I can’t remember what day it was exactly, but I remember one day being on Facebook and seeing The Hobbit’s official Facebook page post something about a contest to see who the biggest fans in the world were. In my mind I thought, “Obviously I am,” and continued on reading more of what the prize was. It turned out that the prize was an incredible, all expenses paid journey to Middle Earth, where the winners (and their plus ones) would tour locations, and see the new film a month before it came out with Peter Jackson himself. I was so nervous when I first read it because I immediately knew I was going to enter and I was already so anxious to see if I would win. Ever since I can remember, after watching The Lord of the Rings movies, I have dreamed of going to New Zealand and honestly never thought it would be possible.
A month or so after entering, I was talking to my mom about the contest because she was explaining to me how my dad was getting a passport JUST in case I somehow won out of thousands of people. I’m going to be honest, I thought it was comical because although I knew how big of a fan I was, there was just no way that I would win a national contest. Who actually ever wins those things? I told my mom that Thursday morning that “I probably wasn’t even going to win, so you and dad should stop getting all hopeful for me.” What’s pretty freakin’ hilarious about that is a few hours later in my English class I get an email with the subject of “Congratulations! The Hobbit…”
Seriously? Did I really just win this contest? Yes, I did and I was bawling in class because this was just too amazing to comprehend. My life dream was legitimately going to happen within a month.
Skipping ahead to the day my dad and I are leaving for New Zealand, we got on a lot of flights for this trip and that’s how the first day was: flying in airplanes. We started in Ohio, and then went to Georgia, then California, and then to Auckland. Thankfully, the longest flight we had was with Air New Zealand because that is easily the nicest airline I’ve ever flown with. If you ever in your life get an opportunity to fly with Air New Zealand, you will not be disappointed- especially if you’re seated in premium economy. When we landed in Auckland the huge team of crew and media greeted us and we got to finally meet all of the other winners where we all had an amazing breakfast. After breakfast and welcoming all of us to Middle Earth, we then got the chance to go outside and take a picture with The Hobbit plane. It was definitely a great way to start the journey. When finished at the plane we then went to Rotorua for a Maori cultural welcome/experience. It was pretty amazing and I got to participate in one of their dances on stage (which I was awful at). We ended the night with an incredible dinner/dessert and then headed back to our hotel where a bottle of South Farthing ginger beer was waiting for us with a note to prepare us for Hobbiton, which would be the following day.
Before Hobbiton, we got to go to a place called Skyline. Skyline was an adventure packed place where we got the chance to luge, zip line, and sky swing. My dad was terrified to zip line and sky swing but he got over it and ended up liking it. As exciting as this place was, I was way too excited for what was to follow it. Video Link is below:
I have dreamed of going to New Zealand forever, but specifically Hobbiton for so long. I’ve always wanted to be a hobbit myself and live in the incredibly beautiful, peaceful, magical little world. Words honestly can’t express how much I love Hobbiton, or how deeply I longed to go there. Still to my amazement today, we got the chance to go to Hobbiton our second day of our journey. I knew I would cry and be emotional but I didn’t know how emotional and happy and sad and everything all at once I would be. While we were waiting at the entrance to Hobbiton there were media people all around and one of them asked the group of us “Who is the most excited for Hobbiton?!” Before I could really even process what he asked my hand shot up and I screamed “ME!” in his face. They then started to ask me questions about why I was so excited and I don’t remember anything I said, just that I started bawling and it was quite embarrassing. Of course, to the other people there they thought it was cute and my tears instantly followed with a group hug and tons of “Awe’s”!
The people on the trip I met were just simply amazing and I truly miss them all.
So yeah, after I made a fool of myself in front of tons of recording cameras, we finally got to walk in and my heart was pounding out of my chest; I was so excited and anxious to actually see the real Hobbiton. It took about 10 seconds to walk from the entrance to the set, and of course once they were up, I was at it again bawling in front of cameras. I was physically in the one and only Hobbiton movie set. For real. And it was the most beautiful place I have ever been to. It was just as I had always imagined it, just as it is in the movies. It was the most peaceful and relaxing place you can imagine and I just wanted to move in and be a hobbit. My day, heck my trip even, could’ve ended there and I honestly would’ve been forever grateful and more than satisfied. However, Warner Brothers, Tourism New Zealand and everyone else involved in our trip had much more for us to come that day.
After walking through the hobbit holes, Bag End, and the party field, we got to go inside The Green Dragon- the real freakin’ Green Dragon pub and have drinks and food served to us. When we walked in, they had us all sit in the main entrance room and our guide said he needed two of the hobbits (my travel group was team hobbits) to help him open the curtain to reveal the rest of The Green Dragon. He looked at me as he was picking people and I smiled really big, hoping it would get him to pick me; it did. So I hurried up to the front of the room and held one side of the curtain while Bianca, another girl in my group, held the other. He counted to three and we opened the curtain to the rest of the pub. It looked so amazing and then I noticed some people sitting at the table inside. It took me a second to register that four of the cast members were sitting at the flipping table. I first spotted Jed Brophy (Nori the dwarf), and then Mark Hadlow (Dori the dwarf) who stood up and shouted, “We’ve been expecting you!” By this point I, along with everyone else, was screaming and freaking out. Then I saw Stephen Hunter (Bombur the dwarf) and John Callen (Oin the dwarf) and I just was going crazy. You can see me freak out and scream my head off in the first video with the link below.
