Sunday, 27 April 2014

Day 3 Birthday Weekend - HOBBITON!

have been so excited about telling you guys about this! I had such a great birthday weekend with tons of fun activities, but this one I came away from feeling full of inspiration. We visited the real Hobbiton set in Matamata!! I thought it was great value at $75 per person with a guided tour. We were lucky enough to catch the last tour of the day at 4.15pm with Xanthe, who was great, and it because it was the last tour it meant that the set was not busy and we could spend as long as we liked at each stop. 
So when we got off the bus we found ourselves waking along the very same track we see Gandolf plough down on his horse and cart in the film. As soon as we said what lay ahead our eyes were filled with wonder and my miniature radar went into over drive! The houses really are tiny, no camera tricks there. They were originally made from polystyrene and paper mâché which enabled them to be light enough to be moved around on the set during the first Lord of The Rings films. Then when the Hobbit was to be filmed, each hobbit house - and there are 44 of them, were built right into the hills, each tiny detail minimicked from their polystyrene prototypes. 
Xanthe explained that Peter Jackson was bigger on creating absolute realism in all of his scenes and the hobbit village was quite possibly the biggest nightmare for his film crew. 

At the very beginning of the Hobbit film, for a split second as the camera passes over the scene, you will notice Hobbits are picking plums from a tree. Great! But on this farm, in this field, there were apple trees. Because Tolkein specifically mentioned the hobbits were picking PLUMS Peter Jackson ordered for all of the apples to be removed from the apple trees and to be replaced with plums. Remember I said the trees were only in shot for a split second - and then you never, ever see them again. 
Another point of realism was the vegetable patch just as your enter the village. This patch is tended all year round and grows real seasonal vegetables. Pretty amazing huh?
As you walk around the set you begin to notice more of the little details that really make this place special. Up on the hills by some of the houses there are little washing lines with hobbit sized clothing. Peter Jackson invited locals from the surrounding villages to run up and down these hills to the washing lines to create tracks - thus making the set looked "lived in". 
Each house is unique and features gorgeous little details. Each one has it's very own mail box and some of the houses hints at the interests and hobbies of its occupants. One had a bakery stand, another had a painting set, another had log chopping and one occupant was clearly into their gardening!

Another point of realism was the tree above Bilbo Baggins's house. This tree was found locally in Matamata and was brought to the set. The tree was then given a steel frame silicone to keep it upright and lifelike. Obviously the tree lost all of its leaves, which posed a problem again for Peter Jackson. So, 200,000 leaves were shipped in from China. Each leaf was hand painted by University Art Students in the South Island. They were then attached, one by one, to the tree. Ten days before filming Peter Jackson decided that the leaves were the wrong shade. A local women was then brought in to painstakingly paint each leaf, one by one, a very, very, VERY slightly lighter shade of green. Not that anyone other than Peter Jackson really noticed...
As you may have noticed by now, Peter Jackson was incredibly strict on recreating every tiny detail mentioned in the book! One problem that he faced was the direction in which the sun set. In the book, Tolkein describes Gandolf and Bilbo sitting outside of Bilbo's house watching the sun set. Unfortunately for Peter Jackson, Bilbo's house faces the East. Thankfully, he had a trick up his sleeve. He made sure that all of the characters and film crew were on set and at the house ready by 4am - baring in mind it took Make-Up & Costume 3 hours to prepare the characters for filming! When you watch the film, you are actually seeing Gandolf and Bilbo enjoying the sun rise, played backwards. Nifty trick aye?!
Bilbo's house is the only part of the set that you are not allowed to walk on. Strictly speaking, you aren't supposed to walk onto any of the hobbit house gardens to preserve the details, but the tour guides don't mind as long as you are extra careful. Bilbo's house however, is strictly off limits. There's nothing stopping you having a cheeky photo outside of it though :)
Next up we wandered down to the Party Tree. I probably should've mentioned this at the start of the post, but it is because if this particular tree that Hobbiton is even located where it is. When Peter Jackson's location scouts were flying over New Zealand they discovered this very big tree in a very big field in the middle of a sheep farm. They reported back to Peter who came to the farm himself to check it out. Rumour has it that he paid the farm owners a hefty cheque to vacate their home for 3 months while filming and work commenced on their land. Well, no one saw them for 3 months so I guess that confirms that rumour. I should also mention, had the film locators flown over this farm 10 days later it is highly likely that Hobbiton would not be located in Matamata. The farm owners had planned to cut down the tree as it is fairly large and it was considered a nuisance. I think we call that fate.
This very fence is the one which Bilbo hops over when he is running to catch up with Gandolf and the dwarves. This is the scene in which we see the rest of Hobbiton and the other 44 Hobbit homes. A neighbour enquired as to where Bilbo is going in such a hurry to which he answers, "I'm going on an adventure!" Before he hops this fence. 
Check out that rainbow as well.. How cute?!
Another bit of info for you - again, Peter Jackson was big on detail and since Hobbiton was a newly built village he decided it needed aging. So the set designers set about covering all of the fences in mould. But this isn't just any mould! Xanthe asked us to guess what was used on the fence to create the mould. I was about to suggest Polymer Clay or some kind of paper clay, well why not? The kid next to me suggest avocado?! The mould is made from yoghurt, vinegar and paint! Bet you didn't guess that!
The party field is sometimes set up in the summer months and is available for weddings. How magical would that be?! But all we got to see was the string thing. 
Next we wandered down to the Green Dragon Inn, which was probably my most favourite part of this tour! You can see it in the background of this photo if you squint. Sadly I didn't catch any photos of the outside as my camera was nearly out of battery. 
The Green Dragon Inn is such a homely little pub. They make small snacks in the kitchen including pies, muffins and biscuits. Tea and coffee is also on offer. The pub has 5 or 6 beers which is exclusively brewed just for the Green Dragon Inn and cannot be bought elsewhere. We enjoyed a cold pint of apple cider while we took in the atmosphere and details. 
Xanthe even let us play bar tenders!

