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Kiwi Farms And Hobbits!

Christchurch is far behind us now as we have driven another 972 kilometers (604 miles) in the past two days. We drove from Christchurch to Picton to pick up the Bluebridge Ferry and then spent a night in Wellington. The following morning we drove to Aongatete where we arrived at the Aongatete Air B&B. This beautiful apartment is located on the bottom floor of a much larger house and is surrounded by a Kiwi farm and an avocado plantation. We were greeted as we arrived by our host, Amber, as well as her adorable puppy, Oscar. Amber was very sweet. She led us to the apartment and showed us around. The apartment is wonderful and has a fantastic view of the backyard. We love this place.

We woke up the following morning and decided we would just hang out around the apartment for the day. After all, there are beautiful gardens and wonderful places to walk and enjoy the scenery. Dan and I took a walk after breakfast to check out how Kiwis are grown and view the beautiful grounds. We’d never seen kiwi plants before so this was a new one for us. Heck, it wasn’t until we arrived in New Zealand that we understood exactly how you are supposed to eat a kiwi. If you don’t know, let me share as it was a revelation for us. Apparently, the kiwi people just cut them in half and then use a spoon to scrape the skin off of them as they pull out a “ball” of fruit. Yep…one kiwi is basically two bites. Who knew?

For dinner this evening we took the one hour drive to Matamata for our last big adventure for this trip. What’s in Matamata? Hobbiton. What’s that? Well, if you are like me you probably don’t know much about Hobbiton. At least I didn’t until I started researching things to do in New Zealand. Hobbiton is where they filmed the Lord of the Rings movies. Not being one for far out movies like these I had no idea but when I saw their website and how cool it looked I knew we had to see this place.

When you arrive at the designated area you are then transferred to a bus that takes you to the actual movie set. It’s out on this beautiful plot of land and since it was later in the day the light was just fabulous as the sun’s golden rays bounced off the ponds and tall grasses. Once we arrived at the set we were escorted through to the actual shire. Here we were divided into a couple of groups and from there we were escorted around the shire where they told us interesting facts about the movies and how the set was created and used.

One kind of funny fact is that there is a large pond in the middle of the shire. When they started filming they found there were so many frogs in the pond that they actually overpowered their audio equipment. What did they do? They hired someone to come and sweep the pond of all the frogs. This person relocated the frogs to a pond several miles away. It worked for a few days but all of the the frogs returned. They repeated this process over and over until they eventually had to relocate the frogs more than 12 kilometers (7 miles) away. Even then they came back. It just took longer so it gave them more time to film in between the frog sweeps.

Another cool fact is that the tree that is shown on top of Bilbo Baggins’ home is actually fake. The producers had this tree made for the set. The reason? Well, they wanted to be sure the tree looked exactly the same in each of the movies. Each leaf was painstakingly glued to the tree and as leaves fell off between filming they were replaced. They even have a smaller version of the tree for one of the movies where they go back in time. The interesting part of this is that they spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to create this tree and it appeared for just a few seconds in all of the movies combined.

After our tour of the movie set we were led to the Green Dragon Inn where we were treated to some tasty beer and a wonderful hobbit style meal. It was served family style on these long tables. There was so much food. It was truly a feast! And, it was really tasty. We ate and ate until we were stuffed and then they brought out these boards filled with desserts so we ate some more.

Once dinner was done we were led back into the bar at the Green Dragon where we were handed lanterns. The time had come for our tour of the shire at night. Well, it certainly was very beautiful at night as well with all of the lights on the little hobbit holes. The nighttime part of the tour took about a half an hour and then we were led back to our busses.

Like I said, I’m not much of a Lord of the Rings movie watcher. In fact I never even watched one until we came home. I did find it interesting to watch one having been to the set but I’m still not a fan. They are too dark and strange for my taste. As for the movie set…I loved it! The only thing I wish they had done differently would be to have had people dressed as hobbits walking around. You know…make it a little more Disney like. Now that would have been super cool. But, as it was, it was a fun evening and one more thing we can check off our bucket list.

Cheers,

Jilly & Captain Dan

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Chillin’ In Queenstown

After a good night’s sleep it’s time to explore Queenstown. We got up, had some breakfast snacks and headed out. Town is just down the mountain about a five minute drive away. I suppose we could have walked it. Going down would have been a piece of cake but the return trip the steep mountain would have been murder so we opted to drive.

The town center was bustling with people walking everywhere. It was a beautiful sunny day and we were finally enjoying a bit of warmth (in the sun anyway) in spite of the cool breeze drifting across the water. One of the first things we noticed as we began walking around is how pristine the streets and are here. There isn’t a single spec of garbage to be found anywhere….not even a cigarette butt or scrap of paper. It’s like the city is a perfect gift that has just been unwrapped. It’s absolutely astounding and it really is something that is hard to imagine if you haven’t seen it with your own eyes. We couldn’t stop talking about it.

