‘It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves’
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.
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. 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.
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. I 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’.
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. The 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.
Soundtrack: Enya – Aniron, Death Cab For Cutie – Transatlanticism