ROTORUA — The first full day is in the books in a historic gathering of Middle-earth fans from around the world. And while there were some tired eyes there were lots more genuine smiles and the excitement of anticipation of a fan’s trip of a lifetime. Along with 150 Hobbit fans, about 30 or so journalists met on the tarmac at Auckland airport to get a photo with the pride of Air New Zealand’s fleet, its Thorin-and-company-emblazoned carrier.
The logistics of making just that happen means many buses, many credentials, many places to store luggage and quite a lot of hustle and bustle.
Tourism New Zealand is out in force to get everybody where they need to be as is Warners Bros. and just some of the many faces behind the many travel details that had to come together to bring this world-wide collection together.
After the photo-op it was time to grab sandwiches and head out to Rotorua, the birthplace of New Zealand tourism but also a cultural center for the two-island nation. We were welcomed to Te Puia, where we could learn about and enjoy Maori heritage on guided tours. Along the way we were able to view the famous mud pots and the steady geyser that mixes with the cold stream running through the area and was an early feature that put New Zealand on the world-wide map. Journalists were most delighted to catch sight of a nocturnal kiwi bird before getting down to the business of being welcomed to New Zealand.
So far fans are most excited for Hobbiton and to see the film. For me, the screening would be awesome but its the rarity of being in New Zealand with fans that is most incredible. I will own the film on Blu-ray and watch it when I please, but I will not land often (ever again?) in Queenstown or visit Weta or partake of Maori culture with fans from Latvia.
Be sure to check out the gallery below. Its time to catch the morning bus as we are heading today for some high adventure and if I don’t miss my guess, the Hobbiton Movie Set since we are definitely in the neighborhood. In fact, we stopped briefly in Matamata, the launching point for tour buses there, and the entire drive, as commented on by other Hobbit fans, felt very much like driving through the Shire. I never get tired of the fact that its located on Buckland Road.
Follow the trip on Twitter with #HobbitFanContest.