Jeff vs the Volcano Pt I

Once upon a time there was a guy named Jeff…

That’s actually Tom Hanks not Jeff, but hilariously enough there was a lady in NZ who kept saying Jeff looks like him. Hmmm, insult or compliment?? Lol

So on Day 6 of our adventure, we explore the volcanoes. We also visit a Maori village and Jeff gets named Chief. I’ll let him tell that story in Part 2 (it’s a highlight of the trip for sure). But first, we get to see the majesty of two volcanoes!

Before I go any further, let me just say people warned me about the smell. They told me, if you go to a town on the east coast of NZ that has hot springs, it stinks like hell. Well, they underplayed that card!

We left the mountains behind and headed to Taupo. This one wasn’t smelly. It was actually stunning.

That’s a hill in the middle of the lake. The lake is in the crater of the volcano. Yes, that blue in the back of the pic is the lake. Actually can’t see the end of it, it’s that big. The whole area, including where I took this pic, is literally a volcano.😱

Once we got to the lake crater we go exploring

Jeff always in my damn shot 😡

Those are black swans y’all!!😍

So the rocks that are surrounding the crater are volcanic rocks of course, and surprisingly many weigh close to nothing!

Oops, I was supposed to say they weighed a lot! In any case, welcome to the Gun Show ladies 😉

After collecting a few of these rocks (which, btw, made it through customs, whoohoo) we take off to our next destination: Rotorua!

We stayed at the Ibis hotel, which was nice. Considering the fact that pretty much all the hotels and motels were booked that weekend, it was a miracle they had an opening.

Before I go any further, let me just say, DO NOT listen to little brothers. Especially if they have a Gypsy soul. He convinced me before we left to plan only half of our trip, including lodging, so that we could play it by ear the rest of the time. DO NOT DO THAT PEOPLE! At the very least, secure lodging. The Gypsy would’ve been fine sleeping in the car, windows rolled up, sweating a stinky pond. Or windows down, freezing our arses off a la Dumb and Dumber

Ok, so the smart sister books the hotel and off we go! The drive was a little insane, curves and cliffs abound! And remember, driving on the “wrong” side!

We gawk at the beauty that is Rotorua. Until we step out of the car. Y’all, the closest way to describe it is putrid, rotten eggs. Mind you, the scientific 👩🏻‍🔬part of me understood it was the sulphur…

But still!!!🤢🤮

Upside is that there were some shops in this town, it was pretty good size. Especially compared to the other places we stayed. In one town, there were no gas stations, closest one was 20 miles out! And they had no police station! That blew Jeff away. Closest one was “three towns or so away.” Wow.

As we checked the city on the volcano, we noticed something pretty cool. They had bean bags everywhere. I mean, people straight up lounging in bean bags at the corners of the streets!

Guess who has to get in on the action 🙄

They love their Maori culture, beautiful sculptures on every corner.

My spiritual statue, Rubbing Belly Queen

Before the night is through we soak in one of the acclaimed Polynesian geothermal hot springs. Omg!!!!!

There was a spring called the Priest bath.

Jeff loved it and swore it worked! Lol

Don’t drown princess 👸🏻

This really is Part I of our Rotorua day. Believe it or not the best is still to come of this day! Posting a teaser pic, let’s just say Hanks never did a Haka!

Yes, this fool was elected “Chief.” TAKE ME…TOTHE VOLCANO!

Mount Doom…dom, dom, dom…

One does not simply walk into Mordor. ~ Boromir

Well we did. And little did we know it was no joke!

On Day 4, Jeff and I set out for Mount Ngauruhoe aka Mount Doom with little hiking experience. I mean, does Enchanted Rock really count compared to a big-ass 8-hour-mountain-hike straight up??

So, we grab a map and in 2-D, in cartoon format, looks do-able, right?

Here’s what we see from the road and it’s not as cute as the tiny triangles on the map dammit!

I mean, you can’t even see the top of it!!

The town we were staying in was so small that there was one cafe, one gas station (which was the only one around for miles) and two lodges. We stayed at Park Hotel, which we highly recommend.

Back to the mountain…Jeff and I had to drive to the start of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. In our (basically new) Keens and backpack, we were off!

So what do you pack if you’re new to backpacking and planning to climb one of the highest mountains in NZ for 8 hours? Here’s what I had:

1. First aid kit

2. Sunblock, Off, chapstick

3. Water (12 ounces, yeah I know)

4. Jerky (for the brother)

5. Lifestraw

Hey, you never know right? Would’ve made the brother test it first, of course.

So as you can see, we had no damn clue what we were doing. Nevertheless, we persisted!

Looks like they’re missing Lifestraw in their essential gear list. IJS.

And we’re off!

Jeff looks tired already, I look lost. And we’re only 5 min in.

