My oh my! How busy the days have been! All of my frequent travels with friends and family have commandeered my every moment, but it has been well worth it. School work has even begun to pick up speed! Who would have thought, having to do projects and homework while studying abroad? I tease of course, but still, the month of May has already been pretty packed, and it has just begun!
I suppose I should rewind a bit to the second piece of my April travels. After all, my dreams came true over those two short weeks, but alas, I am getting ahead of myself. To start, I had the pleasure of visiting some of my Arcadian friends down at the University of Otago in Dunedin for a long weekend in the middle of April. My friend Ryan and I were welcomed into our friend Morgan’s adorable one story home right outside of the campus’ center. While we were there, we bought chocolate from the Cadbury Factory, perused a few museums, and had lattes while people watching outside one of Dunedin’s many hipster cafes. I absolutely loved the eclectic, off beat style of Dunedin, and spending time with distant friends was lovely. Funny enough, Morgan’s home uni is actually only 20 minutes away from Bethel, so I’m excited for our adventures to continue when we return to the States.
After a few short days to do some chores and pack my things, I flew up to Auckland to meet up with my parents for a jam-packed New Zealand exploration! Seeing their faces in person as opposed to on my computer screen via Skype was incredibly refreshing. There really is just something about seeing a familiar face from back home that makes everything feel okay, and I couldn’t have been more thankful that it was my parents who could come.
Our six day adventure began with a stroll around Auckland as we took turns sharing stories of our time apart. We later met up with my dear friend, Christoff, and his roommate from Austria for lunch. There we continued telling stories over some magnificent pizza and pasta. My parents and I got just a tiny bit lost trying to find where we parked our rental car, but after eventually finding it, we zoomed towards Waitomo Caves to see the famous glow worms. Thankfully, we arrived by the skin of our teeth, just two minutes before the last tour of the day left. I’m so glad we made it, because the caves were breathtaking. Seriously, I would have never expected a cave full of worms to be so beautiful. Their luminosity lit up the pitch black caves with thousands of small, baby blue dots all over the cave ceiling.
Day two of our trip was certainly my favorite part of the week because at 9 am, my parents and I went to the Shire! Yes, the actual Shire, home to the Green Dragon, the Party Tree, and Bag End itself! I tried to keep my cool as I walked along the very paths shown in one of my all-time favorite movies, but resistance was futile. For years I had dreamt of visiting, and all of a sudden, there I was. Quite honestly, the whole set was much smaller than I imagined! The filmmakers did a wonderful job of making the whole set hobbit sized, so when 5’6’’ Mer came walking through, I realized how small hobbits were meant to be! Each hobbit hole is so carefully decorated, down to the smallest details. Some of these finite details can only be seen for a fraction of a second in the movies, which is another reason why visiting in person was so amazing. I was able to take a deep breath and actually experience all of the Shire’s beauty with each of my senses. I frolicked through Bilbo’s party field, peeked inside one of the 40 hobbit holes, and had a mug of hard apple cider in the Green Dragon. I even recreated the scene from the Hobbit where Bilbo runs out of the Shire saying, “I’m going on an adventure!” at that very spot! No shame.
Once my Hobbiton dreams came to a close, my parents and I hit the road again and drove towards Lake Taupo for the evening. We spent the night at a hotel looking directly over the lake, but time didn’t permit us to do any exploring there. When we awoke early the next morning, we continued driving south all the way to Wellington! Wellington has a unique charm that only the capital city could offer. It’s glitzy and off-beat, hipster and industrial, all at the same time. Our day was focused on Lord of the Rings; complete with a tour around the city and Weta Workshop itself! Chewie, our tour guide, took us around a handful of filming sites around the city and explained to us how everything was filmed and set up. Most notably, my parents and I got to see the road where Frodo yells, “Get off the road, quick!” in the Fellowship. Movies are so magical, because audiences would have never known that the road the hobbits were standing on was actually a trail in a forest right next to a neighborhood. Chewie then took us to Weta Workshop, where all of the props and special effects were created for the films. This was capital nerd-dom if I have ever seen it, and I loved every minute! I saw Sauron’s armor, the original Sting, and much more! I couldn’t have been happier!
Wellington was the last stop in the North Island, and so once our Lord of the Rings packed day was over, we flew down to my favorite city; Queenstown. I have been to Queenstown three times now, and I still think I will go again before I leave New Zealand. It was such a pleasure sharing a piece of my favorite place with my parents! It meant so much to me sharing with them a place that had touched my heart. Tired and hungry, we decided to have our first meal in Queenstown at Fergburger, because there is nothing better! My folks and I took the rest of the day to slowly enjoy the winding streets of Queenstown and to get some much needed rest that evening.
Refreshed and ready to go, my parents and I drove five hours from Queenstown deep into Fiordland towards Milford Sound. This rainy jungle enclosed land takes its visitors on a journey back in time to an era where dinosaurs roamed the earth. Civilization was far gone and skyscrapers were replaced with mountainous caverns and massive waterfalls. We took a boat cruise around Milford and were blown away by the beauty of the land. I say blown away both figuratively and literally, the wind was so strong that day I actually almost fell over quite a few times. The long drive and strong wind was certainly worth the amazing views and stunning scenery.
All good things must come to an end, and after six days of adventure, my parents unfortunately had to leave. It was hard saying goodbye, but over my college years I have had to leave home for a few months many times, so it wasn’t horrible. Now, a few weeks later, I am past the half way point of my own New Zealand adventure. So much has happened, and I know that I will not be returning to the States as the same girl who left a few months ago. Who knows what else will happen over these next few weeks! Only time can tell!