Of happy cows and shipwrecked bows: King Island, Tasmania

Pristine white powdery sand between your toes, blue skies, a world-class surf break off shore, miles of national park with not a house in sight and more cheese than you could ever eat. Sound like heaven? Well, despite what you might be thinking from the above shot, we’re not in the Whitsundays (surf should have been a dead giveaway…).


Our latest project took us soaring high into the sky, as Kirkhope Aviation’s Piper Chieftain expertly piloted by Tony took us on a short panoramic loop above Melbourne’s spectacular CBD, followed by the scenic route across Port Philip Bay past the Great Ocean Road towards Tasmania. After an overcast morning, the clouds parted in multiple layers as streams of golden sunshine spilled on the ocean below and our destination came into sight. Nestled between the Great Australian Bight and the Bass Strait, approximately half way to the Tasmanian mainland is King Island, handily not named after a king, but someone with the surname King, who was actually a Colonial Governor of New South Wales. Go Aussie naming.


As we approached the tiny airport, our group started chatting animatedly about the landscape aerial view, the rugged coastline and near emptiness of lush green grasslands. Due to the plane’s size (7 passengers plus pilot), everyone got a window seat, and with more legroom than you can do a can-can in, the 45-minute flight passed like lightning. King Island is known to be windy, slap bang in the middle of the Roaring Fourties southern global wind tunnel, but it was certainly favouring us today as blue skies greeted us along with Ian and his all-terrain vehicle at the airport. After unloading our kit and the drone out of Piper’s nose (a flying machine in the nose of a bigger flying machine!), Ian bundled our group into the ride for the day, to take us for our ride of the day. Heading straight north to Whistler Point and Quarantine Bay, we soon spotted our first shipwreck, the American full rigged ship ‘Whistler’ (what a coincidence!), that sank in 1855 and is now nearly completely buried by sand. Eerie to think of this whole structure underground. If you’re a fan, you can find out more eerie stuff about King Island’s shipwrecks here.


We quickly saw the benefits of our all-wheel drive, as Ian scaled dunes and navigated rocky outcrops in between sprints on the beach. King Island is famous for its birdlife, some of which, such as the Ruddy Turnstone (we’re not making this up), migrate from Japan every year. An avid bird photographer on board asked a few times if we could stop for photos, which was great for us to have time for landscape shots including the group. As we headed inland for morning tea, kangaroos jumping next to us down the dirt track and cows peeking curiously out from the grassland, Ian explained that King Island was until recently covered in temperate rainforest, which was replaced by industrious types with grasslands to raise cattle. King Island has near perfect conditions for cattle and dairy farming, and one handful of little millet seeds washed ashore from Scottish shipwreck mattresses in the last century or two started a whole new floral colonisation of their own, spreading far and wide across the island. The cows, we’re told, love the stuff.


After lunch at Cape Wickham Golf Course (one of the best in Australia, if not the world) which gave us a good opportunity to fit in some drone photography without holding up the group, we headed to the nearby Cape Wickham Lighthouse, Australia’s tallest and only surpassed by a couple in Argentina for the prize of tallest in the Southern Hemisphere. There was said to have been some dispute during the build, as it seemed to cause more shipwrecks than it prevented. Again, if you’re a shipwreck aficionado, you know what to read next. Bright eyed, bushy tailed and full of lasagne and cappuccino, our group headed to Penny’s Lagoon, but not before saying hello to some rather intrigued but confused looking cows. What might look like a rather picturesque mirror-surface, but otherwise pretty ordinary lake, is in fact a natural phenomenon. The freshwater part of Penny’s Lagoon is suspended above the water level within a huge bowl made out of sand and decomposed organic matter, whereas saltwater flows below it from the sea. In a way, the freshwater hovers above the saltwater without mixing due to a layer of earth in between. We thought it was pretty neat.


