Oscar up the Gog

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Back to the Island...
jawapro
Sun 14/06/2015 12:10 AM


 
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"We have to go back"...

No - not the island from Lost. I’m talking about Isla Nublar, from Jurassic Park.

It’s been over 20 years since the original Jurassic Park movie came out. We got two sequels set on Isla Sorna (Site B) but we haven’t been back to the original island.

This week Jurassic World opened in cinemas - so I made the trek.

Ok - so I didn’t go to a tropical island. Instead I went to Melbourne.

Why? Well, Melbourne has an Imax - and I figured Jurassic World is a big enough movie to be worth the trip. 

So with Tom, Tim, and Jim accompanying me (mainly because it was a cheap trip to Melbourne for them), we headed over the strait. Hit some of the Lego sales, and caught up with Mike in time for the movie itself.

So the verdict? 


Well - I had a blast. 

I’m a huge Jurassic Park fan - so more adventures in that universe are always welcome. And because we were back on the first island - they could tie some stuff directly back to the first movie. Props and sets from the first movie cropped up - and made sense within the story. Even Mr DNA got his brief cameo.

Some of the characters were very stereotyped, and some of the plot was overly predictable. But I really enjoyed my time back on the island. 

It certainly doesn’t reach the heights of the first movie - but it might be the best of the sequels - I’ll have to watch it a few times to decide.

It’s apparently making a killing at the box office too - which may mean we get more JP movies.

Life will find a way....




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Lego Animation
jawapro
Sun 03/05/2015 09:23 PM


 
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I got an SOS for my cousin asking for some help with some Lego animation for her school project. She’s doing a video on conflicting world views, and wanted some extra scenes to use as background in addition to the stuff she’s filming herself.

So it was a good excuse to break out my webcam and software and have another crack at making some Lego animations (which I haven’t done in ages - not since I had the webcam and software even).

Although the requested scenes won’t make much sense on their own - they might be amusing. If you want to have a look I’ve uploaded them to Youtube.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cS46rMXMvTo

Hope they help Gabs! Good luck with the rest of it.



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Repeating the past
jawapro
Tue 31/03/2015 09:45 AM

 
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Back in 2002 I was sitting in a cinema watching Attack of the Clones. As the battle for Geonosis raged, I remember thinking to myself "I'll need a DVD player for this".

Ignoring the fact that my judgment may have been clouded by the excitement of the moment - the decision to get a DVD player stayed with me. This was back when I was at school - so it was quite an investment to purchase a DVD player, which was quite expensive at the time. But all my refusing to buy snacks paid off, and I got the first DVD player in my circle of friends - this was back when VHS still ruled.

I got the DVD player before Attack of the Clones was available on DVD - so of course I needed a DVD to watch.

So I got a copy of Fellowship of the Rings. This was only the standard release, but I watched it many times (including all the extras).

Fast forward 14 years - my original DVD player still works, but it's dying, so Turks got me a Blue-Ray player for Christmas (cheers mate). Although I jumped on the DVD wagon reasonably early, I've held off on Blue Ray until now. Not for any real reason - just a lack of motivation. But as I now have a player - I figured I needed to invest in a Blue Ray movie or two.

As with my first ever DVD, my first Blue-Ray was Lord of the Rings. Sort of repeating the past.

I've been thinking about updating my Lord of the Rings movies to the extended editions anyway - so the fact that I now have a Blue Ray player seemed like a good excuse. Not only that - I was exploring New Zealand and visiting some of the locations from the movie - so it was an even better reason.

So my first Blue Ray was the Extended Version of Lord of the Rings (on a whooping 16 Blue Ray disks) purchased in New Zealand.

It's a souvenir of the trip in addition to being some awesome movies.


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New Zealand Part 3
jawapro
Mon 02/03/2015 01:14 PM




Day 9 - a quiet day

Woke up and then went back to sleep.

After the excitement and constant movement of the last week or so, I took today pretty easy. Slept in, did some washing, sorted some of my stuff out, and caught up with my blog. Didn’t get out of here until after midday.

 
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Did a spot of caching close to Jason’s and then headed into Pukekohe to restock on a few groceries and grab a couple of caches there too. Met up with Jason (who’d been at work) at his place in the evening, so we headed back into Pukekohe for tea on our way to Auckland. This time we had the burger from Burger Fuel that we’d eye’d off a few days back. It is officially the "fush n chups" burger, and while expensive, was very nice. Burger Fuel sits somewhere between the standard burger joints, and Burger Got Soul.

After tea we headed into Auckland. Jason had called the BlastaCar crowd to see if the Hamilton site would be open tonight. Apparently it wasn’t, but the Auckland track was - so we headed into town.

Blastacars is drift go-carts. Jason loves it and has been back to the Hamilton one a few times now.

It was fun, but as predicted, I’m not much of a drifter.

 
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I had two 15 minute sessions while Jason stayed on for another. By the time I got off, my legs were aching - the seating position isn’t right for me apparently. Still, I’m glad I’ve done it - but it’s not something I’d rush back for, especially as it’s not exactly cheap.

By the time we got back to Jason’s, it was almost midnight (which is very late for Jason). If I can wake up in time tomorrow, I aim to head out again - northwards.




Day 10 - Northward trek

Today I went for a drive. The end.

But what a drive!