All in all I highly recommend a visit to Hobbiton should you ever get the chance to come to this amazing country! It's such an experience and the obvious attention to detail is break taking. Here's some more photos!

As I mentioned before I got tons of photos. Should anyone like to see a photo of anything specific drop me a comment below and I'll see if I have one for you. 
Now go back and take another look at those photos - you might've missed a detail!

Have a great day!

Edit: I thought I'd stop by just to add this link to a video I found on Youtube. It's really great for an I site into how the set is made up and I hope it adds to how you can imagine Hobbiton is set out. 

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Bungy Jumping & Jet Boating - 21st Birthday Part 3

20th April
So waking up fairly early again in Taupo, Tom and I set off for the days activities. It had already been pre-planned since I got to NZ that I would do a bungy jump at some point. I did a skydive last year for the Lincolnshire Air Ambulance and it was an incredible experience. I thought bungy jumping would be just the same! But before we could do that we went Jet Boating. Our driver was called Jeremy and he was quite a character! He teased all of his passengers with jokes based on which part of the world they were from. He asked Tom and I if we had suncream under out waterproofs and bullied the only Australian rider from start to finish!
William and Kate enjoyed a jet boat ride the week previous on their visit to NZ. Exact same thing, except we went with a different company. We got to see the Huka Falls close up, and we believed this was the way to see it. 

(Please note these photos are not my own, I didn't dare take my camera on board the jet boat incase I lost it over the edge during the on-the-spot 360 spins we did! 

The boat was such a thrill. We raced passed (and towards!) cliff walls, trees and river debris with inches to spare before Jeremy would spin away - water splashing above us in all directions. We didn't get wet from the ride, besides the odd bit of spray. 

Next up was the bungy jump. Tom had already done one when he first arrived in NZ and refused to do it again. Not being afraid of heights and believing it would be like free falling during a sky dive (my favourite part!) I was hyped up and ready... at least, until I was strapped up and found myself waddling over to the edge of the platform. The guy who straps your legs together and attaches you to the bungy cord is from just across the river from me. He was from Hull. And he pushed me. He actually pushed me off the platform. *naughty word.*

My stomach stayed on the platform while the rest of me hurtled towards the water beneath. It's only a small bungy jump, at just 74 meters above the river, and lasts for literally 4 Missisipie seconds - but it felt like an age until my head and torso were submerged into the water on my first fall. Then there was the bouncing back up - and feeling that bungy snap back was probably the worst part of it! I bounced, dangling in the air with a thin rope preventing me from plummeting back into the water until a couple of guys on a dingy came to my rescue with a long pole, which I had to grab hold of before they could release me from the bungy contraptions. 

