Well travelers, it’s been a bit there since I’ve regaled you with stories of my adventures down under. And there have been a few, one of which I’m keeping to myself and one that you’ll have to wait a bit longer for. Trust me, it’s a good one. So let’s get started!
Follow me back to the end of February. Yes, all those weeks ago (March is going by super fast if you hadn’t noticed). What was so great about the end of February? Night tour. Night tour? Yes, night tour. Technically it is the Evening Dinner Tour. This is where you get to go around Hobbiton at night. Coolness on a whole other level. Also they feed you food, which is nice. A bunch of the staff wanted to book onto an EDT but they were all booked solid until mid-March. So instead, management set up a staff only tour probably so we would all stop nagging them I’m sure.
During my time at Hobbiton I have learned that most of the people who work there are a bit crazy. Like, young, unencumbered, prone to drinking lots crazy. Don’t get me wrong, I can be, and have been, crazy with the best of them, but it was never really my thing. Even when I was young(er) and (more) unencumbered I always felt I was a different kind of crazy. And my crazy does not always mesh well with Hobbiton crazy. But damn it all if I don’t have fun with those peeps. The point is, I felt quite sure this evening was going to be…interesting.
One of the new guides, Glyn, was still homeless back then so he was moving from place to place and crashing on peoples’ floors and couches. I had offered my place up for the night so we decided it made sense to carpool to the tour as well. We had a beer, or two in Glyn’s case, at mine before we finished up our last minute preening and hopped into my car.
The energy level was high in the staff room and positively electric once we were all on the bus. Our fearless Head Guide, Teresa (or T) would be driving us, as well as walking us around the set. T has been at Hobbiton since the beginning practically, and she’s just a total BA, so we were all in for a treat. The whole bus speech, while being informative like it’s supposed to be, was also one big roast of all the ridiculous things the drivers say (and a few things some of the guides do, too).
Things weren’t much different on set. Teresa still gave the tour like you would with any other group, but with bits of added color and flair your typical tourist wouldn’t understand, and a bit more swearing. It’s easy, as a guide, to forget that not everyone at Hobbiton spends their day out on set talking about all the history and random facts regarding the set, and many people that were on the staff tour had never really set foot on set. Hence why T tried to make sure the tour was still informative, but maybe a bit more amusing for the guides.
Since so many different departments were being thrust together for this tour, there were lots of new acquaintances being made. Glyn introduced me to one girl who I recognized but couldn’t place for the longest time until I realized she worked in the kitchen at the GD (Green Dragon, if you were wondering). I found myself able to have more than a two-minute conversation with people I saw almost as often as my fellow guides, and on this night, all three of Hobbiton’s Renees were in the same place at the same time. We all ended up sitting at the same table for dinner actually.
So we went through the tour, making a few unusual stops, then lingered on the other side of the bridge while we waited for the last actual tour to leave the Green Dragon. Then it was time to get our drink on! The dining area was curtained off while the kitchen staff finished setting up the feast. The group swarmed the bar for their first round then dispersed to the tables, chairs and fireside seats while they waited for dinner to be served. I took my drink back to the Snug and had a quite moment alone, remembering when my mother and I had been here enjoying our very first drink at the recently opened pub. Then I went back to mingle.
It didn’t take long for the singing to start. Disney songs of all things, and that theme continued right through to dinner. It was very appropriate though. Many a song has been sung in the Green Dragon I’m sure, and we would have been very poor Hobbits indeed if we had not continued that tradition. When we were all a couple beers in, the curtains finally opened to reveal the feast.
Three large tables, which I’d seen in an empty state many times before, were now covered end to end with Hobbit-style dishes filled with expertly prepared food (hardly any of which I could eat but I appreciated the presentation nonetheless). The group scattered like roaches for a seat and in an instant food was transferred from platter to plate. The feast had begun.