I got up as Jason headed off to work. I can’t remember what time I left, but it was around 9:30 I think. Anyway - I reloaded the trusty Outlander and headed back towards Auckland (feels strange as I was only there last night). Followed the motorway straight through this time - Auckland is massive and takes a long time to get through, especially when you reach the traffic congenstion (it wasn’t bad when I was there as I’d missed the worst, but it still slowed me down.

On the North side of Auckland there’s a toll way. You can get around it for free, but I put my $2.40 into the slot machine to take the faster route.

 
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^ Random little waterfall I stopped at to break the journey.

As most of the trip was just driving, there’s less to report today. By lunch time I found a little waterfall 6km off the main road so went for a drive to check it out and make myself some rolls (it feels good to be back in the swing of cheapskate living again after traveling with Jason for a while - odd as he’s the broke one).

The country feels like diary farming initially, but then reaches the coast and there’s the normal seaside towns with little shops etc. Stopped besides the beach to send Mum a "Happy Birthday" email at one. The beaches up here are much nicer than the ones I’d seen on my loop to Wellington and back - instead of the ugly black sand, they have proper sand up here.

 
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^ A proper beach!

At  Ruakaka I pulled into the town for a look. Reasonable sized town with a wood-chip port, but the impressive thing was the mountains you could see over the bay - not massively high, but with very impressive rock formations on top - the sort of thing you could imagine being the lair of some ancient nazgul or something. I marked it on my map as a possible spot to return to on the way back.

 
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^ This looks like a very epic location to me.

 
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^ Quite a few old mission houses up here.

Then it was inland again through more farming land. Nice trip, but nothing incredible. Then I came to the Mangamuka Pass. This incredibly twisty and cambered piece of road was awesome - much more fun than the go-carts last night!

 
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^ My sort of road!

Eventually I got to Kaitaia, the last major town on the North. I’d assumed it’d be small, Bridport sized, but apparently it’s quite a bit larger - halfway to Devonport sized. Stopped here to grab a couple of caches for reasons that will become obvious later on in the song, as well as some tea. By this time it was 6PM and I considered finding some accommodation in town as it had started to drizzle, but I couldn’t find anything cheap on the net, and the forecast for the top of the North, Cape Reinga, was sunny. So I decided to push on (after tea).

I grabbed some drinks from the supermarket, and then found a restaurant specialising in Roasts. These seem to be more common over here - they are fairly cheap and fast (not fancy resturants). Anyway - I had quite a nice lamb shank, but it was the vegies I was dying for. Between the takeaways and Jason’s vegie-free diet, I haven’t been getting anywhere near enough. Looking forward to some serious vegies when I get home ?

Anyway - after tea I headed out of town. Still had 100km to go to the camp site, and I figured I wouldn’t quite make it in daylight. I was right - when I arrived there was still some light in the sky, but none on the ground. I’m not quite at the North-most tip, but I’m pretty close, only a couple of km away. It’s a formed campsite like some of our National Park ones. You sign a form and put it with your money in a box - $6 a night. There are long-drops and apparently even cold showers (although I haven’t found them yet - it’s dark). Quite a few people around - but I’ve got a spot of lawn to myself. Doesn’t matter much as I’ll only be here overnight.

I can see the water from my tent, I can’t see the beach as it’s dark, but I’m assuming it’s sandy. I’ll take a look around in the morning.

So that’s it for tonight. Happy Birthday to Mum!




Day 11 - the North

 
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Well apparently I’d forgotten to dry the tent out after the last time - so it started out damp, which wasn’t grand. Combined with the very heavy dew, things got a little wet. Ah well - it was only the pillows and things - I haven’t been keeping much in the tent as I knew that was a risk.

Woke up early as normal in that tent (give me a decent tent and stretcher and I’ll sleep for hours) - so got up as dawn was breaking. I hadn’t found the fabled showers, so got dressed and decided to hit the road. I wanted to go Cape Reinga which is the most Northerly accessible part of New Zealand. So I left my tent to dry off and headed to the Cape. The only people there were those who’d camped in the carpark (not sure why you’d bother when there was a great campsite down the road) so I initially had the walk to the cape to myself.

 
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^ The lighthouse is the most northerly part that is accessible to non-hiking visitors.

This area is important to the Maori religion - apparently it’s where the spirits go on their way to the afterlife. Dunno about that - but they ask you not to eat while you’re out there (the sign isn’t very prominent and I was stuffing my mouth with rolls for breakfast when I spotted it). Doh.

In some ways the cape isn’t as impressive as I’d imagined - there’s a light house and some nice rugged coast, but it just doesn’t feel as epic as I’d expected. Not sure what I’d expected. Still, I’m glad I made the trip. Took some photos near the lighthouse to prove I made it.

In front of the lighthouse is where the Tasman Sea and the Pacific Ocean meet. It’s not just a point on a map either - you can see the confused waves - going both directions!

 
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^ The Tasman Sea meets the Pacific Ocean.

On the other side of the bluff is a walking track that leads down to some beaches - but more importantly - also has a geocache on it. As I’d started caches in NZ, I realised I was very close to my 200th cache (not including GCA ones) so I decided that the northernmost NZ cache was worthy of the honour (I’d checked them out online a few days ago).

Yesterday when I was in Kaitaia I’d investigated the caches out here and written the co-ords in my notebook as I figured I might not have signal. That day someone had been out here and found most of the caches - but they’d logged a DNF against this one. So I wasn’t sure how I’d go - but gave it a whirl anyway. Unfortunately it’s either very well hidden or gone, as I couldn’t find it either.

