art, Uncategorized

Birthday celebrations for a Hobbit sized tour guide

 

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March was my Birthday month, and I turned the big 30. I feel really comfortable at this age, and despite most of my work colleagues at Hobbiton being younger, I enjoy the confidence and life experience this age brings with it. Matamata, in the Waikato region of New Zealand would be my home for the next two months while working at The Shire. I have got know it’s two pubs well-that didn’t take long, and the whole work family (it really is like a family) spend most occasions in a bar named the Redoubt. The hours of the job can be pretty unsociable in as much as weekends need to be worked, but there is always someone around to have a drink with on most evenings, meaning you get to know different groups of people really well.

Luke, the friend I made in Te Aroha from the same home town as me, pretty much followed me to Matamata one day and ended up staying (that’s not as stalker-like as it sounds). He managed to find work in nearby Cambridge working on a Kiwi picking farm. It’s been really cool to spend more time with him as he is such fun, easy company to be around. We have spent days off exploring nearby landscape such as the vivid Blue Springs on the nearby Te Waihou walkway, contemplating life over a beer or two.

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We headed east on another sunny day off to explore Mount Maunganui a relaxed beach town that occupies a peninsula at the southern end of Tauranga Harbour. We climbed the mount, enjoyed spectacular views and a super pizza afterwards, not too shabby at all.

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Luckily for me my birthday fell inbetween my days off. I was treated to a lovely breakfast from the family I live with alongside many presents and cards that had arrived in the mailbox from home and school, such a sweet surprise. After a great night spent at the Redoubt pub drinking with lovely aussie tour guide Anna and some locals, myself and Luke decided to head for the Waitomo Caves the next day.

Under the green hills of Waitomo lies a labyrinth of caves, sinkholes and underground rivers. We travelled with a company called Spellbound who specialise in smaller tours in far more remote, less tourist laden caves. I had wanted to visit the beautiful caves since planning my trip back in the UK. We explored the incredible milky way of glow worms gliding silently by boat gazing around in pure wonderment. Oh and we were both nursing a hangover that didn’t lend itself to intense adrenaline fuelled cave activities (!). It’s been great to re-ignite creative inspiration and I have made many sketches and paintings since my time in this area. There are no real conclusions to the pieces, they are just ideas I am playing around with and will feed my body of work ready for the artist residencies later in the year.

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I feel the privilege each day as I get to work each morning, not knowing who I will be meeting and ultimately sharing a once in a lifetime experience with. Of course I become more grounded when I have to contend with the few ignorant tourists and at times it can be like herding cats, but altogether, it’s worth it for the ones who love being there. There aren’t many greater natural highs than having a connection with somebody. I have made some really good relationships with people at Hobbiton. It has only been a two month period that I’ve spent here, but some how it has seemed more intensive and easy to strike lasting friendships, I really do feel so humbled. I am going to miss the laughs everyday, comparing high and low tour experiences with fellow tour guides, listening to Kate Bush, The Cure and Pearl Jam back from set with Linda- one of the coolest tour drivers: (we were lucky enough to get tickets for The Cure show in Auckland this July) and the ultimate sense of contentment when arriving at the beautiful Green Dragon Inn at the end of each tour. Oh how I wish I could drink the ale each time…

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I have met many people from around the world, including Southampton (it seems you can never escape) and had many offers of accommodation and I’ve never had so many comments about my eyes?…strange. The job role is to be on show to people all day everyday, which honestly isn’t in my nature at all, I am much more introverted and do find it tiring to be in this ‘state’ all of the time, so long as I have my down time then the balance levels itself again. I did really want to challenge myself and knew that the role would build confidence but more importantly for me I have felt part of something really special, a once in a lifetime opportunity that will always make me smile when I am reminded of my time there.

The south is calling. I only have a few days left at Hobbiton which is bittersweet, but my gaze is firmly set on that horizon and this year is about exploration after all.

Time to pack my bag.