This hike was no damn joke! It was STRAIGHT UPHILL FOR THREE HOURS!!! I kept asking if we were even at the base of the mountain, it was about 2 hours of forest first. Everything hurt, even breathing. Who the hell came up with this bright idea anyway?!

Twelve ounces of water went quick. I was seriously feeling like Frodo and Sam with those chapped-ass lips.

Yeah that’s how Jeff and I felt about an hour inBut if they could make it for 3 movies with 5 drops of water, I could hold out!We kept passing streams and Jeff wouldn’t use the Life Straw. 😡

Oh yeah, and we ran across this, just to keep us on our toes 🙄

That was a looooong 700meters, every sound was death (at least to me), Jeff was having a blast. 🙄

But when we got up what a sight!

Before we could get any further up, I mentioned to Jeff, “that’s weird, we’re the only ones going up, haven’t seen even one other person going up. Everyone is in a hurry to get down.” Still, we tuck away the old survival instincts and keep trucking up.

Until a guide hurrying down yells out “bad weather coming, I’d turn around if I were you!” And then, literally out of nowhere, we see this…

Temps dropped literally 15-20 degrees and everything went dark. Finally the spidey senses kicked in and we didn’t linger any longer. Adios Mount Doom!

This is an active volcano, and yes, that is a thermal geyser on the sides. And yes, that’s hell and fury descending on the summit. Yikes.

Rock and pool/is nice and cool/so juicy sweet!/only wish/to catch a fish/so juicy sweet!

The next day was rainy and cold but we were determined to continue to explore Middle Earth. We found Tawhai Falls aka Gollum’s Pool, and it was beautiful. We could see exactly where the Sméagol splashed in the serene setting…

Look at all that water for the Life Straw!

Yep that’s Jeff almost biting the bullet! Hahhaa, the dork

Day 4/5 was a success despite the weather. And Boromir was 💯, one doesn’t simply walk in to Mordor, at least not without a (useless) Life Straw! Note: if you hike with me in the near future, and we’re near a stream, you know what what I’ll be pushing 😉

Hairy Feet…not mine

Our Glow Worm story will have to be put on hold, it’s an amazing story, however our photos are on a thumb drive (we couldn’t take our own photos) so more to come on that.

We did have a great Day 3 in Middle Earth, Jeff found a gem called the Hairy Feet tour. Here it is from his perspective…

~Steph

There is nothing like looking, if you want to find something… you certainly usually find something, if you look, but it is not always quite the something you were after. – Bilbo Baggins

While Steph takes a little break, let me chime in here.

Day 3 of our sojourn through Middle Earth sees us leaving the safety of The Shire in Hobbiton and trekking closer to Mt. Doom. But first a stop off to the Hairy Feet tour at the Denize Bluffs in Piopio near Waitomo.

I found the flyer for this tour on accident while I was looking for something to fill the hours after our Glow Worm caves expedition. Now when Steph mentioned that this was a gem, I think she under sold it. This tour turned out to be a handful of gems with not only scenes from the Hobbit having been filmed here but also multiple Bud Light beer commercials (Dilly,Dilly) and a few other random commercials (such as a Mitsubishi commercial from India) shot here.

Suzie was our tour guide, and she was just as friendly and accommodating as she was knowledgeable. Suzie not only answered all of the groups questions about scenes shot on the farm but she also answered my random questions about New Zealand (such as inquiries about the pine trees that litter the landscape). The tour starts with a video showing the transformation of the farm and how large an undertaking it is just to film a small portion of the movie. The tour groups are kept small (8 in our group) to allow this to be a more personal guided tour. A quick 5 minute drive transports you the foot of the bluffs.

Along the way Suzie pointed out the sheep and rams that reside on the farm as well as the local wildlife.

Frightening!!

As we worked our way through the tour I was amazed that I could so easily recognize where scenes from the Hobbit were shot. Being able to actually stand where the actors stood and recreate certain shots was a fantastic addition to the walking tour.

Nailed it!

Suzie was very patient, allowing everyone in the group to participate if they were so inclined. Steph and I were definitely inclined.

Watch out Orcs! Here comes Sting!

Im so full of “thought”, I must sit.

There were plenty of surprises that had been placed throughout the tour, ready to jump out and give you a scare.

And some are there to give you hope.

Look to the East on the 5th day…

The tour lasted about 2hrs, but felt like 20 minutes. You know what they say about time flying when you’re having fun. The tour was fun and interactive, our guide Mrs. Suzie knew everything about the Hobbit and LOTR books and movies, and the scenery was breathtaking. If you ever find yourself in Waitomo, New Zealand, this tour is worth time. Well, that’s it for now. More adventures to come. TTFN (Ta-Ta For Now)

A Long Expected Journey

In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.

Good shot of Bag End, Jeff!

For our non-Tolkien friends, that’s the start of The Hobbit. And if you haven’t read Tolkien’s works, do yourself a favor and get on that stat.