 
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^ Kia Ora is like "G'day" in Maori.

So after trekking around Cape Reinga the sun had come up and it had gotten hot (NZ is certainly not cold during the days this time of year) - so I was dripping with sweat when I got back to the Outlander.

This isn’t quite the Northernmost part of NZ, but it’s the Northernmost part you can easily drive to. If I had a 4wd or hiking gear it might be different - but alas, it’s just me and the Outlander. I did spy a lot of tracks leading off the road though - if Oscar was here we’d go exploring.

Headed to a nearby lookout and found the cache there - my 200th! Not quite as awesome as the very Northern one - but pretty good.

Then back to the campsite and a cache down there. All these caches were done with zero phone signal - using my trusty old yellow Garmin GPS. Seems far more accurate than the iPhone, just not as convenient.

Packed up my mostly dry tent, and finally located the showers. Just cold water in a shelter with no doors. I found an empty stall and hung some clothes in front of the doorway to discourage anyone else from trying it - and had a very quick cold shower. Felt really good after the walking I’d been doing (I did mention the days were hot didn’t I?).

Anyway - left the camp site and stared the slow trip south. I wanted to take more of a look around than I’d managed on the way up. Especially the part I’d done in the dark the night before (apparently those epic waves I’d seen were actually sand dunes).

 
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Called into a side road that led to some giant Sand Dunes. There was a bus there hiring out sand boards so you could surf down - but I left that to the backpackers and kept going. There was also vehicle access to the beach which looked far more appealing - if I’d had the right car and more time.

 
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So back to Kaitaia for some more fuel and food - and then southward again.

Back over the awesome Mangamuka pass, which was so fun I did it twice! At the summit there’s a walking tack into the jungle, so I went half a k in to find a cache and then back out. Very pretty (once you get past the rubbish dumped at the start) and no snakes to worry about (I also haven’t seen any leeches, but not sure if that’s just luck or if there aren’t any).

 
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^ The walk from the top of the pass.

So when back in the Outlander again, I drove to the bottom of the pass, and did the whole thing again - this time with my camera mounted on it’s tripod in the middle of the car filming the trip. I wasn’t pushing it at all (holding the camera steady) so we’ll see how it looks.

 
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^ Filming the pass, just cause I could.

 
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^ Not exactly a Go-Pro mount - but it worked.

The weather was cracking up - so I got on the net when I had signal and booked into a cabin at the Whangarei caravan park. Dearer than a tent site, but given the rain that fell during tea, it was very worth it.

A few days ago when traveling with Jason we’d discussed Indian Curry - but only discussed it as Jason can’t stand anything spicier than tomato sauce. Ever since then I’d had a craving for Indian, so I found myself an Indian restaurant and had a very nice lamb vindaloo. I only had the medium one, but it was very nice - Jason’s head would have exploded if he’d tried it.

Tomorrow’s my last real day in NZ. I’ve got a list of things to try and do - we’ll see how it goes ?

 
 
 


Day 12 - Winding Down

Last night I wrote down a list of things I wanted to achieve before leaving New Zealand - and I managed to tick most of them off today.

Last night I re-organized the car - so it was much more compactly packed today. Roughly in groups of things that are coming home, things that aren’t, and things I need today. Loaded them into the car and headed out to complete the items on the list.

First up - find a cache. I’ve been trying to get a cache each town I stay in - and this one was a beauty. Merged my love of Star Wars and Caching - but I can’t say much more in case you want to tackle it.

From there the next thing on my list was the Piggery Bookstore. This is apparently the largest second hand bookstore in northern New Zealand - and is therefore famous. The name hails from the original store which was located in an old piggery - the current one has moved locations, but not names. Didn’t find much I needed - although am a few books heavier now.

Next up was either the Glow Worm caves or Kiwi North. I’d hoped to do both, but time was getting on, and the glow worms were 30 minutes back the way I’d come (they weren’t open last night) so I ended up settling for Kiwi North.

Kiwi North is a museum with a Kiwi enclosure and birdlife rescue centre. My main purpose was to see a normal Kiwi as the previous one I’d seen was the white one (an oddity). But I figured I’d take a look around while I was here.

Was greeted by the very friendly staff, but warned they were expecting an invasion of school-kids that day - so I’d best head through quickly if I wanted to miss them. Turns out they were late - so I wasn’t impacted.

The normal brown Kiwis are far harder to spot in a dark enclosure than their white cousin had been - but I (and a few other tourists) were able to sit for a while and admire them. They can be really quite quick when they want to be!

 
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^ A pretty poor photo of a Kiwi (they feed them like this accasionally as well as the grubs in the leaf litter).

As well as the Kiwis there were more of the Tuataras and some surprisingly large geckos. They also had some stuffed examples of predators, so I now know what a Stoat is (I’d heard them mentioned at Mt Bruce but didn’t know what they were.

Had a look around some of the exhibits in the museum. Some Moa fossils, some Maori stuff, some military exhibits, and even the shell of a giant crayfish. A little bit scattered, but interesting.

 
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^ A rather poor photo of a stuffed Kiwi - but it's a little clearer than the one from the dark enclousure.