Over the next hill though lay something that will definitely impress anyone – the most pristine white sand beach imaginable. Kelly Slater himself gets a private jet down when the conditions are right to surf the Martha Lavinia break just offshore (named after… you guessed it, an 1852 shipwreck) and we certainly enjoyed our walk in the sunshine pretending we were part of a secret world pro surf elite club. We were certainly part of a world-famous cheese-eating club half an hour later as we scoffed down tasty morsels at King Island’s famous cheese factory. Say what you like about cheese, but you could certainly taste happy cows through it, and see them all around munching away on green grass doing their free-range organic hippy cow thing in the landscape all around us.


Apart from cheese, lobsters and other seafood have made the island famous, freshness confirmed by a quick chat to a fisherman at the dock. Organic seaweed is also harvested on an industrial scale (and grows back on an industrial scale so is super-sustainable) and used as a thickening agent, for food and fertiliser. The island’s pollution-free environment has also led to one clever lad bottling rainwater and selling it overseas as ‘Premium Cloud Juice’. Again, not making this up. A final stop off in Currie for refreshments and a walk on Memorial Rock beach where we met the world’s friendliest horses topped off our King Island shoot perfectly. The plane was buzzing with conversation on our way back, how lucky we had been with the weather, how much fun everyone had had in the all terrain vehicle (despite or maybe because of some impromptu donuts) and we couldn’t get enough of shooting all the locations we had captured throughout the day, this time thanks to Piper’s big windows, from the sky. Accessing mostly inaccessible locations needs specialist transport and a lot of organising, but this shoot ran so seamlessly, it was a joy to complete.



Turns out, there’s a massive volcano behind the Gold Coast

If you’ve ever ventured a short drive from Surfer’s Paradise’s bright lights and city high-rises, you’ll find yourself on what feels like another planet. Think of switching Miami beaches to Jurassic Park jungle in a matter of an hour. On our recent trip to the Queensland/ New South Whales border coastline, shooting a summer camper film for THL, a local tip lead us inland, away from the well-known backpacker trail.


What we encountered exceeded all expectations. Queensland’s second highest waterfall, Purling Brook Falls, thunders over the edge of a 100m vertical cliff into ancient rainforest below, creating a huge rainbow in the process. Antarctic Beech trees have been growing on this land since before the ancient supercontinent Gondwana broke up into Antarctica, South America, Madagascar, Africa and Australia, making some individuals over 10000 years old. Yep, that’s a ridiculously old living tree you can go and get a selfie in front of.


Purling Brook Falls is only one of many waterfalls that are accessible by relatively easy (but sometimes deceptively lengthy) bush walks. Twin Falls and the Canyons lookout are a quick 15 minute walk, the Natural Bridge is even easier to get to and is home to glowworms who light up the beautiful cave structure at night, and you can see all the way to Stradbroke and Moreton Islands on a clear day from the Goomoolahra Falls viewing platform on a good day.

The aptly named “Best of All Lookout” though allows an awesome view over the entire 23 million year old, 100km wide crater, that also happens to be the largest in the Southern hemisphere. You can clearly make out the edges, all the way to Mount Burell on the other side of the crater. Beyond, views down the coast to Byron Bay let you see the lighthouse compete with the Gold Coast’s skyscrapers to the north. And in the middle loom the jagged edges of Mount Warning, the central volcano vent.


Lieutenant James Cook seemed to be a fan of drama when he named Mount Warning and Point Danger as landmarks for future sailors in 1770. You can actually climb the ancient volcanic plug, which will take you about 5 hours for 8.8km. Our shooting schedule didn’t allow us to do so this time, but the estimated 60000 people who climb each year say it’s pretty good. No wonder the area is UNESCO World Heritage listed.


Bring a fleece though as the temperate in the cool, humid, temperate rainforest get significantly colder at night than the beachy coastline. By chance, whilst finding a place to camp legally (important in a frequently patrolled national park!), we stumbled upon the somewhat hidden daytime parking area for Purling Brook Falls, which was not only accessible by vehicle, but also open and flat enough to film sunset. As we wrapped up for the day in the van and darkness fell around us, two locals pulled up beside us and started unpacking a huge, motorized telescope. It turned out that not only had we parked on the edge of a 100km wide volcano, but also in one of the best locations to see the stars, the Milky Way and distant constellations.


