Particularly in the North Island, we saw numerous pastoral scenes. There were a lot of cows, and a lot of sheep. As we were driving along noting this, David exclaimed, “Those sheep look different.”
I paused for a brief moment.
Because those are llamas.
There were many unexpectedly livestock sightings. Like the llamas. We also saw horses, goats, deer, and donkeys. Then, there was the deserted chicken on the side of the road. Why did it cross? To escape from the mental institution, it seemed.
However, on this particular day we were headed to a region that was first inhabited by flocks of sheep. Today, it is known as Hobbiton- the filming location of the Shire in J.R.R. Tolkien’s fictional world, Middle-earth.
Plenty of fantasy trivia was to be learned from our tour guide. Ours was a sassy young man, who had a weakness for cheesy punch lines. The staff uniform included a red and white gingham oxford, which our guide tucked into fairly tight shorts. He had unusually dark circles under his eyes. David and I wondered what a Hobbiton tour guide might do by night. And, especially this one...
Thus, our tour began on its informational foot.
When Peter Jackson went on an aerial exploration to find the perfect locations to film The Lord of The Rings, he discovered the Alexander Farm. The farmers still reside on the 1250 acre farmland, alongside their mob of 13,000 sheep. After being rebuilt in 2011 for The Hobbit films, the Shire has now become a permanent installation.
The hobbit holes, complete with their charming round doors and centrally located doorknobs, looked much more like non-fiction. If you told a child this is where real hobbits live, they would undoubtedly believe you and be heartily made fun of later in life.
The grounds and gardens were so well-tended that the landscaping looked exactly like it wasn't landscaped, at all. With the addition of everything being in miniature form, it was one of the most picturesque sights I ever beheld. Only the most cantankerous of persons could keep themselves from enjoying such a delightful place.
They also reconstructed The Green Dragon Inn specifically for Hobbiton visitors. Locally-brewed ale, cider, or ginger beer was available. Our tour guide suggested the cider, which I tried, and David partook of the ginger beer. Both were quite tasty.
The entire experience felt uber touristy and undeniably fun. It gave me reason to wonder what life would be like if all of our towns and cities resembled storybook lands. For starters, I doubt we’d take ourselves so seriously. While dreaming of having a round door of our own, we carried on with our journey. Our fellowship of two, venturing off to find what other fanciful sights New Zealand would offer.