Sunday, August 28, 2016

Whakatane, Ohiwa Beach, and Opotiki

Last few days, last few adventures...pretty much lots of beach walking and lamb adoring. This post is mostly pictures.

We took a little road trip up to Whakatane to stay in a family batch (beach house). It was very cold because a. Winter and b. No heating. But it was beautiful weather.

Stopped by some shops and saw artisty things. Like pigs.

The first of many beaches. Now that spring is aaaallllmost starting, the weather hasn't been terribly bad, and we've had more sunny days than cloudy ones. But the water AT the beach is still freezing. So, let us observe.

Then we hiked a hill on the beach.

I did NOT do this, we just walked right past it. Naughty mirror-universe Leah. :/

I liked this part of the beach, over the hill and down the other side. It had lots of driftwood and other beach goodies for me to look at (and maybe pick up)...

These tiny muscles awww (rivals with the lambs huh) I should have put my finger up for scale, they're each about as big as my finger nail, if that. Millions of them.

And as I zoom out, some arterial sand patterns from the tide.

Once we made our way to the batch (the other beach was just on the way in town) the sun was setting and we took a nice cool walk.

On the way back to the batch we stopped at a trail. It was now full dark out, but that's what we were waiting for. Because how else would we be able to see the glow worms? So it's pretty cold, we have one head-torch between the three of us, and it's on a small trail heading into the bush. Hm. Yet I felt very safe. The largest mammal in New Zealand (that you would come across in the wild) is probably a possum. And if we found someone randomly hanging out in there, they would probably offer us tea, not murder us.

Anyway, after about twenty minutes of slow, careful steps, we spotted the sign for glow worms -->. This took us to a smaller track, and we kept going and my eyes adjusted from looking away from the small shine of Alli's torch, I started to see little lights to the side of me. I couldn't see anything else, and had no sense of any trees or cliffs, no depth perception.

I had no idea what glow worms were supposed to look like, I only had my imagination and cartoon movies of fireflies to pull from. (I've never seen fireflies in real life either.) To me, it looked like a night sky, with minuscule white star-like lights twinkling everywhere. When I tried to focus on one specifically, it sort of winked out, so you had to just look around and take it in as a whole experience. It was beautiful and unique. Of course I have no pictures, but it was nice to sit there for a while and watch the small glowing creatures.

When we made our way back out to the car at the trail head, we looked up and saw an absolutely stunning clear night sky. There is hardly any pollution, and no light pollution here so you can see what seems like an infinite number of stars and planets, and the milky way is very clear. I could stare at it forever.


In the morning, Sarah and I took another walk up the track of the previous night which continues deeper into the bush, up the side of a mountain, along the top, and then down and around to the beach to the right. It took a few hours, but it was an absolutely prefect day to explore. We had a small surprise as we went on the track, as there was some family scavenger hunt adventure race going on along the track. From seven year olds to grandmas and every age in between, they were racing through the trees past us looking for things on their map. That made the hike a little interesting. :)

The island to the right is Whale Island.

 And even more to the right is White Island, which is an active volcano.

And at the top of the mountain there were LAMBS. Yes. Sorry. Again.


We took off our tennis shoes and walked barefoot the last 40 minutes or so down the beach back to the road leading to the batch.

I found a whole sand dollar. Not pretty, but intact. We'll see if it makes it all the way home that way.

This is a beautiful Pohutukawa, or, New Zealand Christmas tree.

And on our way back to Panui we stopped in Opotiki and visited our friend Bradie. It was lovely to see her. :)


Ah! I shall miss my favorite flamboyant vampire weatherman, Dan! It's been a great two months, Dan. Keep up the entertaining work.

A couple days later, Sarah and I did some beach walking and hiking back in Gizzy. I am starting to see a pattern here with beaches and mountains.......

Then I found a hibernating mountain troll.

One last exciting event before I leave, the Gisborne Ukulele Underground! Yes! How nerdy is that? This group meets every month. They have some people sign up to do a little act (some great, some...more interesting), and in between them there are organized "strumalongs" where they post some songs on their Facebook page in advance, and then show it here on the projector for people to play along on their ukes.

It was a full house, there were about 100 people I think, and two thirds at least, had their ukuleles with them. It was so much fun, I wish I had this back home. Well, next time I will join them again.

And now I will leave you with this lovely picture of a mug that has been sitting on the fence across the street from us for the last two months.

Ka kite ano, Aotearoa.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Journey Home

To the North Island, I feel I must specify. Also you can tell I'm starting to get too deep into LotR stuff.

After Queenstown I took a bus back to Fox, stayed at Sarah P's place again, and then headed out in the morning on another bus, and then the TransAlpine again. I've started to recognize many of the bus drivers, and I will be sad to leave them. My favorite was a Kiwi Wesley Wyndam-Pryce. I swear he looked just like him. (That is for my single Buffy reader.)

Bus pictures:

Mist and clouds. Can you see the mountains? No.



Beautiful felled tree.

Green stuff.

Cat hanging out at a bus stop cafe. 

My prediction was true, I was pretty lucky weather wise coming through the mountains on the way over here. Today has been cloudy and rainy. The difference so far on the train has been that we had to stop for about five minutes on the track because a cow was standing on the train tracks. I think a few of the crew got off the train and shooed it off. The conductor sounded pretty amused on the speaker as he reported this incident.

Last views of the beautiful snowy Southern Alps from my train. Leaving the west coast and back to the east.

Bridges are hard to take pictures on.


