Oh, the places we’ll go…

Paradise Found

I love movies. I really do. More than just loving the story, I love everything about them, from the magic of special effects to where and how they filmed the storybook landscapes. Imagine my delight when I discovered the New Zealand was a filming hot spot for movies such as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Chronicles of Narnia and Bridge to Teribithia, as well as parts of the Last Samurai and the Water Horse. Put scenes from these fantastical lands together, and you have the beauty of New Zealand. It was this alone that pushed us to board the plane on Sydney. Previous to this, New Zealand had truly been open. Ideally, we wanted a farm stay, but there’s price to consider, and for the rates we were finding, we might as well have stayed at the Four Seasons. Looking at the budget we wanted for New Zealand and the surplus of places to see, a campervan seemed like our best shot. Let me bring you in to my mind momentarily. At that time, I’d been with my family for eleven months and five days. Two bedrooms were the usual, and hotel life was the norm. Now, I’ve just been proposed the idea of spending a week in a campervan the size of our Yukon XL. I can’t complain—we’ve had a good amount of space to ourselves during our time in Australia, and it was going to be, after all, only a week. However, the idea was wholly unappealing. I maintained an open mind, aware that this was just the way it was going to be, but then my salvation came when our rental agent emailed us the news—the required campervan was unavailable. Could she have had better timing? Now, back to Square #2: where to stay. We went back to our original idea of a farm stay in the deep country. Prices were still through the roof, and we seemed to be getting little luck. All the time, I’m hoping for easy access to any of the Lord of the Rings filming sites, entirely for bragging rights. At last, we found it: a small, three-bedroom cottage on 720 acres of sheep, horse, and cattle farm lands for the best rate we’ve had in a very long time. I could not have imagined the beauty that awaited us, or the surprise news we discovered towards the end of our stay. Driving to Kenlea Cottage truly put our driving and map-reading skills to the test, as it truly was beyond the middle of nowhere. As mom stared down every sign that flew by, we stared into the sparkling sky above us. It’s not often that you’re able to distinguish the star clouds from the twinkling loners. Eventually, after what seemed to be endless hours of driving, we pulled into a rocky driveway and into the car park of a sweet, white cottage perched on a small hill, the lights standing out from its dark background. Ahhh, sweet, freezing-cold perfection. It remained so for the rest of the week, though sunny: the epitome of New Zealand weather. Between the mystical Waitomo Caves and the malodorous aroma of Rotorua, we enjoyed walks on the farm grounds to an ancient Mauri village, horseback rides over the hills, and movie nights complete with pizza and potato wedges. As our stay was coming to an end, I was somewhat disappointed that we had not had the chance to visit the nearby Hobbitown, home to the Hobbits and their Shire. During one of our many walks, Mrs. Savill, one of the owners of the farm on which we were staying, shared with us a story that filled that small gap in stay. Only recently, they’d moved to the farm they were on now. Before that, they lived on another smaller farm spitting distance from the farm the Lord of the Rings crew had commandeered for the backdrop of their Shire. It so happened that Mrs. Savill’s farm was in procession of the perfect hill for a particular camera angle, and so Mrs. Savill found herself suddenly on the set of the Lord of the Rings, with Elijah Wood and company cresting a hill on her farm. When the crew had migrated over to her farm, they noticed a horse of Mr. Savill that happened to look incredibly like the lead horse, despite a white spot on its head. Immediately, an offer was made for the horse as a “stunt double”. Though the offer was declined, they take pride in knowing that their horse managed to catch the eye of Hollywood. Well, that successfully completed my trip to New Zealand. Too soon we were packing our bags for the unknown lands of South America and the longest day of travel the world will ever know.

~Mckenna

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