I grabbed some salad and piled some taters onto my plate. While I nibbled those and sipped my drink I was brought a bowl of stir-fried veggies that were quite tasty and very filling. The songs began again once everyone had gotten some food in their bellies, and great feats of food throwing were performed (by which I mean a bunch of us started seeing from just how far we could throw a piece of food and make it into someone’s mouth. Pretty far, it turns out.)
Nearly everyone over-indulged that night I think, at least at my table they did. When everyone had finished eating, we hung around the pub for a bit longer, had another drink if stomach space allowed, then were told to find a lantern buddy for the walk back through set. Each pair was given a lantern (hence lantern buddies. You always realize how redundant you are in the proofreading phase) then sent out the far side of the pub into the rain. For a little while I was disappointed that we hadn’t actually got to walk through set in the dark. But that was before we took a left instead of a right when we had crossed over the dam.
In a near single file line, we sloshed and squelched past the lakefront hobbit holes before climbing back up the hill to the Party Field. Here we stopped and were told to form a circle and set the lights at our feet. The bugs were a nuisance and the rain wasn’t helping my mood, so I started to get impatient for something to happen. When at last we were all accounted for, a few of the lads stepped into center circle.
Ethan, Sam, and William began by telling how this was a tradition on the night tours, that everyone had to do this. And what was that? It was dancing. A few dance moves were demonstrated for us, such as the Frodo (see below), but ultimately we were just encouraged to participate. The three of them then stumbled into a brief rendition of the Green Dragon song (I don’t know what else to call it), which I’ll recount for you here:
Oh, you can search far and wide, you can drink the whole town dry. But you’ll never find a beer so brown as the one we drink in our hometown. You can keep your fancy ales you can drink ’em by the flagon. But the only brew for the brave and true comes from the Green Dragon!
After our less than enthusiastic dance circle we all shuffled over to the Dell. This was my favorite part of the tour, but could’ve been better. William, our other guide, told us to turn off our lanterns and take a moment of silence to just appreciate the set, here in the darkness, all lit up and glowing. He also mentioned this was the most difficult part of the tour to execute, and it was no different with this lot. Some people were just too hyped up. We did eventually get our less than reverent moment of complete silence, and we even had a few songs here as well.
We finished the tour with a nice walk around the Dell before heading back through the cutting and to the bus. Some people stopped for a lighted photo before leaving but I was ready to be back on the bus and on my way home. My mood had definitely mellowed. Back home, before we each crawled into our respective beds, Glyn and I sat on the living room floor enjoying a cider, chatting about how amazing the evening had been.
Phew. Well that was an adventure in itself. You made it travelers! Now you all want to go and do your own evening tour, don’t you? The last few things I have to tell you will go much quicker, I promise.
So, there are, certain classes of people let’s say, that have very different and interesting ideas of what ‘entertainment’ is…I guess. That’s my nice way of saying there are crazy, redneck, thick-skulled and possibly slightly inbred people no matter where you go in the world. Here they are called bogans. Now, I wouldn’t say I’m running in any bogan circles but I did a very bogan thing the other night, at least I would consider it to be.
So Blair has this lawnmower (some of you might know where this is going). It also comes with its own grill and table, I guess you’d call it. Well one night, I was over, hanging out with a few other peeps, and for some reason we decide to go drive this thing around for a bit. Just down the lane, into the country a ways. So that’s what we did. Blair is at the wheel, I’m in the passenger seat, and May and this other tiny dude are sitting on the table. Several thoughts went through my mind. 1) All the neighbors probably hate us right now, cuz this thing is loud as. 2) I really hope Blair doesn’t steer us into a sign post. And 3) What the actual fuck, I’m riding a lawnmower down the edge of a highway.
So that is a thing I can say I’ve done now. Didn’t see it coming, but it happened.
Now were are going to go way back, my dear travelers. Remember that blog I posted ages ago, just shortly after I moved to NZ, the one about hiking Wairere Falls? Well things have developed since then! First of all, I know how to say the name now. Phonetically it is ‘why-rear-ree.’ Not so sure why that was so hard to figure out but whatever. Also, I have now actually made it to the Falls, not just the lookout point. And I had so much fun doing it.
