chilling feet

chilling feet

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

New Zealand is Middle Earth: A Hobbit's (Scott's) Journey

(Long lost friends together again, thanks to a short plane
ride across the world. This was taken while checking out
the scenic route from Queenstown to Invercargill.  Windy!)
The trouble with living in New Zealand is it ends up being quite difficult to get anyone to come and visit you.  Apparently not everyone has the $2,000.00/person (give or take) roundtrip airfare saved up for a venture down to the other side of the world.  If you have been reading our posts you know that not only is this sad, as we genuinely do want others to experience the joy of New Zealand, but it can make for some quasi lonely times.  So when someone does find a way to come and visit us in the Southern hemisphere it really is something special.

WARNING - LONG POST (but good I think, naturally)

(So that branch he has wriggled out onto is hanging over
nothing but a nice long waterfall drop. If you glance to the
right where the water is starting to drop you can almost
imagine how high up we really are at this point. Nice.)
Introducing +Scott Smith to those who do not know him.  Scott and I met when I was entering my junior at +Samford University, during which time I had started helping out a little bit with the youth ministry at Brookwood Baptist Church (my home church while I was in college after becoming a Christian).  A vivid memory surfaces when I think back to how we met.  Standing in a retreat center that had been rented out by the youth ministry, Scott and I talked while getting to know one another.  We had one of those rare moments where two people connect deeply due to similarities or maybe even an ordained moment.  For guys though this tends to manifest itself by one of the most profound phrases known to man, "Did we just become best friends?!"

Since then Scott and I have moved in and out of one another's lives, though even when separated by vast distances we try to keep up our friendship.  This is not always easy.  While the distance and our busy lives have been no benefit to our friendship, there are few people out
(Oh ya and lighthouses too!)
there who I know who will always transcend such obstacles and in doing so remain constant companions for life.  It does not help that as guys we are especially bad at maintaining relationships and might go months to a year without contacting one another, but life would not be the same without the influence of this man in my life.

Now that I am done gushing all over another man publicly, we can move on with his actual visit!

When we began telling people we were moving to New Zealand most folks thought we were joking originally.  Scott was the opposite.  Before we were even 100% of when we were flying out to travel here Scott and I were planning his trip down!  "It's always been a dream of mine to visit New Zealand and I have the perfect reason
(We liked to frolic in the fields some.)
to do it now."  I took comfort in knowing we would have at least one visitor while away from home and Scott and I got to work planning out what we would do while he was in the country.
There were a few requirements and when all was said and done and they were as follows:  We need to hike (a lot!), we need to see a fjord, we need to see as much Lord of the Rings stuff as possible, and let's do something fun for New Years.

Scott arrived on the 18th of December and the whirlwind commenced!  We spent our first two days checking out Queenstown a little bit, driving through the beautiful countryside seeing spectacular sites, hanging with penguins, watching sea lions as they napped, discovering ancient bridges, doing a few short hikes, finding secret paths to the tops of waterfalls, and catching back up on what had been happening in one another's lives.
(The camera simply cannot capture what we were seeing.
This is the closest one I have seen in our photos to almost
catch some of the beauty that is Milford Sound.)

Oh ya, and we, of course, went to see a fjord!  Wrongfully named as Milford Sound, we went up and joined a group of kayakers to head out on the fjord for a five hour kayaking trip.  It is impossible to describe the magnitude of the sheer cliffs we were paddling in between during this adventure.  We experienced kayaking under the Stirling Falls, kayak sailing (which is fantastic), saw seals who take refuge in the peaceful fjord, and met some fun folks from the UK, Germany, and NZ.

Then we took on the Routeburn Track!! (you can read all about this on our previous post by clicking anywhere on this line - there are plenty of amazing photos on there of the hike too.) We started on the 22nd and finished on the 24th, just in time to head back and celebrate Christmas in Invercargill (and to get Sarah back for her shift starting at midnight).

(Christmas dinner and relaxing with friends.)
Christmas day was a day of fun as we had new friends over for food and merriment.  We cooked up a few of our traditional dishes from home (the delicious green beans wrapped in bacon and soaked in a brown sugar/soy sauce mixture - so good), laughed, celebrated, and enjoyed the day.