Outside they had  more exhibits in buildings around the area - but as the schoolkids were invading and I was still considering heading for the glow worms at this point, I was about to turn around and head back - when I saw the steam rising behind some of the buildings.

 
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^ Where there's steam, there migt be a steam engine!

Kiwi North hosts both a full size railway (very short, but standard guage) and a model railway (the sort you can straddle) - both are only open on some weekends. But sure enough, the full size Loco was steaming up at the station. I stopped to take photos - and the driver saw me, and invited me into the cab for a ride!

 
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Apparently they’d been trying to fix a seal on one of the pressure valve things (Turks would know) and were giving it a test run. Hence there were no carriages or anything - just me, the driver, and the fireman. I had a good yak to them (mostly they did the talking) while they put the engine up and down the short run - only to decide that the gasket they’d used was no good and would need re-doing. Had a bit more of a chat while they stopped for lunch, before heading off eventually. Turks would have loved chatting with them - and Jason was very jealous too when I told him (when he was at Kiwi North the train wasn’t running).

By this point I gave up on the glow worms, as impressive as they sounded, and was heading back toward Auckland when I spotted a car wash. That was another thing I’d had on my list. Not the wash itself so much, but the vacuum cleaner. I cleaned the leftovers that had built up by dumping the tents in and out - hopefully there’s not much for the rental crowd to complain about.

So back to Auckland. It was only 2 hrs - but I was tired so it felt far longer.

In Auckland I thought I was following the GPS but it didn’t mention an intersection so I ended up in the wrong lane and off the motorway heading towards the CBD. I managed to get back on track and return to ToyCo (where I’d picked up the Lego Spaceman lamp) or more importantly, the JB HiFi besides it. This was the cheapest place I’d found in my travels for the movie I wanted - so I picked that up.

From here it was back south towards Jason. I’d been planning to call past his work site to take some photos for him - but the Auckland traffic struck again. Massive queues with very little movement. Took me half an hour to make a couple of kays.

Eventually made it to Jason’s via Pukekohe where I picked up some stuff for tea.  Steak, bacon, and some vegies for me (Jason won’t eat them) as I was hanging out for some.

Then trying some of the whiskey Jason had bought at the airport on the way over, and my Southfarthing Cider (as I’m not sure I’m allowed to bring it back) before the annoying task of trying to pack everything. Why did I bring so many clothes?

I’ve even had to ditch the boxes the Lego came in - that’s how bad it is!

Anyway - that’s it for tonight. Tomorrow I’m heading back to the land of Aus. Catch you then!




Day 13 - There and back again...

 
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^ Jason's Place

 
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^ Jason's Kitchen

Jason woke me up before he went to work (as we’d agreed). Said farewell, then he went off to work, and I got down to packing. I’d done a fair bit the previous night - but had to repack again this morning to get everything in.

As Jason is a broke bachelor with almost zero chance that his mother or fiancée will come to visit, his house isn’t as clean as it might be. So I’d bought some cleaning supplies and gave his bathroom a bit of a clean and left the supplies for him.

 
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I also left quite a collecting of stuff, the tent, an eski (chillybin), a couple of plastic crates, a fan etc. At least some of which should prove useful.

 
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I left Jason’s after doing a double-check (I don’t think I left much behind I didn’t mean to) and headed into Pukekohe to do some last minute shopping. Among other things I got a small lock for my bag - not to keep people out, but to try and stop it from popping open (it was rather full).

From there it was back into Auckland. Not too much traffic this time - I was late enough to miss it I guess. As I approached the airport, I swung off the motorway to find a petrol station which was easy - but half the road was closed for roadworks, so I couldn’t go back the way I’d come - and I couldn’t find a way around them either - and the GPS wasn’t much help. Eventually I found a way that looped back to the Motorway and got back on track - thankfully I’d allowed myself heaps of time.

 
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Returned the Outlander to the rental company. I’ve  doubled the kays on the poor thing - it’s certainly been on a journey with me over the last two weeks. It only had 4,000ks on it when I picked it up, and had 8,000 when I took it back.

The rental company isn’t in the airport, but they have shuttle-busses that take you back and forth, so I caught that and was soon deposited at the Auckland international terminal. Checked my bag in and settled down for a wait. Had a look around the shops and watched an episode of "The 100" on my laptop - and eventually my flight was open.

 
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^ I'd been quite enjoying the L&P drink while in NZ, appparently it comes in Chocolate too.

Apparently it was completely full, but that didn’t make much difference to me. Had a window seat so relaxed for the trip and watched a couple of shows on the entertainment system.

Landed in Australia and had to change our watches to reflect the local time (so not quite as late as it felt) and head through customs.

No issues, although I did have to declare my swimming gear - but as it had been washed and dried it wasn’t an issue.

Because I was going from International to Domestic I had to collect my bag and re-check it in. Unlike Auckland, I had to wait around for a while until the bags turned  up (apparently we’re slower at this than NZ). Grabbed my bag and headed for domestic checkin.

This is where things got a little more interesting - they ran through the spiel of asking if I had things in my bag - and one of them they mentioned was ‘lighters’. I did have a lighter in my bag - so I told them. Apparently lighters are ok if they are in carry-on but not in checked. That’s assuming the lighter doesn’t look like a shot-gun.

 
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^ Lego Lamp Spaceman demonstrating the shot-gun lighter.