We meandered though the shops and enjoyed a stroll through the craft market where the locals had their wares on display along side of Lake Wakatipu. Mary picked up a warm hat that suited her just perfectly and after a bit it was time to grab a bite to eat and enjoy a few beers in the Irish pub, Póg Mahone’s. We were the first people to enter as they opened on this bright sunny afternoon and because of our promptness we were able to secure the most amazing table right in front of the fireplace! The sun was shining that day but there was a cool breeze coming across the lake so the cozy, warm fire was a welcome treat.

The food here is exceptional. Mary and I had the Beef and Guinness Pie and the boys had hamburgers. We truly enjoyed this little lakefront gem; so much so that we came back the following day. After all, when you find something good you stick with it right?

We learned that this place is owned by a Kiwi and an Irishman. They opened it in the late 90’s and they wanted it to be so authentic that they had the entire place built in Ireland and then shipped to New Zealand and assembled. That’s some dedication to authenticity there now.

Later that afternoon we had reservations at the Minus 5° Ice Bar. If you’ve never been to an ice bar we highly recommend it. No, it’s not a place where you go to spend an afternoon but an hour in one of these places is pretty cool. No pun intended. We’re sure our friends who live in the northern part of the U.S. this year are laughing at us for even considering this fun but for us, it was a great little treat and of course it yielded some really fun photos as well.

The first thing they do when you arrive is outfit you with super warm and cozy coats and gloves. And, if you don’t have proper shoes they will even give you socks to keep your feet warm. Then at our appointed time they escorted us into the frozen bar. Yes, everything inside is made of ice…the tables, chairs, sculptures, bar and even the cups that your cocktails are served in…it’s all ice! And it’s beautiful!

As you can see Dan is really getting into the spirit…or maybe the spirits are getting into him!

They have changing colored lights that slowly fade from red to blue to green which makes the whole place look different every few seconds. The sculptures are absolute works of art. There’s a bear, an alligator, a cowboy and more. We take turns having photos taken with every object in the place. The bartender even lets me go behind the bar to get a photo with the frozen sign in the background. The drinks? All are variations of cocktails made with vodka. Our admission fee of $27 NZD/person included two drinks and we paid for an extra one. About twenty minutes before our time was up Mary and Dan decided it was too cold so they took their leave. Jack and I decided we had paid for the ride and we were going to see it through to the end. So, we ordered an extra cocktail to help us keep warm and kept taking pics. When our time was up we headed out into the warmth of the outdoors. It wasn’t really warm outside but it’s was a darn sight warmer than the bar. 

From here we took a walk back down by the water where there is a boat that’s a floating bar. Well, why not? The sun was out and the water was beautiful so what better place to spend an hour or two? We hopped aboard, ordered a few beers and headed to the upper deck to enjoy the lake views.

After a wonderful afternoon in town we went back to the house to relax for a bit before heading out to dinner. Tonight we decided to head down to V’Know. It’s a really cool restaurant and wine bar just down the hill from our house. The owner, Danny Carson, is a really great guy and the food here is top notch. We highly recommend stopping in if you are ever in the area.

Us with Danny Carson….Check out the cork walls in the background. Here’s a great way to use old corks to decorate!

By the time we had dinner and made it back to the house we were all exhausted from the day. One thing is for sure, we certainly love Queenstown and we made the most of every moment here today. Tomorrow we have more amazing adventures ahead including a ride on the Skyline Gondola to the top of Bob’s Peak and a trip on a true steamship, the TSS Earnslaw. It’s the only hand fired steamship in operation in the Southern Hemisphere! Check back because you won’t want to miss this!

Cheers,

Jilly & Dan

P.S. Just a couple more entries before Team Dazzler sets sail again! This year we’re off to Tonga and Fiji and maybe a couple of other places. Subscribe to our blog to be sure you don’t miss a single adventure.

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The Road To Queenstown

The drive from Holitika to Queenstown is simply magnificent. We saw beaches, pastures, mountains and even caught a glimpse of the Franz Josef Glacier. It’s located in Westland Tai Poutini National Park and is near a town named after the glacier itself. This 7000 year old glacier is the steepest and fastest moving glacier in New Zealand. It moves at a staggering 4 meters per day. The average speed of a glacier is 1 metre per day. It’s also one of the most accessible glaciers in the world and can be reached via a hike through the rainforest. Yes, I said, “Rainforest”.

While you can walk up to the base of the glacier, it’s a 1.5 hour hike each way and we just didn’t have the time so we settled for a viewing area up in the mountains. We did also consider taking a helicopter ride where they actually land on the glacier but it’s quite pricey. It runs about $260 NZD per person for a 20 minute ride and an 8-10 minute stop on the glacier. Given the fact that New Zealand has had their hands deep in our pockets this entire trip we decided to forgo the ride and just take in the view.

After a brief stop to take in the glacier we were back on the twisty turning roads through the mountains. There were many beautiful places we could have stopped to spend time but we had a lot of ground to cover…seven hours, not including the stops. Of course we did make a few stops along the way. How can you not stop to see some of these amazing places? Who knows when or if we will ever be back here? And there’s nothing like seeing honest to goodness glacier water running down a river. It’s as clear as the waters we saw in the islands last summer only much, much colder.