We were able to just hang out with them and have an awesome rest of our night. Again, after this I still would have been completely satisfied, but we had yet another surprise for us in Hobbiton. We were all gathered in a large tent where chairs were set up facing a screen. We then were shown a video of Peter Jackson telling us that he just finished the new trailer and was going to show it to us days before the rest of the public would get to see it. It was one of the best movie trailers I have ever seen. Naturally, we watched it 3 times in a row because we are big fans or whatever. By this time it was dark and while Hobbiton is peaceful and beautiful in the day, it is just as incredible at night. We walked out of the tent to fireworks going off across the lake on the party field, probably lit off by Gandalf. After the fireworks, we began to walk back through and look at the hobbit holes lit up with their indoor lamps, keeping quiet so we didn’t want to wake any of the sleeping hobbits (especially the Sackville Bagginses). It was so hard to leave, but I am eternally grateful for the chance to visit that amazing place and look upon Bag End.
For our third day we flew to Queenstown, again with the lovely Air New Zealand flying experience and the views we saw on the flight were just crazy. The water was so blue and the mountains had snow on them. Queenstown was already insanely beautiful and we were just flying over it. When we got in to Queenstown we started off by touring filming locations of both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, which was so amazing to be able to do. I’ve always wanted to be able to go and see and be where these amazing films were created. We saw spots from all different scenes from all 6 different movies, including the famous Remarkables. After this tour we all got the opportunity to go to Paradise, where they created and filmed Beorn’s house. Paradise is the perfect name for the place, too. It was the most beautiful location of the trip, and possibly the most beautiful place I’ve ever been to. The pictures we took there are just insanely beautiful and don’t even look real. The sky is so blue and the grass is so green it honestly looks like it could be photoshopped, while I swear to you they weren’t. In Paradise we had a treasure hunt, where the winner would get to sit next to Peter Jackson during the screening of The Battle of the Five Armies. I was nowhere near the treasure sadly, but my stupid dad was right next to it and overlooked it, leaving it and 30 seconds later Arwen found it right where he had quickly glanced. It was disappointing but obviously all in good fun and anyone of us deserved to win, so we were definitely happy for Arwen, especially seeing how excited she was.
After Paradise, we went to our hotel and we had a little bit of time to freshen up before going to the AJ Hackett bungee jump. One pretty cool thing about the particular bungee jump we went to is that it was the place where bungee jumping was invented. Luckily, I was one of the ones who got the chance to jump because we only had so many tickets to give out. It was a pretty amazing and exhilarating thing to do and I totally recommend going to New Zealand to do any one of the AJ Hackett bungee jumps. I wanted to do it again as soon as my feet left the platform. We ended the night with a great dinner of lamb or fish and chips, which were both delicious. We then got to our hotel to sleep before our free day in Queenstown.
For our fourth day we basically had a free day to do whatever we wanted in Queenstown. Queenstown was beautiful, like I said before, but I also just fell in love with the little town and streets with tons of little shops and restaurants all over. It’s the perfect little town I’ve always wanted to live it. The local coffee and chocolate shops were so great and it was just the perfect place to have a free day in. My dad and I started and rode a gondola up one of the mountains to get some good pictures of the nature. Of course, my dad was freaking out the whole 10-minute ride up. After the gondola we got to go with a group to ride the Shotover Jet. It was really cold and my face got wet, which was really uncomfortable but the ride was so much fun. We got inches away from the rocks and got to do 360-degree spins, all while having really pretty scenery around us. After the jet ride we got to do the world’s largest Canyon Swing. There were tons of different ways you could choose to swing by and I chose upside down. I hung by a bungee chord upside down and got dropped in a canyon. It was so much fun and such a rush I would love to be able to do it again. My dad was also terrified of doing this but I made him suck it up and he went, loving it when he was done. We got some great video of both of us doing these activities once we were done, too. After we got our adrenaline kick in for the day, we walked around a park in Queenstown, which was so pretty and peaceful, being located right along the lake there. We got dinner at a nice steakhouse and then went back to our hotel for the night.