For the next two hours, thanks to clear skies and the lack of light pollution, we marvelled at spectacular nebulae, constellations and Saturn’s rings. As the clearly visible Milky Way slowly rotated right above our van, we felt so lucky that we’d decided to go explore off the usual tourist route, to find something so special and utterly unexpected.

How to capture that summer feeling

You’ve just parked up, the sun sparkling through the gently waving palm leaves above. You’re so excited of what lies ahead that you nearly forget your towel. Swing it over your shoulder as you manoeuvre around the pandanus trees, over a small dune and into the flat, bright space ahead. The sand beneath your feet is warm, and you have a little competition with your mates to see who can make it squeak louder as you walk down the beach to set up your spot for the day.


It’s finally here, the start of the glorious Australian summer. Sunnies, check. Hat & sunscreen, check. Some good mates, tunes, sandy toes, mangoes, cherries, a sweet wave down at the point, and there’s even a dude playing beach cricket with his three overenthusiastic kids. Think this couldn’t get more stereotypical? Well, do you know what? This is actually happening.


There’s something about a road trip that brings you so close to the essence of summer, and on out latest project for THL, we set out to capture exactly that. We packed all your favourite looking props, summery lighting kit, stocked our fridge with colourful, camera friendly treats and even dusted off our dragon’s old red & yellow ding-magnet of a surfboard. We drove from Brisbane to Byron and everywhere in between, in search of that perfect spot for our summer mood. We found our party squad on the Gold Coast and the next day shot on one of the Tweed Coast’s many untouched beaches, giving the viewer the feeling of being the only person on the planet. Apart from a couple of curlews, some whales, a water dragon, our camper Sunny and our newest team member Ben the helicopter engineer and drone pilot supreme, we had the whole beach to ourselves.


To add something totally unexpected, we checked out the huge shield volcano and its cliffs, waterfalls and ancient rainforest in the Hinterland. Who would have thought all these things are just a short drive from each other? The beauty of a summer road trip is to have it all at your fingertips. In the middle of Springbrook national park, we folded down the double bed and got the best view of the stars we’ve ever seen. So good in fact that hardly had we set up our time-lapse in an empty field, that a car rocked up beside us, and two locals started unpacking a huge telescope to check out distant galaxies.


If that doesn’t sound like nostalgia, then remember the simple days when you were a kid & little rocks were just as beautiful as that expensive toy someone got you for Christmas. Lensflare galore met the little things that make summer summer. Like forgetting how hot the asphalt gets in the sun and burning your bare feet when you first get out of the car.


There’s something about the golden sunshine that makes the colours around you pop. A warm breeze tickles your toes and you relax reading a good book with the back of your van open, feel the rush of cool air as you get drinks out of the fridge, see the tiny salt crystals shine on your skin and cool down in the blue ocean. Roam around or stay in one spot forever, for this is your summer, and it is glorious.



The Magic of Diving Shipwrecks in North Queensland

Imagine yourself surrounded by shimmering blue. Hovering in space, holding onto a rope made out of what looks like red velvet. You see a silver flash out of the corner of your eye, but by the time you’ve spun your head around, whatever it was has vanished into the background. You’re not alone, but feel like you’re in some sort of parallel universe, where your movements and intentions mean nothing. Then your companion looks at you with eyes framed in thick black rubber and motions you to move. The way you’re heading, despite the energy trying to pull you sideways off course, is down into the blackness below.


