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elsfaire

Elsfaire Accompanies the Hobbit through Middle Earth

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Hi KiwiChick - I wish we had had time to go to Dunedin and meet you. We squeezed in a lot of both islands in 12 days, and there was just not time. We did get to Aoraki Mt Cook and Queenstown, though. Beautiful!

 Sounds like you fitted a lot in!

Im currently based in mexico but dunedin is a cool city anyway without me :) hehe

 

I love wandering around Rangitoto so cool to see you made it there - I made the mistake of trying to break in a pair of vibrams on all that uneven scoria. 

 

Looks like you managed to keep up with your challenge goals while away - great work :)

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Quick week 5 Update - more on the trip tomorrow.

 

Today we had a White Elephant Christmas party with our Geek friends, so all day was baking gingerbread cookies to decorate and decorating the house for Christmas.

 

Week 5, Days 3-5

Fitness: 3 pt (W, nothing, Th: walking/squatting/bending, Fri: BBWW & stretching & foam rolling) 4 total for the week so far

Mental/Emotional Health: 3 points (W:meditation, positive Q's, and more meditation) 7 for the week so far

Life Quest: 2 pts (W: flossed, Th: nada  Fr: visited with a friend) 4 pts for the week so far

 

Not exactly the best progress, but I am SO happy that I finally did a bodyweight workout again. :)

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Sorry- there are Soooooo many things to finish before Christmas, and we have a few thousand photos (not kidding) to sort through from the trip. Definitely will post more over the weekend.

Goals are not doing great, but I did do a walk on Sunday, a bellydance intro class on Tuesday with a couple friends, and a bbww today. Yoga at least twice this week, too, so at least 4 points so far this week for fitness.

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Thank you all for the holiday wishes! I hope that everyone else had a good holiday season, Happy New Year, and so on.
 
So, uh, I kind of dropped the ball at the end of the challenge, and never finished posting my trip report. Since the next challenge has already started, I am going to chalk the last challenge up as a learning experience, and post more about the trip (albeit shorter than I had originally wanted to do) before I join the current challenge late. I do need to beg everyone's pardon for not keeping up with your challenges. I am just going to abandon the threads from the November/December challenge and start anew with everyone in the January one.
 
My Hobbit finally sorted through the pictures and put them somewhere that I can access them. Yay! Now I can continue posting about the trip. Please forgive the (ahem) brevity compared to what I wanted to post. Of course, you may actually welcome the summary version instead of my usual long-windedness. ;)
 
Day 2 on the ground in NZ (The Journey of the Fellowship, day 4)
Our first full day (meaning, the first day after we actually spent the night) in New Zealand was canyoning. Our guides picked us up at the hotel, and brought us (after a brief stop to get lunch and wetsuits) to Piha Canyon. We hiked up to the top of the canyon, then rappelled, swam, and climbed down. It was amazing!

Piha (3)


 

Piha (17) (678x1024)


 
We even did a bit of cliff jumping. I braced for the cold water and keeping my contact lenses in place. :)

Piha (26) (678x1024)


 
At the end of the day, we had a short visit to Piha Beach, which is on the Tasman Sea. My kids got to say that they have put their feet in the Pacific Ocean (well, kind of), and the Hobbit and I climbed around part of the outside of Lion Rock.
 

We were pretty tired after that long day. All we did was get dinner and go to bed. :)
 
 
The Journey of the Fellowship, day 5
The next day we had to check out of the hotel and get our campervan. Unlike most places in NZ, the campervan staff in Auckland were a bit less than helpful. This was very unusual. We did eventually get the camper and head out.

 

condo_camper.jpg

 

Yes, they really look like that. I think it helps the locals know when tourists and their bad driving habits are around. :tongue: Fortunately, it did not take the Hobbit long to get used to driving on the left, though there being no yellow lines to separate traffic flow throughout most of NZ is very strange. My Hobbit did come to really learn to like roundabouts, though. He loves rarely needing to stop while driving.

 

We arrived at Waitomo Glowworm Caves and took the tour. The caves are neat, but just caves really (we went caving with the boys when they were Boy Scouts a few years ago). Nice formations, but nothing super unusual. The glowworms, however, are amazing. I have never seen anything like them.

