Walking in the Footsteps of Hobbits

Laura, Robin and the beasty campervan are back on the road again! The campervan even passed it Certificate of Fitness (COF) this morning, so we are good to go “on an adventure!” This excellent news because today we are going on an “Unexpected Journey” (which was totally expected because Robin plans everything) to Piopio, also known as Trollshaws Forest! That’s right, we are going to a Hobbit filming location which received the most screen time in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

We leave Hamilton, not before stocking up on food for elevenses and second supper at Pak n’ Save in Te Awamutu, and drive through some of our favourite spots such as the Kiwiana Town of Otorohanga where we dressed up in Kiwiana costumes, and passed Waitomo where we spent a week in the caves! Good times, bro, good times…

Searching for Hairy Feet

We are now heading further south than we have ever been! (On this particular trip). Once we reach Piopio, we follow the extremely well-placed signposts from the southern end of town up to the Hairy Feet Scenic Film Location Tour with no problem. The drive there from the main highway is absolutely stunning: rolling hills, sections of forest and rocky limestone outcrops. A rainbow in the distance even adds to the effect.

The closer we get to the Denzie Bluff farm, where Hairy Feet tours are based, the more we can see the huge limestone bluffs, instantly recognisable from the Hobbit movies. We even have the Lord of the Rings’ soundtrack playing in our van. We are definitely in Middle-earth right now!

An unexpected (but welcomed) greeting

A short drive up a well-maintained gravel road, we park up at Hairy Feet tours. We are greeted on arrival by a ginger cat that rolls over at our feet in expectancy of a belly rub. The whole area is set up like a classic New Zealand farm, with vintage milk cartons in a horse’s carriage, and a little bushman’s shelter. Once we enter the Hairy Feet shop, we see are blown away with Hobbit and Lord of the Rings’ trinkets! Ah, we could spend all day in here! (And we will, later).

Suzie, from Hairy Feet, welcomes us and we have a bit of chat with her, as we wait for two more people to join our tour. It’s clear that Johannes and Rico, two backpackers from Germany, are just as nerdy about The Hobbit as we are when Suzie hands over the replica swords and wizard’s staffs for a photo opportunity! Suzie is taking photos with their phones for them, as they re-enact battle scenes. There’s something about holding a sword that makes you feel so epic, (especially for Robin who goes a bit far with his “battle scene” poses).

Laura Vs Robin in an epic Middle-earth battle! Laura Vs Robin in an epic Middle-earth battle!
Thorin, is that you? Thorin, is that you?
Standing on Bilbo's marker Standing on Bilbo's marker
Unfortunately, the pet sheep did not make it into the movies Unfortunately, the pet sheep did not make it into the movies

The journey to middle-earth

Just before we set off on our location tour, Suzie shows us a quick video of the farm’s “Unexpected Journey”. The facts are quite shocking in how much time and effort is put into getting just over 6 minutes of footage! What’s more, Suzie was there for the filming of The Hobbit, so she can answer our behind-the-scenes questions. What’s more, she answers with passion, so it’s hard to not be absorbed in her stories!

We hop into the minivan for a short drive up to the start of our Hobbit location tour. Along the way, Suzie fills us in with movie facts and even the work they had to do on the land themselves to be able to run these tours. We don’t notice straight away, but there is the subtle noise of bird sounds coming from the van’s sound system.

Parked up, we start our Hobbit location tour. Oh my God, Laura wants to take photos of everything! The rugged limestone sticking out of the lush green grass with the backdrop of majestic cliffs… No wonder this place was chosen to depict Middle-earth.

Come at us, orcs!!

Re-enacting The hobbit

Suzie has folder of movie screenshots to help us visualise the movie scenes, starting with the scene where The Company arrive at a destroyed farmhouse. Although the farmhouse is no longer there, old fences, gates and a bird feeder still remain that were seen in the movie shots. In whatever movie location we choose, (which is all of them!) we get to do the actors’ poses in the exact same locations for photos! Something we can definitely post on Facebook to make fellow Tolkien fans jealous. (That’s the goal of social media, right?) Suzie even pulls out a hidden replica of Sting the sword under the leaves, when needed in one iconic movie location, and a plastic bag to sit on a damp bench from the rain. Wow, this lady has thought of everything!

After seeing about five different Hobbit film shots in this area, we head into the forest. New Zealand is often described as having a diverse landscape, but the Denzie Farm is such an exaggeration of that, as the next moment we are in such a dense variety of vegetation. A huge rock protrudes from the ground creating a little shelter underneath. Suzie doesn’t need to tell us what scene this is from. This is the exit of the cave where the swords including Sting was found!

Further into the forest, we see some locations where the mad Radagast the Brown makes an entrance. Plus, where the Wargs begin their attack on The Company in the forest.

Wargs and Orcs

It’s just a short walk to our next location. While Suzie gets the van, we follow the gravel track to the final Hobbit filming location, but Laura and Rico fall behind taking photos of such a beautiful area. There are photo opportunities everywhere. Even if you are not a Hobbit fan, these unusual fossil-filled rock formations mixed with magnificent trees are even an attraction in itself. Suzie catches Laura and Rico up in the van asking if we want a lift to the end of the track, but, honestly, we want to soak up every last second of this walk, so we happily decline her offer and catch the rest of the group up in a couple more minutes.

The last location depicts parts of those famous scenes where the Orcs and Warg attack The Company, chasing them all the way to a hidden entrance to Rivendell. From here, our tour ends with some last glimpses of the beautiful farmland from the minivan driving back down to the Hairy Feet base. The rain picks up and creates a rainbow in the distance again. My God, this place is killing us!

HEading to piopio

We have a final natter with Suzie in the Hairy Feet shop. Laura picks up an Elvin broach for her brother that he has been begging her to get from Middle-earth, New Zealand. Suzie gives us a heads up where we can park our campervan for a $2 donation at the Tui St P.O.P (Park Overnight Property) in Piopio. So helpful!

Check us out tomorrow, where for once in our lives, we don’t know what activity we are doing! See you then!

Laura and Robin

Just one of many Hobbit locations visited with Hairy Feet!
Just one of many Hobbit locations visited with Hairy Feet! Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

Want more?

Well, yes! For all you Middle-earth nerd, check out these articles:

Because Laura went a bit nuts with the photos, you can check out the best of our Hairy Feet Hobbit location tour on Instagram. Plus, you can check out the location and other things to do in Piopio by following us on HerePin.

See you tomorrow!

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Comments
  1. Wow guys, excellent story guys! Love the 360 photos and the clever way you’ve weaved special tid-bits into the piece. Well done and thank you.

    Comment avatar Suzie
    30/06/2016 at 7:53 am
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