Day 4: New Zealand – Shire At Last

It’s the job that’s never started as takes longest to finish.
~ Sam, Fellowship of the Ring

Sam’s words summarized my trip to New Zealand quite nicely, after all, I had been talking about it for years but never made it a priority and the saying was apropos considering the quest to Middle Earth had been instantiated during the time of The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

In the middle of the night, I woke up with a start. It was 4am. Looking around most people were still sleeping well in the warm Marae, except I notice Ian is awake reading a book across the room. I wave to him and he gives me a confused look. I suppose he didn’t think anyone else would be awake at this hour.

Wandered outside to go to the restroom and took pause after I closed the door behind me. The sky was littered with stars and it was breathtaking. I take in a cool breath and give a happy sigh. No light pollution on this street. Earlier in the night when we were outside Ian had taught us how to find the Southern Cross, which I committed to memory even though I doubt I’ll have a chance to look for it again being that you can only see it in the Southern Hemisphere. These are the things I appreciate, the small bits of knowledge which people share with you, that are completely unexpected, and wonderful. I mind hug all the details.

Even though I can find you without an app, I took a screencap to remember how I felt.

Even though I can find you without an app, I took a screencap to remember how I felt.

Going back to bed after the bathroom, Beckah stirs from her cot and gives me a “where were you?” look, I mouth “bathroom” and she eases back into comfort again. I fall asleep. As I wake again everyone is packing and getting ready for breakfast. I notice that Beckah’s cold from the night before seemed a little worse and riffle out of backpack the Oxylent multi-vitamins I had been carrying around in case I got sick. Handed a pack to her and told her to mix it with water and have with breakfast. She lights up, flashes me a smile, and heads off.

Oxylent. Always carry these around on vaca, just in case.

Oxylent. Always carry these around on vaca, just in case.

Walk to the kitchen for breakfast and Beckah comes over to thank me, she’s feeling better after the burst of vitamins. I say something to the effect of “It’s the least I could do after being graced by your beautiful voice.” Seriously Beckah, you have no idea how your voice saved my Raglan experience. Simon comes up and remarks “What about MY beautiful voice?” I reach up to pat him on the shoulder “Yours too, yours too.” He beams as I laugh.

Packing up the bus, Simon and Beckah would be departing from the tour to explore a bit more here. The first departure from our merry troop. We give hugs and I pull out 4 Justin’s Peanut Butter cups (another vacation staple of mine) to give to Simon to share. He looks surprised but happily takes them. I give them both hugs and we take off. A quick pang of sadness hits me, after all these were the first people I talked to on the tour, but I needed to perk up, today was Hobbiton day!

We start driving again to Base, a hostel in Rotorua, where the Hobbiton tours would be picking up. Naturally I pass out on the way there again and awake to hop off our tour bus and hop onto the Hobbiton bus with Ian, Lisa, Sonja, Denisha, and Eva.

Base Rotorua

Base Rotorua

Upon boarding we get handed a pamphlet an I am teeming with excitement. I give the brochure a mind hug and flip through it with as much calm as I can muster. Once at the main building to purchase tickets and I am welcomed a Hobbiton sign and Gandalf at the door.

Then we board the bus again drive over hillsides to our tour. The hills are singing with sheep and I just feel good. Fittingly, before I left we watched a private screening of Shaun the Sheep for my birthday, since I have a great affinity for cartoon sheep. But please no one get me any more sheep toys, I have this HUGE box of them from a couple years back when people realized how adorbs I thought they were. You can love something and not want 150 of them.

When we arrive finally at the Hobbiton site the tour guide meets us and explains the rules of engagement.

1. Do not be that slow person.
2. Lunch is 30 mins, order your food in the Green Dragon Inn immediately upon arrival.
3. Do not pet the Hobbiton cat.
4. Again repeated for posterity, do not be the slow person. Tours following our tour would be hot on our heels.

We started off and I’m basically ignoring all the history that she’s telling us about Hobbiton. While skipping around trying all kinds of angles for the photos, I hear peripherally something like “Oh they built it for the movie, tore it down after the third movie and then resurrected the whole thing for The Hobbit.”

The other great thing about today, finally another brilliant day with no rain. It could almost, almost be called warm. We are allotted mere minutes to take photos with the cottages, and there are 2 special times where we can take official photos inside a Hobbit house and next to Bagsend. At Bags End we learn that the tree had been redone and the leaves were tied onto the tree. She hands out one of the fallen leaves to someone on our tour and I just die inside, wishing it was me that held a precious piece of Hobbiton to take home. More photos ensue.

