I took this picture in Taupo, New Zealand. It’s just of a randomly placed telephone booth. I’m not even sure if it’s a functioning one, but at the time I thought it was worthy of being remembered. It looks like the London telephone booths, but with an island twist.
It wasn’t until I went to New Zealand that I realized I’d readjusted my brain to accept that the Australians drive on the other side of the road. When my tour guide would remind the North Americans to look right first, I felt like I couldn’t quite identify with them anymore because I’d been in Australia long enough that I was practically Australian in that sense.
At first, I remember figuring out traffic patterns being complicated and down right mind boggling. My friends and I did a lot of street crossing against the signals our first week which probably wasn’t the smartest thing, but we’re all still alive. There were a few close calls, however, when we’d hastily try to cross the street instead of taking our time to double check for cars coming from the right direction. One soon realizes it’s not easy to rid yourself of a habit that’s been ingrained into your brain since the time you were old enough to understand. Just contemplating the possibility of that happening is inane.
As time’s gone by, I realized I didn’t have to think as hard when it came to crossing the street. I would just have to mentally remind myself which way to look first and that it wasn’t left. But it hadn’t occurred to me that I’d progressed as far as reacting without thinking about it until I was around people who were new to the whole Australians-drive-on-the-wrong-side-of-the-road situation again. You know, when I think about it, it’s almost ironic how it took a weeklong vacation to another country for me to figure out my brain had been slowly rewired. That thought alone was enough to slightly rattle my very being.
Now that I’ve come to that realization, I can only imagine what it’ll be like returning to the States. It’ll be like going to Australia all over again. That’s probably the least of my worries because I can just picture what it’ll be like to drive a car again after five months. Just maybe, if I’m lucky, it will be like riding a bike. The fact I haven’t driven here at all should help, right? Let’s hope so for everyone else’s sake. At this point, I can only look forward to the time it takes me to retrain my brain while, in the meantime, I head to the wrong side of the car and check for traffic the wrong way. There’s no telling how my family will react to my actions, but knowing them it’ll be with jokes I’ll never be able to live down.
My #1 priority during my trip to New Zealand was not only to see a country of diverse beauty but to go on a Lord of the Rings tour. Unfortunately, I was unable to make it to Hobbiton in Matamata, but I was able to make it to Wellington, back to where all the magic happened. Wellington is the home of Peter Jackson and the Weta Workshop, after all, where creative ingenuity brings movies to life. Avatar, District 9 and The Chronicles of Narnia are just to name a few.
First, before I even got to Wellinton, my tour group happened to pass by the mountain used as Mount Doom on our drive to the city. Mount Ngauruhoe, as it’s really known, is an active volcano situated on the Central Plateau region south of Lake Taupo. The mountain itself strikes an imposing figure on the landscape.
In Wellington, the first filming location we visited was Mount Victoria. This is where Frodo’s infamous “Get off the road!” scene was shot among many other scenes used throughout the trilogy. This is also where the hobbits roll down the hill and hide from the Dark Rider, although the horse and rider were shot in a different location on Mount Victoria.
Outside the city, we pulled off the highway along the Hutt River. This river was used for various scenes where the Fellowship was rowing down the River Anduin. To achieve a forest on both banks, they shot Boromir facing upstream and Aragorn facing downstream. They weren’t actually in a ravine or sitting next to each other during production. It’s truly amazing what they can do with special effects.
After the river, we visited Rivendell. All that’s left of the filming location is the picnic area among the forest where the necessary sets were built for filming then destroyed afterwards. These would’ve included Frodo’s bedroom, a staircase and a bridge. The rest was done post-production with visual effects. Afterwards, however, the same location was used to shoot photos of Orlando Bloom as Legolas for posters.
Our last location, after Rivendell, was the park that was used for the gardens of Isengard. In particular, the scene where Gandalf rides up to the tower and later when Saruman and he are walking through the gardens were shot here. What’s amazing is that you’d never know it’s just some quaint little park off the beaten path. The only evidence left behind is the strip of grass where they laid the path Gandalf rides along.
It may not have been Hobbiton, but the tour was well worth it. Not only was it a great way to see Wellington, but it was rather educational also. Finding out how every scene was shot gave me a whole new appreciation for the movie business. It’s unbelievable how much work and effort go in behind the scenes to get the perfect shot even if it’s only a few seconds long. In that case, Peter Jackson may just be a filmmaking genius. There are also many little secrets hidden within the trilogy whether they were planned or happened during filming. Peter Jackson even went to great lengths to include the actors’ families, his children and even himself somehow.
For anyone visiting New Zealand, therefore, I would highly suggest going on a Lord of the Rings tour whether or not you’re a fan. It’s something different, eye-opening and it may just be entertaining if a hardcore fan is along.
There’s no better way to spend a day in New Zealand than sailing and that’s exactly what I did. The first half of my day was spent looking for dolphins and the other half was spend sailing among the 144 islands of the Bay of Islands on a genuine sailboat.
In the morning, I boarded the Dolphin Discoveries boat and we cruised around the Bay of Islands looking for dolphins. Finally, we came across a pod and for those who were keen they could jump in and swim with the dolphins. For whatever reason I didn’t get in and I’m regretting it a little bit, but there’s nothing I can do about it now and if I’m lucky maybe I’ll get the chance again someday.
Around lunch time, the sun finally came out and it started warming up. The Dolphin Discoveries dropped our group off in Otehei Bay where we were served a barbecue lunch of traditional New Zealand dishes. Our remaining time in the bay was spent lying in the sun by the shore. It was almost too good to be true lying there in paradise.
The rest of the afternoon was spent aboard the Lion New Zealand, an 80 foot racing yacht. It was built specifically for the 1985/1986 Whitbread Round the World Yacht Race and it’s the winner of the 1984 Sydney to Hobart race. I’ve never been sailing before, but I’ve go to say that it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. There really is some kind of unearthly beautfy to flying over the water.
The Bay of Islands, New Zealand is one of the most spectacular places I’ve ever been to in the world. The city of Paihai, in particular, is a quaint little fishing town full of character that is perfect for exploring the Bay of Islands from. I hope someday I may get the chance to return.
The biggest risk I’ve probably ever taken, apart from coming to Australia, would be taking a solo trip to New Zealand. Not only did I book my trip a couple of weeks before I was to depart the country, but I did it with an online travel agency for students that I didn’t know anything about. On top of that, the tour group I was going with was also completely foreign to me. I never read any reviews or did any research about the company or any alternatives. I just enquired about a trip to New Zealand within specific dates, took what worked and ran with what I was given without looking back.
To add to my list, I didn’t receive my trip information until a few days before I was leaving so I was unable to work out specific details pertaining to my trip until the days before I left. These were things such as transportation, exchanging currency and packing. As if all my uncertainty and worries weren’t taking such a toll on my stress level already then the financial aspect of this trip most certainly would. I didn’t plan to spend as much as I did, but it made me come to the reality that I won’t be able to do as much as I originally planned and forced me to assess my priorities.
Looking back after having returned from New Zealand, my trip may have been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done in my life. I was forced to get out of my comfort zone and meet new people for the second time this year. I experienced things some people will only dream of experiencing, seeing or doing. I went sailing, zorbing and embraced my nerdy side by going on a Lord of the Rings tour. I even went most of my week without any form of communication with the outside world which is an increasingly difficult thing to do nowadays. It was unbelievingly freeing to discover a new country without any distractions because I did nothing but live in the moment, dealing with what life handed me as it came. Without the fear and worry clouding my mind, I’m glad I invested my money in this once in a lifetime chance because some things in life are meant to work out the way they do for a reason.