Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Adventures Down Un-dah part 1

 The first four days of our 5 week adventure were spent in New Zealand.  Air New Zealand offered us a free stop, and I'm so glad we did.  What a beautiful country, full of very friendly folks.  I already can't wait to go back.  This is the NZ airport entrance with beautiful and dramatic Maori carvings.

 First we had to wait for it to get light out enough to see, THEN we had to get used to driving on the left side of the road.  This took two very vigilant adults full attention.  Yipes.  But it's do-able.  We drove straight out of Auckland and over to the east coast. 

Yes, it was rainy but coming from late winter in Oregon, it felt simply balmy to us.  Delightful.  Every hill was dotted with white, wooly bodies. 

 There were tons of places to just pull over and have a hike.  Parks and reserves everywhere on the map.  We didn't pre plan our NZ trip, we just went exploring.  I recommend it! 

I was surprised at how quiet the forest was.  Took a long time to sink in.  So few native birds and creatures, and the ones they do have are all up at night.

 New Zealand felt like a tropical version of England, with little country towns, sheep farms, friendly folks, yet the exotic flora and fauna!  We didn't come across any stop lights outside of Auckland, only round-abouts.

 Me and Q on a walk bridge trail heading for a rain forest hike.  Yes, it was raining but warm and just gorgeous!

 I'm all excited about a forest full of giant fern trees.  Feels like I was transported back into the stone ages.

 Why can't our money be gorgeous like NZ dollars?

 Do you recognize this scene? 

 Yes, that's the Green Dragon Pub in the lord of the rings films.  We surprised the boys with a visit to Hobbiton and they totally freaked out.  I read about it before we left, and was following current filming news, but had no idea the set was so close by until we got there.  Peter Jackson just finished filming The Hobbit in Dec and they reopened the set for tours.  It's now a complete village with 43 unique hobbit homes.  We felt so lucky to be here, and spent several very happy hours hearing the film stories from our guide, exploring the village, and taking many photos. 

Above is taken from the party field where Gandalf lets off fire works.  The director really had all the actors drinking beer during the filming, to be authentic, allbeit, only 1% alcohol.  They had to have it specially brewed for the crew and you can still buy it on site.  Soon the Green Dragon will be open for tours as a working pub and wedding location. 

 Q in front of Sam's house.  Remember the end of the the first movie, where the little girls come running out and say "you're home!!!"  The Hobbiton set is like a real working village, compost, real tools, gardens, fruit trees, mail boxes and all.  They employ three full time gardeners, who all happen to be young women.  All the wood, details, tools, carvings are real.  Only two things are NOT real in the whole village, can you guess? 

 This is Bilbo's house, door enticingly open.  This one is a large space inside, not that we were allowed......

 Most of the hobbit houses are just this big inside.  Large enough to set dress the windows, and light candles. 

So did you have a think about what's not real in the village?  The lichen was painted on all the hobbit houses and fences, made of paint, sawdust and glue, you can see in the close up shot.  And the tree above Bilbo's home!  It was taken from England, like all the plants, trees and herb.  The tree was chopped into three pieces, and fashioned back together.  Interns painted all the plastic leaves by hand and then glued them on.  Scroll back up and have a look..... I'll wait...... and now all those leaves are coming off in the wind.  I found one for my scrap book. 

 Maori good luck tiki above a hiking trail.  This figure was seen all over NZ.  We toured around for our four days, enjoying all different types of mini adventures.  We love anything involving hikes and nature, really...... good food, free time together, take photos, collect feathers.....listen to birds, giggle together.  We are a pretty easy to please bunch.  And I brought a visual journal so every night, I'd add a page.  I'll post some pics so you know what I'm talking about.

 Glow worms!  This is my best shot because someone elses camera flash went off as I was trying to get a shot in the dark (futile), and you can just see the glowing spindels that allow them to catch bugs.  The glow worms themselves are tiny things. 

There are many touristy glow worm things you can pay to do, but we just did what the locals do and enjoyed a delightful night hike on the natural caves trail.  We walked in the dark a much as possible.  The glow worms are all around in the soil walls of the walk and look simply magical, like twinkly blue stars.  And speaking of stars, nothing like the night skies of the southern hemisphere as viewed from this night time trail!  We taught the kids to find the Southern Cross constellation. 

 The walk through caves were cool, but we put our hoods up after spotting a very (very) large spider up in a corner minding its own business.  (Just the idea a spider could be so big...).  The end of the hike was marked in our memories by our first encounter with an Aussie possum.  They are so cute!!!! 

 If you get a chance to go to NZ, you must visit the Kiwi House.  It has all the native birds, including the world's only flightless duck and flightless parrot.  Who knew?  We all got so much out of this visit and were most deeply impressed by the two kiwi birds that live there.  I had no idea they were as big as they were (well not as large as this photo, mind you).  Americans seem to think kiwis are the size of a light bulb, but they are much bigger and more aggressive.  Takes a new keeper about a year not to get attacked every time they go into their territory.  Then they become quite affectionate.  They are dear to look at and active little things, eagerly hunting for bugs by poking their long beaks into the loam.  They sleep 20 hours a day and only come out for 4 hours at night to eat!  They can live up to 40 years and make an egg the size of an emu egg.  Yea, you read that right.  Same size! 

 Hey, we are in Auckland for the last day and the sun came out!!!  We stayed at a neat hotel right on campus.  What a great place to go to college!  Gorgeous, multi cultural city to be a part of.  We spent the day walking through the city, making our way to the warf and circling back through little china town.  We were thrilled to get the sunshine.  Keep in mind this was winter for us (snowing back home when we left) and very end of summer for them, season-wise.

 A little gallery hopping --I can always do a lot MORE of that than they desire to, but the boys, quite liked these jaunty little gnomes.  They were pretty sure that $200 was fair dinkim to pay for that awesome orange one.  They are standing there, seriously trying to convince me that I could fit it in my suitcase just fine and how much I'll like it in the garden (giving me the bird every day).  Hee hee!

 They will eat sushi any time of day or night.  I dug this little narrow walking street, and across from the oldest pub in Auckland.

 Artsie loungers down on the water front.  We enjoyed some gelatos and watched the ferry boats working. 

 At the big yacht show, there were all these fun activities to do.  When do you ever get to walk on water in a big bubble (for free?).  They loved it and got to be on the water at the same time.  The folks putting it on, had big hooks to get the kids back and then unzip them after 5 minutes so they didn't smother and all.

 Modern Maori art gallery.  I enjoyed the bold designs. 

 The night time view from our hotel room.  Gorgeous all the way past campus and out to the water. 

Mailing post cards before we got on the plane.........

1 comment:

Adrienne said...

Fabulous! I almost feel I was there. And really, why stop when you can roundabout?