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When I was a mere 10 years old, my dad took me to see Peter Jackson's The Fellowship of the Ring in theaters. But what truly brought Middle Earth to life (in my eyes) was the scenic backdrop of the film: the stunning country of New Zealand. This blog will document my day to day life while abroad and will contain anecdotes, photos, and anything essential to telling my own unique story.
It is I, your faithful narrator, here to bring you the final update about my mid-semester break from here in New Zealand.
This post will definitely be my longest and most thorough, so I shan’t be a disappointment.
After Meg left us at the first bus stop in Auckland, we arrived safe and sound and were picked up by our good friend Dion, whom we were staying with for the duration of our Auckland visit!
Walking up to One Tree Hill, we had to go through some pastures where there were sheep just hanging out. Once we finished our adventure taking in all the sights, we made our way back to the Niethe’s house, ate dinner, and hung out until we went to bed. The next day, we had a bit of a late start, but once everyone had finally woken up, we went in to Auckland to explore the city! Basically the showcase was a bunch of booths setup from islands all over the Pacific with goods that they were giving out samples of in the hopes of people purchasing them, while at the same time showing off the different cultural aspects of the various Islander peoples. But after our crazy adventures in town, we finally made it back to Pakuranga and hit the hay, quite drunk and ready for the next day’s adventures. Once again we had a bit of a late start to the day, and once we finally left the house, we headed to the beach, which is surprisingly easy to access!
We spent some time at the beach, collecting shells, and just taking in the sunshine, before heading back to Dion’s for the night.
We woke up at a reasonable hour, ate breakfast, and headed into Auckland in order to catch the madness that is the opening of the Rugby World Cup.
In case you haven’t picked this up from my previous posts, rugby is kinda a big deal here in New Zealand.
For the first couple of hours, we wandered the city taking in all the craziness-people were honking horns, yelling, waving flags. Once migrated to the wharf, we saw the really spectacular fireworks show, which, although didn’t last very long, was quite well done and, indeed, huge!
Thank you, dear followers, for sticking with me, I know these posts have been quite delayed, but I’ve been overwhelmed with school work and only just now have had the chance to catch up on my crazy happenings over break.
Stay tuned, dear followers, and I assure you, there will be more to report in the very near future. Unlike our last attempt to get to the bus in Taupo, the journey to the bus depot for Hamilton went rather smoothly. Glenn drives a little red car, which is absolutely exciting because we had little to no access to a car for the majority of the trip.
But anyway, our host’s name is Carl Cunningham, a 30-something farmer who works on his parents’ dairy farm!
We chatted with him for a bit until he had to go off to work, at which point we went around and explored Carl’s huge and awesome farm!
Glenn was such a great chauffeur, he drove us to Raglan, where there is an absolutely gorgeous beach where we got to watch the sunset!!
We woke up bright and early to be picked up by Glenn at 9:30 to head to Matamata, the location of the Hobbiton set!
That’s all I can really show you guys at least until the first movie comes out next year!
Hobbiton was amazing, it was so surreal to be at the actual location of everything that started it all-the making of The Lord of the Rings films, not to mention my love for moviemaking. Once we finally left Hobbiton, Glenn took us to climb a mountain on the outskirts of Hamilton called Mount Pirongia. When we finally made it up, the sun was starting to set, so we got to watch another spectacular sunset…this time, on top of a mountain! Even though we got to witness the most amazing sunset on top of a mountain, that meant the walk down was completely in the dark…something I was not keen with. After much cursing (on my part) and blind walking down the mountain, Ariel and I finally made it back first and decided to have some photo fun.
Finally, everyone made it down the mountain in one piece and we headed back to Carl’s for the evening where everyone swiftly passed the hell out after our long and exhausting day. Good morrow, one and all, it is I, your faithful narrator, here to tell you about our stay in the land of sulphur and tourism known as Rotorua.
We woke up and checked out of the Rainbow Lodge quite smoothly…just a bit behind on time. Eventually we had to sprint as we finally found the I-Site where we were getting picked up! Once we finally made it to Rotorua, we went to check into our hostel called Cactus Jack’s! First we headed to Lake Rotorua to see what was going on and we found out that the bird-life there is very prominent and lively. Once we got all warm and dry, we headed into town to pick up our friend, Meg, who had been too sick to join us on the trip until this point! And now, all the gang in town, we headed back to Cactus Jack’s in order to celebrate Wisco’s final evening with us! We drank some at the hostel, and then went to a DELICIOUS Mexican food restaurant where we shared margaritas and memories about the trip so far with Meg.
