Friday 18 November 2022

Middle Earth: A Driving Holiday


Vintage photograph of couple on a c.1890 Humber Rudge Travellertandem tricycle
Toot toot! The Pipistrellos took a trip ...

It has been an absolute age since the Pipistrellos flew from the confines of this island nation to take a trip together and, it being the Season for Scorpios and all and Mr. P thus ripe for spoiling with a holiday, what better place to choose to go than our than our nearest neighbour, Middle Earth*?

... Into a remote & pristine world more familiar with Quests

We're home now, Dear Reader, so let me show you all!

A land of glacial valleys green ...

That hoary old chestnut, "New Zealand: three hours ahead, thirty years behind!" stands no truck in this household & certainly no longer applies to this sparklingly modern and marvellous country where we have enjoyed several fabulous holidays during our married life. 

... And tussocky gold.

But we were angling for a sort of vintage planes/trains/automobiles experience this time because, well, we're old fogeys now and that's what tickles our fancy these days, so do avert your gaze if you are hoping for tell-all accounts of Bungy jumping** and white-water rafting and careering off mountain tops on bicycles and whatnot.

Lake Wanaka

For those who've never visited the Land of the Long White Cloud, the scenery on offer in the South Island, where we tootled about for ten days, is like Canada and Scandinavia and Scotland rolled into one, minus the polar bears and Northern Lights. (Of course, having never been to either Canada or Scandinavia disqualifies me from making such comparisons but I've seen the pictures.) 

Lake Tekapo

Clutha River

Think alpine lakes, snow-capped peaks, (wilding conifer) forests, rushing waterways, vast unrolling green glacial valleys and, being springtime, swathes of lupins, heather, gorse and broom, while invasive pest species, adding riotous injections of colour to the countryside.

Crystal clear and chilly waters filled with trout and salmon

More mountains :)

The towns are similarly resplendent in early November with every imaginable colour of rhododendron, peony, iris and rose making merry. Plump and towering poplars and thick willows with bobbed haircuts snake about both the towns and countryside adding to the European feel. Just gorgeous against a blue sky and snowy ridgelines holding out against Spring's warming temperatures!

Overnight cruise on Fiordland National Park's Doubtful Sound

Middle Earth has a real problem with introduced pestilential flora and fauna but at this time of year, the sweeping vistas taking in green grassy or yellow tussocky paddocks of sheep, gambolling lambs and grazing deer against pink and purple and yellow tinted rolling hills & valleys and sharp and craggy mountains tossing down waterfalls are both bucolically beautiful and discombobulating.

The chilly tannic waters of the fiord drop sharply
... to over 400 metres deep!

Especially so when it's only 2000km away from a flat and mostly dusty, yellow continent wherein every critter wants to sink its fangs into you and only a fule would ever lay down on a patch of "grass" in the countryside without poking at it with a stick for lurking spiders, scorpions, ants, ticks, snakes &c. &c.***

We saw fur seals, two varieties of penguin and bottle-nose dolphins
on Doubtful Sound. No whales spotted but 'twas the season.

And coming as we do from said flat-dusty-yellow continent we tend to stand like slack-jawed yokels before towering mountain ranges whenever they hove into view and hence the preponderance of pics of such.

Even disembarking at Queenstown airport stops us in our tracks

At this juncture, I was going to say Enough of the Nature Notes and toss in a few pics of vintage vehicles, but this posting is sufficiently long enough. However, to answer the burning question, did we come back with any souvenirs from Middle Earth? Why yes, we did: a few more tea-towels to add to the third drawer down and a dose each, finally, of the pox. Drats.

* Well, our touring about principally stuck to skirting the countryside around Rivendell, Dimrill Dale, the River Anduin, Fangorn Forest and the Pelennor Fields as far as I can tell. Like Frodo & Chums, we neglected to take a map with us, and anyways, even if there were signposts to check, I read only English.

** Although, seen on the aeroplane coming home was a silver-haired septuagenarian-ish-looking couple sporting pristine t-shirts emblazoned with the name of New Zealand's pioneering Bungy company, so try tracking them down instead to get the low down on elderly adrenalin-seekers.