The check-in chick wasn’t sure what to do with the novelty lighter, so spoke to her supervisor. As it had never been filled with gas (still had the “no gas” sticker on it) they decided it could travel in my check-in bag, but it would have to go as "restricted". So they put a special label on the bag, and I had to escort it to a security entrance where someone collected the bag manually and took it to the plane.

After that I had time to grab a drink and get through security and to the gate - but didn’t have to hang around for long at all after that.

As the hop from Melbourne to Launceston wasn’t very full, they announced they were looking for people to sit in the exit aisles - so I signed up. Scored a window seat with heaps of leg room, and the seat beside me was empty - so pretty much perfect.

A short hop into Launceston where I was met by Mum and Emma (Dad was with the car still). My bag didn’t come out on the conveyer like everyone else’s - it was manually carried out by a bloke and I had to sign for it.

We found Dad and the car, and I was delivered to Emma’s place where the trusty Forrester was waiting for me. Chatted with Em for a while, then drove the Forrester back to Mum and Dad’s for the night. It won’t take me long to get back in the rhythm of driving a real car - no push-button starter etc.

And that about wraps things up - that’s my trip to the North Island.

Will be saving up to visit the South Island when I can!


 
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^ Farewell from Middle Earth... for now...


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New Zealand Part 2
jawapro
Tue 24/02/2015 11:04 AM


Day 5

Well this was yesterday when I’m writing this – so lets see how we go…

Woke up nice and earlyish – this has more to do with the uncomfortable bed than any good planning – but regardless, I was packed and on the road by 8am.

 

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More rural roads today. My GPS has decided that it’s more interesting to take the back roads than the main highway (must be slightly shorter). I happen to agree – but it does make the trip a bit longer than expected.

At one point I entered a town, took a side street back out of town, back in via the suburbs, and then rejoined the highway. Might have been shorted, but certainly wasn’t faster. At other points I travelled through dairy country backroads instead of staying on the highway – that was fun though.

 

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One of the townships I came across had an awesome little park/playground in the middle of it. The centrepiece was a slippery slide made out of the body of an old WWII fighter plane. They had an awesome collection of play equipment for little tackers too – I expect it wouldn’t be deemed ‘safe’ in Aus.

 

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Further down the road I found an old Anzac memorial bridge. This had been the main bridge, but when the bridge was replaced, they kept the old one as a memorial. This might not have been super interesting, except I ended up here for half an hour or so. I didn’t initially stop at the bridge, but just past it I saw my first Kiwi crossing sign, so wanted a photo. I did a u-turn at a small pull-over that was connected to the bridge somehow, and went back. I parked at the other pull-over on the other side of the modern bridge (besides the Anzac bridge). While here, I decided to check for caches – I found a close one and grabbed it. By this point I’d forgotten why I went back in the first place, so I drove past again, re-saw the kiwi sign, so did another u-turn and went back to the bridge pull-over. Grabbing my camera and tripod I went to cross the modern bridge, but it didn’t have anywhere to walk except on the middle of the road – so I returned to the Anzac bridge and crossed there – but couldn’t get back to the main road until I’d walked all the way to the pull-over on the other side (only about a 5 min walk but further than I’d expected). So then back along the road to the Kiwi sign for the photo. After almost 30 minutes of stuffing around, I decided to risk the modern bridge instead of walking back the long way. All in all, it was a long time for nothing much.

 

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^ The photo that kept me crossing the bridge for 30 minutes.

I was still pretty early for arriving in Wellington though. I knew Jason would want a look around the city on the following day, so wanted to leave some stuff for then – so didn’t mind taking a bit longer.

Then I saw a sign for a Kiwi enclosure at Mt Bruce.

I have now seen a live Kiwi!

Mt Bruce is a large conservation reserve. They’ve managed to clean out the introduced predators by a series of trap lines around the reserve (no fences) that get checked every few days. In additional to the reserve, they have a tourist section where you can see the animals. I didn’t do the entire park – but spent an hour or more here with the Weta bugs, Tuatara reptiles (not lizards) and the Kiwi. They normally have a pair of Kiwis, but one was at the vet’s – but the star was here.

Mt Bruce is famous for having the only white Kiwi on display. There are only three known to exist at all.

The white Kiwi lives in a dark enclosure so you can see it foraging (I assume they turn the lights on at night to make it feel like daytime). Not easy to get photos in the dark – but it was well worth the visit. The tour-guide (a rather cute Canadian) did a talk on both the tuataras and Kiwis while I was there – so I feel much more informed. A Kiwi can defend itself quite well against a feral cat once it reaches a decent size – and the Tuatara has a third eye for it’s first few months (not a full eye – but it can sense daylight and things with it).

 

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^ A Tuatara

 

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^This red blob is actually a white Kiwi - this is why it's worth buying postcards sometimes....


Onwards to the town of Masterton. Spotted a Countdown supermarket that hasn’t been Woolies branded. Not sure if some have held out from the merger, or just haven’t been branded yet. Had lunch just out of town (more tuna in rolls).

 

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I’d been told to expect interesting roads down this way – but so far it had been disappointing. At Featherston, I finally arrived at the pass. This was much more interesting as the road snaked up and down the mountains. Unlike similar roads back home, there was a lot of traffic on this run though. Unlike the run to Gisborne, this one went up and down on the hills – the Gisborne run was along besides the river. The Gisborne one was longer though, and had much less traffic. Still – I quite enjoyed this.