After the tequila and tacos, we headed to the Pig and Whistle, a bar just down the street from our hostel where we listened to live music, chatted it up with the locals, and otherwise just had a really fun time!
Then, exhausted and silly, we stumbled back to Cactus Jack’s to recover for the next day of adventure.
We started off the day with delicious vegan banana pancakes with chocolate chips and Nutella and peanut butter as a goodbye breakfast for our good buddy Wisco, who was planning on hitchhiking to Kerikeri in order to work on a farm!
Look at our family breakfast!Our final family photo together, outside of Cactus Jack’s :(Bye, Wisco!
Once we parted ways with Wisco, we caught a bus to the Redwood Forest located just on the outskirts of Rotorua. Following our day hike and exploration of the Redwoods, we came back home and had a quiet evening of dinner, hot tubbing, and movie-watching (The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, for any of you who are curious!). Once done at the market, we headed back to Cactus Jack’s to drop our things off before heading back to Lake Rotorua! After our nap, we went and got some ice cream, headed back to the hostel, had a wonderful pasta dinner, drank a bit, and then headed back to the Pig and Whistle for our last night celebration! However, Ariel kept getting hit on by lots of old guys and I wasn’t quite drunk enough to handle it, so we all decided to head back for the evening to get a good night’s rest for our traveling the next day! Stay tuned, dear followers, for my next installment, which shall cover the city of Hamilton! G'day lovely boys and girls, it is I, your faithful narrator, here once more to tell you about our mid-semester break excursions!
Once we arrived in Taupo, we immediately headed to our hostel…this time it was called the Rainbow Lodge!
We walked all around the city, stopping at Lake Taupo, the biggest lake in New Zealand (and I think, also, is the biggest lake in the Southern Hemisphere!

After stopping at the lake, we continued to walk around the city for HOURS, until Ariel and I got tired of exploring and went to a thermal pool…which is basically a large swimming pool heated by geothermal vents. It turns out that the boys had found a natural hot spring in a park they had explored while we went to the pool…and they found some Americans! We all got pretty drunk around the fire, but it was beautiful being out in the New Zealand wild just having fun and meeting other students like ourselves who found their way to New Zealand somehow. After we were finished hanging out, the lovely Americans drove us back to our hostel, where we all swiftly fell into a drunken sleep.
Wisco, Robert, myself, and Ariel climbed into our shuttle and we made our way to the mountain! We discovered that there were exactly nine of us and jokingly called ourselves “The Fellowship of the American Tourists”!
Well, once we’d finished reveling in our joy at reaching the top, we decided to finally make our way down the mountain back to the real world. After our wonderful hiking adventure, we headed back to the Rainbow Lodge, got into our swimsuits, and went to the natural hot springs that Robert and Wisco had discovered the day prior. Once finished being stared at by guys at Element, we headed back to the Rainbow Lodge and went to bed, as we had a bus to catch the next day! Our bus was set to leave at 7:30 in the morning, but our hostel was on the complete opposite side of town so we had to walk all the way to the bus stop carrying all of our stuff and looking like complete tourists. After our beach excursion, we were going to check out the National Aquarium, but it was teeny tiny from the outside and cost $18 to go in, so we decided against it. After leaving the aquarium, we went on a quiet stroll around the city, which appeared to be quite dead. We headed back to our hostel for a quiet family dinner around the table, played an off-version of Pictionary, and then somehow decided we should go to a pub. We wound up at a pub called Rosie’s where the boys bought pitchers, and we had a rather interesting encounter with some drunk locals who really warmed up to Wisco. Hello my little chickpeas, it is Mauren, your faithful narrator, returned from the Internet dead!
Once we finally figured out where the hell we were staying, we met up with our international counterparts who were coming into Wellington a couple hours later than us. We woke up quite early the next day to check out of The Base and move to Lodge in the City.
Following this escapade, we wound up at this kind of underground craft market where we saw a lot of handmade crafts and things and I picked up some souvenirs for some friendlings of mine. Once we parted ways with Amber, we wandered around Wellington until we found this little place called Ninja Flower, a shop that specializes in gauges and piercing!
