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Into The Great Snowy South ❆

DSC_0519As previously mentioned in the last blog, I finally made it back to Auckland, despite the cancelled flight and the best part of 2 days spent in the airport terminal. It was all ok really, I wound up staying in much smarter accommodation than I had booked , complete with room service (4 toasties at 2am no less) I was in no rush to get back to Christchurch either, but I was getting pangs of helplessness and just wanted to get back into my trusty car and drive off.

The next port of call on this southern trip was leading me towards Lake Tekapo, this worked out well as Hobbiton friends were working on Mount Dobson ski field and living nearby in Fairlie – their adopted second home. Hannah and Luke had been in New Zealand for getting on for 2 years now, and this is the place they spent their last winter – they loved the community atmosphere there. It was great to arrive at their cute little home they were sharing with 3 cool flatmates. It wasn’t long before we greeted each other with a hug and a cheer and began to fill in on our time after Hobbiton.

Hannah was a fellow tour guide and Luke worked in the Green Dragon Inn. They began working at Hobbiton around the same time and also left Hobbiton shortly after myself. They are a great fun-loving couple from ‘up-north’ in the UK (everything is ‘up-north’ to people from Southampton) complete with good strong accents we got on immediately and I’m sure we will share some wine and beers when we all get back home (probably in The Hobbit pub of course).P1080010

As we began to catch up over some lush NZ navy rum it was apparent they had been through a fair bit, with lingering illness issues and a recent car crash giving them prolonged insurance grief, loss of their car, but thankfully they were fine. We were hoping to ski the following day, due to a fresh bout of snow arriving, although sadly the road up to the mountain was closed, due to ever-changing weather conditions, it just wasn’t meant to be! We took a trip out to Mount John instead taking in some of those amazing snowy mountains I had so far only had mere glimpses of. We stopped at a discreet art gallery shack, which wound up to house some incredible pieces by a local artist that Hannah and Luke knew, although they did not know the talent he was hiding! (often the case for creatives). After a day of eating, drinking, chilling and being merry I drove off into the night to the Geraldine Observatory. Now I have a deep lack of knowledge when it comes to astronomy, but what I do have is a deep fascination and curiosity. I was greeted by fellow brit Peter who offered the chance to star gaze from his garden’s observatory (that’s such a lovely word too) Peter has a lifetime experience of astronomy and still works closely with NASA in search of supernovas. He houses 2 observatories, one solely robotic set up with a Celestron C14 specifically for supernova hunting. The two observatories are 2 of 7 that he has built over the years. I was drawn to stargaze here as it is one of the ‘dark sky’ areas of the world, also because Peter offers the tours out of pure passion and loves to share his experience and findings, and his photographs? they’re mind-blowing. With the help of Luke and Hannah I began to have a plan for the next couple of weeks, including the best places to visit and stay. That is the beauty with meeting new people all the time is that you can be selective as to where to visit due to their experiences and of course, what you personally feel like doing at the time. I left Fairlie early (see what I did there?) back towards Tekapo as this is a usual scenic route, picking up some good photos of the well photographed Church of the Good Shepherd. DSC_0492I was heading towards Mount Cook, wow what a landscape. All of this beautiful fresh snow had really painted a picture, I was staying at a wooden clad youth hostel, one of only a handful of accommodation in the area. I began a hike the following day along the Hooker Valley Track. It was beautiful sunlight that day, becoming very cool indeed when traversing swing bridges closer and closer to the glaciers. This day will forever be in my memory, it was so unlike anything I’d experienced before, lacking in colour, the landscape was a stunning charcoal sketch I’d dreamt of experiencing.