And then down past the town of Upper Hutt, to the town of Lower Hutt which is almost part of Wellington (like Legana to Launceston). This is where the Wellington Caravan park lives – so I checked in and erected our tents (so mine could dry). Mine is a $20 tent from Kmart in Aus, Jason’s is a $9 tent from The Warehouse here. They are both very lame tents – but the extra $11 makes a big difference. Mine is much wider so you can sleep diagonally – and more importantly, mine isn’t transparent. In the sun, you can see straight through Jason’s – so you can’t leave anything in it. In the dark, if he turns a torch on, everyone can see him too. His does have a better door though.

 

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^ A pair of lame tents.

Left the tents behind, and headed into Wellington. I’m not sure how they compare in size, but it feels a lot like Hobart – except with tunnels.

 

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^ Welcome to Wellington!

 

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^ Why go over a hill...

 

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^ When you can go through it?

 

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Went to visit the Weta Cave. This is the public part of the Weta Workshops. These are the guys who made the armour, weapons, costumes, and effects for Lord of the Rings, Hobbit, Narnia, District 9 etc. Had a look around the shop, and joined a tour of the workshop. It was shorter than expected – but I really enjoyed it.
 

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^ Weta Cave

Got to see (and sometimes handle) some of the props from the movies, as well as have the process that created them explained. By the time I finished, the shop was shut, but I was coming back tomorrow anyway…

Drove around for a bit – found myself in some tiny little streets on the hills around the Miramar peninsula. Two-way streets with parking on both sides, and just enough room to sneak between in the middle – if you met someone, you had to back a long way (I did twice). Was rewarded with some impressive views though.

 

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^ Looking towards the bottom of the North Island.

Back down on the level, headed around the point of the peninsula to find a cache or two to mark my visit – and ended up recovering a Jeep!

 

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That’s not something I’d expected on this trip – but a Jeep driver had done something foolish and gotten bridged, so I can gave him a gentle tow to get out of there.

More fish and chips for tea besides the water – and then just waiting for Jason’s plane to land. He’d flown down from Auckland to join me for a few days. Picked him up and then headed back to Lower Hutt for the night.


Day 6.

Woke up early – much to Jason’s surprise. Neither of us had slept overly well – but that’s expected by this point.

Headed into Wellington (the first Jason got to see of it in daylight). Had a look around the CBD while we were looking for the info centre (Google was confused). Had a look at a few tech shops, and a Whitcools (think Birchalls for a similar shop). Whitcools had shotgun lighters that I’d admired at Jason’s, so I got one too. Jason meanwhile drank 6 litres of free water (apparently he was dehydrated yesterday at work) before finally buying a drink as well to make up for it. He spent the rest of the day looking for toilets, but felt better.

At the Info Centre we decided to head to the local museum because it was free (and because it was raining).
Wasn’t bad – the most impressive thing was the body of a giant squid they have preserved and on display.

 

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^ Lots of squid rings!

It’s looking a bit worse for wear now – but they also had footage of it when it was caught. It was good for Jason though – the toilets were convenient so he went three times while we were there.

 

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^ The Middle of Middle Earth

 

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^ A Maori war canoe

After that it was back to Weta Cave so Jason could take a look and I could get some souvenirs. Jason wasn’t very impressed because it was all expensive, so he went off in a sulk to try and find some USB drives at a local store that had been advertised, while I stayed and watched a doco about the history of Weta – nicely complemented the tour I’d done yesterday.

 

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^ Don't feed the trolls

 

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^ NO MORE PHOTOS!

After Weta, we headed out of Wellington. On the way out we did a detour to a little cul-de-sac Jason had found online called Jason’s Place so he could have a photo with the sign – and I took a photo of the series Landy that happened to be parked up the street.

 

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^ Jason's Place

The weather was clearing and the forecast looked like we should be able to tent again tonight.

From there it was more driving up to Palmerston North. Jason was trying to sleep, while I was trying to fight off a headache (apparently I hadn’t drunk enough either) but we made it. Had a quick look in town at the local Cash Converters before checking into the caravan park. Good thing the weather was getting back to normal (hot) – the cabins were all booked.

Put up the tents – and over the fence we could see the local pool – or more to the point, we could see the waterslides at the pool.  Jason could even see them from inside his tent (I said it was see-through didn’t I)!

So we headed next door and went to the pool. We only did the outside slides (the inside ones were shutting as we got there. One of the ones we did was a “speed slide” – basically a straight drop so you built up a lot of speed. Not my thing – too high – but Jason did it a number of times.

The other slide was sort of like being flushed down the toilet. It was as high as the speed one, but you went down on an inflatable ring through a tube and then got spun around a bowl until you slowed down, and then through another tunnel and out the bottom. Got some photos and took GoPro footage – hopefully they turn out ok. Lots of fun.

 

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^ The Speed Slide

 

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^ Jason on the speed slide

 

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^ Me on the flushing ride

 

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^ The final flush

After messing about on the diving boards for a bit, we got dressed and headed into town again. Tea at Wendy’s tonight. Wendy’s is a burger joint over here, not related to the icecream shop back home (although they apparently have that too). Quite nice – and the large drinks are almost Abbey caff-pow size.

By this point Jason was feeling rather stiff and sore after all the water-sliding and swimming, so we went to Kmart so he could get an extra sleep mat for padding tonight. Not sure it will help much.