I finally want to take one of those hipster poser photos where it’s just your shoes/socks and the background, oh you know the one on all those travel blogs. I had seen one at Hobbiton on @mattglastonbury’s Instagram feed with a tent and wanted to recreate it. But truth be told, it was not as laid back and easy as it appears. The ground where I would sit was muddy and at a slope, so I put down my snowboarding jacket on top a spot, then I was far behind the main tour and got yelled at to hurry up. Then upon sitting I almost slide backwards down the hill and my roommates Sonja and Lisa reached over to make sure I didn’t roll down the hill. All the effort for the one shot to look effortless and nice. Ha. Instagram magic folks!

Just chillin' in The Shire. NBD.

Just chillin’ in The Shire. NBD.

We see the tent that Merry and Pippin light the fireworks at and the huge tree where they end up shooting them off, before finally landing at the Green Dragon in where we get a complimentary beer or cider with our tour. I choose beer and then off to the main resting area where we could choose to buy lunch, but if you want lunch you need to order immediately as there is only 30 mins total at the Green Dragon Inn before heading back.

None of the folks on the tour partake in food and I snack on some granola I had in my bag and pet the Green Dragon cat that is relaxing on the couch that the guide said no one should pet. At Hobbiton I’m a rules breaker. In all fairness the cat was super friendly and liked being petted.

Then I head to the Hobbiton bathrooms, because honestly I need to see where Hobbits do their business, and it’s kind of amazing as well.

After that our tour is complete and we head to the next natural course of action, the gift shop. I pick up several postcards, a poster of Middle Earth and Hobbiton International Stamps which I’m stoked about and then we’re back off to meet our bus at Base again.

Back on the Stray bus we head over to Waiotapu to see some geo thermal action before back on the bus.

Gift shop all the things

Gift shop all the things

While I really love candy, mostly when drunk, honestly I’d prefer a savory snack almost well… always. I ended up buying the Rashuns at the store because well they looked good and they have this penguin like bird on the packaging. Cute packaging, that is really how I decide what I eat, or how I do all major decisions for that matter. They were just what I wanted.

Mmmm... savory.

Mmmm… savory.

Then we’re off to meet someone from another Maori tribe. I’ll call him tall plaid handsome because well, I forgot his name and the descriptors fit. We head off to yet another waterfall, and by now I’m getting sick of most of the waterfalls we’ve been walking to and end up heading back up quickly to the van to sit with Seagull and TPH.

That night we’d be staying at a hostel in Galatea, which had the most beautiful grounds of all our stays thus far. In the choice of activities I only picked the Maori martial arts with Marscha and decided in addition to that my only activity for this picturesque place would be to drink beer.

For dinner we’d be doing a traditional meal of meats baked underground. Unlike a luau where they basically ruin all the meats by shredding it to pieces when it’s done and serving it with tasteless poi, here we’d be having everything whole.

Others chose to weave baskets and make fried bread as I continued to drink while watching them. Finally it was time for martial arts class with TPH. The photos make us look pretty badass, but honestly what he taught was a lot like judo, in using the opponents weight to throw them off balance and then attack them. TPH kept forgetting the english words to describe stuff and would shyly laugh while talking to us. He always smiled when I helped him find the words.

After that was done I just spent time running around, drinking beer, and taking photos of the sunset, it was gorgeous.

Finally dinner arrives and we’re all starving. The food is amazing. End up chatting a guy serving drinks working at the hostel who is from the states, I think he was from Arizona. If you order a certain beer and answer the trivia question wrong the tradition is that you need to chug that beer. Sadly I get the question wrong and who am I to break with tradition?

This was SO good. Crispy pork skin!

This was SO good. Crispy pork skin!

For the next after dinner beer I chose the other brand to save myself from myself. At the bar I sat with Lucy who was petrified of sky diving tomorrow. She was on her 5th glass of wine, but hadn’t really settled into the idea of skydiving yet. Despite what I had said prior to my trip, I had decided on my birthday that this was something I was going to do in New Zealand. The commitment to the activity was there, but honestly it didn’t feel real yet.

Lingering in the back of my mind, I didn’t want to miss visiting one of the most beautiful places on earth and not having embraced it. I’m generally conservative, but I can honestly say that I tend to live a life free of regrets. Everything that we’ve chosen for ourselves was the right thing at the time. It’s lead us to this place, to this person we are now, with this unique set of experiences. I can’t reasonably say I have any regrets because it would mean being someone else other than the person I am now, and right now I am happy.

Our hostess started talking about tomorrow’s plans with us, but by then I was pretty drunk and just wanted to go to bed. I snuck out and into the warmth of my bunk and passed out.

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