P1080143Senses fulfilled, it was on to Wanaka for the night. I made a pit stop at the touristy Puzzling World exhibition. It was rather kid-tastic as expected, but provided some decent holograms and a particularly strange wonky room experience. I was happy I visited, I’ll try anything once, but I was also happy to be leaving the kids in there :). Wanaka was very ski orientated, as it would be this time of year, I found myself wandering aimlessly but did crave a bit of company I must admit, especially in a sociable town environment. P1080230Finding the balance of enough of a plan to look forward to and aim for, and not scheduling things down to a tee is tricky. I work well knowing that I have somewhere to go the next day, but at the same time I end up making it up as I go along anyway. This seems to work most of the time, I have had moments of anxiety, particularly on my drive down to Queenstown. Signs were up reminding me to carry snow chains (something I had no experience with and certainly didn’t own) I was approaching the famously picturesque Crown Range Road and I started to doubt my rather powerless automatic (sorry car). I turned back and headed down a not-so pretty road to Queenstown.

Arrowtown is a historic gold mining town, not far from Queenstown, and was worth a stop. A really dreamy feel to this place, up-market shops and restaurants, everything had style. I had a cuppa, walked around the nearby historic Chinese settlement which was pretty interesting and got back on the road down to Queenstown.P1080257I arrived in the evening and after a beer and awkward moment with an over-enthusiastic Swiss guy at the pub, I started to do the rounds on the ski shops and garages for advice (they opened late). The advice was rather conflicting! a big load of snow was due the next day, so after a demo or two I decided to rent some chains just in case. I found time to also sample the famous Fergburger, the place was heaving, apparently this is pretty common, oh my, what a mighty fine burger it was! The kind of food you crave from that day onward even when you’re not hungry! I enjoyed the buzz of Queenstown, not so much the sweaty ‘young person’ hostel I stayed in, but hey you have to take the rough with the smooth.

The next day held yet another scenic drive (you can’t really go wrong on the south it seemed) up towards Glenorchy. This is a drive I had researched last year, sadly for me it was the most overcast and rainy day yet! I made the drive anyway due to time constraints and hoped for better weather on the way back. On the advice from Hannah and Luke I stopped at the Glenorchy General Store and picked up a rather delicious arty mug souvenir before continuing onto Kinloch Lodge- a serenely beautiful stay for a night in the middle of nowhere it seemed. The best thing about the stay, apart from the great company from room mate Lucas, was that snow started to fall overnight, meaning I woke up like a giddy child to a winter wonderland.P1080311Due south some more I made my way to Te Anau, which is basically the place you start in and return to after a trip to Milford Sound. Milford Sound is a fiord in the south west of the island and a World Heritage Site. It is one of New Zealand’s must-sees and people travel from worldwide to experience a cruise around the spectacular rock forms, countless waterfalls, varied sea life and awesome atmosphere. I had a boat cruise booked for the next day and in the meantime I was in a town with a pretty lake and about 3 shops, oh but it did boast a cave the other side of the lake. Now it’s preferable that I locate a cave, with nobody else around so I can explore and soak it up in my own time, but the Aurora cave network did lure me in with an interesting story, complete with evening boat ride, I was sold. After a few worried minutes being on a boat with so many people, I escaped to top deck where it was cold, windy, empty and the sky was full of stars. We were split of into groups of around 8, where we witnessed incredibly powerful cave waterfalls (Te Anau literally means cave of rushing water) alongside a silent drift through to the glow worm filled grotto. Feeling warm and fuzzy back at the nice hostel, I peacefully drifted off into sleep ready to wake up early and hope the Te Anau road was open to Milford Sound. The road hadn’t been open for 9 days, but much to my delight it re-opened on the following morning. The 2.5hr road trip to Milford is known for being just as picturesque and sometimes more remarkable than the boat ride itself. I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest. Our driver Frank took us through a damp lush green landscape until we hit the snow, approaching the Homer Tunnel, you can’t stop due to avalanche risk, in fact it’s one of the most dangerous roads in the world.

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Absolutely stunning.

