Countdown to my journey to Middle Earth

Scenic photo New Zealand South Island
Middle Earth beckons

Let me preface this slightly embarrassing admission with a small disclaimer. Geography was never my strong suit during my formative primary school years.

A number of years ago I was planning my first trip to Australia. Early in the planning stages I decided I’d devote a day or two to visiting New Zealand while I was in that part of the world.

While my knowledge of New Zealand at the time was quite negligible, I was aware that New Zealand was located just mere centimeters to the southeast of Australia on the world map. Surely I’d be able to catch a ferry or something to get there from Sydney.

Imagine my dismay when I subsequently learned that New Zealand was some 4,155 air kilometers distant from the east coast of Oz, about a 3.5 hour flight. Sadly, I had to scrap the idea of visiting New Zealand on that trip due to both a lack of sufficient time as well as funds. I already had a rather ambitious plan for seeing Australia.

Still I never forgot about New Zealand. As the years passed and I came to learn more about the country my resolve to visit there only grew. In fact visiting New Zealand became firmly established on my travel bucket list.

In the meanwhile, it has been my very good fortune to meet and make friends with several Kiwis and that of course heightened my desire to visit New Zealand all the more. After all, who doesn’t enjoy the prospect of visiting the homeland of dear friends?

Then along came the Lord of the Rings movies. Middle Earth bade me visit all the more.

With regard to one of those Kiwi friends I mentioned, a romance kindled and love blossomed. What better reason to visit New Zealand could anyone ask for? While we have spent time together outside her country I have yet see her home or to meet her family and friends there which I am very keen to do.

My partner and I had sort of planned that I would visit this past June but complications here at home prevented those plans from coming to fruition. Mid-August has since presented itself as a likely time for several weeks of traveling and so I started watching airfares. Just last week I found a great deal on an Air New Zealand flight. So at long last I’m finally headed to Middle Earth in just mere weeks.

To be sure, the chance to spend time with my partner and meet her family is what I’m most excited about. But I do plan to see a bit of Middle Earth too while I’m there.

Not long ago I discovered Young Adventuress, a blog written by a nice young lady named Liz. In one of her posts she detailed her visit to Hobbiton Movie Set near Matamata in the North Island of New Zealand, the set from The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit film trilogies. Certainly I’d not miss a visit to The Shire while in New Zealand. After all if you are going to visit New Zealand, you may as well make an epic adventure of it.

So sometime in September, look for me to share with you my Kiwi experiences and hopefully a lot of great photographs of a truly beautiful country. I’m so ready for the trip. At least now I know what a “dairy” is in New Zealand and more importantly how a dairy differs from a dairy farm. That little nugget of information should come in quite handy. And who knows? Perhaps, like Liz did, I’ll have the opportunity to channel my inner Hobbit while visiting The Shire.

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Got Milk?

cartoon image of a cow
Who knew?

Not long after meeting my partner Suzanne who lives in New Zealand, I developed the daily habit of reading the online edition of the New Zealand Herald newspaper. I thought it would be a great way to learn more about Suzanne’s country. Now she actually teases me about knowing more about what is going on in her own country than she does. While it has been a good way to learn about New Zealand, it has on occasion produced some humorous moments.

It seems according to the paper that there has been a rash of dairy robberies in New Zealand recently. I was somewhat mystified by that. My paternal grandfather owned and operated a small independent dairy when I was a child. Based on that I couldn’t begin to fathom what would make them such an attractive target for armed robberies. I had visions of a criminal arriving in a gleaming tanker truck, jumping out brandishing a firearm, and telling a hapless dairy farmer, “This is a stickup – give me all the milk and no one gets hurt.”

I’d been meaning to ask Suzanne for a long while about the disturbing popularity of dairy robberies and what she made of it before I finally remembered to bring it up. I was met by a sudden outburst of laughter. Once she was able to compose herself sufficiently to stop laughing she patiently explained that the dairies I had read about being robbed from time to time are not the dairy farms I had in mind. Instead a dairy in New Zealand is what Americans would call a convenience store – a place where you can buy bread, fizzy drinks, lollies (Kiwi for candy), and well…milk. She assured me that it wasn’t necessary to wear gumboots when visiting a dairy nor was there any risk of stepping in cow poo.

Obviously I have much to learn about the Kiwi version of English. I didn’t really need the dairy robberies gaffe. After all it isn’t as if Suzanne doesn’t already get heaps of entertainment from my lame attempts at pronouncing New Zealand place names that have Māori origins. Oh well. At least I keep her laughing and that’s always a good thing isn’t it?