The beginning, kind of

I mean everything has a beginning, right, so this is kind of it.


I started this blog to document our upcoming trip to New Zealand, but we’ve had so many adventures and will continue to have many more. However, I may have to step back in time every once in awhile and share some of those past journeys.  Thank you for joining me as we set off on our very own “unexpected journey” to Middle Earth.


From the Shire to Rivendell

YO!  We had the coolest day ever, ok not ever, but it was pretty sick. We had another full day LOTR/Hobbit tour.  Today’s adventures would take us from The Shire to Weta Workshops to Rivendell and back.

We started with heading to the Outer Shire.

The most photographed post in the world.
Pointing the way. 


Where the Hobbits rolled down the hill. 


Hiding from the Nazgül


We had to recreate this scene. It’s the only true thing to do when you’re in that location.

From the Outer Shire we headed to Weta Cave and Weta Workshops. We watched a short documentary about Weta, how it began, how it has grown, the movies they’re working on, and past projects. They don’t allow pictures in the movie room but they had helmets from Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings on the wall. The real ones from the movies. Inside the gift shop you could take pictures of the things in there and Oh did I. Here’s just a small bit of what we saw.


Gollum is his favorite. 
Lurtz is HUGE!



After the Weta Cave we were ready for our tour of Weta Workshop. Again no pictures until the end. However, we saw some insane things! Props, vehicles (Halo, a real working Warthog seriously it’s the coolest!), miniature models, prosthetics, and so much more. We ended with meeting this guy:


From Weta we went to lunch for a Lord of the Rings themed meal (DELICIOUS!) and then off to another section used for the River Anduin, Isengard, and Farimir’s Dream sequence


Then it was off to Rivendell!  One of my favorite parts!


The archway into/out of Rivendell


The post at the beginning of the filming location


After that we headed back into Wellington.  It was a great day of touring and seeing all the great locations used in the movie. We will definitely have a deeper understanding and appreciation for the films.

From the South to the North

What a chill couple of days we’ve had! We spent the day yesterday driving to Picton to prepare for our ferry trip today. We made a brief stop in a Blenheim at Paper Plus, yes again, I buy the other two Lord of the Rings books. Aidan is almost done with Fellowship and Caleb has read both the books he brought and is about halfway through The Hobbit. (Yikes!)

Once we pulled into our camp for the night we took a walk to the marina and waited for the ferry to come in so the boys could all see the boat.

Well in grand Chapman vacation style it began to rain, obviously, but it wasn’t awful just enough to create the most beautiful full rainbow with a half double above it.


I mean who doesn’t love a good rainbow! Anyway after that little trip we grabbed some delicious Fish & Chips and by fish I mean Elephant Fish. Which is basically a shark, it’s in the same family as sharks we’re calling it a shark. Don’t argue, just go with it. The kids finished off the night with a large game of Chess in the dark.


This morning we woke with excitement, some sadness, and a bit of anxiety of the unknown. We packed up and got ready then headed out, we weren’t done yet with the South Island.

On recommendation from a friend we went to the Edwin Fox Museum and the small aquarium next door. The aquarium is a bit lackluster and small compared to the gorgeous Churaumi Aquarium we are used to so we won’t discuss that, BUT that museum!

Ok here’s the stats on this bad boy!



The Captain, if you’re a HIMYM fan you will understand why we snickered when this fine gentleman introduced himself that way, said they actually believe it’s the 8th oldest ship in the world and are working on confirmation. But it’s also the last example of the East India ships. Yes, we had a few Pirates of the Caribbean references through the tour. After checking out the museum we were able to actually go on board and check it out then walk around the dry dock underneath. It was incredibly cool to see!

Those are just some of the pictures. That dress, fascinator, cape, bag, and baby outfit are all from a woman and child who traveled on the Edwin Fox in 1880. It’s authentic, it is beautiful, and I studied it for quite some time.

Once we were done we headed to the check in for the ferry and waited to board. Again my videos won’t load so I will update later. However, I will leave you with a shot from aboard as we travelled across the Cook Straight.


Just Keep Driving, Just Keep Driving

I sound like Dory don’t I. Well for good reason, driving is really the only thing the weather hasn’t completely spoilt for us. I’m not complaining, we’ve seen beautiful countryside the last few days and more farm animals than I can believe. See I wrote a song for it (To the tune of Little Mermaid)

There’s been mountains and valleys a plenty. There’s been sheep and llama galore. You want lamb I’ve seen about 2000. But who cares no big deal I want to see more. I want to see where the red deer roam. I want to see want to see them eating. Trotting along down the, what’s the word, Oh! Motorway. Planning your trip only gets you so far. Weather it seems has its own mind. You want to see want to see the glaciers, Oh! Nevermind.

Okay, I know that’s not the tune of our blue friend but another finned friend, Ariel. I kid, I kid, well kind of.