Our final day sadly came quicker than any of us wanted it to, but we were all so excited for the awesome agenda on our final day. We woke up and flew to Wellington to where we had a lot in store. First off, when we arrived in the airport Richard Taylor, co-founder of Weta Digital, was waiting for us and told us he had a surprise for us. Wellington Airport is known for the awesome Weta pieces throughout it, such as Gollum grabbing at fish, and Gandalf with the Eagles. We got to see some of these when we got there and then Richard took us over to unveil the brand new addition to the airport. We all has a pretty good idea of what this new addition was, but we still were freaking out when they pulled off the covers to reveal a huge Smaug, with moving eyes and smoke coming out of his nose. We all felt so honored to be the first people to see this amazing creation. After we finished at the airport, we then went to the Roxy Cinema, where we got to see a private presentation by some of the artists and digital effects people on how they create/created some of the scenes from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit which was an amazing opportunity to be able to see something so private. Not to mention it was just so informational and interesting to see parts of their long process when making films. It really made my respect for them go up even higher; the amount of time and effort they put in to making incredible scenes is just beyond me. After this, we were each given the most incredible gift I have ever received in my life. We were given an original piece of film from The Lord of the Rings trilogy. I can’t even express how I felt to open mine up and just hold it, knowing that it is an original piece of film. Wow. I’m still speechless at that amazing gift that I’ll forever be grateful for. I even managed to get a scene of Frodo, which is one of the best scenes I could’ve gotten. After this, we got to go to the Weta Cave and look around or buy items. I got to hold Gimli’s axe, which was amazing, and then I even got to hold a Sting sword which I would not give up until they made me. We were able to see tons of the props from the movies, which was so freaking cool. Armor, swords, daggers, axes, shields, anything you could guess. Even the Witch-King’s head was in there, which was so surreal to see in person. While we were in there we also got to see some of the talented workers in action; that was a great privilege to witness. Next we went to Weta Workshop where we went to different stations and got to see how things for the films were done. Such as blood making, chainmail making, sword making, and prosthetics. One of my favorite parts of the stations was the little gifts we were given. We got a vial of blood if we wanted (which we all obviously did want), orc or human, and a piece of authentic dwarven chainmail on a keychain. Some people even got hobbit ears put on them by the prosthetic guy there. We didn’t have time for everyone to get ears put on so my dad asked the guy if he could take a pair as a souvenir for me and he thankfully let him. Being at Weta all day almost made me forget what was to come that night. We were going to not only meet Peter Jackson, but also SEE The Battle of the Five Armies with him, over a month before it is even in theatres.
At last, we were on our way to the private screening. We pulled up to Park Road, where there was a red carpet for us to walk in on. When we got inside we were all waiting while we had drinks and snacks served to us. It was very nice, but honestly I was too antsy for the movie that I couldn’t eat or drink anything. After what seemed like 2 hours, we were beginning to go into where the movie was going to be shown and once we all sat down, Jed Brophy introduced the one and only Peter Jackson to us. He walked in, so chill and humble, and we all went nuts. I couldn’t believe he was actually right in front of me: the legendary, brilliant Peter Jackson. He took his seat and we started the film. I cannot say anything about the movie yet, obviously, because it isn’t out in theatres for another month. I can, however, tell you that it was such a brilliant, beautiful masterpiece and I absolutely loved it. Plus Billy Boyd’s new song during the credits is so beautiful and it really brought everything together. I already have my tickets for the midnight premiere and I am so excited to see it again. We were lucky enough to be shown the movie, but we were even luckier to see it at a stage that almost no one ever sees it, as it was not finished when we saw it. The experience we got to see it in was unforgettable and priceless. You definitely will want to get your tickets for the premiere because it is just a magnificent film. I was crying from beginning to end, soaked up in all its perfect-ness. After the movie we then got to have a Q & A with Peter Jackson, Jed Brophy, Richard Taylor, Philippa Boyens, and Joe Letteri. That was pretty awesome, too: to be able to sit in a room with such amazing people and just ask them any questions we wanted. Once the Q&A was done, we all got a chance to meet Peter and get an autograph. I wasn’t able to ask him my question during the Q&A due to time, but I got the chance to ask him a question I had about the movie when I got his autograph and it was such an honor to have him take the time and actually care enough to give me his full attention and answer. There isn’t really a better source to ask a question about the move than Peter Jackson so I feel so privileged to have had that opportunity. While my dad was talking to him, I got to just talk with Jed for a few minutes and it was really awesome to just talk to him. He is a great guy, and he’s hilarious. While I look up to him so much, he is just a normal person, and not a full-of-himself celebrity who was so cool to be around. Sadly, after this we had to go back to our hotel and sleep before our long journey home would begin the following morning.
I’ll save the details of the trip home, because they’re pretty boring and sad, seeing as none of us wanted to leave Middle Earth. I’ll end with a perfect quote by Frodo in The Return of the King:
I just want to thank everyone who was a part of making this trip possible. To Peter Jackson, Air New Zealand, Tourism New Zealand, Warner Brothers, Sky Movies and everyone else involved. I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect trip with such amazing people and cannot thank you enough for allowing me to share in it. I’ve met so many amazing people through this with whom I will forever stay in touch with now. Myself, and the rest of the winners, will truly never forget our unexpected journey.
And as sad as it is, Samwise Gamgee wraps this up perfectly with,