 

Caves (2) (600x400)

 

Caves (4) (790x526)

 

After the tour, it was time to get some dinner and get to our campsite. We ate at a great pizza restaurant in a small town (Otorohanga, maybe?). We loved eating out in NZ. It was so easy to find gluten-free options, and even gluten-free vegetarian options for my Hobbit. :)

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The Journey of the Fellowship, day 6

 

We left our campsite the next morning (a pleasant free campsite on a lake with toilets) and headed in to Matamata for breakfast (another great restaurant with gluten-free options marked on the menu, and GF bread available). We briefly visited the Visitor's Center/i-Site, which is made to resemble a hobbit-hole, then proceeded to the Hobbiton Movie Set for our tour. The tour was neat, though it was rather rushed. My family prefers to wander and explore on our own, in our own time.

 

Hobbiton (32) (1024x678)

 
My Hobbit by one of the hobbit hole sets.
 

Hobbiton (14) (678x1024)

 
Bag End.
 

Hobbiton (22) (1024x678)

 
Driving the wagon like Gandalf and Frodo.
 

Hobbiton (28) (1024x678)

 

Inside the Green Dragon Inn.

 

After the tour, we drove to Rotorua and got a campsite and cabin space (the family did not tolerate all 4 of us sleeping in the campervan together very well) at a nice holiday park by a blue lake. It was beautiful. We settled in, then got our ride to the Maori Hangi dinner and cultural experience. Since we wanted to be more involved and active, our family ended up getting "selected" for many of the audience participation activities.

 

Maori (9) (1024x678)

 

Maori (14) (1024x678)

 
 
Even just driving around New Zealand is fairly epic. We spent a lot of time just taking pictures out the window while we drove:
 

NZ misc (35) (1024x678)

 

NZ misc (34) (1024x678)

 

 

The Journey of the Fellowship, day 7

 

We only spent one night in Rotorua, but we did explore the city and the hot springs the next day.

 

Rotorua hot springs

 
We went to the Skyline Luge for a bit of adventure. Essentially, it is like bobsledding without snow. You ride a chairlift up a mountain, then get on a small wheeled sled and ride down the hill. It is pretty exciting, especially on the "advanced" track.
 

Luge (6) (1024x768)

 

In the evening, we drove to a holiday park a few hours away so we would be able to get to Wellington the next morning. The thermal zone has a lot of mist on the mountains:

 

NZ misc (32) (1024x678)

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The Journey of the Fellowship, day 8

 

We traveled to Wellington the following morning. The afternoon was spent on a Lord of the Rings film location tour. It was a bit disappointing in a way, because many of the locations don't really look like the scenes. All scenery has been removed, and some key elements had been added digitally. It took some pictures and close examination to even realize that some places are the same as the movie scenes. Still, it was nice to go and see some locations, and to hear the stories about what it was like to live in NZ while they were filming. Our guide had been living in Twizel at the time, and was an orc extra.

 

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LOTR (6) (1024x678)

 
In the park where they had filmed Rivendell, they put up signs and an archway when they came back to film the Hobbit movies.
 

LOTR (21) (678x1024)

 
After going through the movie location area, we walked on a suspension bridge that was nearby.
 

suspension bridge near Rivendell

 
 

The Journey of the Fellowship, day 9

 

This was mostly a travel day, but we still squeezed in some fun and visiting. We went to the Weta Cave in the morning. They have a small free to tour area with a lot of props that they had made for earlier movies, not just Lord of the Rings.

 

Weta (3) (678x1024)

Weta (13) (1024x678)

 

After Weta Cave, we found a small local beach and cafe (not a tourist area). We went exploring, then had lunch before returning the campervan and going to the airport.

 

Cafe (4) (1024x765)

 

The Wellington Airport really celebrated the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit movies. They had a lot of statues and such that were cool to look at and made for some fun photo ops. :highly_amused:

 

Wellington Airport - Eagle

Wellington airport - Smaug

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The Journey of the Fellowship, day 9-B - Arrival on the South Island

We boarded the plane and flew to Queenstown on the South Island, where we picked up a car and drove to Aoraki Mt. Cook, the tallest mountain in New Zealand. If you think the North Island is pretty, the South Island is epic. As in, "OMG, I can't believe places like this really exist," kind of epic. We were denied a first view of Aoraki Mt. Cook this day because of the setting sun and the overcast clouds with drippy rain. We did, however, get to stay at The Hermitage, which is a hotel complex actually inside of Mt. Cook National Park, so there were plenty of views left to come.

