Geek trip

Geek trip

Want to take a trip to Katniss Everdeen's hometown, District 12, or the arena where she and her fellow tributes faced off in The Hunger Games?

With The Hunger Games Unofficial Fan Tours, you can pretend to be the character played by Jennifer Lawrence - an expert archer in a dystopian world with two handsome boys competing for your affection.

My fiancée Gillian and I went on a "geek trip" to Atlanta and North Carolina in the US in July, in search of the shooting locations for the Hunger Games movies.

Our odyssey began in Atlanta, at the Goat Farm Arts Centre, where the Reaping scenes - where tributes are drawn for each district - in The Hunger Games: Catching Fire were filmed.

Since the movie had not been released at the time, we took a lot of photos in eager anticipation.

Sadly, we did not make it to the Swan House estate, where President Snow (Donald Sutherland) hosted a lavish party for Katniss and Peeta ( Josh Hutcherson).

The Hunger Games Unofficial Fan Tours then took us on a day trip to the main shooting locations in North Carolina for the first instalment of The Hunger Games movies.

The duo behind The Hunger Games Unofficial Fan Tours are Tammy Hopkins and Leigh Trapp, who began the tours last year. They gained instant popularity, drawing fans from Canada, Germany and Belgium.

Day tours start at US$50 (S$63), while adventure weekends cost up to US$599.

Hopkins and Trapp have partnered with fan tour group Atlanta Movie Tours to conduct tours of the shooting locations for the second instalment, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, which was largely filmed in Atlanta.

Our first stop was the Henry River Mill Village in Bourke County.

Once a textile village in the early 19th century, Trapp told me that director Gary Ross picked it to stand in for District 12 because of its Depressionera feel.

So many visitors

Following the release of the film, it attracted so many visitors and vandals that owner Wade Shepherd closed the area. But he eventually partnered with Hopkins and Trapp to start the fan tours.

"The first question people always ask is, 'Where is Katniss' house?'" said Hopkins.

The teenage girls in our group squealed with delight when we entered the instantly recognisable home of the Everdeens. There was even a brown leather jacket hanging on a peg for us to re-enact the scene where Katniss grabs it, puts it on, scowls at her cat and runs out of the house.

Another fan favourite is the Mellark bakery where Peeta throws two stale loaves of bread to a starving Katniss.

There were even Peeta and Katniss lookalikes, who gleefully hammed it up for our group. We then had a game of archery tag, followed by a meal with food inspired by the movie, such as goat's cheese with mint.

"Fan tours started up with Harry Potter about 10 to 12 years ago, and that was the beginning of fans wanting to see sights and walk in those footsteps, to re-enact things," said Trapp, who added that tourism and the money it brings in is "a bolster for communities".

We also visited Triple Falls and Bridal Veil Falls in the 40 sq km DuPont State Recreational Forest.

This is where the pivotal scenes of Katniss following a trail of blood to find Peeta camouflaged in the mud were filmed.

The pool that Katniss jumps into while running from a massive fire is also located at the base of Bridal Veil Falls. We were told by a local that on the day of the shoot, the crew had to fill it with water as it was the dry season.

Standing at the edge of the pool, with the sound of rushing water in our ears and the setting sun in our eyes, we thought about young people fighting to death in such a beautiful setting.

All we needed were a bow and arrows to complete the picture.

The writer is the co-founder of GeekCrusade. com, a new site that covers movies, TV and comics.

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