There have been many times in this blog over the past few years that someone has commented on their favorite place to write; a location that gives them great inspiration and spurs creativity; a place that seems so perfectly comfortable with the creative energies of our writing minds. Well, I have found the Ultimate place to write — New Zealand!
I recently returned from a three week trip to the land of the long white cloud. I thought I had seen beauty in England, Alaska, Hawaii, Colorado, the French countryside, the Caribbean. But, I have never seen natural beauty like that of New Zealand. Not only was the country side breathtaking, but the citizens of this wonderful country were so, well, Hobbit like! I even wrote about this in my blog here. (The first day of my blogging for the trip.)
I thought I would share with the readers of this blog some of the wondrous locations where I just wanted to plunk down with my favorite writing tool (laptop, journal, yellow pad, old typewriter — it wouldn’t have mattered!) and let the words fly over the page!
Geraldine, a small town on the south island sits near the east coast and consists of rolling green hills rich and verdant with flora and fauna. Not a hill in sight wasn’t covered with sheep, cattle, or deer. Our hosts, Grant and Alex took us to a working farm where we had dinner over an open fire under foreign constellations in a night sky afire with the Milky Way. In the trees above us the fantail birds sang and frolicked and in the distance the lowing of cattle and the sound of sheep just made the evening so surreal. When we returned to our farmhouse, I had received an email with the latest manuscript corrections for my book coming out in September. It was far too late to tackle this that night, so while my wife and our friends went out the next morning to watch the cows being milked, I settled in at our hosts’ kitchen table before a huge picture window looking out over the rolling green hills and mountains. I could just as well have been sitting in Bilbo’s house looking out over Hobbiton (which I was able to do earlier in the week!). Here is a photograph of what I saw from my window as I sipped my creamy vanilla coffee and worked on my manuscript.
|Overlooking the farm in Geraldine|
Queenstown is the jewel of the south island and sits midway between both coasts. It is the gateway to Fjordland National Park. As we drove along the river used by Aragorn to take the hobbits to safety near the end of “The Fellowship of the Rings” a huge mountain appeared in the clouds on the horizon. We stopped to get some “petrol” and I gasped at this huge mountain towering in front of me reaching from sea level to over 7000 feet. It was no wonder it was called the Remarkable mountain range. We soon drove along the edge of an azure lake sitting at the base of these mountains up and down hills covered with quaint houses and the silver fern trees that represent the symbol of New Zealand. We soon came to our hotel for the next two nights. It was late and we decided to eat in the hotel dining room. When I sat at our table and turned around to the huge windows I was stunned at the sight of these mighty mountains in the setting sun. I was so mesmerized, I had to walk out on the patio and just sit for a few moments to soak in the sights of these majestic mountains and the lake below me. My wife had to drag me back in to our table to eat but I could have sat there and basked in the beauty before me for hours as the sun, fiery orange in its setting state filled the night air with fire! Here are some photographs of this incredible sight.
|The Remarkable Mountains|
On our trip up the western coast of the south island, we were told the road to the “Gates of Haast” would close by 530 due to a rock slide. It was 4 pm and we had little time to make the journey. Leaving Queenstown behind, we headed out into the Southern Alps. Soon, we were coursing along a huge lake, the size of which I couldn’t begin to fathom. Across the crystal blue waters towered more mountains. For two hours we passed along the winding, climbing road at the edge of two of these enormous lakes and marveled at the reflection of snow capped mountains in the distance and rich, green mossy forests in the foreground. By the time we reached our fiftieth one lane bridge over the Haast pass and the river we had made the Gates of Haast before the road was closed. We reached Haast, a tiny village on the west coast situated between the blue green waters of the Tasman Sea and the rich rain forest growth at the feet of snow capped mountains behind us. We settled into one of only two hotels in the area and had to walk about 1/4 of a mile down the road to the “Hard Antler Restaurant”. This was basic, stripped down, no frills New Zealand. And still, it was wondrous. The food was unbelievable. The night was still and filled with stars behind a gibbous full moon. As I sat on the porch outside our hotel room and breathed in air so pure and so filled with heady, unknown scents I realized I could have spent a week here. Here are a few photos on the way to Haast Pass.
|The Southern Alps|
I could go on for pages but I will finish with my favorite place, hands down in all of New Zealand. It is a shock that my favorite would be something fictional, something built from the imagination of a British author living in the early twentieth century. On the north island we drove through rolling brown grass covered hills dotted with sheep and cattle toward Matamata. The air was rich, and I do mean rich with the odor of manure. This was the heart of New Zealand where the land and the people and the love of farming and good tilled earth and gentle sheep and the rich fresh cream from a fresh milking were at the top of everyone’s list. No wifi here. No cell phone signal. No towering buildings or interstates or shopping malls. No, this was true New Zealand as we pulled into the gift shop for the movie set of Hobbiton. We were ushered onto a bus that squealed to a halt at a low metal gate. The driver had to open the gate onto one of dozens of sheep farms. Sheep were all around us, hurrying in panicky jumps away from this awesome behemoth of a bus filled with anxious tourists longing to see the one place on earth where true peace and tranquility literally burst forth from the ground.
We stopped in a parking lot atop a hill. Soon, our host led us through a narrow stone lined passageway and we were in Hobbiton. Oh my! 44 hobbit holes filled the rolling green hill sides. A complete garden with pumpkins and squash was overseen by a pipe smoking scarecrow. Smoke trickled from chimneys. Hobbit clothes hung on outdoor lines and everywhere flowers filled the air with color and fragrance. Amidst this awesome sight, thousands of white butterflies helped themselves to the flowers. For almost three hours, I wandered this landscape filled with utter and complete inspiration. I wanted to write poetry! I wanted to sing songs! I wanted to settle at a table at the Green Dragon pub and share stories both frightening and thrilling with total strangers over a tankard of apple cider. And, when I stood before Bilbo’s house, Bag End and looked out over Hobbiton, I had tears in my eyes. After all, Tolkien wrote the Hobbit from Bilbo’s point of view and I could see the small hobbit sitting behind his round windows at his aged wooden desk scratching words onto rough parchment with his quill. I opened his mailbox. No mail. I touched his sign “no admittance except for party business”! I do not smoke, but I would have gladly settled down on Bilbo’s bench and puffed on a pipe and watched the evening fall over the magnificent sight before me. Here was a writer’s dream utopia. Here anyone could be inspired and rested and gifted to write. Ah, to walk through that circular green door into the world of Middle Earth.
|The bridge to the Green Dragon Pub|
|Sam's hobbit "hole"|
|Bag End from the party pavilion|
|No mail for Bilbo!|
Then, it hit me. I was IN middle earth! The sights around me, the people with smiles and handshakes and hugs! The towering mountains and flowing streams! Tolkien never visited New Zealand. But, to read his works, it is hard to believe he never saw this land and its people. In “The Hobbit” Bilbo describes the hobbit as one who loves good food, tilled earth, hard work, and a little adventure. Every New Zealander I met, Kiwis as they called themselves, typified this outlook. They were universally kind, helpful, open and inviting with an infectious grin on their face and a song in their hearts. They walked everywhere and I would not have been surprised to see hobbit feet if they took off their shoes (which they did every time we stepped indoors!). They love the land. They love people. And, they love God. You can read more about this at my blog, but suffice it so say I could have stayed there in Hobbiton. It is a place based on a fiction that is, in reality, a mirror of the true nature of New Zealand and its inhabitants. So, sit back with me on a bench surrounded by flowers and flickering white butterflies. Click on this link for a short video of Hobbiton and prepare to be inspired!