It was a Mount Cook moment all over again, I could actually begin to see avalanches forming as we wound our way down what seemed like an impossibly high road. Again, everything was like a beautiful drawing, my eyes couldn’t comprehend where the mountains ended and the sky began. The boat trip was serene, once again after people left the top deck that is. A little overcast, but we saw dolphins and seals swimming around us as soon as we departed, it was 2 hours of peaceful drifting taking in the awesome scale. Top deck got me pretty cold and I looked forward to the ride back to be honest, to see all the amazing sights from a different perspective. Frank made many stops to and from Milford, my absolute stand out was at a place called The Chasm (do you love it already?) Everything on this adventure was messing with my perception and the camera can’t do the scale any justice! Sometimes though, you get those winning shots that are worth the risk, like this mystical waterfall cascade that yes, I got drenched taking, but it captured it, that feeling.

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Time for a Western adventure…(not John Wayne style)

Soundtrack: Mark Pritchard – Sad Alron, Lamb – Lusty

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The Wide Window

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It was time to get back to the original plan of heading south. After a vibrant 2 months spent in Hobbiton I was ready to start travelling to explore more of this amazing country. It is quite the drive down to Wellington so the pit stop along the way would be Mount Ruapehu, to explore some caves and a good chance to catch up with Steven who I’d met a few months prior, on my last visit to Wellington. We met at Skotel Alpine resort (think of The Shining) in some..curious weather, it was incredibly overcast and windy, enough to close off the nearby Tongariro Alpine Crossing for the weekend. It was exciting anticipating seeing Steven again as we’d only met for 4 hours previously but had managed to stay in touch despite life going on. It wasn’t long before the first bottle of wine was opened and we had chance to get used to each others company in a small wooden room. The ‘guest room’ had a wide selection of…VHS tapes, complete with annoying shaky lines and reluctance to play, we managed to dig out Jason and the Argonauts, I thought this may be fitting given Steven’s job role at Weta Workshop-we both decided it still looked pretty good for its age. Talking of age, the room also housed the saddest looking coin operated funfair game with around 10 out of date chocolate bars ready to be won, Wahooo!

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The Okupatu caves situated in the Tongariro Forest were our main destination for the weekend. We took some crazy ‘roads’ until we finally made it to the entrance (thankfully Steve had a 4×4, my automatic would have had a hissy fit). The entrances seemed pretty log-jammed at first but with a bit of careful manoeuvring thankfully we were able to enter. It was quite a network and we didn’t even discover all of it. It was rather beautiful, we had a glow worm display just for us. Steve was very mindful to create markers along the way so as not to get lost, I couldn’t help thinking of the Father Ted episode with the wool from Dougal’s jumper ‘guiding’ them. P1070201

We continued our journey to Mount Ruapehu as the sun began to set and cast beautiful long shadows across the unusually piled rocks. The short walk began at the bottom of the Centennial Chairlift and then on up to Meads Wall. This was one of the Lord of the Rings filming locations for around 5 weeks for a few different scenes. Think steep sheer cliffs, impressive views, and time to sit on a rock and feel small and insignificant in the landscape.

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The Tangiwai disaster on 24 December 1953 happened when the Whangaehu River bridge collapsed beneath a Wellington to Auckland express passenger train at Tangiwai, in the central North Island of New Zealand. The locomotive and first six carriages derailed into the river, killing 151 people. The disaster remains New Zealand’s worst rail accident. It was at this memorial we decided to part ways (on a nice cheery note!) However, it was only to be for one night…

To break up the 6 hour drive down to Wellington I decided to stop over in Featherston and stayed with a kind man who very much enjoyed talking about the Hobbit and listening to my tales of Hobbiton (that made me sound like I lived there didn’t it?). The following day I took the coast road all the way down to Cape Palliser lighthouse . The road to Cape Palliser is dramatically scenic. P1070272 This area of New Zealand has a rich history of early Maori occupation and heritage sites are part of the fascinating landscape. For the final part of the journey, the road clings to the edge of the coast, providing unstoppable views of Palliser Bay. I climbed the lighthouse and enjoyed the sun and wind on my face as I sat there with not a person (or seal for that matter) in sight.

