This was the first statement spoken to us in New Zealand and I really think it set a positive tone for the way things have gone so far. New Zealand is an incredible place. The people are friendly and outgoing, the scenery is beautiful, and the cities and towns are very clean. Even in Auckland, where our inner New Yorkers were expecting the standard city trash and cigarette butts, we were surprised that there was not much trash to be found at all. We arrived on the morning of December 30th and immediately went to get our rental car. At the time I am writing this post, I feel pretty comfortable driving on the opposite side of the road, though it certainly didn’t start that way. It was basically nervous energy mixed with curious amazement, punctuated by moments of sheer terror- seeing a bus coming over a hill, in what my mind still had not quite changed from, the right side of the road. Linsey has been a valuable side seat driver. “Right turn into the far lane,” has been a recurring reminder. We didn’t do much else in Auckland aside from walk a lot, go to parks and a museum, and rediscover the afternoon nap. If for that discovery alone, we will consider that part of the trip a success.

            From Auckland, we drove 2.5 hours south to a town called Waitomo to see the famous glow worm caves. We couldn’t take pictures within the cave, but a quick Google search of Waitomo Glowworm Caves will give you the right idea of what we experienced. We suited up in bulky wetsuits, boots, helmet with headlamps, and inner tubes, and floated our way through an underground cave system to see the glowworms. There was plenty of joking with our fantastic guides, but for about ten minutes, our group floated in silence and darkness, viewing thousands of blue dots of light on the cave ceiling 50 feet overhead. It was a magical, surreal experience that I find hard to describe adequately. Educational side note: The glowworms are not actually worms, but the larval stage of a type of fly. Our tour guide described it as “a larva with shiny poop” but glowworms was better for advertising purposes.

            We left Waitomo yesterday (January 1st) and made a stop along the way to visit Hobbiton, from the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit movies. Yes, I am a nerd, as Linsey reminds me. Whatever, she liked the movies too (Editor’s interjection: Jason, upon asking me if I wanted to watch the movies with him when we first started dating, neglected to inform me that there were two versions- the one released into the theaters and the extended version. There was over 11 hours of movie watching). We couldn’t have asked for better weather as we toured the set of the shire, seeing lots of hobbit holes and even getting to drink a pint at the Green Dragon. This country is bucolic. Serious bucolic. I don’t have much need to use that word regularly, but here it just fits. Following our hobbit tour, we moved on to a town called Rotorua. It is famous for its geothermal activity, with hot springs and bubbling hot mud pools. It stinks here, like powerful eggy-sulfur. We’ve already managed to trek into an off-limits area (I blame Linsey) and got caught by the police (Editor’s interjection – after we got caught by the police, I got a great recommendation for a pub nearby, so, win-win?). We plan on visiting the thermal springs and hike through the redwood forest while we are here. Below are some of the pictures from our adventures so far with some juicy tidbits that we learned on our tour of Hobbiton. 

 Walking through Auckland Domain on our way to the Auckland Museum. 

Walking through Auckland Domain on our way to the Auckland Museum. 

 Some of the incredibly preserved Maori culture. 

Some of the incredibly preserved Maori culture. 

 Say hello to Bridgette. She can soon be tracked on http://www.ocearch.org/. 

Say hello to Bridgette. She can soon be tracked on http://www.ocearch.org/. 

 View of the Viaduct Harbor in Auckland. 

View of the Viaduct Harbor in Auckland. 

 Hike around Aranui Caves. 

Hike around Aranui Caves. 

 Near Matamata, approaching Hobbiton (Jason is really excited here). 

Near Matamata, approaching Hobbiton (Jason is really excited here). 

 The SHIRE!

The SHIRE!

 We were all deeply disappointed that we could not go into Bag End- then we learned that only the outside filming took place here and there really is no inside! Another fun side note- that tree on top of Bag End is totally fake. They have to restring the fake leaves up there every six months. 

We were all deeply disappointed that we could not go into Bag End- then we learned that only the outside filming took place here and there really is no inside! Another fun side note- that tree on top of Bag End is totally fake. They have to restring the fake leaves up there every six months. 

 Hobbit hole and our pints at the Green Dragon!

Hobbit hole and our pints at the Green Dragon!

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