So here we are driving down the road. Jack is driving at this point which is a little like being on Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Disney but even as tough as Dan is we had to give him a break from driving once in a while. Anyway, we are driving through Cardrona Valley and we are all chatting and checking out the scenery when Jack slows down and starts to turn around. What is it? What did we miss that only Jack seemed to see? Well, you’d never believe it unless I had pictures to prove it. Along side of the road is a fence that literally has thousands and thousands of bras attached to it. YES, I said, “Bras!” This place is called Bradona and the fence is there to support (no pun intended) breast cancer awareness. I’ve read that it has been there for over 20 years.

The story goes that back in 1999 four bras appeared on a fence along the highway one night. The locals are a bit stuffy and didn’t really appreciate it but much to their chagrin more bras were being added to the fence almost daily. Then some unknown bra thief decided to cut the bras away in the dark of night. Every time this thief removed them, more would appear the following day. It was sort of a tit for tat (sorry, couldn’t resist) sort of thing that continued and eventually raised the attention of the media. Before long there were so many people stopping to take photos and leave their unmentionables that they had to move the display to a nearby driveway to keep people from stopping on the main highway. In 2015 the owners of the The Cardrona, a horse trekking and quad biking business whose driveway was used for the display, took over the maintenance of this fence and turned it into a tribute to breast cancer awareness. There are times that they actually have to remove some bras because there are so many they are afraid the fence will collapse! If you want to have your bra place on the fence you can actually mail it to them and they will put it there for you. (Seriously!) There is a donation box there so if you stop to take photos be sure to leave a few dollars in the box. In one year it generated more than $40K for the Cancer Society of New Zealand! I wonder if the person or people who left their bras on that fence back in 1999 had any idea what would have become of them?

The fence is so long we couldn’t get it all in one photograph!

In case you’re wondering, Mary and I both left there with all the bras we had when we arrived. It’s not like I wouldn’t have loved to ditch ALL my bras but, you know, a good southern gal has to dress properly and that includes having the appropriate undergarments. After all, what would mama have said if I’d have stripped my bra and left it on some fence? That said, we did make a donation to the Cancer Society before we headed on down the road.

Just when we thought the day’s journey would never end we came up over a mountain with a lookout that looked right down the valley toward Queenstown. WOW! This is some view! I was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t any snow left atop the mountains but when you see how beautiful everything is there you really just couldn’t be disappointed.

Of course Grape Ape loved getting out and having a chance to explore the mountaintop. We did tell him not to go on the other side of the fence but sometimes he just can’t help himself. There were so many tourists there taking pictures that he just had to get away for a bit.

Grape Ape just loves to photobomb us but when you see that smile you just have to melt!
The fabulous view from our Air B&B

The lookout was our final stop before we made our way into Queenstown and to the Kiwi Bach Air B&B. It sits up on the side of the mountain overlooking the ice blue lake. And while this place was very, very dated with a tiny kitchen and a pool table that looked like new in the photos but was more like a dilapidated child’s toy in person, it worked just fine for us. It was clean and the beds were comfy too. Of course there’s that view….just look at that view! By now you know our saying….“We’re not buying it!”

We were exhausted by the time we arrived and all we wanted to do was put our things away and relax. Well, you know, the best laid plans yada, yada, yada. It turns out the rental company didn’t send us the code to the lockbox. It was late in the afternoon on a Friday and I called the number that had called us a couple of days prior to confirm the rental. Apparently it was the cell phone of one of the guys in the rental office. He answered and when I explained the issue he said he was already off work for the weekend and we should call another number he was going to give me. Seriously? I was tired and ready for a hot shower and a cocktail and he was NOT helping my attitude so I pressed him a bit and told him we needed this code and now. I further explained that failure on their part to provide us the appropriate information was not my problem and he needed to take time out of his partying (I could hear he was at a bar) to assist me. I further explained that I would be speaking of our experience on our blog and suddenly, like magic, that code must have appeared to him like an apparition. Within a second of me making my demands he was able to give it to me and I was able to access our key. There now, was that so freaking difficult you lazy little turd? As I promised him….I’m writing about our experience and if you click on the Kiwi Back link here you will find their Air B&B listing. While the place was fine for a couple of nights I certainly wouldn’t go back nor would I recommend it to anyone.

Anyway, once I had the code and retrieved the key we put our things away, made a few cocktails and tried to order food for delivery. This turned out to be a bit of a challenge due to the fact we have US credit cards. We couldn’t order online unless we ordered pizza and we couldn’t get the “Uber Eats” people to talk to us via the phone. When we couldn’t make it happen Dan & Jack just decided to go pick up something for us. Mary and I relaxed and took in the amazing views while the boys went hunting and gathering. They came back, we ate and they played pool on the wobbly pool table. Of course Dan couldn’t stand the fact that it was so wobbly so he got out his tools and tried to tighten it up a bit. It was better but I still wouldn’t have wanted to have a small child running about because one hit and it could have come crashing down.

All in all it was an amazing day with many spectacular sights along the way and tomorrow there’s more adventures to be had as we check out the -5° Ice Bar! It’s sure to be a very “cool” experience.

Cheers,

Jilly & Dan