Taking the state highway through busy Wellington across to Miramar I arrived at Steve’s small and quirky home later that day, nestled in bush up a hill- the view from the deck was inspiring. I started to gain a better appreciation of just how many films and incredible creations he has made along the way, it really is quite positively intimidating and thoroughly fascinating. Although work was to swallow him up for the week, it was my time to settle and have a few days of exploring –the places I didn’t get to see the first time around. One of these was Zealandia, a protected natural area in Wellington, a real sanctuary full of incredible birds that I enjoyed spending the day hanging out with.

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One weekday evening Steve took us around some creepy WWII army bunkers, and took great pleasure in creeping me out (it was a fun week of usual mocking of my height and accents- his was a South African/Kiwi/Irish hybrid). We also enjoyed PS4 Star Wars action, maybe more than we should’ve..

Wellington was also home to some other great friends to meet up with. One night I spent with Dana (Auckland/Raglan chum) and Lauren (Auckland/Welly chum). We drank some tasty cocktails in an interesting bar named Motel in Courtney Place while Dana told us her best Tinder experiences ever. The following evening, along with Steve this time, we headed out to Goldings with it’s Sci-Fi colourful décor to meet a good friend of my brother’s wife, Dan. What a lovely guy! We chatted, drank and ate ‘the best pizza in New Zealand’. DSC_0053 I was really beginning to love spending time in Wellington, everything was buzzing and so creative and I felt a great connection with Steve, much more so than I anticipated.

Ultimately, it’s all very fleeting, these amazing moments are there to be enjoyed and then they’re gone. It’s a strange mind-set when everything is so temporary, but it does make me appreciate even the smallest moments. I felt quite emotional discussing my love of music discussing Dead Can Dance, Lisa Gerrard, Kate Bush and I hope some of my passion for music has rubbed off. Our response to certain kinds of noise is something so profound in us that we can’t switch it off. I have found myself in a strange headspace unable to distinguish quite what it is I am doing here, heavy I know, but true. Most of the time I am riding the waves, but I do touch down every so often and feel a little lost, I am trying to get used to this and embrace it as part of the process of growth.

After locking ourselves out on the coldest and windiest night of the week we finally got inside (thanks weary locksmith!) ready to enjoy the weekend together. The Putangirua Pinnacles or The Paths of the Dead to the Lord of the Rings fans out there was our next location. A gentle walk led us to the viewing platform of this strangely wonderful rock formation. Our walk following the river out led us to an incredible find. Perched on the edge overlooking the sea, a house had lost itself to the cliff. Like a scene from Lemony Snickets- A Series of Unfortunate Events, myself and Steve were excited to go and explore! (Ok so he was braver/crazier than me) it really did mess with my senses, seeing that state of undoing holding on by its last threads. Exploring the abandoned was soon becoming a theme …and it’s intriguing and addictive.

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On our last day we had a super breakfast, visited a terrible craft fair, and took a walk around some impressive graffiti laden bunkers-that made for some great photographs. I have an excellent signed Gandalf miniature and Neanderthal skull for keepsakes and a reminder of a truly great week with an gifted artist.

 

After a change of heart I have decided to catch the ferry to the south island tomorrow, I was tempted to explore a few niggling desires pulling me back north but no, it’s time to go now. See you on the other side…

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Soundtrack: R.E.M.- What If We Give It Away, Canned Heat- On The Road Again, Bulgarian State Choir – Mir Stanke Le

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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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Wanderlust-Wellington, Weta & Work

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My journey south continued onto Wellington. I had arranged more wwoofing, this time with an older lady named Cathie. Cathie was like grandma to me, we sat in the garden each day drinking tea talking about the various plants and fruit that was growing so well in the garden. Cathie had an abundance of apples, lemons, pears and peaches which I could treat myself to daily. I spent a good 4 or more hours each day tidying the garden, removing ivy and also mixing up concrete for a big slab next to the compost bin. It was rewarding to help somebody with tasks they find hard to make time for or harder to do. Cathie spent most of her days involved with community groups and such, including a fundraiser event that included watching the film The Lady in the Van in the sweetest theatre in Petone (I was DEFINITELY the youngest there). Now Cathie’s place is situated in Lower Hutt, a little way out from the city centre of Wellington. This meant for a short train ride into the main hub which was actually great as it gave the illusion of crossing the water when daydreaming out of the train window.

