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Go With the Flow at the Whanganui River

With sheets of mist covering the treetops muffling the never-ending flow of the water right below it, the hills surrounding the Whanganui river is as silent as it can be. In the ceremonial centre of the Maori meeting grounds, Tieke Kainga, the wooden-faced Pouwhenua welcomes you as you venture in the hills and river of Whanganui river.

Whanganui river (1)
Image credit: Duane Wilkins

A popular destination for cyclists, hikers, canoeists and campers, the Whanganui river and the Tieke Kaing is one of the world’s most unforgettable campsites. It is also a Maori Settlement that was inhabited for more than 500 years before being abandoned in the early 20thcentury after a disagreement with the non-Maori (Pakeha) governments.

 After a re-establishment in 1993, Tieke Kainga is made into both a Department of Conservation bunkhouse and camping ground. Not only that, the grounds is an important gathering place for the local Hapu (clan). The Pouwhenua that greets you is not a mere decoration but is a symbol that signifies the clan’s story, flowing along with the river from the ancestral Mt Ruapehu.

Whanganui river (2)
Image credit: Prankster

Today, Maori and Pakeha both thrive on the sea and river, as regularly demonstrated by New Zealand’s world beating water-sports teams. There’s no better way to experience the Kiwi culture than to go on a water-borne expedition.

You can tackle the 56-mile stretch known as the Whanganui Journey, also known as the Great Walk. The journey offers the endless glorious natural habitats and the Maori heritage that is scattered around the Whanganui National Park.

The Whanganui river offers a three day guided canoe exhibition that will trace the meanders of New Zealand’s longest navigable river. The smooth current will allow you enough time to have a gaze around the green walls that towers on either sides. Although you might occasionally encounter a small whirlpool during your exhibition, it is not as scary as it sounds and will add on a bit of a thrill during your journey.

Whanganui river (3)
Image credit: Department of Conservation

A stay in the camping grounds is an escape from your u. With foggy mornings and misty dawns, the sound of the flowing stream nearby is already an experience and a lullaby. The entire area is covered with culture and heritage, with history peeking its head in different areas.

With the Maori’s special connection with the waterway extending all the way back centuries ago, you will get a perfect sense at the end of trip that river paddling is not just a mere activity, but is the Maori way of life.

Welcome to Middle Earth

If you’re a fan of the Hobbit trilogy, then you probably already know that New Zealand is a hotspot for all things Middle Earth. From Lake-town to the Hobbit Holes, New Zealand is a one-stop-shop for all the sets of The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.

Mount Cook
The location is more recognisable as an aerial background landscape that can be seen in The Hobbit: The Destination of Smaug. Apart from the Southern Alps being used as a backdrop, Mount Cook is also the set location for Esgaroth, also known as Lake-Town.

 Lake Town
Image credit: Krzysztof Golik

The stunning lakeside village of Lake-Town took place at the shores of Lake Pukaki, at the Tasman Downs Station. This location was used in many of Sir Peter Jackson’s scenes from both The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings.

While it may look alluring on the big screen, it is just as beautiful when you see it in person. There is plenty of space for you to move about either on foot or by bicycle. Being completely isolated from the city areas, Tasman Downs Station has no evidence of human settlements. It’s the perfect place to become one with nature.

Mount Cook

From the iconic high mountain peaks of the Southern Alps to the glacier fed alpine lakes and the golden fields of tussocks lying beneath the endless sky, Aoraki at Mount Cook casts a whimsical feeling that leaves all its visitors in awe. The place was so captivating that Hobbit cast member James Nesbitt (Bofur) was left impressed with the the immense natural beauty and colours of Aoraki Mount Cook.

Pelorus River, Marlborough
The tranquil beauty of Pelorus River in Marlborough is an ethereal wilderness that is inhabited by giant trees and native New Zealand bats, enveloping crystal clear waters that cuts through a rocky gorge.

Pelorus River was where the scene of dwarves escaping in barrels floating in the Forest River, as seen in The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug, was filmed. Unfortunately, you can’t go floating about Pelorus River in barrels, but you can sign up for a kayaking guided river tour as an alternative. The tour is includes stops at waterfalls, streams and, of course, the barrel scene location.

Pelorus River
Image credit: Jeff Hitchcock

Pelorus River is also surrounded by several native wildlife such as the New Zealand forest birds and the endangered native bats. Visitors who wish to stay overnight can do so by setting up camp at the Pelorus Scenic Reserve Campground, it is a great place to have a swim and have an evening bush walk to visit the nearby bat reserve.

Piopio
Piopio is home to the spectacular Mangaotaki Rocks, an incredible limestone cliff formation that sits on a 690-hectare family farm that was used as a scenic film location. The cliffs and the surrounding forested hills below it formed a backdrop to a number of scenes in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

The owners of the farm, Warrick and Suzie Denize, operates the Hairy Feet Waitomo tours. The tours host numerous visitors on a 90-minute tour along the same path that was frequented by dwarves and a hobbit. Unusual smaller rock formations nestles in New Zealand’s native bushes filled with song birds. The entire landscape will take you back in time and into Middle Earth.

Matamata
The Shire

If you’re a fan of Middle Earth, you would not want to miss the rolling hills of The Shire, also known as Hobbiton. Previously utilised for filming purposes, Hobbiton has remained open to public. You can walk around the neighbourhood and peer over a Hobbit’s front gate or have yourself a glass of beer at the Green Dragon Inn.

There is also a number of farm stays around the area should you want to prolong your stay at Hobbiton.

You Can Now be a Human Slingshot

AJ Hackett
Image credit: AJHK104180377776

Known for its mountainous national parks and dynamic Maori culture as well as world-class surfing and skiing, New Zealand has something for everyone, especially outdoor enthusiasts. Dubbed the world’s capital of adventure tourism, New Zealand continues to bring up the thrill factor with the addition of The Nevis Catapult.

The brand new human slingshot can be found at The Nevis Valley, on New Zealand’s South Island close to Queenstown. The Nevis Valley has housed the world’s first commercial bungee jump and will now be home to every adrenaline junkie’s dream, The Nevis Catapult.

If you’ve already conquered bungee jumps and you’re looking for something more adventurous, the catapult would be the perfect option. If you’re unfamiliar with a bungee, it lets you go through a free fall followed by rebound which pulls you back up. The catapult however, pushes you 492 feet straight up and out.

Created by AJ Hackett Bungy, these thrill seekers who are game enough for the catapult would reach speeds of nearly 62 miles an hour within the 1.5 seconds they are in the air. The entire catapult experience lasts for roughly 3 to 4 minutes depending on individual velocity.

Getting There
Travellers would have to get themselves on board a AJ Hackett-owned four-wheel-drive vehicle so as to access the remote region of the Nevis Valley before strapping themselves in the harness and getting launched in the air.

Participants should at least be 13 years of age and weight at least 60 pounds (27 kg).

Cost: NZ$255 (~US$172)