Jan 27, 2014

A Hobbit For a Day

It's a dream comes true for me to finally see one of the famous LOTR filming locations which is the Hobbiton. Hobbiton is located at Matamata (which also meant police in Malay) and can be reached via tour bus from the main town nearby.

According to our guide, it's built on Alexander's farm and it was actually torn down after the filming of the LOTR finished. It was only after the Hobbit trilogy is filmed and owner of the farm received many requests for the tour, that Peter Jackson and the farm's owner decided to make the location permanent for tourists.

Truth to be told, I feel a bit disappointed with the tour as it was full of tourists when I was there. And we were mostly given an hour to finish the tour and for free drinks at the Dragon Inn. As we were taking a bus from Rotorua, we had to be back by lunch.

Hobbiton welcoming us

One of the hobbit hole

It's actually empty inside

Before the filming start, the workers have to repeatedly walked to the clothing line to make a pathway

Samwise Gamgee's house

Dragon Inn

Hobbiton overview and the famous party tent

So pretty

Going for a free drink at the inn

Love all the sky reflection here

Hobbit on duty

Jan 18, 2014

Kaikoura to South Bay

So before my big hike at the Tongariro Alpine Crossing, our tour manager suggested us to do the small hike from Kaikoura to South Bay along the Kaikoura peninsula. He offered to send us to the starting point which is at Point Kean carpark but since we wanted to practise for our big hike, we decided to walk from the town to the starting point which we took around an hour. Along the way, we actually saw our tour manager driving past a few times and I think at one point of time, he was getting worried that we had not reach the starting point, haha.

From the Point Kean carpark, we set off for the hike along the Kaikoura peninsula to some of the stunning view points, Whalers Bay and Sharks Tooth point. We had so much fun taking jumping shots and enjoying the view at the same time. After a while, we finally reach the South Bay town, which is at the other side of the peninsula. From here, there is a short cut which is an hour back to the starting point.

source: virtual-kaikoura.com

Jan 16, 2014

Tongariro Alpine Crossing

wow..I practically left my blog for the past two months. Although I am back since end of Dec last year, but another year end trip to Bangkok had me being away from the office for a month. Such a bliss.
Tongariro Alpine Crossing
I spent almost 3 weeks in New Zealand starting from the South Island and travel all the way up. One of the highlight of my trip is not the sight seeing in the South Island but rather this place in North Island. I signed up for 19.4km hike, the Tongariro Alpine Crossing which is one of the best one day trek in New Zealand and some even say the top ten in the world. I have not been to many treks but as a die hard LOTR's fan, this is even better than Hobbiton as Mt Ngauruhoe or more famously known as Mt. Doom in the movie is located here.

Never regret doing this although I had to carry almost 3 kg of weight on my shoulders while dragging my big ass 7D along. Not even 2 km into the trek, I had started cursing myself for bringing such big camera and signing up for this. 

Distance and altitude of the trek
Source: www.tongarirocrossing.org.nz

Map of the trek
source: www.themissingyear.com
For those who is interested, it's not entirely an easy trek and there is a reason why it was renamed to include the alpine word into the trek as it was previously just Tongariro Crossing.This is to show those who is interested to trek that this is a serious trekking whereby one should prepare for the sudden cold at the top of the mountain. 

For us, we were very lucky as the weather was forecast rain for the next few days. Come the day of the hiking, it was sunny, not too hot and not too cold. As part of the optional trip that we signed up with Haka Tours, there was a shuttle picking us up from our hostel around 6am in Taupo, and from there it's about an hour plus to reach the starting point of the trek, Mangatepopo around 730am. Before we left the bus, the driver told us that the 3 volcanoes are still active and cautioned us to run as fast as possible should they erupted. The last time one of the mountain, Mt. Tongariro had just erupted in November 2012. Truthfully speaking, I didn't know about it until it was told by the driver. Ignorance is a bliss!

Still flat and I was unaware of the hell in front
Mangatepopo to Soda Spring
We started the trek around 730am and from Mangatepopo, the trek is fairly easy with almost flat land. We stopped for toilet break at Soda Spring, the last stop for any usage of toilet before the next one in Ketetahi Hut. I didn't have much extra water to go for a toilet break but since everyone was going, I joined in the crowd. After that, the nightmare began. 

The start of the Devil's staircase
Soda Spring to South Crater (or famously known as the Devil's Staircase)
There is a reason why it was called that way. I was having such a hard time climbing up stairs after stairs and having extra weight made the journey more difficult than ever. It took me quite some time to finally reach the South crater and some flat land before another nightmare awaiting!

Finally at the Red Crater
It is quite scary to stand at the edge with strong wind blowing 

South Crater to Red Crater
This is considered the toughest part of the trek as there are no defined steps or stairs. Just rocks and rocks and many small pebbles. It is also quite dangerous here as I was climbing the rocks, the wind was very strong and almost blew me away. Once I was up at the top of the Red crater, the view is stunning as I can see lakes and mountains afar with such good weather. Took some rest here and my lunch as well. Just chocolates and energy bars. 

Blue Lake
Emerald Lake
Red Crater to Blue Lake
From here,I can fully see the greenish Emerald lake and the Blue lake and it is one of the best scenery during the entire trek. After here, it is a descent but as it was again full of small stones and quite slippery, I fell on my butt a few times. Finally, I had to slide and run down. 

Mt. Doom from far

Blue Lake to Ketetahi Hut
It was quite easy from here onwards but I suffered from leg cramp. Must be walking too much and looking back the view while I sat down to rest my leg, I can see Mt. Doom, the Red Crater and another snow capped mountain from here. 

Mt. Tongariro which is still churning out smoke 
Clear blue skies all the way
Looking tired and eager to finish the trek

Ketetahi Hut to Ketetahi car park
This is one very long descent into the tropical forest and we took almost 2 hours as we need to cross rivers, jungle and keep walking and walking and yet to see the sign of the car park. When we finally saw it, it was 230pm. We took almost 7 hours to finish the trek.

I were quite worried in the beginning that we would not be able to catch the last bus back to Taupo. That is the reason why we keep walking and did not take much time to rest or eat. 

Felt like I was transported into Middle Earth
To sum it up, like my friend said, we felt like we were in the LOTR movie as Sam and Frodo in the quest to destroy the ring. It's one hell of an adventure!

For more information, can check out this official website for the weather and volcano eruption warning