I stayed at an old converted jail in Christchurch. When I arrived at the train station it was just about sunset, so dark. I had walking directions to the hostel saved on my phone. The website had touted "only (so and so) meters from the station!" Which is why I chose it. But then, while I walked there burdened with all my stuff, I did the calculation in my head. In feet, surprise, is close to a mile. I was very very tired and trudge-y. But I made it to jail alive, yay.

It was actually a pretty great hostel.

Finally, the next early morning I took a shuttle to the airport. My shuttle was a nervous 30 minutes late to pick me up, which would have actually made me miss my bag-checkin at the airport if my flight had been on time. I didn't know it at the time, so I got super stressed, but when I got to the airport I learned my flight had been delayed arriving an hour and a half. Things work out! Plenty of waiting reading time.

So much snow.

You can see both islands!!

I took one short flight from Christchurch to Wellington, and I had about a six hour layover there before my second flight to Gisborne, so I adventured into the city center to pass the time.

Thankfully, once again, I had perfect weather for walking around. Which for Wellington is highly unusual. Welcome to the capital.

I mean welcome to the Middle of Middle Earth.

I took a bus to the city and decided I had enough time to try to figure out how to get to Weta Workshop. If you're not familiar with this place, it is where they designed and made all the props and costumes for the Lord of the Rings movies, and dozens of other popular films over the years. Avatar, Narnia, District 9, Hobbit, Mad Max (!), King Kong, I, Robot; Van Helsing...and dozens more.

And this is where I tell you I wasn't allowed to take any pictures... sorry. Trust me, it was very cool.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Lord of the Rings- aka Queenstown tour

I went on a Lord of the Rings tour today. Warning, I'm about to write out super nerdy facts that will have absolutely NO context of you aren't a fan. You will be bored if you continue, beware. Nerd gets serious here.

When I booked the tour last night I opted for a half day because it's pretty pricy. -"we only have one spot available in a full day, but you can just pay for a half day." Oh, well twist my arm!

The bus pulled up to The Station in town, the guide greeted me, and he immediately started speaking in Elvish. Okay, I immediately got an idea of what the day would be like.

Bob, our guide, reminded me sort of Stan Shunpike, and/or the actor Mackenzie Crook. One of the most enthusiastic beings I've ever met, and he literally knew every single thing about all of Tolkien's work. 


Some highlight sites. Again, this is serious nerd stuff, so if all you're seeing is a picture of some water or trees, that's pretty much what it is if you're not a SUPER LotR fan. Which I happen to be, but I'll probably get some names and spellings wrong, for those reading who are even bigger fans than I. Anyway:

Some famous places I didn't get pics of, but maybe when I walk around town tomorrow. Minas Tirith was filmed here on Deer Park Heights, and in the same place is where most of Rohan is shown, and ALSO where Aragorn gets dragged off a cliff. It's really just a huge grassy hill now, but of course I'll still try for a picture.

The Remarkables, a range along Lake Wakatipu here in Queenstown, were used as the slopes of Drimrill Dale. After the Fellowship leaves Moria and into all the snow.
(Left range. I'll get a better one later.)

Little better.

The Gates of Argonath, featuring the statues of Isildur and his father, Elendil. (These are actually different people than in the book. But I won't go on about it.)

I learned so much technical filming stuff I can't explain it all here, which was the most interesting aspect of this tour. He literally spent twenty minutes explaining how they shot this scene and which clever perspective camera techniques were used. Which parts were computer added, which angle they went at it, what was a prop, and when they used doubles in scenes.

Spooky forest in the movie prologue where Isildur gets killed and loses the ring.

Where he falls to his death in the water, face down with arrows in his back. Kudos to anyone who is still even reading this far.

Peter Jackson is known for his "jokes" which is really just things he finds amusing, and maybe no one else does. He picked this location to film the scenes mainly for the reason that it is in Arrowtown, in a river called Arrow River, and Isildur is killed with...arrows. Yes, we see what you did there, Peter Jackson.

This is where Arwen calls on the rushing water to sweep away the Nazgul and keep Frodo safe.

Yep. A river.

While we hiked to our last spot, someone asked the inevitable question to Bob: "why couldn't the Eagles just drop the hobbits off at Mt Doom so they can throw in the ring?" And yes, using the Silmirilian and years of nerd knowledge, Bob explained why that couldn't have worked. I have no idea how I can prove it to you, just trust me, it was a convincing reason.

Last spot, Oliphant watching! You know the scene...

I sat where Sam and Frodo sat about 16 years ago.

And then I go to PLAY WITH SWORDS!
Official LotR replicas? Yes please.

So now this is me pretty much geeking out in photo form:

Arwen's sword

Hunting knife Elrond gives Aragorn. This is the one the Orc threw at his face nearing the end of Fellowship. Aragorn knocks it out of the way. The take was an accident and it was actually hurtling toward him, so Viggo literally knocked the knife away from hitting him in the face, which would have been terrible. He really is Aragorn in real life.

I'm a dead Boromir

Then I broke Aragorn's sword

Cool detail!!

And Gimli's axe

And Legolas' knives when he became too close to use his bow and arrows


The next day in Queenstown I walked around every street and hill and garden (and bookshop).

In the morning I walked up Queenstown Hill. You can't tell at all, but this is at about an 80 degree angle. On slick frozen mud and stone. Because snow. It was rather terrifying.

The view at the top was worth it.

Then I headed down to the wharf to people watch.

And I had a Ferg Burger! Very famous place. Busy busy. Was delicious and worth the wait. (Tofu!)

Any bookshops who quotes Black Books is a friend of mine.

Pretty old church

I walked and walked until nighttime.