiton in the dry and so we had come north quickly to ensure our day there would be before the scheduled wet weather forecast. We got it right and arrived in sunshine, the last there was for several days.

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Although Lord of the Rings was filmed nearly 20 years ago, with limited funding and perhaps a degree of short sightedness, the original Hobbiton was largely deconstructed with just a couple of hobbit hole doors being left on the farm land used as the set. When the family that owned the land was approached to allow the filming of The Hobbit, they agreed but with the proviso that this time, the set would be preserved and turned into a tourist attraction as a joint venture with the film company. With the success of both trilogies, it is no surprise that the site has become wildly popular and averages between 2000 – 3000 visitors a day. Open 364 days in the year, at $90 a head basic entry fee, the turnover is impressive. That’s before you add in the gift shop, restaurant and alike. Want your wedding there? No problem – pay the price and you too can have a private ceremony by the Party Tree! Yup – a real money spinner. But beautifully done.

The whole set up is impressive in its attention to detail. The buses that take you from the visitor reception to the site must have the best audio and video kit I have ever seen on a bus and there is no stinting on the money to keep the place top notch. With a team of dedicated gardeners, the whole place looks terrific. Given a free hand, each hobbit hole’s garden is individually decorated and the gardens are real. The gardeners were even having an internal competition on who could grow the best pumpkin!

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I think that the photos say it all. It is a lovely visit to do. Admittedly, it is an immersion into a film set world and you are held by the hand as you walk around, kept to a tight schedule for your particular visit surrounded by other tourists.

But for anyone with an imagination, you really are in The Shire.

A great day out.

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North Island again–Wellington, Rotarua and Tree Running

Wellington lived up to its nickname of the Windy City. Whilst the campsite we used just out of town was well sheltered (but as a DOC and v low cost, was inhabited with a bunch of German lads drunkenly, loudly and increasingly desperately trying to pull some traveller girls camped there too until 0230hrs…), Wellington requires you to lean in to the wind.

We met up with the Belgium family at the wonderful Otaga Museum and spent the whole day there, wandering around the halls. As it was a school day, the crowds were light and we had no queues to stand in to get in to the museum’s major exhibit on Gallipoli. Yet again Sir Peter Jackson had got involved and the exhibit was terrific. It took a couple of hours just to go around it and I could have happily gone around again, there being so much information on offer.

Saying our goodbyes again and a promise to try and meet up again at Coremandel, we did a big jump N towards Rotarua, famous for its hot pools and geysers.

North Island again–Wellington, Rotarua and tree runningNorth Island again–Wellington, Rotarua and tree runningNorth Island again–Wellington, Rotarua and tree running

We had been given the details of a thermal river,  about 30km S of Rotarua that you could go and soak in by the Ranger at the Wellington Campsite and we headed for that. Three or four miles down a dirt track took us to a small car park and a track down to the smoking stream. We visited a couple of the pools and loved the heat. We thought the water must have been around the 40C mark. We shared the top pool with a bunch of Korean ladies, gabbering away, everyone talking at once and saved one’s phone after she fell in to everyone’s amusement, trying to get that perfect shot of the rest. A good humoured lot!

North Island again–Wellington, Rotarua and tree runningNorth Island again–Wellington, Rotarua and tree runningNorth Island again–Wellington, Rotarua and tree runningNorth Island again–Wellington, Rotarua and tree running

The next morning, much to the kids delight, we surprised them by heading off the main road and taking them to a “Go Ape” tree runners centre. Technically, Hannah was allowed only to do the first two of the six levels because of her height but the staff was happy for her to try the harder stuff as long as Dad went too. I thought it a fair cop. The courses started small, gradually getting longer, more complex and higher off the ground.  Needless to say, she did us proud, nervelessly throwing herself over the courses and the staff were a little surprised to hear her screaming her way down the big death slide (called “flying foxes” in NZ – no idea why) with a ecstatic smile at the end of level four! Eleanor and I completed level five but we ran out of time to complete last level.

North Island again–Wellington, Rotarua and tree runningNorth Island again–Wellington, Rotarua and tree runningNorth Island again–Wellington, Rotarua and tree running

We had a timetable to keep with a dry Hobbiton and with 60km to get there and a little over an hour to get there, we needed to move – fast!

North Island again–Wellington, Rotarua and tree running

The Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre

Whilst I like writing the blog, you will have noticed that we publish in blocks of time, generally with a significant change in scenery being a driver for a new post. I like writing only so much! During our stay with the Sells in Blenheim, Emma and Paul suggested that we make time to visit the air museum at the edge of town and on our last full day with them, we decided to do so, taking Cloe with us whilst the grown ups went back to work.

I can’t say I was expecting much. What we did find blew me away and gets the Centre a blog post all to itself. Here is the link to its webpage. 

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The exhibition halls are split into WWI and WWII. It isn’t a cheap museum – a family pass costs $99 for both halls, $79 if you only want to see one war zone – and I was biting at laying out so much for a single activity. In the end we stumped up the extra $20 for both halls.

Once I walked into the start of the WWI, saw the first working plane, my jaw dropped, I had the first of a great many wow moments and I ceased complaining.

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The museum has had the Sir Peter Jackson (of Lord of the Rings Director fame) treatment.   He is a very keen plane collector and wanting to do his bit back into his native NZ, has lodged some of his collection at the museum. He also provided the museum with his entire Great War artefact collection which is simply magnificent.  Then he got his film company and friends involved in making everything come to life. Wonderfully set tableaus are built around every plane. There is even a rebuild of the Red Baron’s crash site. Each manikins is to Madame Tousaud standard. The artefacts, photos and information are beautifully presented and of great rarity. There are several Blue Max medals (the highest award the Germans gave out in WWI), huge number of panels detailing, more often than not, the short, tragic but spectacular lives of the aces of WWI. There is even one of the wing panels with a German Cross cut from the Red Barons plane after it was shot down. The place is a gem and I have never seen a better collection nor a better presented collection anywhere. Did you know that Air Marshal Goering of WWII infamy was the third and last commander of the Flying Circus of WWI? I didn’t. The white jacket he is famous for reflects his choice of white painted aircraft he flew in WWI.

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We took three and a half hours just for the WWI collection. It was staggeringly good.

The WWII hall had less aircraft but all are working, each with a drip tray under the engine. Again Sir Peter obviously had a great time doing the place up. There was even a very noisy room with huge double surround screens where you got eight minutes of being under air attack whilst being in the rubble of Stalingrad. Tagged on to that was a short film on just how many casualties there were in the War. Sickening. Did you know it is thought that the Russians lost as many souls at Stalingrad as the UK and US together did in the whole war?

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The last exhibit was a Spitfire, a later Mk XIV that was used after the war in the Far East. It is used sparingly now after a crash landing some ten years ago in which the pilot was badly injured. Omaka Avaition Heritage Centre

If you happen ever to be in the area of Blenheim, can I respectfully suggest you spend a day here at the Centre. You won’t regret it. Your kids and you will come away enthralled, educated and thoughtful.

 Omaka Avaition Heritage Centre