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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.


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!


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.