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  • New Zealand has many super-sized plants like these tree ferns in New Plymouth. width:640;;height:480
  • This massive Kauri tree is native only to New Zealand. See the little speck that is me? Kauris are some of the largest trees in the world. width:463;;height:480
  • New Zealand is also home to several bizarre flightless native birds, unique to the country. Some, like this giant Moa, are long extinct. width:640;;height:427
  • ...but several species of flightless birds still wander around NZ's forests. Here is a Weka that I came across while hiking on South Island. width:640;;height:436
  • Nowadays in fruit-growing regions you'll often find yourself driving past soaring 30 ft tall hedges, lining both sides of the roads. The hedges are grown to protect delicate kiwi fruit from wind. width:382;;height:480
  • Have you ever seen a gate cut through a 'natural fence' to allow farm trucks through? width:640;;height:480
  • I came across this beautifully-decorated tree in Rotorua. width:360;;height:480
  • Wellington's Old St Paul's Cathedral is built entirely of native woods. It's noted as the best example of wooden Gothic architecture in the world. width:360;;height:480
  • This replica of Gollum stands in Weta Studios in Wellington. Lord of the Rings Trilogy and the The Hobbit were filmed in New Zealand. Fans can visit the studios that created the films. width:360;;height:480
  • Several giant trolls guard the entrance to Weta Studios. Be careful they don't stomp on you! width:360;;height:480
  • Hobbiton film set is a permanent installation located in rural New Zealand near Cambridge town. width:640;;height:461
  • Several hobbit homes rest in the curving hills of Hobbiton. width:640;;height:480
  • I"m a huge long-term fan of The Hobbit, so I couldn't pass up a visit to Hobbiton. Here I am at Bag's End, Bilbo Baggin's home. width:606;;height:480
  • Many New Zealanders are very innovative. The annual Wearable Art Festival takes place in Wellington and Nelson. Here are a few entries on display at Te Papa Museum, Wellington. width:640;;height:480
  • ...and a few more incredible pieces. width:640;;height:480
  • ...a Kiwi man created this truck house in a rural town near Abel Tasman National Park. I was lucky enough to stayt here two nights. width:640;;height:464
  • New Zealanders are also famous for inventing many of the world's exctreme sports. Zorbing entails rolling down hill in a huge clear plastic ball. Located in Rotorua. width:640;;height:431
  • ...and Kiwis invented bungee jumping too. One of the tallest is in Taupo. width:282;;height:480
  • New Zealand has incredibly clear water. I was amazed at the clarity of rivers, lakes and the sea as I traveled around the country. width:640;;height:452
  • New Zealand is also one of the few countries with geysers and other dramatic geothermal features. Most are located in Rotorua, epicenter of NZ's geothermal activity. width:640;;height:402
  • ...such as steaming mud pools. width:640;;height:480
  • close up view of steaming mud in Rotorua width:640;;height:480
  • The geothermal activity also produces many natural hot rivers and pools. Taupo has one of the most popular hot rivers. It's frequented by foreign travelers as well as locals. width:640;;height:480
  • I enjoyed the Taupo hot river so much that I soaked 2-3 times a week during my 3-week stay in Taupo. width:640;;height:464
  • At the other extreme, glaciers roll down from New Zealand's highest mountains in South Island. With the glacier bottoms nearly at sea level and close to 2 small towns, NZ's glaciers are some of the most easily accessed in the world. width:640;;height:480
  • Blue glacial ice glows from within at the glacier's terminal face (bottom edge). width:640;;height:480
  • This makeshift park ranger warns visitors to not proceed any further. Actually a wood cut-out mounted on a post, Mr. Ranger looks mighty hilarious guarding Franz Josef Glacier. width:360;;height:480
  • I couldn't help but pose with happy Mr. Ranger. width:328;;height:480
  • Many of New Zealand's mountains are volcanoes. One result are black sand beaches in many areas. width:640;;height:350
  • These stunning white cliffs rise from the sea near Dunedin on the South Island. width:640;;height:405
  • The base of the cliffs are accessed by this solid stone tunnel, carved out by a wealthy land-owner in the 1800s so his family could enjoy the beach. width:360;;height:480
  • This one-lane road AND railroad track bridge was one of the craziest sights I found in New Zealand. Yep, just one lane for both car and train traffic! width:360;;height:480
  • New Zealand has lots and lots of rural areas. It's not uncommon to be stalled on the road for a passing cow herd. width:640;;height:288
  • This silly sheep looks dead, but it's just resting. Its wool coat is so massively thick and heavy that just standing on its puny legs left it huffing and puffing for air. Poor beast. width:640;;height:451
  • A surprisingly large number of vintage cars and vintage car clubs are still driving around New Zealand on group road rallys. You're bound to pass a few while you're traveling around the country. I was lucky enough to join a 4-day car rally at Coromandel Peninsula. width:640;;height:436
  • Looking like a movie set from The Great Gatsby era, this gorgeous vintage car was part of the rally I joined. width:602;;height:480
  • ...and speaking of vintage vehicles...Historic Oamaru town has a collection of the world's first bicycles. Known as Penny farthings, these bikes are much harder to ride than you might imagine! I got to take a few spins, thanks to my lovely host in Oamaru. width:427;;height:480
  • Penny farthing collection in Oamaru historic district. width:640;;height:406
  • For a more modern vehicle, how about this crazy shark bus in Auckland? It's a free shuttle to the Aquarium, located on the edge of the city. width:573;;height:480
  • ...and last, but not least...in New Zealand you can fly a stunt airplane! I don't mean merely ride as a passenger, but pilot the plane. I got to fly this beauty in rolls and a loop during my epic flight in Motueka. Crazy, fun stuff! width:640;;height:480
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