On the 26th we flew up to Wellington via Christchurch (where we had an eight hour layover - unfortunately we had to leave Sarah in Invercargill so she could work the next two days).  We spent a little time checking out the Container Mall in Christchurch where a previous earthquake had destroyed much of the city, and then stayed in Wellington for the night at a friend's house of my friend +Bryce Ashby (this is one of my favorite parts of NZ - people open up their houses and let strangers who know some guy who used to know their brother's friend stay with them - awesome!). Bryce's friend was not even in the country but set it up so that his roommate would meet us and let us stay in their place!  Are you kidding me??  What amazing hospitality!!

(Outside of the Weta Cave Workshop are these amazing full
sized statues of the trolls from The Hobbit. Watch out
Scott, you're about to get stomped!)
The 27th in Wellington was one of our favorite days.  Not only is the city amazing but it's a hub for where +Lord Of The Rings™ (LOTR) films were created.  We started our day there by first visiting the Weta Cave, which is the studio +Peter Jackson used for helping to make all of the costumes, weapons, special effects, scenery, and the like look so spectacular for the movies.  This was an amazing stop as it not only afforded the chance to see tons of LOTR's memorabilia but Scott got us onto a tour of their facilities that proved to be simply mesmerizing (no photos were allowed).  We were able to experience and witness up close many of the actual items used in the movies - weapons, armor, models of locations/cities, and we were even able to touch the elusive Mithril armor!  I thought Scott was literally going to burst into flames as he reached out and touched the actual suit that was worn by the actor who played Sauron in the movies - seriously he was so excited it was hilarious (I was not unlike a small child myself running
(Scott said that he was only so angry b/c he
needed more hugs.  I'm not sure if that is
going to have the desired effect but maybe.
The Uruk-hai may just be to evil for that
sort of redemptive love. Maybe not??)
around with four ice cream cones of my favorite flavors).

We finished our time at the Weta Cave the only way one should, by heading over to the Chocolate Fish Cafe for some lunch, because as everyone knows the cast of LOTR reportedly ate there quite often.  Is it my fault I want to eat where +Vigo Mortensen and +Sean Bean maybe enjoyed a quiet meal?  Who knows, but it was delicious food and it prepared us to see +The Desolation of Smaug (the second installment of +The Hobbit) at The Roxy movie theater (which is epic for about forty-five reasons including there is a giant statue of Gandalf out front of the theater).  What could we do to top this sort of LOTR's day thus far?  I'm glad you asked.

The answer is you head North and you check out +Hobbiton Movie Set, which for a fee allows you to walk through private farmland with 48 amazingly crafted hobbit holes.  Yep, and the tour ends at the Green Dragon where you can sit and drink a cup of beer/cider/non-alcoholic to end your tour.  And yes we did this on the next day and yes it was awesome.  We walked up the path to Bag End, we stood where Gandalf rode into Hobbiton on his cart full of fireworks, and we too thought about running to jump over the very fence where Bilbo leaps over exclaiming, "I'm going on an adventure!"  Quite surreal in many ways after having been an avid fan of +J.R.R Tolkein for so long.

(The Hobbit holes looked so real!!  Nice.)
As a culmination of our trip in excitement, the rest was quite relaxing.  We were scheduled to walk the fantastic Tongariro Northern Circuit Great Walk but the weather was against us and so we bypassed it to instead investigate the Coromandel Peninsula on our way to experience New Years in Auckland.  One of the most breathtaking drives of my life.

Remember that New Zealand hospitality I was mentioning earlier?  A friend from seminary days, Mr. Russell Bone, now lives in Auckland with his Kiwi wife Sarah and their family.  So naturally they opened their home to Scott and I for a few days.  Amazing.  So we rested, still reeling from our LOTR's high, went to parks and beaches, visited a winery or two, and brought in the New Years as the first major city in the world to do so (which was cool).  Sadly Scott had to fly out on the 2nd of January.
(The outfits we had to wear under the gear
for kayaking.  Pretty stylish no?)

By the end Scott and I were almost ready to strangle one another, mostly I think because our time together was pretty jammed full of so much to do - amazing things but just a lot.  In the few weeks since Scott has left though I find myself once again realizing the immense benefit of having someone like him in my life.  It can be easy to lose track of how important people are to us when they live far away and this trip was a helpful reminder about how fortunate I am in his friendship.  While life may take us to opposite corners of this earth, I hope and pray that we will always seek out ways to continue building our friendship.