After such a busy day, we had a bit of a chill session before cooking a dinner of pasta and tomato sauce and drinking a bottle of red wine. However, the chillness didn’t last much longer as we played a little drinking game called Ring of Fire, and prepared to go out on the town!
We headed back up to our room and heard some crazy yelling next door to us, so naturally we went to investigate. Once in the lobby, there was this really attractive hipster man who I had spoken to earlier and, thanks to liquid courage, I went and introduced myself. We woke up bright and early for our third day of break and headed to a fruit and veggie market to get some delicious noms for our journey. I wandered over to the harbor to take some pictures while the crew bought some fruit and stuff.
But afterwards, and this is where it gets really exciting, we went to Mount Victoria, the shooting location for a couple scenes in The Fellowship of the Ring!
I didn’t get an actual photo of the actual location, but I did get to walk all around and you could feel like it was a part of Middle Earth! We walked around for a bit and then hiked up to the lookout, which provides an amazing view of Wellington-really, you can see the whole city sprawled out before you. We dined on peanut butter sandwiches and granola bars and then made our way back down the mountain to get some groceries for dinner, and had a quiet evening as we had an early wake up call for our bus the next day.
Good morning, evening, afternoon to you all, dear followers, whichever state of the day you may be in!
It is I, Mauren, your faithful narrator, back once more to update you on the goings-on in the tiny island country of New Zealand. The team for Palmerston North is called the Manawatu Turbos, and their mascot is a turbine…a windmill. Personally, I get a kick out of that, because I just can’t see windmills as a legitimate mascot in any way. For some reason, and I still don’t actually quite know why, everyone wears green buckets on their heads in order to support the Turbos.
Despite never having seen a rugby game in my life, the whole event was (a little chilly yet) quite enjoyable. Green war paint and all, we fit right in with the rowdy rugby fans and watched men tackle each other in short shorts. Now, I know…how can someone as strong, independent, and willful as your faithful narrator dare succumb to the silliness of homesickness? I was just having a really hard week and needed to vent, essentially, about all the stuff that’s been making me upset. Once the goods were in the oven, it was time to settle in and watch Pride and Prejudice (quite possibly the sappiest movie we could have potentially watched). The reason I decided to blog about this (well, actually there are many reasons, but this one reason is the most relevant) is to point out that, despite the fact that we ladies originate from all over the globe [Germany, USA, UK, and New Zealand], we can still come together and have a girls’ night even though all of our backgrounds are so incredibly different! And here they are, the lovely ladies themselves (: Aren’t we just the prettiest little butterflies? Now that the girls’ night has been thoroughly covered, it is now time to discuss the rest of my weekend which was spent in Wellington! What I found interesting about Wellington is that it is extremely similar in size to Little Rock, my hometown. The pictures above are of the very first (and definitely not the last) hostel I’ve ever stayed in! Because of this, we were surrounded by people from all over the world and we all had one thing in common: we were foreigners in a city far from home. I don’t mean to be cheesy, but seeing this literally took my breath away (and I almost started crying).
And for those of my followers who do not know what Weta is, read the description that will follow this sentence. Filled to the brim with movie props and artifacts, the Weta Cave was truly a highlight of the trip. Following a rough evening and even rougher morning…it was time to see The National Museum! Again, I could post pictures all day long, but there’s no way I have the time or the patience to load them all. Once our National Museum excursion was finished, we headed back to the hostel to collect our things, climbed aboard the Naked Bus and made the journey back to our lovely home in Palmerston North. I hope, dear followers, that this has been an exciting and informative post and I do, once again, apologize for the lack of posting. Nearly three hours later, I left the theater with a sense of wonderment-I was simply captivated by Tolkien's story of Frodo and the quest of the One Ring.

And ever since then, I've hoped and hoped to one day visit the country that represents Middle Earth in the present day.
For the first semester of my junior year, I'm going to be living in Palmerston North, New Zealand, while taking classes at Massey University. His family lives in a little suburb outside of the city called Pakuranga, and his family was so wonderfully accommodating and nice-they were simply the best hosts we could have possibly asked for! We went out for the evening, and got to experience crazy Auckland night life, which is quite different than night life in Palmerston North, I’ll tell you that. But you must remember, it is I, your faithful narrator, and I would never leave you hanging in such a fashion. We got the chance to see a great majority of New Zealand, meeting interesting people and learning new things all the while.
