From Terry and Jan’s place, we were on a time sked to get to Hamilton and pick up my sister as we had a planned and booked trip to Hobbiton.
We parked up overnight in an NZMCA CAP stop near the airport – a CAP stop is where a private person charges a minimal amount for you to park up on their property. (These are all listed on the NZMCA travel app). We’ve actually stayed in a few CAP and POP stops which I’ve rarely written about – not wanting to breach people’s privacy as usual. But they have been some of our favourite places and give a real insight into local communities and knowledge, and we’ve had some really quirky conversations that illustrate how differently we as people can think and understand issues. I can totally recommend staying in these diverse and interesting places. Anyway, this one was no different – in spite of the sheep poo surrounding our park up spot we caught a view of the spectacular Waikato River winding an unusually narrow path between bluffs into the distance, in both directions.
We picked up my sister from the Hamilton airport, then drove and lodged at the Opal Hot Springs near Matamata for a few days, going to Hobbiton on one of the middle days of staying there. We had a couple of thunderstorms crashing right overhead and a few decent rainfalls here, our best – and only – so far.
What to say about Hobbiton? It was spread over several hillocks and the amount of attention to detail was amazing. But there were huge numbers of people and a great number of rules to follow – just about the entire introductory talk from the guide was about crowd control – rules to ensure we remained on the path with him, without going off to climbing fences (really?). I found my irritation rising at times and experienced aspects that promoted, for me, a less enjoyable experience. It was like being stuck on a conveyor belt that you can’t step off. But I don’t think my sister would agree – she loves to be among lots of people and has a real connection with the story of the hobbits. We worked out later that there could have been more than 5000 people there the same day we were – queue after queue after queue hopping onto the endless stack of green buses arriving to tote us all along the road to where Hobbiton lies.
Hobbiton has local council permission to increase the numbers of visitors from 300 000 per year to 1 000 000. They are busy making the necessary upgrades at present. Great for the local economy, but lucky there are no hobbits really living there – they’d be quickly, quietly gone!
I was surprised to realise during our tour that people visiting Hobbiton don’t necessarily know about Tolkein or his books or even the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies – they just come because of the hype and advertising. The meaning behind the experience is lost, or perhaps more accurately transformed, as it reaches out to wider groups of people.