Off the boat and back on dry land, my adrenaline levels were so high I ran up the hill back to Tom who was recording the whole thing! Now folks, I have got to be the unfittist 21 year old ever - I can barely walk a meter uphill let alone run up one - and it was a proper hill, a hill-hill - almost a mountain actually. 
The video makes me cringe every time, so I'll not upload it here for the world to point and laugh at (but I will if theres a high demand, have to give my fans what they want! ;) )

Back in the car I logged onto my Facebook page to find my friends and family were celebrating my birthday back home. Mom and Dad had hosted a 21st Birthday party on my behalf at the pub. They sent me a video singing "Happy Birthday", and I cried. Like a baby. For hours. 

Finally, we took the two hour long car journey to Tauranga, where we were to go on a tour of.... 

More on this tomorrow! ;)


Thursday, 24 April 2014

Day 2 of Birthday Weekend

19th April

My birthday! So I wake up a year older today, 21 here I am! Tom and I had already planned to do a combo day out which we found on a leaflet at the I-Site. It's been really wet weather recently and the lady at the I-Site advised us that the river was closed - so sadly we could not do the water water rafting! But we could do the other three activities!

First up, we went luge racing which is easily the most fun Tom and I have had since we've been in NZ. I haven't heard of it in the UK, perhaps its called something else. They are basically like mini go-karts, very low to the ground. They are controlled by handle bars, a bit like a bike, which you pull backwards and forwards to stop and go, and side to side to steer. Tom won the race twice, but kindly let me win on the third go since it was my birthday and all. 
Transporting us up the big hill from which we raced down, we got to take a lift in these gondolas which made for some beautiful views!

Next up we drove a short way down the road where we went wet zorbing! This was something I've always wanted to do and I highly recommend it to anyone who gets the chance to go! You can do it in the UK and I imagine everywhere else in the world also so it's not just a NZ thing! We loved it that much, we paid for a second go! 

Lastly we visited the Polynesian Spa. I've always wanted to go to a spa and I didn't really know what I was expecting, but it wasn't what it was. On first impressions as I walked into the changing rooms I had a huge fright - I thought I'd entered into the world of Naturists! There was naked women everywhere! I quickly scurried into a nearby toilet stall to change - which was the only space for privacy! When I emerged from the changing rooms Tom was quick to tell me about his similar experience! The spa was made up of large shallow pools, the deepest being deep enough for me just to stand up in and I'm 5'4. The pools were all alkaline and were generated from the volcanic waters beneath us. They varied in temperature and made us sweat alot. Thank fully - no one was naked! But we did see some questionable swimwear.... (men - speedos are NOT a good look!)

After our afternoon spent warming up in the spa we decided to get an early start to Taupo. It was 9pm by the time we got parked up in a campsite which we discovered while trying to find another. It was absolutely packed - and no surprise there as it was free! 

More to share with you tomorrow - and I think this bit might be your favourite! :)


Tuesday, 22 April 2014

21st Birthday Weekend Away

Hey folks!

So Tom and I got back from my birthday weekend away a couple of days ago. Things have been so hectic I've only just had the time to sit down a write this post! We spent the weekend in Rotorua and Taupo mainly. We had a fantastic time and I have tons of photos to share with you. I think this is going to be a pretty long post, so what I'll do is I'll split it into a few posts and maybe spread them over a couple of days or so if they are quite long... Don't want you falling asleep on me!!

17th April 2014

Tom and I set off from the lodge that we work at in Tairua. The weather was awful - extremely heavy rain! There was rock debris on the roads in some places as we left the Coromandel where rocks had fallen from the cliff sides on either side of the road, quite a few drivers didn't have their lights on and it was a bit concerning. So when we eventually arrived in Rotorua late afternoon, far later than we had planned, we decided to find a campsite for the night.
While searching we came across a really quiet, secluded little boating lake with ducks and other bird life. The toilets were proper toilets (not holes in the ground!) and there was a working BBQ shelter. There was no one else there except us, until really late at night when a campervan appeared at the other end, which we didn't mind at all. We enjoyed NZ's equivalent to Pot Noodle and went to bed nice and early. 