Okay, the winding stairs and rocky terrain and mugginess and general fatigue accumulated were not fun, but it was all totally worth it at the end. I sweated and toiled for nearly the entire hike. I had a moment at the lookout point where I considered turning back. It wasn’t really that important that I reach the top, was it? But dammit! It was! That’s what I had come there to do and I was going to do it! So I kept going. And an hour and a half later I had reached the Falls.
Now, I had been listening to music the whole way up to the Falls, and as soon as I reached the top, an absolutely perfect song came on. I had just left the thick bush behind and stepped onto the path at the edge of the river. Through my headphones began the hushed, eerie beginning of Imogen Heap’s “Clear the Area” and it just fit. The place as silent, deserted. Everything here was new, being explored for the first time. I was glad no one was around. Everyone else that had reached the summit before me had passed by me some time ago.
I moved forward slowly, stepping carefully. The ground here was very damp and quite muddy in areas. Beside me, the river was quiet, but the further I moved down the narrow path, the more the howling of the wind grew. It wasn’t long before the showers began. They were short, just small bursts of water droplets falling from who knows where. I kept moving. When I’d finally reached the end of the trail, it became clear where the water was from.
The wind at the top was ferocious. It was catching and casting great streams of water from the Falls’ edge and sending them back the way they had come. In the battle between gravity and Aeolus, the wind god was certainly holding his own. Mere minutes had passed before I was sufficiently soaked. And I was loving every minute of it. From the second the first unexpected shower and fallen onto my shoulders, I was smiling. Smiling at what? I have no idea.
Maybe it was the child-like wonder evoked from being spritzed from a source I could not see or touch. Maybe it was the relief I felt when the cool waters hit my skin. Maybe it was just endorphins kicking in after the long hike or just the mere satisfaction I had reached the top. I just couldn’t stop smiling. There were a couple viewing platforms right at the edge of the cliff. I walked straight down to the lowest one, cast my arms out wide and let the water pelt me straight in the face as I stood there with a giant stupid grin on my face and a laugh lodged in my throat.
There’s a part of me that never wants to go back to the top of Wairere Falls because I’m afraid nothing could ever top that moment. I don’t want to spoil the memory I have. The other part of me doesn’t want to go back to the top because I have PTSD about those freaking stairs. If the one time is all I ever have it will be enough. I stopped for quiet sit next to the river and gave my feet a chance to breath before I made the climb back down. I even came home with a few nicely aligned battle scars (topically speaking).
I’ll end this blog with one more brief story. Just a few days ago it was my last day of work before my mini birthday holiday. It was my last tour of the day. New Zealand is very like Colorado in that weather can turn on a dime (which I find an interesting expression to use here because they don’t even have dimes in NZ). It had been one of those days, and while I had brought my rain jacket I decided earlier I wasn’t going to need it. Well of course, last tour of the day, just as we get to the pub, it decides to start pissing down.
Me, being a good tour guide, did what I could to scrounge up umbrellas for my group. I managed about five. Better than nothing. The time to leave came and me and my group trudged out into the rain. Now I didn’t care much that I was getting wet. I was going home after this. I was busy enjoying the view. It was a sunny rain we were getting. Half the sky was covered in dark gray clouds while in the other half the sun was still fighting to be seen, casting a wall of light at the darkness.
The surface of the lake was alive with droplets, jumping and winking with reflected bits of light. Individual drops of water could be seen as they made their decent from cloud to the earth below. And of course, we were in Hobbiton to enjoy it all. When we came back to the bus, I got the wild idea to take a selfie with my group. I was feeling a degree of camaraderie with them all since we had braved the storm together. So that’s just what I did. Not my best picture but they can’t all be winners.
Until next time my dear travelers. There are always more stories to tell.