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December 27, 2002 - January 13, 2003

Monday, January 13, 2003
The not so very secret Diary of Tanja – The South Island - Xoanon @ 20:59 PST
You can catch up on part one of Tanja's diary here.

Day 5 (20.12.02)

Emotional goodbye to everybody staying in Wellington. Promises to stay in touch.

South Island crowd transfers to airport, sad to leave Wellington but looking forward to things to come. Flight to Christchurch in tiny plane. First to arrive, loitering in airport café and music shop until rest of group turns up at baggage claim. South Island bus driver greets us with friendly “Hey, I’ve seen you guys on TV!”, even remembering a few names. Very. Weird. Apparently some people have been watching TV One News at premiere night…

Afternoon off to relax and do sightseeing. Very nice, very British town! Agree with fellow travelers on mission for today: Find cinema, get tickets.

Do some shopping and eventually meet up with 3 others for coffee and dinner. Learn mission is accomplished, group is to reunite at cinema around 8 p.m. for second showing of TTT.

Movie even better this time!

My personal highlight: Just enjoying the day…

Day 6 (21.12.02)

Bus leaves early from Christchurch, heading to Lake Clearwater to meet our guide for first part of day: Derek, Rohan-extra at Edoras.

Weather check: cloudy.

Derek very impressive, fluently reciting black speech as well as elvish on bus. Also tells us he discussed Tolkien languages with Sir Ian McKellen during break at Edoras-set.

Time flies with him telling entertaining stories about casting, make-up and filming.

Suddenly clouds vanish. Mountains open up and bus stops at most beautiful location: Mt Potts Station. Am surrounded by snow capped mountains, a valley below, brownish grass, bushes, a river and – instantly recognizable right in the middle of this valley – Edoras (Mt Sunday). Slightly smaller than expected but even more stunning than in the movie. Linger and take in everything for a few minutes. Hard to believe all this is actually private ground. Get back in bus to drive closer to Edoras, TTT score playing Rohan theme.

Gate to farm locked, owner on holidays. Ha! As if that would stop us!

Follow stony path to Edoras-hill, after more or less gracefully climbing the fence.

Stony path leads to waist-deep river. Uhm… well. As if that would stop us!

Derek scouting for shallow part of river, everybody else securing cameras and bags, rolling up trouser legs or – in one case – stripping to underwear, as jeans not that suitable to roll up.

Crossing knee-deep part of river in groups of three or four over smooth, slippery rocks. Everyone soaked but happy. No casualties, no missing people. Short pause to remove quite impressive collection of river pebbles from inside shoes and socks. Refreshing ‘squish’ with every step.

Finally arrive at hill. Would have loved to see set of Edoras, but am enthralled even without. Spend some time at locations of great gate and Theodred’s grave – now plain grassland – before climbing Edoras.

Reach location of Great Hall on top of hill – now a few boulders on a plateau. Spectacular 360-degree-view! Feel like diving right into Tolkien’s middle-earth, with Dereks descriptions and no sign of man-made structures, cars or people anywhere in sight. Can easily envision group of Rohirrim riding across the plain and hear the stomping of their horses. Not much imagination necessary…

Spend around one hour on Edoras, completely enchanted. Despite cold feet in wet shoes. Fell totally and utterly in love with this place.

Eventually make our way back to bus, by now expertly crossing the river and climbing the fence. Leave Edoras listening to Rohan-theme from soundtrack again, the whole bus being rather quite…

Drop Derek off at his car before continuing our way to Geraldine for a quick, late lunch.

Next stops after Geraldine: Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki. Awesome views of Mt Cook and Mt Tasman! Reminds me in a way of mountain lakes in Switzerland or Austria. Clear blue sky, bright turquoise water, snow on mountain tops, lupines everywhere… Just beautiful!

Back to bus. Reach today’s final destination at around 5:30 p.m.: Twizel, a.k.a the Pelennor Fields. Friendly greeting by owners of farm, Simon and Priscilla, as well as cute little dog. Learn Priscilla has been an orc-extra (“I’m one of the little, multiplied dots.”). Extremely hard to believe! Must have been nicest orc in middle-earth…

Learn film crew spent 4 weeks on farm, working with over 300 horses, 600 extras and a big blue screen in front of hill. Don’t envy Rohan-Riders that much anymore, now knowing they spent up to 10 hours a day on horseback. In armour. False beards glued to their face. Do however envy Simon and Priscilla for experience of having more than one hundred horses galloping through their backyard at 40 km/h. Awesome! Can’t wait to see “Return of the King”!

My personal highlight: Edoras. It’s just unbelievable. Having been at this place for some reason makes the country of Rohan in the movies even more come to life. It’s like someone simply proofed to you “Yes. It is real. It does exist. And it looks just like this.”. Not once did I feel like visiting a set but rather like stepping right into Tolkien’s middle-earth myself.

