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The trip to New Zealand in 2005 has been my very first journey to sniff the air of a foreign country.
We flew from Frankfurt over Dubai with a 1-day stop in Bangkok and Melbourne heading for Auckland.
Our flight with Emirates took nearly 30 hours and we were very eased to be finally at our target.
In Auckland we took delivery of our 4x4 car and we headed for the Glowworm Caves in Waitomo.
I planned the whole route months before, so we exactly knew where to go. The cave should be our first target. It is nice to see and the billions of glowworms are spectacular. But the caves is just one little part of what should be our adventure and there was still so much to come.
NEW ZEALAND - More Sheep Than People?
Seeking For Gollum, Frodo, Gandalf and Mordor
In 2001 "The Lord Of The Rings" flooded the cinemas, so our intention for this trip has been primarily a trip to all the filming locations of that fantastic movie.
We had a navigation laptop with lots of GPS data and a "LOTR" Location Guide with us, so the adventure could begin.
Before we started to enter the forgotten highway, we made a detour to the so called "Marokopa Falls", located at the west coast in the Waitomo district. Here a bad thing happened and I'm still glad to be alive.
The Marokopa falls are of such a beauty, that I felt motivated to climb up to its top. My video camera in my left hand, my backpack over my shoulder and my small Canon IXUS 700 in my right hand, I crawled over the slippery stones close to the steep slope of the fall... and then it happened:
Marokopa Falls, Waitomo District
Narrowly Escaping Death
Because of all the harsh flowing water and the algae on the stones, I slipped down for a meter or so until I got to sit somehow, very close to the slope. The water was flowing over my legs and I immediately thought about my expensive video camera and my camera backpack, but I needed to get out of the water, because one half meter further, and I would fall down for 10-12 meters.
So in less than a second I decided to sacrifice my Canon IXUS camera and rammed it into surrounding stones.
The water flowed over the camera, but I been able, to crawl back into a safe area... woaaahhhh... I'm still getting goose bumps, thinking about all that.
As time has gone by and it got dark, we searched for a campsite. Here I disassembled the camera, not knowing whether it still would work and put it onto a heater for a couple of hours.
The next morning I reassembled the camera and wow... the LCD-screen, which looked horrible at first, worked again. What a lucky guy I am???
Canon IXUS 700, A Former Masterpiece And A Real Lifesaver (Actually The Picture Is Made In 2016 - The IXUS Is Still Alive)
"The Forgotten Highway"
Incredibly relieved about not having ruined my camera, we headed for the forgotten highway now, until we nearly got stuck in a tunnel. Glad me, that before entering the highway (which isn't a highway actually, rather than a gravel road in the middle of nowhere), I filled up the tank with gasoline.
The highway had a length of more than 100 KM and there's really nothing in between and of course not a gas station.
As a photographer and night-sky lover, I noticed a sky which I never saw before. It has been crystal clear and super dark with billions of stars... what a stunning view. The fact, that New Zealand has less air pollution, lets the sky appear in its full glory.
We loved to spend the night on this highway, not knowing where we were... it was dark and we couldn't see anything... ahh... did I mention, that we had a flat tire? I decided to take care of it the next morning.
When we then woke up very early, a landscape revealed which took my breath away. Everything was totally new to us and we felt, like in a different world.
Along The "Forgotten Highway" - Jungle
"If You Don't Like The Weather, Just Wait For 10 Minutes!"
I really don't know anymore, if we had a spare tire with us, but I exactly know, that I decided to drive with the flat tire for the rest of about 40km until we found a tire repair service.
The landscapes in New Zealand are changing as radical as the weather. Somebody told me once, that if I don't like the weather, I just need to wait a few minutes... and it was exactly like this... in one minute we had such a rain, that we thought, we would drown in the jungle and 10 minutes later the sun came out and it has been 25°C.