Just five minutes before, you were getting ready in the tropical Queensland sunshine, on a little speedboat filled with smiling, excited people and one trademark sarcastic captain. You checked your gear that was going to allow you to enter and survive in the alien environment below. Everyone’s chatting about the beauty of the day, the luck with the weather and footie scores last night. Again, you’re told you cannot possibly support Collingwood. You jump right in, water fills your suit, you duck your head under, give the OK and start your slow descent along the buoy line. How quickly the world changes, like you’ve stepped through some sort of Stargate to the other side of the universe. As you climb in reverse, one hand at a time, along the algae-covered rope, no one will hear you if you scream, you see only one colour and you hear only a faint hum over the sound your own breathing. But suddenly, you spot something. At first you think your eyes are trying to trick you, as you strain to make sense of the blue around you. But one handhold further and a shape starts to appear. It gets bigger and darker and you suddenly realise that what you’ve been staring at with your measly little human eyes is a real, living, pulsating structure hidden deep under the ocean surface high above. What you’re looking at is a gigantic shipwreck, a home to thousands upon thousands of ocean dwelling creatures, from the tiniest seahorse to the largest bull shark. And out of the blue, you feel incredibly small.


Our recent expedition to Far North Queensland brought us face to face with racehorses, cattle station owners, curious kangaroos and a croc or two. After spending 5 days in the dusty outback, we were ready to dive one of the world’s best wreck dives, the SS Yongala. The passenger ship was originally built in Newcastle, UK before starting service in April 1903 in Adelaide. It carried passengers and cargo around Australia and was the first ship to sail the 5000km direct route between Fremantle and Brisbane. Despite being inspected and ‘in excellent trim’ on its 99th voyage and Captain William Knight’s reputation as one of the company’s most capable men with 14 years of service without incident, the Yongala sank en route to Cairns in March 1911. All 122 aboard were killed, but the only body ever found was that of racehorse Moonshine, which washed up on a nearby beach. Due to there being no surviving witnesses, the cause of the tragedy was never fully determined, but it was likely that the ship either sank in a cyclone that other ships nearby managed to circumvent or hit a submerged rock.


Eerily, the wreck lay undiscovered for nearly 50 years. Shortly after its disappearance, stories of a ghost ship started circulating locally. Not being deterred (and maybe even encouraged by the possibility of loot), local fisherman Bill Kirkpatrick started investigating the obstacle he had encountered whilst fishing for shells in 1958. After several failed attempts involving one of his mates with a hard-hat diving suit, a professional diver was engaged in a salvage operation. Needing to formally identify the wreck before being able to claim salvage rights, the team brought up a safe, which contained only grey sludge, but the serial number of which was finally identified as belonging to the Yongala in 1961, finally sealing the fate of the doomed ship.


The ship was originally named Yongala in South Australia, after an aboriginal Nadjuri name of a small town, which translates as “good water”. Due to having sunk on a relatively shallow sandy ocean floor, with good access to sunlight and its lying undiscovered for decades, the Yongala has stayed true to its name by becoming a haven for ocean life. The top of the wreck lies at 16m below the surface and is grounded at 30m on the seabed. With a length of 109 meters and as one of the world’s largest, most intact historical shipwrecks, it has become a hugely diverse ecosystem, and thus a world class dive site within the protected Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.


From enormous stingrays to guitar sharks, Giant Trevally, sea snakes, batfish, morays, huge turtles, barracuda, car-sized Queensland groper (see the image above of our rat next to one) and if you’re lucky bull sharks to manta rays, the marine life that calls the Yongala home is simply breathtaking. As the wreck is a marine grave (bones and all) and strict conservation practices are in place, this incredible dive site is being preserved carefully for future divers and its marine inhabitants. If you worry it’s spooky, the wreck is, but it’s also incredibly beautiful and awe-inspiring. 10,000 divers each year pop their heads above the ocean’s surface after exploring the Yongala and re-enter the universe that we know with a new sense of wonder. So the question is, when will you take the leap?

