2015 Reflections & Highlights from a Year in New Zealand, Pt. 1

2015:  What a year. It’s startling to think back to last January and realize how much has changed, and how quickly. If you’ll indulge me, then, on a trip down memory lane featuring some photos of New Zealand that for one reason or another never made it to the blog.

I’ve had to split up this post into two parts, simply because there was so much I wanted to share! Part 1 will cover our travels in New Zealand from January through August. Part 2, to come in a day or so, will include photos from Australia and more thoughts on our move to Portland. I hope you enjoy!

Wellington Botanic Gardens
Wellington Botanic Garden

We begin in windy Wellington, New Zealand’s capital, in high summer. The hydrangeas were blooming gloriously in a riot of colors this day in the Botanic Gardens. We stayed in cheerful, blustery Wellington in a dilapidated rental house until January 16th, when, bidding goodbye to our feisty South African friend and chef extraordinaire, we drove our unreliable Honda Accord onto the Interislander Ferry and sailed south across the Cook Strait. Continue reading “2015 Reflections & Highlights from a Year in New Zealand, Pt. 1”

Hiking Through Mordor

Probably the single coolest thing we’ve done in New Zealand was the one-day, 19.4-kilometer Tongariro Alpine Crossing. This tremendous “day walk” weaves its way between two active volcanoes, past jewel-colored lakes made famous by their mineral deposits, to a summit of over 1800 meters from which you descend through patches of snow and reddish-tinged alpine plants with steam vents billowing all around you. It was inspiring, very tiring, and one of our top three recommendations for what to do in New Zealand.

We drove to Tongariro National Park from our AirBnb place in Taupo, which took just over an hour. The road winds around the Lake and the little towns scattered along its shores, then through deep, dramatic pine forest. We parked our car in the Ketetahi Car Park, then paid for a shuttle (at $30 each! sheesh) to drive us to Mangetepopo Car Park, where the start of the track is located. Since it’s a one-way track, unfortunately there’s no way to avoid the shuttle fee. I would, however, highly recommend booking the shuttle at the start of the day, and not the end; we passed several tourists who were panicked about not finishing the crossing quickly enough and being stranded. And this is not a walk that can be rushed.

Volcanic Risk Normal
Starting the track at Mangetepopo Car Park – Volcanic Risk Normal

Continue reading “Hiking Through Mordor”

Lovely Lake Taupo

Somewhat to our surprise, Taupo ended up being our favorite place on the North Island — surprising because we hadn’t really heard much about it. With a population of 23,400, Taupo is one of the larger towns in New Zealand (in fact, it’s apparently the 20th largest urban area), and is situated alongside the glimmering, shimmering lake from which the town takes its name.

Driving alongside Taupo

Continue reading “Lovely Lake Taupo”

The Shire in Spring

Wednesday, October 29th was the fateful day we visited Hobbiton.

Hobbiton - Welcome sign

The Hobbiton movie set is located roughly equidistantly between Lake Rotorua and Mount Maunganui, so either place is a good jumping off point for a visit to The Shire (Matamata is a very small town, and I’m not sure what the accommodations are like there).

Apart from mentioning that the exorbitant $75 per person ticket cost is absolutely worth it, I thought this post should be overwhelmingly dominated by photos. The set was incredibly lifelike, nestled among the hills of a 1,250-acre sheep farm in the heart of the North Island.

And so it begins. Continue reading “The Shire in Spring”