 

The Journey of the Fellowship, day 10 - Mt. Cook

MtCook Misc (2) (765x1024)

 

My Hobbit took this picture while eating breakfast at the Lodge restaurant (We got a shuttle up to the Lodge -we were staying in the cheaper and larger family motel a few hundred yards/meters away). After breakfast, we got as bundled up much as we could (we did not bring a lot of heavy clothes, what with it being late spring in NZ and us trying not to carry so much luggage) and met up for the Tasman Glacier tour. A bus took us to a trail head where we hiked in to Tasman lake. There, we boarded rafts to get a closer (not close - we learned that would not be safe) look at the glacier. We did get to touch and even taste some icebergs, though.

 

MtCook Tasman (7) (1024x765)

 

MtCook Tasman (11) (1024x768)

 
We were back from that trip by lunchtime. After lunch, our older son (15) decided to stay back in the room and rest because he was not feeling well. He had a mild cold for much of the trip. The rest of us (younger son-almost 14, Hobbit and I) decided to go explore. We had passed a neat waterfall on the way to the glacier tour, and had discovered that it was just fine to go wander around there if we wanted to. So we did. :)
 
View of where we went to climb/explore, from the road.
 

MtCook Waterfall (4) (678x1024)

 
It was almost all big rocks that had been left by a glacier. We had to climb on and around them to get up closer to the falls, and to get around the stream. Here we are partway there.
 

MtCook Waterfall (7) (678x1024)

 
This is the closest we could get. Getting around the bend to the actual falls looked nearly impossible without climbing equipment, and there was a TON of spray.
 

MtCook Waterfall (16) (678x1024)

 

We hiked/climbed back down, and returned to the room. It was a great excursion for us, in some wonderful scenery. Our son decided not to do anything else that night, but the Hobbit and I went on a short hike up to an overlook and watched the sunset reflected on Aoraki Mt. Cook. :)

 

The Journey of the Fellowship, day 11 - More Mt. Cook up to Sealy Tarns

 

This was a mostly open day. Our only obligations were to check out of the hotel and (at some point) drive back to Queenstown and check in to the villa there. Our younger son really wanted to get to where he could touch some snow. So, we found out about a trail we could hike up and get some great views of the glaciers, Mt. Cook, and much of the valley, and at least get close to some snow. We took the trail up to Sealy Tarns.

 

Now, when I say we took the trail UP to Sealy Tarns, it was definitely up. Fortunately, the much of the path had been constructed with steps. 2,200 steps. Yeah, whose idea was this? :numbness:

 

MtCook Sealy (20) (765x1024)

 
Unlike at most tourist areas in the US, there were NO handrails on the steps, even if the side was a 100 meter/300 foot drop or more.
 

MtCook Sealy (5) (1024x765)

 

After taking MANY rest breaks and much good-natured complaining and cajoling each other, we reached the tarns. We learned that a tarn is a pond up on a mountain that had been carved out by a glacier at some point. Not overly exciting, but the views were worth it.

 

MtCook Sealy (10) (765x1024)

 
It was actually a very busy trail. A number of people with ice climbing gear and backpacks passed us and continued on a more wild trail (complete with an avalanche warning) to an overnight hut another 3 or 5 km in/up. There were also many students on holiday who had come to hike the trails. One kind gentleman took a family photo for us:
 

MtCook Misc (21) (678x1024)

 

Then my boys (the kids and the Hobbit) decided to be more adventurous. My younger son had still not touched snow, other than a couple of tiny patches. So, they continued up the mountain without a trail (we had asked if this was ok when we were at the visitor center, just in case. We know our family likes to go off the beaten path) to the snow line. I was already a bit beat, so I sat at the convenient picnic table near the tarns and enjoyed the view, and took some pictures of them from below.

 

MtCook Sealy (7) (1024x765)

 
They did reach the snow line.
 

MtCook Sealy (14) (765x1024)

 

Around 3:30 or 4 pm they came back down to the tarns and we headed down all those steps. We did not want to leave, but it was time to drive to Queenstown (yay - more great scenery through the window!) and get checked in for our last location of the trip.

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I'm jealous ... have you put any photos up on flickr or imgur?

My Hobbit had put the "best of" pics on Facebook for our friends and family. I *could* post them on Flickr, I just had not thought about it since we don't really know anyone else who uses Flickr.