Of natural hot tubs and screams of joy in pubs: The mini kiwi road trip Part 2

Did you know that you can actually see Mount Doom from Hobbiton? Mount Ngauruhoe (the volcano’s non-hollywood name) was unfortunately not on our list this trip, but as we left Hobbiton through rolling green hills we spotted its conical shape in the distance, and marvelled at Kerry, Chris and Nick’s achievement of walking Frodo’s 6 month journey to Mordor in just one week. But outside the fantastical world of a Hollywood movie set, New Zealands flaura and fauna just kept on being amazing. There is a reason the other-worldly films were set on these Islands in the South Pacific, and this reason is that New Zealand already has an other worldly feel to it.


(if you’ve missed Part 1 of the Mini Kiwi Road Trip, here it is!)


We are used to the climates of Northern Europe, with cold ocean swells crashing on rugged cliffs, misty mornings on the moors and lush green forests meeting sweeping hills. But walking around New Zealand’s rainforests marvelling at huge ferns, thick moss and star-wars shaped trees, shrubs and leaves made us feel like we were truly on another planet. And although we’d only been here for a couple of days, due to everything being relatively close together, we had seen a huge amount of unique landscapes.


Tummys full of pizza from nearby Mata Mata, we headed northwards, past the giant LP Bottle and the Karangahake Gorge suspension bridge, all the way North East to the peninsula that shields Auckland from the Pacific’s heaviest swells. The Coromandel is covered in temperate rainforest and surrounded by stunning cloastline including Cathedral Cove best explored by sea kayak. If you’re like us and love the great outdoors, but get cold a lot, head to Hot Water Beach at low tide and dig your very own volcanic jacuzzi. And when we mean hot, we don’t mean ‘yeah it’s kind of a little bit tepid if I really concentrate on the amazingness of nature’. We mean ‘burn your feet if you don’t top your pool up with freezing sea water’ hot. As the full moon coincided with clear weather and a low tide at 11:30pm, we hardly noticed we had spent 3 night time hours sitting in a bikini and board shorts watching the stars through soft steam.


One of the great things about flexible travel is that if you meet someone, and they have a cool gig going on somewhere, or idea, or recommendation, you can go check it out. So the next day we were driving along stunning coastal roads to see our Kayak guide’s mate, who happened to own his own winery. The day which involved stopping off for Oysters for lunch and shooting lookouts at Shakespeare Cliff just south of Whitianga couldn’t have ended better than being treated to Jonno’s self-christened ‘haka’ about his Purangi winery, diverse produce, family ancestry and local popular culture. After 3 hours of chatting about the surprisingly huge diversity of flaura you can make alcoholic beverages out of, and the interconnectedness of the world as a result (New Zealand’s unofficial national fruit isn’t a Kiwi, and was brought over from Brasil, hence the name “feijoa”), resident backpackers and a dog joined as the delicious aroma of home made wood fire pizzas from the pub area wafted over us.


Returning to Auckland would have been harder, if the coastal road hadn’t been as spectacular. Cutting through mountainous terrain of the Coromandel peninsula, you really got a sense of what a scenic route should be. Over the green hills and blue ocean we spotted a city in the distance – New Zealand’s capital in fact, which would be our next and final stop on the Mini Kiwi Road Trip. Parking a massive campervan in the city is ok in parts, but leaving it overnight was going to be tricky. Luckily we’d had a suggestion to stay north of the bridge in the Takapuna Beach Holiday Park and whilst not huge it couldn’t have been a better place to bunker down for a few days. The weather had been playing up so the War Rig was able to show off its huge advantage over a smaller van: it had tonnes of space. With a double bed above the drivers cabin that didn’t need assembling, a kitchen you could really cook in, central heating and a great sitting area at the back, we were finally able to work, relax and invite friends for dinner when it was too rainy to do any filming. You may say we’re getting middle aged, but having the space to comfortably hang out with 6 friends, dinner, beers and cards against humanity whilst the rain pelted down outdoors was bliss.


