Stephen Travels

And he's ready to take you with him.

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The Surreality of Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland

Simply put, New Zealand is gorgeous. The mountains, the lakes, the coastlines, the fjords, the beaches: Few countries can boast such a bountiful variety of nature’s best. Some of it is simply surreal—other-worldly colors, mud pools, boiling lakes, geysers, bubbling ponds, fumaroles. Director Peter Jackson clearly made the right choice when he opted to cast the country as his setting for Middle Earth in his Lord of the Rings trilogy. And one place that extends even beyond the surreal is Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland. Read more about it >

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Earth, or Middle Earth? A Hike Through New Zealand’s Wonderfully Weird Landscape

Waimangu Volcanic Valley, New ZealandFrom Robertson House, my lovely bed and breakfast in the town of Rotorua, on New Zealand’s North Island, I drove for only about 20 minutes to the surreally beautiful Waimangu Volcanic Valley. Almost as soon as I began my 2½-mile hike here, I fully understood why Peter Jackson chose to film The Lord of the Rings trilogy in New Zealand. Clearly, this was what J.R.R. Tolkien had in mind when he was creating his world of Middle Earth back in the 1940s. Read more >