Soundtrack: Mark Pritchard- Beautiful People,  Kate Bush – Aerial, Fairport Convention – She Moves Through The Fair

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Uncategorized

Hobbiton & Trekking Mount Doom

‘It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves’

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Heading south from the Coromandel Peninsula I booked myself into a cute holiday park for one night in anticipation of visiting 2 sites that had fuelled my urge to visit New Zealand in the first place. I’d grown up like many, loving the stories of Tolkien. I have such fond memories of the excitement and anticipation of each of the films showing at the cinema each Christmas time- it was a real event. They were some of the best times I spent with both school and college friends because the stories and incredible imagination behind them are so enchanting and offer perfect escapism into a fantasy world you dream of visiting. The visuals that are truly stunning resonate with places I have visited in Iceland too- Tolkien himself drew a great deal of inspiration from Iceland as well as Great Britain. It is the diversity and richness of these perfect natural wonders and landscapes that touch me personally and stir up emotions. I’d be lying if I say I didn’t let out a childish squeal upon seeing the signs for the Hobbiton Movie Set. P1060382.JPG

The Harry Potter behind the scenes tour back home is the same, it is so much more than a film franchise, it is a creative world that’s been brought to life for you to immerse yourself in…I highly recommend a visit. So as expected, Hobbiton was a massive tourist hub, and rightly so, I think however my morning timeslot was a wise decision. P1060371 The tour began with a coach ride through the surrounding farmland, property of the Alexander family. With the rolling hills, picturesque trees and untainted views, you could see why this location was chosen as the shire. We were guided through and around each Hobbit hole and beautifully detailed part of the set, finally winding up in the Green Dragon for a pint of Girdley fine grain amber ale on a gorgeous sun-shiny day. Sipping my drink, this was definitely one of those moments I wanted to share with my friends (and I don’t mean on social media). It would seem only right that the people that I drink at The Hobbit pub with in Southampton  should be here, drinking in the Green Dragon. Merchandise bought, job application filed, I left Hobbiton very content. P1060315

It was time to drive south towards the Tongariro National Park where I planned to embark upon the famous Tongariro Alpine crossing with a new friend, Roman. By this time in my trip I am really enjoying the rhythm of spending a few days in one location and then moving on. In New Zealand everything is so changeable in the landscape, that a few hours drive can make all the difference. I booked myself into a kooky hostel (worst paintings on the walls ever) but alas, a room to myself with a double bed. P1060426I met two really cool German girls called Yanna and Rike. We had shared interests in art and spent the evening laughing and drinking beer, deciding we’d all trek together the following day. The Tongariro alpine crossing track is a 20km trek crossing stark and spectacular volcanic terrain. Among its highlights are steaming vents and hot springs, old lava flows, beautiful water-filled explosion craters and stunning views. On clear days you can see Mount Taranaki in the west, Mount Ngauruhoe, the Kaimanawa Ranges, Lake Taupo and beyond. Mount Ngauruhoe is of course the famous Mount Doom, so we were essentially trekking through Mordor, after leaving the shire the previous day! An early start was required and although there are many tourists doing the track, I was very glad to not be walking it ‘alone’. P1060448

 

Roman, a vibrant musician from Tel Aviv and all round cool guy made us many baguettes to get us through (so many that I may have taken the piss at least once an hour, and there were 8 of them ahead of us). The track was changeable as you’d expect, the sights were endlessly epic and the view of Mount Doom was goosepimple inducing. As you start to descend the track, beautiful teal coloured lakes appear from nowhere and look super imposed onto the landscape. P1060424The track was pretty treacherous at this point and we found ourselves skiing on the loose stones down to the bottom (didn’t fall over, even when attempting a selfie). Rike and I discussed our love of VW T4’s and Roman posed like Jesus over the water (Christian radio was somewhat corrupting him). After a good solid 8 hours walking we arrived at the end and I really felt accomplishment. It was an unforgettable adventure with new friends.

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Soundtrack: Enya – Aniron, Death Cab For Cutie – Transatlanticism