Middle Earth (the southern half)

Alrighty, so I decided it’s time to do a serious..ish piece about somewhere I have been, seeing as I’m trying to do a travel blog here. So I have chosen somewhere I wanted to go ever since I saw the first Lord of the rings movie,  the home of L & P (you’ll see)…. NEW ZEALAND!

So one of the good things about travelling is, you can utilise everyone you know for a free place to stay, for me it was with my very good friend of mine, who happened to be living the dream in Queenstown, and I decided to swap shorts for thermals and pay her a visit.

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And bless my beard  wasn’t it a good time. So during the wine fueled reunion that was, we decided to chop some wood (because thats how you keep warm here) and recount on good times. The following morning however we didn’t feel too awesome, and a certain famous  hangover cure nicknamed the ‘Heart attack’exclusive at a cafe on the main street, was suggested. Here is a photo pre heart attack, when life was okay and not full of regrets

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So after heart attacks were had we decided to go Luging after a delightful gondola ride up Bob’s Peak, where you can also watch people bungee jump! obviously what I needed that morning. Luging is pretty pricey but we got a major discount because of connections, if you are on a budget I advise using any and every connection you have, however small. It can be the difference between spending gold or silver (because there is no bronze) Anyway after all this nonsense, APRES LUGE!!! it’s a thing alright, if it wasn’t before it definitely is now. It just means drinking after luging and another saving tip, drink local draught beer, if you want to be fancy, add a  lime wedge.

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This is also the day I discovered L & P when it was suggested as a hangover cure. It is NOT lemonade. well it is but it’s like magic lemonade that solves all lifes problems, I could not get enough of it, I have yet to find it in Australia, they should bring it here. I LOVE L & P. There I’m done.

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One comment I also need to make before I continue, if you’re planning on doing a year or two in New Zealand, do try and take as much money as possible. You can work for minimum wage, but it will not balance out, I swear a Green pepper was $10 or something (5ish quid), that’s punishment for being slightly cultured, also they call them capsicums, nutters.

Anyway back to funtimes.

After all this fun myself and my compadre took a NakedBus, which is a very delightful and cheap way of getting around New Zealand (if you’re strapped for cash) to Fox Glacier, a 6 hour bus journey but worth it for beautiful sights such as this.

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To get to this slice of heaven, we hired bikes from a nice lady kindly pointed out to us by the owner of the Fox Glacier Inn we were staying at. Everyone was really friendly here, but then there were only about 6 houses and a newsagents…it was quaint. This ‘mirror lake’ was only 6km away so it didn’t take too long to get to and it was breathtaking. Apparantly the water in this lake came from the glacier we then hiked up the next day which is why it’s so pristine.

So Fox Glacier, with us in front it, it looks like this.

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This photo does not do it justice, the glacier is huge, gargantuan even and used to be bigger. If you ever find yourself this side of the world I highly recommend doing a hike up it, and do it with a guide. If not here than there is also Franz Joseph which Nakedbus also travels to. There are loads of different types of hikes suited to everyone’s abilities and they provide the equipment. You also learn lots of awesome stuff and it’s very hard for you to do anything stupid or dangerous. Our guide, a lovely german bloke, told us a story of a hiker who climbed the glacier alone almost a hundred years ago and was never seen again, they are now waiting for him to float down the river perfectly preserved.

On our way back from Fox Glacier we made a few stops, one being Knights point, and we saw a Toohey bird (yes like the beer) I didn’t manage to get a picture of the elusive creature however a few hours further south I managed to get a snap of Wanaka lake, we think someone had a bonfire going.

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So Queenstown again, this time we did all the tourist things you are supposed to do, which includes adrenalin seeking. We did the Shotover Canyon Swing and the Jetboat, I insist that everyone should do this, especially if you’re not much of an adrenalin junkie, it’s a good way of easing into it. We chickened out a bit and had them let us go as apposed to jumping ourselves, I don’t have an excuse, I just didn’t want to do it.

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The staff are all awesome at this company, and they will try and freak you out, try not to listen, or at least pretend you’re not listening. The Shotover Jetboat is also a thrill, for anyone that’s been on one before I assure you it is not like this. I feared for my life on numerous occasions during that activity, I advise you wear a scarf around your face or you’ll just whinge about the cold, honestly, if Gandalf  can do it (and he did) you can.

FUN FACT: shotover river is also where Arwen summons the river horses in LOTR, just saying.