It is I, your faithful narrator, back once more to tell you the delightful details of mid-semester break. He picked us up at the Countdown and drove us to our Couchsurfing host’s farm in Ngahinapouri, 15 minutes outside of Hamilton. I hope this was enough to quench your thirst, as I’ve only got one more stop to cover of mid-semester break: Auckland! We wound up wandering the wrong way around Lake Taupo and just couldn’t find the bus stop! Robert and I fell behind, and were graciously picked up by a couple of Asians in a car, who drove us to the bus stop just in time. It’s a sport that originated in New Zealand, and, though we paid $35 for it (which was a little too much in my opinion) , it was definitely a fun Kiwi experience. We woke up and wandered to a small marketplace where people were selling clothes, food, and fresh fruits and veggies!
I honestly was getting a bit nauseous being around the lake because it smelled SO much like sulphur. We had our own bathroom in our room, the communal life was really fun, and the staff was super helpful. It is I, your faithful narrator, returned from the depths of my papers and films to write about my wonderful time in the beautiful city of Napier! We made our way to our hostel called The Stables, a quaint little hostel just off the main road. We hadn’t had a chance to see New Zealand coastline yet, so we were really excited to see Napier’s coast! We were assured, however, that the city becomes much more popular in warmer weather and on weekends.
I have been back in Palmerston North since last Sunday, but have been quite overwhelmed and busy and, as you can tell, have not had much time to blog about my past two-week adventures! It’s part of a chain of hostels all over New Zealand, and our room was really nice, spacious, and had a great view from the surrounding windows!
Then, we headed to a little bead shop to meet up with a mutual friend’s friend named Amber which was quite nice! I wound up buying some really pretty plugs and Robert wound up getting his ear pierced and stretched!
They were two Germans (so many Germans, huh?) named Tobias and Fabio (I think his name was Fabio?
The first installation of my mid-semester break blog posts :) I will do my best to write one per day until I get all caught up. Before the snow, I’d been thinking that the world was just going through an awkward cold time in the summer. Naturally, wanting to be as Kiwi as possible, several of us got green buckets, cut out holes in them, and wore them on our heads, as you can see above.
A quick update before I leave you, however: on Friday, the 26th of August, our mid-semester break begins.
Nothing too exciting has happened as of yet, but I feel the need to get out some stress that I’ve been carrying around for the past week or so. I guess that brings out the spoiled in me, but I really miss having a dependable means of transportation. Hendrix is a wonderful, beautiful place filled with wonderful, beautiful people, and it’s going to be very hard to be away for almost six months.
Not that the recreation center here isn’t fabulous-I just am so used to my gym at home that being in a new one is disorienting. After a bumpy, loud, exhausting 2 hour bus ride we finally arrived with little sanity intact. They have done props for several popular films such as The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspia, Avatar, The Last Samurai, The Lovely Bones, and, last but not least, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy! To talk to someone who works in the industry paired with witnessing all of the amazing work that goes into the creation of these props…phenomenal. Also, photo credit to the lovely Robert Tung, who also has a New Zealand study abroad blog! Weekends are going to be the best things for me to document, so expect updates around those times. All I know is that there used to be a single tree on the hill, but it got cut down in some sort of protest. The two weeks we spent traveling was definitely a highlight of my New Zealand adventures on the whole, and I can only hope that the rest of my time here will be just as interesting and amazing. It allows travelers a free place to sleep while allowing hosts to meet people from all over the place. It was just such a wonderful day, I am so glad we got to climb and have such fun with other study abroad students! She was very sweet and it was so crazy to meet someone that one of our friends from home knows on the other side of the world! There were several of them, and the girl named Ollie was celebrating her 18th birthday (similar to the 21st birthday rite of passage in the States, if you catch my drift…)! Nothing happened out of this situation, and I definitely don’t want to seem a harlot, but it was definitely a fun experience. Either than or Fabian…) who are basically traveling and working and doing whatever the hell they want.
The layout’s all weird and lots of 13-year-old Maori boys always take up the machines. WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO ME, NEW ZEALAND?) and it’s really frustrating when I have to explain my colloquialisms. With the dorm rooms, its like that at most universities in NZ, New Zealanders would not pay to have a tiny shared room haha, and if you do have a shared room, its because you choose too cause you want to pay less! It’s a really great organization and I’ve had nothing but good experiences so far using it! We introduced ourselves and hung out with them for a bit before heading down the the lobby. If I wasn’t here in New Zealand, we never would have met, and he was such an interesting person!

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