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Wellington, the capital of New Zealand, sits near the North Island’s southernmost point on the Cook Strait. A compact city, it encompasses a waterfront promenade, sandy beaches, a working harbour and colourful timber houses on surrounding hills. Though sunny and mild most of the year, strong winter winds through the Cook Strait give it the nickname “Windy Wellington, it certainly lived up to it’s name. I soon realised that doing my hair ready to go out was rather pointless!

After a few days of being rather hermit like at Cathie’s I ventured into Welly to soak up some of the arty goodness and culture I’d heard so much about. I spent a whole evening in the Te Pepa museum (I returned the next day and stayed most of it). There was an exhibition I was particularly interested in Gallipoli-The Scale of our war. I was interested mainly as I knew that super special effects company Weta Workshop were behind the literally larger than life models. They were really impressive and the scale was unlike anything I’d seen before, there was something uncomfortable about the size and detail and you couldn’t help but be moved by the exhibition as a whole.
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 After a late night opening at the museum I was excited to meet up with Lauren who I had met in my first few days of arriving in Auckland. It’s really cool to be able to see people again and fill in the gaps of our different experiences so far. We met in an Irish bar along with some friends Lauren had made along the way.

DSC_0243There is street art everywhere in Wellington, live bands playing along Cuba street, and the Weta Cave workshop and studios at Miramar were a real stand out experience. A humble team of exceptionally talented artists working on some of the biggest film and television series, most notable for their work on The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit, District 9, Avatar and many others.

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I was in a particularly good mood by this point in the day as I had found out that after much researching and applying for jobs that I had struck gold. I was now officially a tour guide at Hobbiton!

The news was VERY sweet, the only bitter taste being that I needed to head back up north from this city I was really starting to love, I needed to make my last night in Wellington one to remember. I had arranged to have a drink with a guy I met who worked for Weta Workshop- Gandalf’s nose? Yep that’s his hand’s that created that, among many other seriously impressive pieces. We drank lovely wine and contemplated what Cheerios were on the restaurant menu (turns out they’re cheap nasty sausages, not the cereal, sorry folks). We shared a love of art, and the night was rounded off with a walk up to a stunning viewpoint of Wellington. We’ve planned to see each other again.

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It was time to leave Wellington and yet again my road trip lead me through some amazing scenery. I made a stop off at Kaitoke Regional Park, home to pristine rainforest and crystal clear rivers creating the magical elvish tranquility of this Lord of the Rings filming location, also known as Rivendell. It was certainly a beautiful site, the area was long since rid of its sets used for filming and all that marks the site is a carved arch and sign posts telling the viewer scenes that were films at certain points. This was all I needed, just a hint of what was, leaving plenty of room for imagination to kick in.P1060670

En route back up to Hobbiton I made a detour east to Napier. A national disaster resulted in Napier becoming one of the purest Art Deco cities in the world. On the morning of February 3rd 1931 a massive earthquake – 7.9 on the Richter scale – rocked Hawke’s Bay for more than three minutes. Nearly 260 lives were lost and the vast majority of buildings in the commercial centre of Napier were destroyed, either by the quake itself or the fires that followed. I spent more time in Napier than first planned mainly because I got on so well with Shontae who was letting my stay in her house for a few days. She was a really kind soul, fascinated in natural health and self healing and was busy planning her travels to Europe. We especially enjoyed eating curry and chatting! Simple things..

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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