I've been so speechless by the creators’ terra forming, for me New Zealand was the paradise... from a traveling and photographing point of view. These impressions were just too much for my family and me. (I need to mention, that two of my kids are blind, so they couldn't see much, but they felt, that something is totally different 🙂 )
The Natural Hot Water Tub
Ok, so we headed further to the Tongariro National park to visit the first filming locations of "LOTR" and to take part on a wildwater raft. Unfortunately I don't remember the name anymore, but we were invited to take a hot bath in a hot pool in the garden of one of the service guys.
What the hell was that?
Hot water?... directly taken from a stream a few meters away? I needed to inspect this.
There was a stream delta. One stream from the left has been super hot, the other one from the right was super cold. In the middle, where they met, the water had a nice temperature... 20cm to the left or to the right it was either super hot or super cold again... spectacular 🙂
So we took our bath before we tried the wild water raft.
LOL... I'll never forget that, because what I knew about rafting, was totally different.
Holy hell, that was really a pain and "I'm so what from not sporty" hahahahah (yeah, I know... Pidgin... but it sounds so funny *LOL* )
Wild Water Rafting On The Tongariro River
We Found Gollum... Or At Least: THE Stone
Outgoing from the Tongariro we searched for the Whakapapa-Fields, north of Mt. Ruapehu. Here should be our first LOTR-poi. Luckily, I had pictures and gps data of the stone-formation, where Gollum has been established in the movie.
The weather was bad and it was cold... really "bone-shittingly-cold", but our motivation has been strong, so we walked and walked and walked to find "Gollums Stone"... and we finally found it... how inconspicuous *LOL*... it was just a stone... not more, not less.
(for future POIs we also needed a strong imagination for recognizing one of the other movie-locations 🙂 )
Whakapapa Fields, New Zealand - Filming Location For "Lord Of The Rings"
"RIVENDELL" And Dirty Hutts
After the visit of the Whakapapa-Fields we made a detour to New Plymouth, which we didn't like so much, as it reminded us on the german "North Sea" however.
From New Plymouth we drove south to the Otaki Gorge - a new "LOTR" point of interest.
By the way, we spent all our nights on campsites. Some of them have been equipped with little hutts, most of them were pretty well, some others have been horribly dirty and I had the one or other conversation with the owners. I don't wanna talk too much about the downsides. Every downside brought some other amazing experiences, so we didn't really care.
Arrived at the "Upper and Lower Hutt" we searched for "Rivendell". Those ones, who saw the movie, know what I'm talking about 🙂
"Rivendell" is just a small part of a beautiful forest, but even here: nothing really to recognize.
Kaitoke Regional Park - RIVENDELL - Filming Location For "Lord Of The Rings"
Miramar - WETA Digital And A Coffee With Peter Jackson?
Next stop: Wellington.
The capital of New Zealand and one of the windiest places, we ever been. We took the cable car to see the city from above, before we headed for "Miramar".
"Miramar" is a small suburb of Wellington and the head office of?... naaa?... YESSSS..."WETA Digtal"... the company of Peter Jackson, the creator of "The Lord Of The Rings", "The Hobbit", "Avatar" and many other blockbusters. For me as a Digital Artist, it has been a very special location, but unfortunately it was closed somehow. I tried to call some of my friends, who already work there, but what the heck: I forgot all their phone numbers... "merde"...
That was a pity, but also to be honest... -> I had my pants full and was also a bit glad, that I didn't meet one of the guys there 🙂 Anyway... seeing the place where I formerly would have liked to work, was a nice experience... well... maybe one day?
"Hobbiton", near Matamata
"The Party Tree & Bilbo Baggins" - Visiting The Hobbits
Unfortunately we didn't have the time for the south island, so we drove back to the north, but this time along the east coast.
Our next destination should be Matamata, a dreamy small village with one of the highlights of our location scouting tour as it's the inital point for a trip to "Hobbiton".
On our way we passed the wonderful Lake Waikaremoana and the Waimangu Thermal Village, near Rotorua. Between Hamilton and Rotorua, Matamata is located, where we booked a tour to Hobbiton.
"Hobbiton" is the home of the hobbits of LOTR and one of the last complete extant movie locations.
Nowadays they already rebuild Hobbiton though, but in 2005 it was a very special experience for us to see, where the hobbits lived and even the big hobbit-tree we did see in natural size.