Day 7 (22.12.02)

Extensive breakfast. Board bus hobbit-style as shoes still wet and – after spending last night on patio – unpleasantly cold. Oh well. Who needs shoes, anyway?
Destination for today: Queenstown.

First stop on the way: Tarras, location of The Great Chase.

Quickly decide I need shoes anyway, after seeing all the gravel on path. Reluctantly have to admit, am no good as a hobbit…

Don’t have to climb fence this time. Enter forest and recognize scenery at once: Two almost parallel paths, in between very familiar looking pine forest. Very pleasant scent!

Keep looking for stone with blue paint on it – upposedly marker for camera.

Pine needles all over the ground. Several travel mates happily galloping around the place on imaginary horses, impersonating Arwen, Frodo or the Black Riders (all nine of them;-) respectively. Zig-zag through trees as well, though prefer walking and being myself. Hope they had all those rabbit holes removed before sending any poor person on horse on their way.

Found stone with blue marking! Yay!

Also find clearing Arwen and Nazgul crossed, just a few minutes walk away from pine forest section. Am surprised. For some reason always thought these were two different locations.

Continue to wander about for some time, enjoying relaxing atmosphere, before returning to bus with others. Wait... Finally send out search party for one missing hobbit…

Search party successful. Everybody on board. Head to Wanaka Airport next, meeting up with Ian Brodie – friend of Peter Jackson and author of “Lord of the Rings – Location Guidebook”. And probably most of all ‘Lord of the Rings’-Fan himself. Obviously.

Prominently displayed on his desk: a replica of Aragorn’s sword. (Mind you… 19 ring-crazy people in one small room with a replica of Aragorn’s sword!) On another table, next to a pile of his books, some Styrofoam-remains of the Moria set. On his computer: the most beautiful location pictures (taken by Ian himself, Alan Lee and Viggo Mortensen) as well as several movie stills. And most prrrecioussss to us all, in his head: stories of how he got to know Peter Jackson, how he managed to write his location-guidebook, how he waited at the TTT premiere in Wellington for the movie to start, and other most interesting behind-the-scenes information… (Have to admit, at that point, jealousy kicked in…)

Back to bus after too short a time talking to Ian and browsing through pictures. Sure hope to meet with him again one day!

Short Lunchstop in Wanaka, next to beautiful lake.

This time waiting for Vic to get back on bus…

There’s Vic... And Ian? How nice! So soon!
Change in plans. Everybody down to the lake again, where Ian points out one more location to us. Finally second farewell to Ian and back to bus, heading to Arrowtown – location of Ford of Bruinen.

Again some news coverage, this time Otago Daily Times interviewing fellow travelers. Walk ahead with small group, trying to find exact Nazgul-location. Don’t recognize a thing. Neither does anybody else. Oh well. Take some random pictures of banks of Arrow River, beautifully overgrown with lupines, bushes and trees. Impressed by glittering river pebbles – look very elvish!

Walk back and stroll through Arrowtown. How cute! Definitely worth a visit!

Transfer to Hotel in Queenstown – final destination for this tour. Remarkables truly remarkable! Hotel right next to Lake Wakatipu, couldn’t have picked a better place.

My personal highlight: Hard to say… Probably the visit at Ian’s. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just a people-person… J

Day 8 (23.12.02)

Shoe update: dry! Yay!

Weather update: drizzle and clouds. Boo!

Board bus to go up Kelvin Heights Deer Park. Stop for short, shoeless gatekeeper to open gate to park. Pass pretty much every animal but deer on the way up.

Stop at extremely ugly Korean prison building (set for 1989 Disney movie ‘The Rescue’). Why? Why tear down a beautiful set like Edoras and leave this horrible cement thing, I wonder?

No rain anymore. Good. Take muddy footpath through high, wet, brownish grass to Refugee-Lake.

Shoe update: soaked. (Why do I even bother?)

Wow! Lake very much recognizable!

Clouds start to rise. Mountains suddenly appear. Lake even more recognizable… Truly spectacular scenery!

Think found warg-rock not far away from lake… Not sure though. Send fellow traveler up to pose as warg. Hmmm… Could be…. Where’s Bruce when you need him?

Everybody walking about. Reach weather station on top of hill and enjoy amazing 360 degree view. Remind myself that somewhere further down, there are supposed to be 18 fellow travelers. And Vic. Don’t see anybody…

Return to bus at 11am. Head back to Queenstown for some River Rafting on Kawarau River, another location of Anduin. Mighty proud of self for showing courage! Never done rafting before. Very excited now! Let’s see…

Weather update: sunny!