Then back to the camp – and time to update this log and record my spendings (ouch).

Oh yeah – back when we were first looking around Palmerston North, we had a look at a local Warehouse (I seem to have been in a lot of them this trip) for something or other, and I found a Lego Hobbit set (these are out of print) – so I now have a Lego Thorin as well as the one from Gisborne – rather chuffed about that.



Day 7 - Palmerston North to Rotorua.

Today half our party breakfasted on jam and toast, while the other (and oddly broker) half decided to try a café. So we headed into town and found a Café, but Jason panicked when they told him to take a seat and they’d bring him a menu. Apparently what he wanted was a bakery, so we found one on Google and headed for it – but apparently it was a commercial bakery rather than a foody one. So we tried another café/bakery but Jason then decided what he really wanted was to try some local cuisine, so he went to Subway.

After Jason finally had breakfast, we found a cache and had a look around Harvey Norman while waiting for the local Toyworld to open – but nothing exciting in either so we headed out of town.

Along the road we can across an impressive looking valley so we decided to take a back-road and headed down into it. We then realised it was quite cool, so came back up to take some photos from the top – and then headed down again. There’s a nice camp site down here with access to the river so we poked around a little.

 

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^ Just a randomly awesome valley

 

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^ View from the top

 

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^ I wouldn't get that close

There was a one-lane bridge over the river and as the road had been dead quite we decided to take a photo – but had to bail twice due to cars that chose that particular moment to turn up – but eventually we got the shot.

 

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^ Traveling NZ

As we travelled we checked the forecast. Not looking good for tonight, so we checked the net and a cabin at the caravan park wasn’t too much more than a tent site, so we booked one online.

Then up the valley and up a road that turned out was heading south again – so even though it looked like an epic drive, we turned around and took  anther (also rather cool) road up the valley and eventually rejoined the highway.

Had lunch at Macca’s in Taihape where I ordered a meat pie (not something you get down here).

 

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^ Onward to victory!

Up the road at Waiouru there’s an Army Base and the National NZ Army museum. We didn’t go into the actual museum, but poked around the tanks outside. Unlike thee equivalent in Aus, there weren’t any “keep off” signs or fences, so we followed the example of some others, and took some photos with the tanks, and then visited the gift shop inside.

 

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^ This wouldnt be allowed back home

Just out of Waiouru we realised we’d entered the highlands. Awesome highland scenery (pains of highland scrub) and mountains in the distance. We’re not sure if it’s snow, clay, or even a glacier, but something on the mountains was reflecting rather awesomely.

 

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^ Not sure if snow, ice, or clay.

I mentioned one of them might be the mountain they’d used as Mount Doom in Lord of the Rings, so Jason checked Google and said it wasn’t. Discovered later that it was, and Jason was wrong.

 

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^ We did not simply walk into Mordor - we drove past without realising.

It was quite an awesome drive through the highlands, and then descended slightly into trout country.

 

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^ Lake Taupo

Seems trout fishing up here is a big deal with a Trout museum and lots of trout on signs etc. We drove around Lake Taupo which is really rather large and eventually arrived at the town of Taupo itself. We decided not to follow the GPS and headed into town for a brief look (drive-by tourism) and on the way out Jason suggested we follow the signs to Huka Falls, whatever that was.

The weather that was threatening finally broke and the rain came down as we arrived at a lookout and realised it wasn’t the falls (just a lookout over the town). We headed down the road a bit and found where the falls were and were debating if it was worth heading out for a look in the rain, but eventually decided to try. I broke out my cheap emergency rain coat (which I’d bought earlier in the trip) and we headed out – and it was well worth it!

 

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^ Huka Falls

 

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^ Crazy amount of water


The falls aren’t high, but the sheer amount of water going down is pure nuts. Apparently it would fill 5 Olympic pools every minute. We stayed around admiring the falls for a bit and then headed onwards to Rotorua.

Jason had been here before, so directed us off the road before we arrived at the town and down a muddy track to Kerosene Creek. This is in a Thermal area – so the creek is actually quite warm. So even though it was raining, we got changed and went for a dip. It’s quite popular with locals and tourists in the know – but certainly not commercialised, just a long-drop dunny and carpark and a rough walking track to the creek.
 

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^ Kerosene Creek - very cool (but very warm)

Half a dozen cars were here even though the day was miserable. Quite awesome, but warmer than I’d prefer – but worth it for the experience. As the water was moving quite fast down the waterfalls it was also stirring up a lot of dirt, so it wasn’t exactly a cleansing experience. We headed into town to find the caravan park and some showers.

 

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^ Steam from the thermal vents

On the way into town you could see steam rising from all the thermal vents around the area – more visible due to the rain – made for quite an interesting site.

 

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We had booked a log cabin for the night – quite pretty, but just a wooden room with a bed and a couple of bunks – should be far better than recent nights in tents though. The rain has eased up now – but it’s still been a good call.

Headed into town to find some tea. Jason veto’d my idea to find a curry place and decided we should live on the edge and have some pizza instead. He’s a risk taker, our Jason.

Stopped at the bottle shop to try a few local brews. I got a Tui pale ale because I’d driven past the brewery earlier in the trip – and a Kiwi fruit cider. Both were quite nice.

Set some stuff out to dry and updated this log before calling it a night. Tomorrow it’s off to Hobbiton!



