Hobbits elude us, but we get to set
Just like Elmer Fudd on the prowl for pesky wabbits, I headed to Pelorus Bridge on Friday in search of hobbits.
Being armed with Marlborough Express photographer Ben Curran, instead of Elmer's preferred shotgun, was all that separated me from the hapless hunter.
We had received a tipoff from a source that hobbit activity had escalated in recent days as Peter Jackson's production company 3 Foot 7 prepared the location for 10 days of filming starting from today.
The Pelorus River, 60km west of Blenheim, features in a scene from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey showing barrels plunging down the scenic waterway during a perilous journey undertaken by Bilbo Baggins and the dwarfs.
Our first port of call was the Pelorus Bridge campsite, where outside the cafe we spied some of the company's technical crew. Doing our best to look like passing tourists, although failing miserably, we headed inside to quiz staff.
Unfortunately their lips were sealed as to the whereabouts of Baggins and his tiny friends. Contractual obligations.
Undeterred by this minor setback, we decided to venture into the bush and follow a walking track to the nearby waterfalls.
Leaving the Kahikatea campground, behind the cafe, we noticed deep tracks obviously made by a heavy vehicle of some sort – transporting sound equipment perhaps? It seemed an astute observation as barely a few metres along the path were the signs of recent foot traffic. We were on the trail.
I felt like Navajo tracker Billy from 1987 movie Predator starring Arnold Schwarzenegger – "There's something out there waiting for us, and it ain't no man."
Getting closer to the first of two waterfalls though, we began to question our hunting credentials.
And the large tree roots penetrating the uneven terrain was hard going in my pointy work shoes. Although should we come across any wandering hobbits, I hoped they would mistake me for a rather dapper wizard.
After reaching the waterfall, it was clear this path was going nowhere, fast.
Back at the far end of the campsite, a huge scaffolding structure led to the river's edge. If only we had checked here first.
Sitting there, unattended, were the very barrels that will carry Bilbo Baggins and 13 dwarfs downstream in the Lord of the Rings prequel.
This was my big chance. Remembering the technical crew were happily feasting back at the cafe and being `vewy, vewy quiet', I leaped over the scaffolding for a quick photograph in the soon-to-be-famous movie props. They are disappointingly lined with rubber rings, but I jumped in anyway and immediately lost my balance in the soft sand.
Reaching out I grabbed the double-stacked barrels next to mine, nearly knocking them over. If Sir Peter Jackson could see me now, I thought.
Ben started snapping frantic ally, desperately swapping lenses hoping to get that perfect shot. After what seemed like a lifetime, he gave me the signal to hot-foot it out of there so I scampered up the rocks as quick as my leather wizard shoes could carry me.
Heading back to the car and past the cafe, we gave the techies a friendly wave and made for Blenheim.
The Marlborough Express