Sitting on a dormant volcanic field, there are plenty of extinct volcanoes to spot or even scale in and around Auckland including Mount Eden, One Tree Hill and the Domain. Tamaki Drive along to Mission Bay has great views of the city (like the one above) and if you prefer the water, you can go on a pirate ship (or the aptly named ‘SS Puke’) for the day and spot daring bungee jumpers fall off the Auckland Harbour Bridge. As the unofficial but bad-ass inventor of extreme sports, New Zealand has tonnes to offer for thrill seekers great and small. Did you know that there is no age limit for skydivers? That the youngest skydiver on record is 5 year old Erin Hogan? Well you don’t need to look far for your next kick as you can actually freefall off Auckland’s inner city Skytower. Or just walk around the outside of it, leaning over the edge, like we did. Or sit inside and eat dinner. Or just chill on the observation deck. Or hang out at the casino.


Two nights later the spectacular views from the Skytower lay high above us, but it was exactly where we were drawn back to as the country exploded in a celebration of pride and joy. At 4am on a Sunday morning we found ourselves roaming the streets for a bar that wasn’t ram packed full, dodging drunk backpackers in worn off Halloween facepaint, runners on their way to the Auckland marathon, rowdy sports fans, and those who like us were fresh on coffee from getting an early night for an early start. After 2 hours of incredible atmosphere The All Blacks won the world rugby cup and the following day was once of the most exhilarating displays of collective delight we have ever witnessed. Kiwis take supporting their sports teams very seriously (with rugby at the heart, their basketball team is referred to as the ‘Tall Blacks”) and are comparatively good natured so Sunday morning celebrations at Best Ugly Bagles and a day trip to Waiheke Island and its wineries and oyster feasts couldn’t have rounded our trip off better.


New Zealand, a land far far away, but one you have to (and we mean HAVE TO) put on your list of urgent visits. There is something you can’t describe adequately in a postcard, and if our tiny taster of adventures to come is anything to go by, we simply cannot wait to get stuck straight back in.



Of winery bars and a million living stars: The mini kiwi road trip Part 1

If you haven’t seen Mad Max Fury road, drop what you’re doing and check out one of the most glorious pieces of CG action you’ve ever seen. If you have – you’ll know what we mean when we say we had just been handed the keys to the war rig.


Cast your mind back, dear reader, to 2014. We had just arrived in Northern Australian cowboy city Darwin, after an eventful 9 months at sea, on trains, busses, rickshaws, tuktuks and dog sleds filming our Epic Journey from London to Sydney overland. For the first time in a year, we were put in charge of our own mode of transport, as THL sent us on the Mighty Aussie Road Trip. Our camper Rhino was wonderful. We finally could just drop our bags and leave them there for a month. And as we were driving around, we had everything we needed with us at all time – our stuff, two beds, a kitchen and an editing suite. It was glorious.


So imagine our excitement when THL gave us another camper to film around New Zealand’s North Island. Arriving at Auckland airport on a rainy Thursday morning, we stood astounded, face to face with the war rig. Getting used to driving Rhino had been surprisingly simple in Darwin’s wide outer-city roads, despite his initial bulky appearance and penthouse height (that 2nd bed needed to fit somewhere!). But the war rig was big, square and heavy. “We’re driving a shower around!” we thought as we manoeuvred it out of the parking lot and through winding roads to the highway south.


We have always wanted to come to New Zealand, ever since listening to Toto’s stories on the Mekong during our Stray Asia project and seeing various friends’ facebook profiles light up with lush green countryside, incredible snowy cliff faces and of course Hobbiton. The road to Hamilton gave us a great appetizer of the joys to come. Slowly, the busy city highways fell behind us, replaced by rolling green hills and quaint towns. Stopping off in Hamilton’s botanical gardens for lunch was surprisingly fun even for us high-octane digital kids – who would have thought you could express Japan or India or the Tudors just with arranging flowers differently.


When speaking to fellow travellers over the last few months about New Zealand, Hobbiton had always been in the top 3. We’re not going to lie, we were SUPER excited about Hobbiton. But one place we’d never heard of before kept on popping up, and this is where we were heading. The Waitomo region is green and hilly, with cows, sheep, llamas and the occasional ostrich neatly arranged amongst the foliage. There are picturesque hikes, the roaring Marokopa waterfalls, and plenty of cute places to camp, eat, drink and relax. But deep underneath the serenity lies something so spectacular, National Geographic can’t get enough of it.