Day 8 – we’re off to meet the Hobbits…

Ah – the joy of sleeping in an actual bed!

Got up and underway in reasonable time today even with the more comfortable beds. Had breakfast at the caravan park and then headed into town. Jason wanted to check out the Cash Converters but it wasn’t open yet – so we headed out to the lake to find a cache. This was easily accomplished. We walked around the lake for a bit as it’s really impressive.

 

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^ A small pool of boiling water

Rotorua is a very thermally active place, and the lake seems to be particularly prone. Lots of vents with steam coming out on the lake edge, and pools with boiling water and/or mud. Smells like someone dropped their guts, but very interesting.

 

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^ A large pool of boining mud

Took a million and a half photos of the mud boiling trying to catch one with a good explosion, haven’t checked them all out yet to tell if it worked.

The lake itself is cold (it’s rather massive), but there were sections of it bubbling due to thermal vents under the surface. Not enough to heat the entire thing though. Apparently if you dig a hole right beside the lake it will fill with water and start boiling – but we didn’t have any implements and it was too rocky to dig by hand.

 

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^ Another vent


Back to the car via a different route, and noticed the “danger” signs warning people not to go where we’d just been – whoops. Ah well, we didn’t fall in. Back into the CBD (we weren’t exactly far from it at the lake’s edge) and Jason had a quite look around Cash Converters, but there was nothing worth converting cash for.

 

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^ The Skyline Gondola

Next up Jason was keen to show me SkyLine. It’s a tourist trap that’s only (publicly) accessible by a Gondola. So we bought our tickets and headed up the side of the hill. They have a few attractions up there – but the two Jason wanted to go back to (he’d been here before) were the Luge and Jelly Bean shop.

 

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The Luge is basically a billy-cart track. You jump on the little sled things and coast down the track. As well as turning, the handle-bars control you braking and speed by pulling them towards you or pushing away.

When we got there, there were only a couple of other people about – so we headed down the “Scenic” track so I could learn how to drive the sled. Jason screamed past as he knew what he was doing.

At the bottom of the track you catch a chairlift back to the top. The chairlift also hooks the sled carts underneath in a rather clever mechanism that delivers them to the top without any intervention.

At the top there were quite a few more people – so we had to wait a bit before doing the scenic track again. I was much quicker this time, passing a heap of other tourists on the way (scaring a few of them) but Jason was still considerably faster.

Back to the top again only to find rather long queues and a 30 minute wait for our next attempt – this time on the Intermediate course which is much faster.

Another trip up a run down the Advanced Course. This is the fastest one and includes a slight jump. Lots of fun.

Our ticket had included a fifth run, but we were running low on time and the queues were certainly no shorter – so we gave the last one a miss.

While we were up there we checked out the Jelly Belly shop. It’s a Jelly-Bean shop that does a large number of flavours. Most impressively, it does a number of deliberately gross flavours like “Lawn clippings”, “rotten eggs”, and “boogers”. Think the all-flavour beans from Harry Potter. We stocked up on a few (both good and bad) to try later.

 

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^ Harry Potter made of jelly beans

 

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^ A few of the flavours

Down the Gondela to the car and Jason asked if we could go to a Burger Fuel for lunch (another burger joint). We did, but he decided it was too expensive, so instead spent a similar amount next door at the bakery. And then it was time to head out of town.

We’re going to see the Hobbits!

We’d booked out Hobbiton tour the night before, which was a very good thing – it was sold out for most of the day by the time we got there. We had plenty of time to visit the gift shop and things before our tour was ready. All the tour buses are named after dwarves – we were in Ori, but we saw Dwalin, Fili, and Thorin as well.

As a Lord of the Rings fan, the tour of Hobbiton was fantastic. It’s just an area of the local farm that was used in the filming of Lord of the Rings – but when they filmed the Hobbit there, a deal was struck so the Hobbit holes were built permantly rather than as temporary sets, so you can walk around Hobbiton and admire the different Hobbit holes.

 

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^ Welcome, come inside!

They are different scales to accommodate the shots necessary, and look brilliant. Truly an awesome place to visit.

 

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^ Pickles, the only resident of Hobbiton

There’s a cat that lives here called Pickles – he’s a very patient cat, which is good given the thousands of tourists that pay him homage each day.

Bag End was the focus of the tour of course – with everyone waiting for a chance to take photos in front – we were no different.

 

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^ Bag End - the most famous of Hobbit Holes

 

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^ My Precious...

 

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^ The Green Dragon

The tour ends at the Green Dragon Inn – where you can try the South Farthing Ale which I thought was quite good – even if Jason couldn’t get past the first mouthful of his. The Green Dragon was an awesome Inn – and a great way to end the tour.

 

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^ The bar of the Green Dragon with out tour guide, Kelsie.

Back to the Hobbit shop to pick up the souvenirs we’d chosen, including some South Farthing Cider – not sure that will make it home (sorry Em).

And then it was on to Hamilton where Jason wanted to show me some go-karts that he really enjoys, but turns out they aren’t open on Mondays. We got some Fish and Chips for tea (as Jason hasn’t had any over here) and ate them down by the lake in town. Then back to Jason’s place for the night – and a chance to update this and recharge some batteries.

Tomorrow will be a quieter day while I work out where to head next.

 

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^ Cheers from Hobbiton!




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