Fortunately only a few tourists have been there, but the reason might have been the tons of sheep excrements 😀
Anyway we recognized nearly everything, from the big tree to the small hobbit houses and walkways and it was obvious to me, why Peter Jackson chose this hidden place.
"Hobbiton", near Matamata - The Big Tree
Swimming With The Dolphins
At the Coromandel peninsula we booked a "Swim With The Dolphins"-Tour. Nowadays I wouldn't do that again (out of respect for the animals), but seeing these confiding animals in their own environment, has been a really special experience for all of us.
We also visited Cathedral Cove - a "must" for every bucket list and a place like in the blockbuster movies.
We still had some days to go, so we decided to visit the Most Northern Point of New Zealand - Cape Reinga and its lighthouse. The access road has been the so called "90 mile beach"... a very sandy pathway along a (not) 90 mile long beach :). As for the fact, that many people tried to drive the road by their own and later on had pretty much problems, we drove by bus.
And yes... we did see the one or other car, stucking in the sand... I mean... they didn't really stuck, they were rather buried... since years 😀
Swimming With Dolphins - Coromandel
"Malle" On New Zealand And The Big, Big Tree
Cape Reinga is also a "must see". Not really the lighthouse itself, but the surrounding beaches.
It's like being in paradise... everything is so rough and calm...this is, what I expected from New Zealand and this is, what makes NZ so special.
After visiting New Zealand, I traveled a lot. I - as a "beach hunter" never saw beaches like the ones on New Zealand... not on Hawaii, but maybe the one or other in South Africa.
Ok.. now slowly we had to go back to Auckland, as there my biggest adventure waited for me. On the way we made a side trip to the "Malle Of New Zealand" -> Paihia.
("Malle" is a german saying and Germans pretty much know, what I mean 😉 )
I didn't like Paihia... lots of tourism, beach parties and hectic... not my case, but what we didn't wanted to miss, is the "Tāne Mahuta" one of the biggest trees ever and a so called "Kauri Tree". Its height is r.a. 51m and its diameter nearly 14m... wow... that's a huge tree 🙂
Cape Reinga - The Most Northern Point Of New Zealand
My Very First Jump EVER... 192m Jump-By-Wire
OK... drum roll... 🙂
Arrived in Auckland, we headed for the Sky Tower, because in Germany I already booked a Sky Jump.
Sky Jumping means, jumping (by wire) off the 192m high Sky Tower in the middle of Auckland. Oh-Em-DJI ...O-M-G 😀
Pff... 192m... it's just nothing, the one or other may say, but for me it was a jump into the abyss of hell. I never jumped before, I never did such a shit and I never thought, that I would do it, but I did and it was great.
Below you can see a short video about my very first jump and because New Zealand was my personal inital for traveling, the Sky Jump has been my personal initial for jumping. A few more jumps followed, particularly the highest Bungee Jump in the world (but that's a different story 🙂 )
New Zealand... New Zealand... I Lost My Heart To You.
Since my time on this isle, I decided to become a traveler. If there are more places like this one, I needed to visit them, no matter what. On my travels, I never saw a place like this, because every place is special and has its own characteristics and its own beauty, nevertheless New Zealand is very special.
If you ever have the chance to go to New Zealand -> DO IT!
You definitely won't regret.
By the way... just to mention my tiny Canon IXUS 700 again:
It is still alive and ready to go. After coming back to Germany, I wrote a letter to Canon. I told them the story and sent them pictures. They loved my story and were glad, that nothing bad happened and even luckier, that their product still worked.
These days I don't use it anymore, for me it's just too invaluable.
Years ago, I put it into my big treasures chest and there it will remain for the rest of my life.
Our TOP Desintations On New Zealand: Must Sees!
. Marokopa Falls
. Forgotten Highway
. Tongariro National Park
. Whakapapa Fields
. Lake Waikaremoana
. Waimangu Thermal Village
. Cathedral Cove
. Cape Reinga
Reminder: On TRAVELcandies.com you'll find much more images in HiRes and with GPS-coordinates!