Greetings from New Zealand! This weekend, international students at the University of Waikato were invited on a trip to see Hobbiton and Lake Karapiro. For those of you who don’t know, Hobbiton is the place where the Lord of the Rings trilogy filmed in order to set the scene for The Shire, where hobbits resided. In 1998, Peter Jackson discovered their future filming site while on a helicopter tour of New Zealand. They were searching for a place with beautiful views and rolling hills in order to bring the words J.R.R. Tolkien’s description of middle-earth to life. They spotted a 1250 acre farm owned by the Alexander family and decided it was the perfect place for their filming to occur. After the trilogy was completed, most hobbit holes were torn down except a few that the Alexander family wanted to keep so fans were able to visit the site and after a few years of negotiation with New Line Cinemas, it became a reality. The current Hobbiton is what the set looked like for the newer movie, The Hobbit. Although very similar to the original, the new Hobbiton has more hobbit holes for guests to see and is made of permanent materials so they will be around for years to come. You can see everything, from the home of the Frodo and Bilbo Baggins to the party field and The Green dragon. Even being in the middle of the drought, Hobbiton brings The Lord of the Rings series to life for fans and non-fans alike.
After our tour, we loaded up the bus again and made our way to Lake Karapiro for an afternoon of kayaking and stand up paddle boarding. After a very short lesson on how to maneuver on the water, we were sent off on the lake in search of two waterfalls. My adventure started out fairly slow, as my kayaking partner and I had never tried kayaking before, but a few minutes and a couple sore muscles later we finally got the hang of it. Even in the more open water, the trip was relaxing because there were constantly moments along the way where you just had to slow down and take everything in that you were seeing: clear lake water, extremely blue skies, white fluffy clouds, and trees and other greens that can’t be seen anywhere else in the world. After getting past the crew teams who were in rowing practice on the lake, we headed over to an area of the lake where it began to narrow and the farther along we got the narrower it became. Winding our way through dense area covered with trees and shrubs, you began to feel as though you were kayaking through the middle of a rainforest. We kept moving and eventually made it to the waterfall, and I truly felt like I was in another world. Our group then headed out from the waterfall in search of the second one, but that took a bit of time because when the only way to leave is to reverse, it’s quite difficult to attempt that with six kayaks and a few paddle boards in such a small area. After my kayak experiences many difficulties in turning around, we got a few nudges from the other kayaks and finally we were off again! The search for the second waterfall took us again through some small windy paths that were lined with dense grasses and mosses. After a while of paddling and getting stuck on trees, the group decided we must have been in the wrong place and started our journey back. Unfortunately we did find out we were in the correct area, just didn’t go far enough to get to the waterfall, but oh well who would ever complain about only seeing one waterfall in a day? We all had a relaxing trip back with some getting off at a small beach area and swimming around in the lake and others just slowly paddling and then stopping to sit on the lake and take in everything that was surrounding us. Looking around at everything was beautiful and that’s when it hit me that this will be my home for the next four months and I can’t wait to see what else the country has in store for me to discover and experience.