DIARY/PHOTO JOURNAL - Page 31
Week 37 - December 03, 2018 - December 12, 2018 - New Zealand and the end of our Australasia adventure.
This was our farewell week in New Zealand and although I am writing this months later, I still remember it like it was last week. We only planned one thing for these last days yet as a result of a number of spontaneous decisions, we ended up having quite a memorable final week down under.
We started with a drive
beyond Karamea so we could wander through the Crazy Paving and Box Canyon Caves.
Then, it was a jaunt over to other trails so we would enjoy walking around and
through the Oparara Arch, the Moria Gate Arch and along the Mirror Tarn.
The weather was cooperating and we had a wonderful day of discovery.
Box Canyon Cave - a lot of fun in this big cave Fossils in the cave ceilings
Crazy Paving cave named for the dried mud on the floor A very large (8" toe-to-toe) cave cricket and glow worms
Mirror Tarn walk Oparara Arch - 200m (650') long and 37m (120') high
Oparara Arch - walking underneath and through Caves under the arch
Moria Gate Arch Moria Gate Arch - cool interior view
Driving along NZ highways - some sculpted Driving with the clouds
Venturing farther north on the south island, we carved out some time for a visit around the Abel Tasman National Park and specifically, Takaka and the Te Waikoropupu Springs. As we had a bit of time, we found a few other beautiful places to enjoy.
Te Waikoropupu Springs - crystal clear freshwater Nice murals along the way
Golden Bay and views around the north end of the south island Unusual flowers
Tui bird - love the white pom-poms on the neck Cool limestone formations
Sandy Bay in Abel Tasman National Park Beautiful bays along the way
Coming into Picton to catch the ferry to the north island
As our ferry was not until the late afternoon, we decided to spend a few hours at the Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre that has a collection of WWI planes and life-size dioramas of the war. We were fortunate to have just walked into the museum when we were approached by a man who volunteered to walk us through the centre. He was a fount of knowledge and we found ourselves appreciating the sacrifices made by the veterans even more.
Our docent and an Etrich Taube Aircraft Omaka Aviation Heritage Centre had some remarkable war posters
Model of 'Grid' Caldwell, NZ pilot - with a disabled plane, while steering
the plane from standing on the wing,
he flew down from 7,000 feet and jumped off the plane as soon as it hovered over the mud of the trenches. He survived to
become the top-scoring pilot in the war.
Clive Collett - someone had to test the parachute, successfully Infamous Red Baron
We made it to our ferry and were excited that we got to cross back to the north island in wonderful sunshine and on calm ocean. New Zealand was formed through volcanic evolution and the separation of the two main islands created many small islands and rocks strewn between the two. It was a lovely way to say good-bye to the south island.
Views from Picton and back to Picton from the ferry to Wellington View coming into Wellington
Whangamomona - self-designated Republic within NZ Beautiful country
New Zealand traffic jam Gerson tackling Sir Colin Meads, All Black - Player of the 20th Century
Just by happenstance, I came
across an advert for a tour of a family-owned sheep/cattle farm where part of
the movie The Hobbit was filmed and as we loved the name, "Hairy Feet Tour,"
we signed up for the next day. And, what a great day it was! We
walked where the actors of the movie walked, we sat where Sir Ian McKellen sat,
we stood in Bilbo's footsteps and we strolled through Radagast's forest.
We even got to enjoy a mock battle with the swords Glamdring and Orcrist.
Denize Bluffs, area used in The Hobbit and we are loving the props Walking into the 'abandoned barn' area
Pathways on their way to the run-in with the Trolls A favorite - Richard Armitage (Thorin) sat here reading his script
Gerson recreates an iconic scene with Bilbo and Sting Fossils still abound The "Troll Cave" (some digital help)
When wargs attack Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf) and Sylvestor McCoy (Radagast) go over lines on this bench
Usually, neither Gerson nor I
would be so in awe of movies or movie stars; however, walking throughout this
'set' on this glorious day, punctuated with humorous anecdotes from the guide,
Suzie (owner of the property), that we were laughing long after the tour was
over. For me, having read The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy
multiple times, it was a bit of my childhood relived.
Radagast's forest Where Bilbo stood on his mark and we did too
Why the Silver Fern is NZ's national symbol More set areas
The boulders on the left were digitally added Just being silly - the best way to have fun
Gerson loved the 'Dilly Dilly' Budweiser commercials Gerson right at home in a period cabin
If walking in the footsteps of hairy feet was not enough, we found time to stop into the Otorohanga Kiwi House with hopes to see the elusive Kiwi bird. It was a very nice bird/reptile reserve and we did catch a fleeting glimpse of the Kiwi as well as got to feed some longfin eels.
