Find adventure like Bilbo Baggins

Posted by: Casey Adams on Oct 24, 2012

“Home is now behind you. The world is ahead,” Gandalf says
in a trailer for
the upcoming The Hobbit. His advice to Bilbo Baggins, the hobbit who dared
embark on a wonderful adventure, rings true for NOLS students as well. Of
course, NOLS graduates return home, but not after encountering the world in
ways never before experienced.

NOLS shares a vast wonder with The Hobbit: New Zealand.

The
Southern Alps, which reach for the skies as the Misty Mountains J.R.R Tolkien wrote
about, dominate the South Island. The NOLS New
Zealand
property sits with a view of this breathtaking range, and semester and
backpacking students hike and climb through them.

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NOLS students take in the beautiful views of a backpacking course. Amy Davidson photo.

While a backpacking
course was doing just that last year, dozens of helicopters carrying heavy
equipment flew overhead; NOLS speculated they were associated with The Hobbit. The
movie’s producer, Peter Jackson, confirmed he was using helicopters in that
area at that time to scout locations.

NOLS New
Zealand will eventually relocate to a new location, which also has a connection to The
Hobbit
and The Lord of the Rings trilogies. Nelson is a small, artsy town is
home to many of the craftspeople who helped make props for the Lord of the Rings and can be expected to help with The Hobbit as well.

Due to
the pending move, NOLS is researching a new hiking area, Mount Richmond Forest Park. Students
traveling in this area might camp and hike along Pelorus River, which is a
confirmed filming location for the first two of The Hobbit movies: Bilbo Baggins journeys down the Pelorus along with some dwarfs, possibly inside
wooden barrels.

For now, spring
and fall semesters, as well as backpacking courses, may
find themselves hiking in scenic MacKenzie
High Country, where Jackson has confirmed some of the filming for The
Hobbit
took place. This is also the location of the Battle of Pelennor
Fields, an epic battle between the forces of Gondor and its allies against
the forces of the Dark Lord Sauron. This is the largest and most important
battle in the third Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

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The Mackenzie High Country provides breathtaking classrooms for NOLS, as well as striking scenery for The Hobbit films. Amy Davidson photo.

En route to the
MacKenzie area, courses often stop for fish and chips in the town of Twizel. This popular stop lies just
down the road from Mount Cook/Aoraki National Park, where the breathtaking
opening scenes of The Two Towers were filmed.

Finally, for
students eager to see film locations that we don't visit in course, it's easy
to travel further south from Christchurch either by bus or domestic flight to
Queenstown. Queenstown has easy access to a variety of film tourism locations, accessible
by car or through tour guide services.

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Such attractions as Hobbiton in Matamata are easily accessible by public transportation after a course. Samatha Baker photo.

Casey worked as a writer and PR specialist for NOLS.