*** Of course, New Zealand keeps its hobbits on their hairy toes with the similarly thrilling prospect of fiery volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and tsunamis, hem hem.

Image credits: 1: via Pinterest; all else: Flying With Hands


  1. Beautiful landscapes, and beautiful photos. Sorry about the Pox. Personally, I think the 'Three hours ahead' analogy should be held with pride.

    1. Thank you, dear Cro, and the pox is rather mild, fortunately. And the New Zealanders have much to be proud of, and manage to be simultaneously charmingly old-fashioned in their interactions & yet enviably up-to-the-minute in the way they run the place, so the hoary chestnut still stands up in a way.

  2. The Pipistrellos were very wise to take a trip together and although I am not sure whether Middle Earth was the best destination or not, the idea of exercise and fresh air was brilliant. Love that photo !!
    Is that a camera on the front of the wheel?

    1. Dear Hels, it could be the early GoPro, hahahah!! Yes, it does look like a camera but I think it might be a lantern. Anyway, it's good to feel the fresh air as you sit giving directions to your beloved. Since when did we become back-seat drivers??

  3. We are hills, valleys and mountain people so really enjoyed seeing your beautiful photos. I live with a Scorpio too who is celebrating his birthday on this very day.
    I was surprised that you picked up the pox in NZ, but pleased to learn that it is mild.

    1. And a very Happy Birthday to your Scorpio, too, dear Rosemary!

  4. COVID!I AM SO SORRY...........I like your POX word better made me smile and think NO!!!!!!!!!New Zealand is a place I think I could live with the ITALIAN.I have never been but my sons have and enjoyed it!As beautiful as it is I am not a TREE or Mountain kind of maybe YOUR ISLAND would be better for me!Happy you two got "OUT OF DODGE" and had a change of scenery!I need that as well........
    Do tell me are you on the mend now?XXXXBACI

    1. Yes, dear Contessa, on the mend, thank you! NZ is such a marvellous place and there's something for everyone - the North Island is a whole other land ranging from subtropical islands to sophisticated cities. Such variety! xx

  5. Dear Pip, what a wonderful trip to New Zealand! (That is still on my list of countries I want to visit).
    The pair on the bicycle is gorgeous - they definitely live in the "Here and Now". And interesting: he steers the direction - she pulls the brakes.
    Sad to hear that you got "the pox" - and I hope you are symptom-free and recover soon. I wish you both good health!

    1. Dear Britta, you must try to get there one day! I was very curious about this tandem tricycle - a late 1880s Rudge Humber Traveller, as far as I can deduce - and you will be interested that indeed both are pedalling, it's just her skirt is obstructing the business end. And its design looks like Monsieur still gets to control the brakes and Madame is just hanging on. But doesn't she get the best view? :)

    2. Oh, I see: then these are only grips for her to feel secure - no brakes. I am a bit astonished that they do not build the thing so that he sits in front to watch the busy traffic around :-) - she must feel helpless, and the look on her face - though not anxious - is not amused either.

    3. Cycling is serious, Britta! But neither I, too, would fancy being at the pointy end without means to steer or brake. However, I don't feel such contraptions set any land-speed records, so hurtling pell-mell along the cobblestones mayn't have been a hazard for the lady passengers.

  6. I knew by not visiting New Zealand I was missing something in my life! Wonderful photos, Lady Pipistrello. Thank you. And many happy returns to Mr. P..

    1. Thank you, dear Sean. New Zealand may have been a missed opportunity but you've probably made up for it in spades with Black Forest losing-oneself's and impossibly Romantic ruins clinging to wild rivers and other scenes Tolkien-esque.

  7. I too thought these photos splendid. What beauty.
    May you have no 'residuals' keep us posted.

    1. Thank you, dear Urspo. It's pretty hard not to take a good pic in NZ :)

  8. Absolutely stunning Pip ...... those photographs are beautiful ..... such amazingly beautiful scenery. Our daughter has been and loved it. So sorry you succumbed to the dreaded Covid ..... hope you got away lightly. XXXX

    1. Thank you, dear Jackie. Beautiful vistas at every turn, and I didn't even mention the glorious Victorian & Edwardian architecture in Dunedin! Although I don't think I saw an Orangery to match yours, hahah! xx


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