We left Queenstown on Thursday (yesterday) and headed through Crown Range which is so beautiful when you get to the top, see gorgeous.

Pano from the lookout at the top of Crown Range.

Butt getting up there is a bit hairy, see doesn’t this just look like a huge big old bit of fun.

Screen capture of our Google Maps.

After we were over the range we got into more rain. But we also saw huge waterfalls!  Brandon wanted to see some while we were here in NZ and today did not disappoint. First was Fantail Falls.

Fantail Falls

Then was Thunder Creek Falls.

Thunder Creek Falls

We also saw many along the mountain sides as we drove.


We trotted along stopping in Wanaka to stop at a book store to grab Aidan a book. He finished The Hobbit so we bought him the first Lord of the Rings book. We then kept going until we arrived in Fox Glacier Township and scheduled our helicopter flight for today to both Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers. Then headed to dinner.

After dinner we settled into the camper for a few rounds of Rummy and bed.

This morning we woke up to thunder, lightning and rain.  We’re talking middle of a typhoon kind of wind and rain.  Needless to say our flight got cancelled so we headed out to our backup plan.

We headed on down or up in this case the West Coast along the Tasman Sea. It looks angry, so terribly angry, but beautiful at the same time as it churned and the waves crashed along the rock formations that one can only assume were once attached to the cliffs above.


After lunch the rain was just to heavy and the wind too hard to do anything so we trekked to our place of rest for the night. A pieceful little freecamping place right along the Inangahua River. Yep we are staying in a van down by the river. Dreams y’all, dreams. So off I am to play more Rummy with the fam. Night!




Trails of Middle Earth

Ya’ll, I seriously don’t even know where to begin with our day. So let’s start at the very beginning. We waited for this specific tour for seven months. We’ve done a bit of exploring the filming locations on our own and we did the tour the other day, but today, today filled up our nerd tank. No, it overflowed the nerd tank. For real, our geeky cups runneth over.  Today was our Trails of Middle Earth tour day. Check out our vehicle! I mean if that doesn’t get you pumped then I don’t know what to tell you.


After we hopped in and gathered the rest of our fellowship we headed off to on of the five rivers used as the River Anduin. This particular part is where the Fellowship sees the Argonath in Nen Hithoel. It’s a beautiful jewel tone blue river also home to the first commercial binge jump in the world.


The first ever commercial bungy jump. We watched a few people take the leap. One word: NO!

From there we headed to The Gladden Fields. This was the site where Isildur was attacked by Orcs. IMG_3473IMG_3474IMG_3477IMG_3476

From there we headed to The Ford of Bruinen where Arwen faced the Nazgul and called for the river to protect her and Frodo.



After that was a lunch break at a fantastic restaurant, I’m going to do a post about all the food, it really does need its own post.

After lunch we headed to a filming location Brandon was beyond excited for, Ithilien. If you aren’t familiar with the name you would know it as the scene where Sam and Frodo are cooking the coneys and then see the Oliphants and the Rangers ambush the Haradrim.



After this exciting bit we walked up to where Sam and Frodo got kid napped by the Merkwood Rangers.



Then came the best part. WEAPONS!  Here the pictures can speak for themselves. It was amazing.



That’s all. It was an insanely incredible day and we had such a great time.

We Did Educational Things!

Ok, that title is a little misleading we have done lots of educational things but today was a focus on learning. Part of our reason for coming wasn’t just that we’re weirdo movie people but also because New Zealand has so many things to learn about. Today we did just that. We spent our morning at the Kiwi Birdlife Park (http://kiwibird.co.nz/kiwi/). Brandon found it on his morning jog yesterday and we knew we had to go.  It’s a privately funded park that has a kiwi breeding program that releases the Brown Kiwi back into the wild. But it is so much more than that.

Our first stop was the Kea bird habitat and we’re met by T.C. The Kea and his friend, I don’t know his name. Aidan had seen a Kea in the wild at the Tasman Glacier which was amazing, but this was different. We were literal inches from him and could touch him if we wanted to (we didn’t). Kea are know to be a bit cheeky so it was fun to be up close and personal with them for a bit watching them hop, climb, and maneuver around there habitat.


Using his beak to climb the wire.

After the Kea we head back for the Kiwi feeding at 10am. Brown Kiwi are nocturnal so their Kiwi house is completely dark and your eyes need time to adjust. We were met with this sign and I was worried we weren’t going to see any Kiwi.

Look at that baby Kiwi in the picture!

WRONG! Very, very, VERY wrong. We were wrong about our assumption that we weren’t going to see any Kiwi.  Let me paint a picture for you.