Jeff and I visited the Mecca of LOTR monuments, Hobbiton. This is located in a little town called Matamata, NZ (which I’ll let Jeff at a later post blog about). It didn’t disappoint! We were worried that it would rain (it did the day before), but it was nice and sunny and about 68 degrees. We were part of about 40 people in our group, but seemed fairly small. The guide asked several questions to quiz our knowledge and it was awesome to be surrounded by other geeks (and yes, Jeff and I held our own on the quizzing).

Jeff reppin the Spurs out here

Back to Hobbiton, these little houses were too much. Jeff and I kept breaking from the group to get up close (even though we were warned there was electric fences)!

Yes I was pushing Jeff here. I told him to move so we could get the front door! Did he listen though?! 😡

We were in heaven. Jeff said that if he were a character in Middle Earth, he’d be a hobbit. Relaxing, smoking Southfarthing leaf, walking everywhere with bare feet. He already has the hairy feet down, blech.

“On a hill above the ground there lay a dork hobbit.” Note above Jeff are Bilbo Baggins clothes hanging on the line outside his hole ❤️

We tried to soak up as much as we could, the houses often had benches, mailboxes, gardens all to hobbit scale! And the gardens were absolutely stunning!

Even had smoke coming out of the chimneys!

The pic above is Sam’s House. At the end he was married to Lovely Rosie Cotton with the flowers in her hair. This is where his kiddo runs up to him and hugs him at the end. Guide told us little known fact: Peter Jackson (the movie director ) wanted the scene to be authentic, so he had the actors use their own kiddos. The little boy is actually Sean Astin’s daughter, and the baby is Sarah McCloud’s.

Jeff first read The Hobbit when he was in 4th grade, long , loooooong ago. Wait, I’m older than he is, so not that long ago.

Finally, we made it to the long awaited spot: Bag End!

If you watched the movie, you’ll remember Bilbo’s one hundred and eleventieth birthday party. Here’s the party by the tree.

To top off our journey, we had a complimentary beer at the Green Dragon! Ah, again as a fan, those words are worth savoring. A drink at the Green Dragon

Welcome to the gun show at the Green Dragon!💪🏼

LOTR fans, check out the name on the barrel.

Cheers!

Ok guys, check this out…we are staying in a hobbit hole at Woodlyn Park in Waitomo

Just too cool.

And before I forget, the owner of this place was beyond amazing/weird/friendly.

She had her pet possum Titzy. Titzy tried to take Jeff’s finger off. I loved Titzy.

And let’s not forget the resident pig, Joseph.

Side note: Joseph scared the crap out of me, he was snorting through the hedge above our hobbit hole, and I thought it was a wild boar ready to maul me. It was just Joseph. Damn Joseph.

Jeff and I ate at Tomo, the restaurant was a gem! Billed as an authentic Kiwi Restaurant, we shoveled this down our throats!

We also checked out the forest next to our hobbit hole. Lookout Point was amazing!

That’s it for our first full day in Middle Earth. Our expected journey surpassed our wildest imagination. Tomorrow we check out the Glow Worm caves and then retrace Bilbo’s steps as he took off for his Unexpected Adventure.

Hey you guyyyyssss!!!

BS = Brother and Sister. At least that’s what it means in this blog. Doesn’t mean you won’t find a load of it, but we’ll keep it to a minimum.

Traveling = well, that should be self-explanatory.

The B in this instance is Jeff. This is Jeff:

Jeff’s a dork. Since I’m penning this inagural blog, and am the older sister, I get to say that.

This is me, the S:

Moving right along…

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference. — Robert Frost

Pic above by Jeff. Good job not breaking your neck on this trail.

Ok, got the requisite inspirational quote out of the way upfront. In all seriousness, I’ve been a Frost fan since I was the ripe old age of 11, so it still works. Wanted something “travel-y” to go with this first post, since we’ll be talking/discussing/arguing about our love of traveling. And other crap I’m sure.

Here’s one that may resonate a bit more, and if anyone knows us, fits even better….

The next time you see sky, it’ll be over another town. The next time you take a test, it’ll be in some other school. Our parents, they want the bestest stuff for us. But right now they gotta do what’s right for them, ‘cause it’s their time. Their time, up there. Down here it’s our time. It’s our time down here. That’s all over the second we ride up Troy’s bucket. ~Mikey, Goonies

We loved that movie (note the shirt I’m wearing in my pic above😉). We were 80’s kids, no better decade to grow up. And we traveled the world, literally. I was born in Karamursel, Turkey. Jeff was born in Angeles City, Philippines. We were Air Force brats and were lucky enough to trail along with our parents to some pretty cool places.

Although we’re adults now, we’re still Goonies at heart. We’ve decided late in this game to go back in the tunnel, it’s time for an adventure. And to all out there, no matter your age, we welcome you to adventure with us…and to send Troy’s bucket back up empty.

~Steph