Also guys, when in Queenstown get a Fergburger, they ARE amazing, the rumours ARE true, don’t ask questions, just do it. I got a crying Bambi, you can guess what was in it, I don’t regret it. We also went to the Onsen Hot pools after all this activity in the snow, which are basically massive open air jacuzzi’s, and  awesome for $40 after all that cold, you can also watch the jetboat down below while you are all warm.

So after Queenstown we made our way south on another Nakedbus to Invercargill. Now we made a bit of a mistake here, there really is not too much going on in this part of the world, unless you have a car. I got it in my head that we would be near the beach and see penguins,unfortunately we were to presumptuous and ended up doing nothing but walk around trying to find something to do all day. There really is nothing here although we found the information centre which had a museum and a big park and decided to please our inner children and play here for a few hours.

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So after Invercargill we got on another Nakedbus North East to Dunedin, and we enjoyed it!It was easy enough to get to  our hostel (Central Backpackers) as we got a free single ticket on the local buses if we had travelled with NakedBus.  The staff at our hostel offered to take us on a tour around the peninsula, for around $170 which may seem a lot but it was worth it to visit the Penguin reserve, which I was over the moon about because we arrived at an awkward time of the day.

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Our guide was very knowledgeable and was determined to show us ‘everything’ The penguin reserve was awesome, we got incredibly close to a lot of penguins and also a bit too close to a few seals.

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They did not seem to bothered by us though so all was well.

We also managed to squeeze in a tour around Dunedin Castle and also saw the steepest street in the world! How many people can say they’ve seen that, sod climbing it though.

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So yes Lanarch Castle, very tragic story behind the whole family that lived there, lots of suicide and affairs and disease, sounds like a decent soap opera plot but I won’t ruin it for you. It’s an awesome building and is New Zealand’s only castle, its 143 years old which is admittedly nothing compared to England’s castles but its old for New Zealand! I also has stunning views of the peninsula so you can see why William Lanarch built it for his wife.

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We ended our trip of the south island in Christchurch, which I admit I knew very little about apart from the earthquakes. I booked a Lord of the Rings tour (naturally) prior to arriving there and I’m glad we did because I was shocked by what I saw when we arrived.

Christchurch was tragically hit by an Earthquake in 2011 and the damage still hsn;t been repaired. A lot of the roads and the paths are blocked so there are a lot of one way systems and places that even pedestrians cannot reach. Our hostel should have been a 5 minute taxi ride, or a 15 minute walk but instead it took 25 minutes to get to it because of these systems. There is still debris on the roads and devastation to a lot of buildings. A memorial near our hostel really moved me, it was called 185 empty chairs, each chair was painted white, and is unique, to represent the 185 unique people lost during the earthquake.

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It’s amazing how little has been done about the damage done to the city, but the people here are fantastically chirpy and happy to answer any questions you may have or even have a chat. Which brings me to the Lord of the Rings tour.

As an LOTR geek, naturally I had been banging on about this tour from the moment I had booked it. We were picked up from right outside our door, and because no one else had booked that day we had the whole bus to ourselves!

Some peoples idea of their worst nightmare but I was just happy to be going to Rohan. It was a 2 hour drive to Mount Sunday which is where Edoras is but we saw some magnificent sights along the way.

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This is a picture of Rakaia river which was unfortunately dried up when we saw it, and also the Southern Alps, which are also used in the films as Misty mountains.

So the tour, I made friends with a pig, I called him Boris, this is Boris.

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Making friends with Boris actually inspired me to be a vegetarian for a couple of weeks. I know, I’m terrible, but look how cute he is! So Boris and his girlfriend and loads of cows lived at the only cafe around Mount Sunday. Which is also where we stopped for lunch and it was delicious!

But on to Rohan, so this is it from far away, not very recognisable, apparently Peter Jackson found this by helicopter.

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And this is me on Edoras getting involved with a flag

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So the tour was awesome, and it’s one of the most beautiful and picturesque areas I have ever seen.The wind speed on tp the mountain was incredible, something like 65mph, I have no idea how all the actors did their parts and were still coherent. So our tour guide also let us play with a lot of replica swords too, as well as telling us loads of stuff about the movie. The tour group are the only people allowed to drive up the mountain and everyone else has to walk about a million miles from the photo I showed you from far away, its well worth the money.

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I also took a panoramic shot of helms deep, just so I could remember how open and awesome this place was.

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So that was pretty much my trip. I haven’t mentioned everything just so I have stories to tell when I see you, whoever you are, but hopefully I have inspired you to get yourself to Middle Earth and try EVERYTHING. I still have to go back and do everything I had no time for, it’s on my list.

 

Ciao for now!

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