 

 

The Journey of the Fellowship, day 12 - Doubtful Sound day trip

 

We got into Queenstown pretty late at night and found a grocery store to buy lunches for day 12 of the trip (day 10 on the ground in NZ). Far too early in the morning, a taxi picked us up for our tour of Doubtful Sound. Those of you who have been following me for a few challenges may remember the discussion about whether or not it was worth going to see a fijord and for how long - this is what I settled on. We took a guided day trip/tour out to Doubtful Sound (larger, not quite as far away, and more secluded, but less famous than Milford Sound). In some ways, it was a very good follow-up to the big hike up Sealy Tarns because everyone's legs hurt (It was really funny - every time one of us would go up or down the stairs in the villa, we would hear, "ow-ow-ow-ow-ow."). In other ways, it was frustrating because my family really prefers to have the freedom to roam around wherever we please, and being stuck on a tour was not really ideal for that.

 

The tour was a very long one. We got on a bus from the tour office the taxi had brought us to, and rode a couple of hours to Te Anau. There, we got on a short (45-50 minute) boat ride across a lake to a hydroelectric power station. Then we got on another bus that carried us through this all but uninhabited area (there are 2 inhabitants - the caretaker of a student camp and his wife) to the sound. We got off this second bus here and there to look at waterfalls and the view.

 

Our first view of Doubtful Sound:

 

Doubtful Sound (13) (1024x678)

 
Once we reached the sound, we got on another boat for the 3 hour tour. I could post a gazillion pictures of the sound (like everywhere else in NZ), but I do not want to clutter the board that much. :) So you just get a little taste. At the farthest point out by the sea, we saw a seal colony. I am so glad that my Hobbit brought his good camera.
 

Doubtful Sound (18) (1024x678)

 
There were so many waterfalls like this one, all over the place. The day was perfect, too - nice and sunny. We were told that does not happen much in Doubtful Sound - it rains something like 300 days a year there.
 

Doubtful Sound (9) (678x1024)

 

After the 3 hour tour, we had to do the rest of the travel in reverse. We all ended up sleeping at least some of the final coach bus ride back to Queenstown, which helped us feel fresh for some evening wandering of the town while we found dinner.

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The Journey of the Fellowship, day 13 - River Sledging (Dec. 3 NZ/ Dec. 2 US)

 

This was our last full day in New Zealand, and we did not like that one bit. My Hobbit had already be talking about moving there for at least a week, and he talked about it more often when we reached the South Island. Even so, our legs were still sore from the hike up Sealy Tarns, so the family had a relaxed morning while we waited for our river sledging appointment in the afternoon. I spent most of the morning answering emails for my husband's business on my laptop. I had actually done this a lot during the trip, and it took up more time than I thought it would, especially now that Thanksgiving week was over. A good problem to have, though a bit irritating at times.

 

River sledging is a lot like whitewater kayaking, but instead of sitting in a kayak you hold on to what looks a lot like a modified bodyboard or sled. Because of this, you are IN the water the whole time. The guide company provided us with thick wetsuits, wetsuit booties and helmets in addition to the sledges. Even with all of that, the water was COLD! This was blue glacier-fed water, so it stays a consistent cold temperature all year round.

 

We got suited up, then got in the water for some training in an eddy. When we knew at least a bit about how to navigate in the river currents, the group set off.

 

Sledge (4) (683x1024)

 

Sledge (6) (1024x683)

 
I have been whitewater rafting, and river sledging feels more free. There is no concern about falling into the water - you are already there! It also feels easier to navigate many rapids, though it can be frustrating to feel like you can't go the direction you want to go. Overall, it is very fun. I also felt confident in the guides' ability to see when someone was not navigating as well or getting tired, and to help keep them safe.
 

Sledge (16) (1024x576)

 

Sledge (17) (1024x576)

 
Near the end of the first run, they gave us an opportunity to get out and do some cliff jumping. Our kids decided to jump.
 

Sledge (18) (1024x576)

 

We did 2 runs of the same area. I elected to do the second run in spite of the fact that I did not really warm up again when we got out of the water. This was a mistake. By the end of the second run, I was shivering. I got out of the water, but could not really respond coherently and shivered until we got back to the shed and I got out of the wetsuit (um, can you say mild hypothermia?). I was very unimpressed with how the guides handled this. They did not seem to know or care what to do. They just said that it was ok, the suit would help me warm up, especially on the hot bus. I did not truly feel warm again until a few hours later after taking a hot bath. :grumpy: Even so, I was glad that we went. I just now know that I need to skip the second run.

 

Back in Queenstown, we had dinner, then did some wandering. We discovered that there was a downhill mountain bike trail and some hiking trails right behind the villa complex, so we went and explored it after the trails were closed to bikers for the day.