A dark room with red lights so humans can see but Kiwi can’t. This mimics night time so they will come out for all to see. First we see the male Kiwi pecking about looking for food. He is walking about searching hunting. What’s this the female appears. Also pecking about for food. As she nears the male his attention turns to her. He chases her. She turns and walks away. He follows her. She turns away. Eventually though she becomes distracted by pecking about and BOOM! Kiwi mating right before our eyes. Aidan whispers, “I think they should get a room.” Go ahead chuckle it’s funny. He also though he should turn away. But that wouldn’t be the last time the deed was done in our presence. When the kind lady came in to talk with us before she fed them, IT happened again. Only to the embarrassment of the male who fell off mid mating. There was a bit of a laugh and off she went to put their food in the home.

After our Kiwi foray we walked the rest of the park looking at other birds and wildlife from around New Zealand and even some of the sub-Antarctic islands


Enter a caption

After the Kiwi Birdlife Park we headed down to the lakefront to the Underwater Observatory. It wasn’t much but it was cool when we decided to feed the fish and ducks. My favorite was the Scaup Ducks. They are a beautiful black color but under water they look like they are silver.



There were other things that we saw but I like the ducks so that’s all the pictures I have.ok not completely true here’s what else was in the lake that we saw.


After all of that the boys unhitched the bikes and went for a ride around Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu.

I will leave you with a few Legends of the Lake.


We Found Paradise

After a morning of relaxing in the camper we headed off to our Ride of the Rings tour. A short bus trip along Lake Wakatipu provided beautiful scenery to prepare us for our most excellent adventure. IMG_3359IMG_3360

As we twisted and turned along the mountainside road towards our destination we were greeted with spectacular views of The Remarkables, quaint towns, and sheep as far as the eye could see.

Once we reached Glenorchy we were shuttled to the stables to get fitted with boots, helmets, and dusters. Then off we went to the paddocks to meet our horses. We all got a horse that seemed fitting for our personality. Mine was laid back and liked to eat. Caleb’s was chill. Brandon got the grumpy one (HAHAHA!) And Aidan’s was older and chill. He also had a special horse. His was one used in Lord of the Rings. He was excited to have a horse from the movies. We also saw Prince Caspian’s horse from The Chronicles of Narnia.

After our horse ride we hopped in the 4WD Land Rover and headed out to Paradise.  IMG_3446img_3447

We road through the Dart Valley along the Dart River taking in views from Lord of the Rings, Narnia, and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. Then headed to the forest where they shot many scenes from Lord of the Rings. We got to sit in the Hobbit chair.  See the tree used as Treebeard, walk the paths of Frodo, Sam, Merri, and Pippin, and see where Uruk-hai battled it out and so much more.


All in all it was an exciting day visiting places from some of our favorite movies. I have more pictures and will update when we return home to Okinawa.

A Trip to Te Anau

Today’s post is two days of travel. Why? Because literally everything we wanted to do was cancelled due to unseasonal snow fall in the Fiordland region so we drove most of the two days.

We parked and camped next to the lake Friday which meant our day yesterday (Saturday) started with being greeted by a few Mallards outside our door trying to take shelter from the wind. Caleb wanted to get close to them and Aidan wanted to feed them, shhhhh. (The videos won’t load 😡 )

Once we got up and on the road we headed south. We stopped at a gold mining place to check out the canyon it was gorgeous.

We continued our drive through a wintry mix of snow and rain and found an oasis in the form of a cafe with llamas, horse, and sheep out back. They also had delicious Chai Lattes served at the perfect temperature. I’m not talking face melting hot but the perfect warm your soul temperature but the roof of your mounts and tastebuds are left intact to enjoy the melt in your mouth Raspberry &White Chocolate muffin, that isn’t overtly sweet.

The llama outside the cafe. Also, the snow.

Waiting when we came out was a beautiful low slung rainbow to cheer us on as we continued our journey further south.

The rainbow

We made it to our stop for the night and hooked up the campervan to power and took a walk into town to grab some food, gloves, and check out the scenery. Fiordland National Park and Lake Te Anau are gorgeous. Even covered with clouds and rain. One word, breathtaking. We saw all sorts of birds along the walk  my favorite was this big pidgeon  it’s not an ugly, kamikaze pigeon like we have in Okinawa, but a beautifully colored, serene bird.


After dinner we just chilled, did laundry, and then slept.

Sunday we planned to visit some filming locations for Lord of the Rings but only made it to one due to all the snow that fell and was still falling as we were driving.


We did make it to the filming location of the Dead Marshes.  That was pretty cool to see. It runs through a sheep and deer (yes deer, deer are livestock in this beautiful country) farm and is very serene.

The picture doesn’t do it justice. Hoping my others come out

After this it got really bad and we just pressed on to Queenstown to have a nice few days stay. But more about that tomorrow. In the mean time check out this beautiful image we took along the Southern Scenic Route.  I can only imagine what this all looks like in summer and real spring not weird snowy spring.  IMG_3304