Waitomo has glow-worms. Thousands upon thousands of brightly shining glow worms that inhabit the karst caves that stretch for kilometres under every hoof, boot and blade of grass on the calm earth above. The caves are uniquely accessible, so that even your granny can go check out their rich blue glow. And if your granny’s adventurous, we can’t recommend the most popular activity of the region enough: Black water rafting. Don a thick overall wetsuit, sturdy rubber boots and a cool helmet with a lamp on it. See how many of you can squeeze into your mate Olivia’s Fiat Panda. Or take the shuttle bus to the cave entrance you’re your awesome guide and everyone else and abseil into what looks like a water well, only to discover the cave below opening up to spectacular rock formations, roaring rivers and of course our little blue-glowing friends. Jump down underground waterfalls, tube through calm streams or take a leap of faith and zipwire into utter darkness. It is as amazing as it sounds.


We could happily have stayed in Waitomo for a week, working our way through all the underground adventures, eating awesome food and making the best of our after hours access to the caves with incredibly helpful guide Logan, but time was of the essence so we headed off to Raglan, a sleepy town set in stunning scenery alongside a natural harbour on the North Island’s west coast. Despite being set away from the beach on the top of a hill, Solscape was a lovely place to stay, hang out and enjoy the stunning views, and after 4 drives up and down the rather steep winding private road to the top, we realized we hadn’t even notices getting used to driving the war rig. What had at first been daunting was actually relatively straightforward and even manoeuvring around a tight camp ground was totally doable with minimal help from a friend. Surfing, surfing, surfing, surfing, surfing, surfing, surfing, surfing – this is our account of the next 24 hours. It was cold, but the straight conveyor-belt waves that rolled in from the Tasman Sea were just wonderful. And with a kitchen at our fingertips, a well-earned dinner of local gigantic mussels at sunset perched on a cliff was pure bliss.


Dear reader. We know what you’re feeling. You’re at a gig and you just can’t wait to hear the band’s biggest hit. You’ve been dancing around all evening but every song that starts is cool, but you just want to hear your favourite one, just once. Well, dear reader, you have been patient. And this patience is about to be rewarded, for now, we run through a narrow grass-lined, gravel-floored corridor and proclaim proudly “I’m going on an adventure!”


Hobbiton is a phenomenon. Movie sets are usually built to last a week of filming. Set designers put incredible detail into structures that need to be built to LOOK fantastic, but by no means be durable. Fibreglass is painted to look like marble, foam to look like weathered beams, flowers are planted fresh and then left to die, everything’s on a budget, so if it doesn’t HAVE to be real, it WON’T be real. Hobbinton however is different. After building a stunning but façade-only set for The Lord Of The Rings, the film crew were so busy on the next job they never came to clean up the set. The farmer who owns the land decided to run local tours which became popular, so when Peter Jackson and the crew returned to film The Hobbit on the same land, a deal was agreed to create a permanent structure for visitors to enjoy.


Our guide Andy was incredibly knowledgeable and enthusiastic, explaining how holes came in different sizes, so Gandalf would look huge in front of a hole built at 60% size, whereas Frodo would look like he lived in an identical hole at 100% size. Each garden represented what the resident Hobbit did for a living, including the village drunk, who’s garden is kept in a permanent state of being let go slightly. The Green Dragon pub has its own beers and ales as well as amazing atmosphere and beautiful gardens by the lake. A huge amount of effort goes into the maintenance of the gardens, buildings and grounds, so even if you’re not into the movies, it’s an amazing place to visit.


Talking of Green Dragons though, make sure to stay hydrated and grab yourself a beer. Or a wine. Or bourbon. Or tea. For we’ll be back shortly with part 2 of the Mini Kiwi Road Trip.



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