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The trail behind the villas, and overlooking the villas from the hill.
 

trail behind villa in Queenstown

 

overlooking villa in Queenstown

 
 

The Journey of the Fellowship, day 14 & 15 - Flying with the Eagles and Goodbye, New Zealand.

 

This was Dec. 4 in NZ - our younger son's birthday. We had to start our journey home in the mid-afternoon, but let him choose the activity to do in the morning. He chose - and we were able to schedule last-minute - paragliding.

 

We had some very good paraglide pilots. We went tandem, of course - we have not taken the multi-day training required to pilot one's own wing. My pilot was pretty funny and sensitive to how I was experiencing things. I thought being in the air was fun, but did not want to do a lot of acrobatics. My teens wanted a lot of acrobatics, of course. :)

 

Quite a view, soaring with the eagles. :)

 

Paragliding

 
My Hobbit enjoyed it, too.
 

Paraglide Hobbit

 

The ride was short, but well worth it, and fit perfectly into the time we had without added stress. We had enough time afterwards to get some lunch and relax on the beach by the lake before returning the rental car at the airport.

 

A last goodbye to the lake in Queenstown:

 

Queenstown

 

We flew form Queenstown to Auckland, then Auckland to Los Angeles, and finally LA to Atlanta. The long flight from NZ to LA was easier than it had been heading to NZ because the flight was not full. Having an unoccupied seat next to me was SO nice. From the time we returned the car at the Queenstown Airport until we walked into our house was just over 28 hours. I think in the future that I would NOT do the Queenstown to Auckland leg of the trip right before the travel back to the US.

 

When we landed, it was still technically Dec. 4, so we wished our younger son a happy 14th birthday again (hahaha!). It was past midnight when we arrived home, though. Of course, our body clocks were pretty messed up, so it was after 3 am by the time we finally got to sleep. I did make the kids go to school that Friday so they could get their homework, and the Hobbit and I had a ton of work items to catch up on. It was nice to have a weekend right away to recover. :)

 

 

So, that's it! It was definitely an adventure, and I would definitely go back again (though I might change a few things to be cheaper). It is hard to come back to regular life after an adventure like that, sometimes. As the hobbits discovered, it changes a person. ;)

 

hobbits.jpg

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Oh yea, it's a busy time of year.  How'd the challenge work out overall??

 

 

hey! hope your holidays are bright!

 

 

Merry holiday and happy new year! I hope your 2015 is wonderful!

 

 

Yes, have a rocking 2015, can't wait to see how you tackle it!

 

Thank you all for checking in, and I hope your holidays were wonderful as well! I apologize for having disappeared. The season's family and other commitments proved to be too much for me, and something had to go. If you have a chance, go back and view the summary and pics of the journey that I (finally) posted, and I will join you on your new threads within the next few days. :)

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We did 2 runs of the same area. I elected to do the second run in spite of the fact that I did not really warm up again when we got out of the water. This was a mistake. By the end of the second run, I was shivering. I got out of the water, but could not really respond coherently and shivered until we got back to the shed and I got out of the wetsuit (um, can you say mild hypothermia?). I was very unimpressed with how the guides handled this. They did not seem to know or care what to do. They just said that it was ok, the suit would help me warm up, especially on the hot bus. I did not truly feel warm again until a few hours later after taking a hot bath. :grumpy: Even so, I was glad that we went. I just now know that I need to skip the second run.

 

 

 

Yikes. While whitewater rafting a few years back (Gauley River, West VA, I HIGHLY recommend it, in September), a similar thing happened to me. I managed to warm up... doing squats! (on the shore during one of the breaks, not on the raft, obviously...)

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We did 2 runs of the same area. I elected to do the second run in spite of the fact that I did not really warm up again when we got out of the water. This was a mistake. By the end of the second run, I was shivering. I got out of the water, but could not really respond coherently and shivered until we got back to the shed and I got out of the wetsuit (um, can you say mild hypothermia?). I was very unimpressed with how the guides handled this. They did not seem to know or care what to do. They just said that it was ok, the suit would help me warm up, especially on the hot bus. I did not truly feel warm again until a few hours later after taking a hot bath. :grumpy: Even so, I was glad that we went. I just now know that I need to skip the second run.

 

 

 

Yikes. While whitewater rafting a few years back (Gauley River, West VA, I HIGHLY recommend it, in September), a similar thing happened to me. I managed to warm up... doing squats! (on the shore during one of the breaks, not on the raft, obviously...). 

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