Almost to The Shire…

Neither one of us slept worth a darn last night.  Mary had work stuff on her mind and I think I’m excited to be coming home as Ive had the strangest dreams the last several nights…

Anyway, we started the day slowly although early, way early and discovered that there is not much between Turangi and Matamata.  We somehow missed the Craters of the Moon turn off 😦  But found this funky family holiday park/petting zoo thing:

Oh, wait, no more pictures as it seems I’m out of storage space on WordPress…now that’s not fair that I can’t post the pictures of the hobbits!!  So now to research a different blog platform, make a post and send that to y’all – stay tuned!!

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Geysers, mud pools and hot springs, oh my!

As we are in the geothermal ‘hot bed’ of NZ we visited some of the sights yesterday – it was a rainy, dreary day until late in the afternoon so even with the steam rising from the boiling earth, the rain added to the grey.  Such a lovely surreal exploration of the area.  I felt like I was truly in pre-historic times even though we visited one of the sights that was only formed in 1886…

The Wai-O-Tapu Geyser, Lady Knox

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Then we saw some mud pools.  Boiling mud – very cool and the pictures don’t show what we experienced – wish I could load a video on this site…I’ll try t do that somewhere before we leave this great internet connection so you can watch the mud boil/bubble.

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Then we went to Waimango and took a fabulous walking tour through some beautiful volcanic landscapes. 

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When we left, the sun came out and the drive along the lake back to the hostel was just breathtaking…

And, apparently I can no longer post pictures…hmmm.  Well, today is the drive to Matamata and tomorrow is HOBBITON!!!

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Mount Doom!

For those who are Lord of The Rings fans today we went to the Tongariro National Park and walked a very short portion of the entire Alpine Crossing that takes you past some of the film sites for Mordor and Mount Doom.  Information on the film sites in NZ can be found here: http://www.jasons.co.nz/travel-guide-to-lord-of-the-rings-locations and we were in the Taupo Region.  Instead of having a gloomy doom like day we had a gorgeous day for hiking – more sun than clouds, no rain even though it was predicted and enough wind to keep us cool without buffeting us all over the mountain!

DOOM!

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After our morning ‘walk’ to a small lake, about an hour round trip…

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Where we saw a wood pigeon – so cool!

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We headed up to the carpark and start the crossing with high hopes, high hopes mind you that I’d make it to the first stop about 4.5 km – yeah, not so much…

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Past the two km mark it began to look like this…

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Even after a couple of breaks…

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Mount Doom won.

My consolation prize was lamb shanks so I didn’t fair too badly 🙂

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Christmas 2013

We started our morning with continental breakfast in the lounge of the hotel as the restaurant was closed and delivered b-fast to our room the night before.  Then we opened our prezzie from each other and parted ways for a good chunk of the day – the very best gift was giving each other space!  And after we connected up again…We Had A Blast!

Packed up the picnic that we bought at the deli and drove all over looking for a place to enjoy our Christmas feast.  First tried the beach but the wind threatened to blow us over or carry us to Neverland without the aid of Tinker Bell!!  Image

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Our map blew out of the car with the wind so we headed out to find Virginia Lake/Park by our noses and found it to be a true treasure! An aviary,

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a Winter Garden,

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an experiential garden,

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all surrounding the lake. 

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What a perfect place to celebrate Christmas!!

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And the day ended with the sunset over Wanganui…

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The end of south island…

Having a few days in one location is a great opportunity to catch up with the massive amounts of sights we’ve seen and the photos we’ve taken.  Of course, there are WAY more photos than I’ve even attempted to share and I’ll possibly share more after I return home and look deeply at those visual memories and find a few more worth mentioning…

In the meantime, let me try to catch up on the last few days of travel.

After spending the whole morning at the botanical gardens in Christchurch –

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we drove on to Kaikoura.

Our sunset that evening was spectacular!  And we almost missed it!!  We were engrossed in computer stuff trying to make reservations over Christmas and Mary glanced up to stretch and we made a mad dash for the car to get away from town and take some photos…

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The next day we drove to Picton to catch our ferry for the journey back to north island but not before we saw the seals of Kaikoura!!

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And amazing random road art – which seems to be everywhere…

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Now we’re back in Wanganui and have had a couple of relaxed days – saw The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug in the local theater here, strolled a bit through town, watch White Christmas last night to keep with a holiday tradition, decorated our room for Christmas and opened our prezzie from each other!  Today we are taking a break from each other – to keep us travel sane – Mary’s out at the beach or somewhere in nature probably painting and I’m in at the computer listening to all my Christmas/holiday music (well, not all as that would take me days!) and enjoying the solitude.  Later today we’ll have our Christmas feast which is a bunch of deli treats that we bought for a picnic as the restaurant at the hotel is closed today.

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Tomorrow starts the last week of our trip and the Tongariro alpine trek and Hobbiton and Coromandel.

As you celebrate the seasonal holidays, may you all know that you are each one the Divine light of this world and that you are loved beyond measure – A very Merry Christmas to each of you.

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Christchurch

I think I’m going to let the photos speak for themselves.  It’s a heady mix of energy to be in a city recovering from such devastation…

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The cathedral without the tower…

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Life – everywhere life and art and creativity and fun…

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And, some of the shots of the roses at the botanical gardens…

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Catching up – at least the start of it…

I can’t remember when I last updated so I’m going to start with the Milford Sound Discovery center which was included in our cruise package.  It is a floating observation room 10 meters under the surface.  It is difficult to describe but it’s like being in an aquarium looking out at the whole world – which, in this case happens to be the world of the sea.  Because of the massive rainfalls in the area, it is wetter than the Amazon rainforest, the fresh water contains lots of nutrients that turn it dark brown, this gives the level at 10 meters the same darkness as a normal 70 meter depth therefore sea life can be seen much closer to the surface in the sound.  The pictures don’t really do the experience justice but here are some of the best we could capture.

The stairs

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The viewing space

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The water – top is fresh with all the nutrients/soil run-off and bottom is the salt water from the Tasman Sea

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Fishie!

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The only access is by boat, no land access at all so the visitors are severely limited which we love as it made for a much more intimate and personal experience with everyone getting a chance to linger at one of the viewing windows.

The lodge in Milford sound was decorated for the holidays – super fancy, eh?

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As we left Milford sound, we drove to a little town called Kingston On the way we had to share the road with two herds, do you call them herds?, of sheep.  Kind of like driving in India but with less traffic and no cows – HA! 

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In Kingston we stayed at a motel, a ‘luxury’ motel no less.  The best part of this evening was a BATH TUB!

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After leaving Kingston we drove to Arrowtown a charming community built for the tourist business but charming nonetheless.  I mean, who doesn’t love a town guarded by dragons?

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They have fully restored a Chinese gold mining settlement that was as awe inspiring in its story as it was devastating in its history.  You could almost feel the determination and resilience of the souls of the people as you read the life stories of unimaginable loss and ostracization.

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Mary took a cool picture inside the general store of the settlement

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After that we drove through more of this glorious/funky country and ended up following a sign to the Clay Cliffs.  Having no idea what they were and finding a paragraph in the guidebook that said, yes, they are here, we drove and drove and drove on the gravel road from hell only to get to the end and see this:

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At the end of the day, we caught our first glimpse of Mt. Cook and then ended up in Twizel (long ‘eye’ sound) utterly exhausted.

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The road from Twizel gifted us with glimpses of Mt. Cook at nearly every turn.  More fields of purple, past a beautiful church and eventually to Christchurch where we spent the night in jail – literally!

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Christchurch is a post unto itself – coming up next!

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