The nocturnal Kiwi and a Kookaburra Tuatara and Karearea Feeding Longfin Eels
Gerson found a friend - a Kereru - NZ Pigeon
Our next day was quite the adventure because we were able to set up a last minute black-water rafting trip to float/spelunk through an underground river and view some very unique creatures: glow worms. The Waitomo Caves are numerous shafts that connect to underground cave/tunnel systems, many of which have rivers coursing through them. These river caves have glow worms, which are the larvae of the fungus gnat, and the larvae produces light to attract its prey. They also create sticky strings that hold beads of water and when the insects are attracted to the light, they get stuck in the 'net'. And, the coolest part is when the larvae senses 'sound', they turn on their lights and illuminate the entire cave.
Our path Early morning first group means a small group We started off with a rappel
Then we did a bit of crawling and scrambling And of course, some floating
And had some fun squeezing through some holes - Gerson especially And a final climb back out
Some photos provided by the tour - gorgeous Glow worms - light and the 'crystal' strings
Cave shrimp and crawfish Long fin eel Glow worms were beautiful
And if the river rafting
through caves was not enough, we decided to jump onto a jet boat ride up and
down the Waikato River. The Waikato River is a crystal clear thermal river
with pockets of steam drifting along the river. This area was also
included in the movie "The Hobbit," specifically the Aratiatia Rapids, a natural
rock waterfall terrace that when the dam above is opened at certain times of the
day, it creates a wild rush of 'rapids'. The scene of when the dwarves
were barrel-riding through the rapids was recalled easily when looking at the
Jet boating on the crystal clear Waikato River Aratiatia Rapids - timed perfectly for the opening of the dam
Aratiatia Rapids when the dam (in background) is closed Beautiful flower
In our final days in New
Zealand, we had a very important engagement to keep in Matamata so we decided to
take in Orakei Korako, a wonderful thermal park with silica terraces, geysers,
boiling mud and oh-so colorful mineral falls. The geothermal park is
accessible only by boat, has up to 23 natural active geysers and was used by the
Maori peoples as a place of bathing and cooking.
Loved the cheek for the bathrooms Very pretty Waikato River The colors were exceptional
Such a beautiful place Rainbow Terrace Ruatapu Cave - about 80' down
Boiling mud pits Geothermal fields Rather large spider View to Waikato River
Matamata - preparing for our final day in New Zealand and celebrating Hobbits!
And our final day cometh and what a day, or rather night, it turned out to be. On the first day we arrived in New Zealand, I was fortunate to have found an opening in a very special tour through Hobbiton, the magical movie set of the Shire, the home of the Hobbits. After the filming of The Hobbit concluded, the owner of the farm asked to preserve the Shire and open it up to tourists. We not only were able to reserve a tour through the Shire, but we also arranged to enjoy the Hobbit dinner served in the Green Dragon Inn.
We arrived just before sunset and enjoyed a stroll along the Shire lanes and were able poke our head into a few of the Hobbit holes. It truly felt like we were walking through a Hobbit village and at any minute, Bilbo or Frodo would be coming out a door. It was a testament to the incredible imagination of Tolkien and especially, the crew that built this village.
Hobbiton - a dream come true and of course, we had to wear our elf ears Typical Hobbit holes
I loved this place No Hobbit home was the same
The most famous of Hobbits - Bilbo's home - it was beautiful
Walking with Hobbits Different sized doors created different effects
Love the little laundry On our way to the Green Dragon Inn
Our Hobbit dinner was fantastic and Gerson wasted no time The Shire at night
Our adventure started with a glimmer of an idea in mid-February 2018 and swiftly materialized into reality with our arrival in Australia on March 12, 2018. After driving around the entirety of Australia and a dash around New Zealand, we completed this dream on December 11, 2019 - nine months later.
Good-bye New Zealand, Good-Bye Southern Hemisphere
And here ends our journey. Thinking back on what we dreamed, what we realized, what we lived...well, it takes my breath away and brings tears to my eyes. Australia and New Zealand - what an amazing part of our world and so very special.
And to liberalize Bilbo Baggins' line to sum up our adventure:
We Were There And Will Be Back Again
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