Bilbo Baggins is not the only one to take an unexpected journey from The Shire. I too am in Middle-earth in search of an adventure – in the form of a nearly completed section of the Hauraki Rail Trail. The trail is freshly laid and passes close to several attractions that I am keen to record and explore. The first must-see is just off the trail on the outskirts of the quaint rural hamlet of Matamata. My thoughts are that any legendary journey should start at The Shire. So in Matamata I park my cycle and join the cloaked throng. I say ‘cloaked’ because as I hop on the coach I am surrounded by The Lord Of The Rings (LOTR) fans adorned in full-length medieval cloaks. Looking down at my bike shorts I panic. Fossicking desperately in my backpack I snag my ticket and check the entry instructions as dark memories of forgetting school mufti-days spring to the forefront of my mind. Others get on the bus and I am washed with relief as they are dressed like me in more modern attire. As I relax into my seat we head off in search of The Shire, crossing the rolling countryside of heartland Waikato.

Look over the top of the North Island tallest falls

I arrive and wow, what an entry to this mythical world. Our guide gathers us at a quaint-looking lamp post before we enter. Together we squeeze through a narrow slot in the bank that widens theatrically to reveal The Shire. Our first glimpses are of the pretty and colourful hobbit holes numerously scattered across the hillside like a community of flash rabbit burrows.

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