Kia Ora! (Informal hello in Maori language)
Now let's be clear. I have had zero interest in or experience with J.R.R. Tolkien literature except for seeing my brother's Hobbit paperback around the house when I was about 10. Even as I sit in Middle Earth country (for those of you who haven't seen a second of these films like me, Middle Earth is the mythical backdrop for the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings epics), I still feel no urge to jump on the next Hobbit tour.
But here on my first day in New Zealand, I can already sense how the uniqueness of this country might have helped develop Bilbo and his friends. New Zealanders seem to be casual, good natured, good humored people who don't take themselves too seriously. Cut to the Air New Zealand airplane-safety-video players who were costumed as Hobbit and Lord of the Rings-like characters. Quirky at the very least.
New Zealand has almost 100 types of birds and 100 types of plants that are exclusive to this country. On a hike today, I assumed I was hearing the loud, playful voices of children on the trail ahead of me when I realized what I was hearing were bird calls I had never before heard in my life. Peculiar for sure. (I also feared I was being followed by Sasquatch after hearing these deep, animal-like rumblings coming from the dense foliage. They turned out to be the moaning of the trees as the wind was picking up in the forest. Crisis averted!)
The influence and heritage of the indigenous people of New Zealand, the Maori (pronounced like cow-ree but with an M), are wide spread through the country as seen in names, art, and customs. With particular Maori impact on the North Island, today alone I had lunch in the town of Whangarei, hiked to Haruru Falls, and was greeted at the local museum by three Maori warriors in full garb and paint. Different no doubt.
Quirky, peculiar, different... and beautiful. Right up my alley. Maybe there's a place for me in Middle Earth after all.
Hei kona ra! Bye for now!
Haruru Falls bridge through mangroves