18th April 2014

Waking up bright and early the following morning to only a light drizzle, Tom and I got washed, dressed and soon found ourselves back in the main town of Rotorua at the I-Site looking for activities to do for the weekend. Since it was my birthday I wanted heaps of excitement and a mixture of activities. We've both wanted to see a traditional Maouri culture ceremony since arriving in NZ and found Te Puia. This place was excellent! Here we watched the Maouri ceremony. Their outfits were gorgeous - particularly the women's and their singing voices were excellent! They even made us get up on stage so they could teach us some of their dance moves. 

After this we met up with our tour guide, Carl, who showed us around the Kiwi House, Getsers and Mud Pools. I couldn't get any photos of the Kiwi bird unfortunately as it is protected and the flashes on cameras (since they live in the dark) has been known to kill them, so I didn't want to be responsible for that! But I did get photos of the natural geysers and mud pools, which we were lucky enough to see in action.

Next, Carl gave us a small but interesting talk on how to weave with reads. You take a long read and a sharp shell, shaving the flax off the top of the reed you then strip into fine section almost like breaking down a clump of threads into singular threads. Next you take your leg and roll the sections over it until it forms a strong, binded sort of string. It's silky to touch and is pretty impossible to break with just human strength. 

These skirts were made using this method and can several months or years to complete. In more traditional Mapuri clothing, the reeds would be preserved and dried for many years before they can be used to make clothing, which would then take even longer!

Carl was making a cloak in traditional Maouri weaving methods, unfortunately I didn't think to take a photo but it was about half way to three quarters complete. He said so far it had taken him 31 years to get this far and that's with using commercially provided threads so that he didn't have to wait for them to dry!!

More on my birthday weekend tomorrow folks and I hope you all had a fantastic Easter!


Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Not many dolls houses in New Zealand...

But there is a shed!!

First of all I want to apologise for the extremely long absence with no explanation. To keep it short and sweet - I had a bad day at work, one of far too many. And so out of frustration I applied for my first ever passport, typed up my resignation and 8 weeks later I was on a plane to New Zealand. This was back in October. Since then I've met a gorgeous guy, seen a few sites and landed myself yet another job as a Hotel Manager - except I enjoy this one and haven't had a bad day yet! 

So Tom and I are living on site in one of the accomodation lodges and we've really made it feel like home. Tom upgraded the tv from an ancient box to a slightly newer ancient box with a screen about an inch bigger each way. And I tried to download as many books on my iPad as possible to keep me occupied - but any miniature enthusiast knows it's not home without a dolls house!

So without further ado I'd like to introduce to you Kurt's Kabin!

Kurt was a neighbour of ours when myself Tom and the rest of the staff here at the Lodge lived on Daphne Road. He was grubby, unshaven, in need of a shower and really creepy!

He'd appear at our door some afternoons and ask the girls - not the boys, we soon learnt he had a no boys allowed policy - if they would like to come to his house to "get on the piss"...

Of course, we never accepted. Friendly, neighbourly gesture or not he was just too creepy! I named this little shed after Kurt. But I think the shed is much cuter than he was!

I orgininally pictured the shed to be grubby, dark, full of cobwebs, big spiders, dust and dirt and goodness knows what else! But it didn't quite turn out that way. 

Instead, I now imagine it to be the type of shed that's been sat at the bottom of the garden, unused and forgotten for a while. Perhaps the owners have just been too busy for gardening this year. Perhaps he's been watching football, and she's been spending her days working on her dollshouse!

There are Autumn leaves carefully placed one by one where I imagined the wind would blow. They have been caught up in debris and cobwebs. 

The roof is corrugated, turning rusty with weedy bits.

This project only took me a couple weeks and that's with waiting for the postage from the UK! Sadly New Zealand doesn't seem to be the place for a miniature enthusiast - I can only find one online shop and it seems very limited. If any of my readers are from New Zealand and know of any miniature shops please let me know! It'd be great to see what's available! 

So there's the reason for my absence and I promise to keep up with you all more from now on. I hope you don't mind some gap year holiday snaps between the miniature projects!

Have a great day!
Shellby x