Weather update wearing wetsuit, wetsuit jacket, second jacket, life jacket, diving shoes and helmet: BOILING HOT! … Breathe, that’s the key… Look stupid and feel like astronaut. Barely able to move in extremely tight suit.

Have short chat with Rich, guide for rafting company, responsible for water safety during filming at Kawarau and Arrow River as well as “water stunt double for that blonde dude with the ears”. Nice guy. Looks very elvish, not blond though. Also told us, they put up a whole lot of artificial trees behind Nazgul when filming in Arrowtown. Tricksssy film people! No wonder, we didn’t recognize the place!

Usual safety instructions before boarding rafts. Manage to get into same raft with the only three other fellow travelers from our group, who joined in on this adventure instead of doing the “LotR”-flight or relaxing in Queenstown. Paddle past site of Argonath / ‘pillars of the kings’ right after first small rapid. No pillars of course. But still very impressive. Around the corner: another bungy bridge with some terrified looking person ready to jump.

How comes have to paddle that hard? Legolas & co. looked way more relaxed in movie… Decide to give it a break and join the “Fellowship of the Raft” in river – swimming through the next rapid (or rather grabbing hold of fellow traveler and trusting life jacket to keep me afloat). Great fun! Pleasantly refreshing.

Not quite as easy to get back into raft, though…

Expertly pass two more rapids before get raft stuck on rock. Bugger. Need guide from other raft to push and drag us back into water. Oh well… At least we made it last.

Finally paddle to side of river. Get picked up by mini-bus. Transfer to rafting base for BBQ. Can’t believe just spent an hour on Kawarau River / Anduin. That was SO much fun!

Head back to hotel, quickly change and meet up for dinner before joining group for third showing of TTT.

My personal highlight: Sorry, I can’t decide this time. Kelvin Heights Deer Park was fantastic, wild, pure, original… and very much the middle-earth location you know from TTT. River rafting was, well, river rafting – on Kawarau River on a perfectly sunny day with people I grew to like a lot. Simply great fun! It’s just impossible for me to rank one above the other. Oh, and this movie was pretty good, too…

Day 9 (24.12.02)

Christmas Eve. Weird. Don’t feel like Christmas.

Sleep in. Take short walk at lakeside. Part of group doing LotR-flight today, but join Vic and two others for trip to Amon Hen (Closeburn) and Ithilien (Twelve Mile Delta) around lunchtime.

Stop next to road and walk up hill to location of Amon Hen. Beautiful location! By now completely overgrown with grass and broom but still remotely familiar. Pose as Aragorn for picture, complete with tree branch in hand for sword, to make up for sending fellow traveler up the rock in Deer Park Heights to pose as warg. Didn’t do much to make it look more like Amon Hen though. Apparently am no good as Aragorn either…

Spend a good half hour wandering around and playing Orc-and-Ranger. Now heading to Twelve Mile Delta.

Take Ian’s book as guide and have lots of fun walking along beach speculating which hill is the one that had Faramir standing on it. Am pretty sure we eventually found place where picture of Faramir must have been shot. Can’t recall seeing location in TTT though. Apparently have to watch movie again…Or upcoming extended version. Or ‘Return of the King’. Take some pictures myself and enjoy view of mountains and lake.

Board mini-van and stop at one more location on way back to Queenstown: Moke Lake – basically scenic valley, farmland with cows and sheep, hills and a lake. Apparently SOME filming was done somewhere around this place. Unfortunately couldn’t find anybody to tell us more about it.

Return to hotel around afternoon. Have chat with Kelly, girl from housekeeping. Turns out she’s been one of the Rohirrim (Riders of Rohan). Spend next 90 minutes talking about LotR, filming, horses and New Zealand, before leaving for dinner with fellow travelers.

My personal highlight: Locationwise: Amon Hen / Closeburn. LotR-related or not, it is just a very nice place. Informationwise: Kelly. Probably the most unexpected encounter between towels and toilet paper… It was fantastic to get that much first-hand information on the filming. I have to add that ever since reading the books, I have been most impressed by the idea of Rohan and the Rohirrim, so I might be a bit biased here. But hearing about the unique atmosphere on the set with hundreds of horses and riders, as well as about all the difficulties the riders encountered while shooting the scenes from someone who has been there and experienced it herself, was just great.

Day 10 (25.12.02)

Christmas Day. Still doesn’t feel like it…

Feels much more like last day before the tour is over… Weather setting the mood: dark clouds, pouring rain. Very depressing…

Plan for today: Do a Jetboat-Ride, have Christmas Dinner up the gondola, enjoy view over Queenstown. Hm…. Weather forecast bit of a concern.

Board bus to Glenorchy despite bus driver basically giving us a flood warning. Put on optimistic faces and go anyway. Weather continuously gets worse. Bus driver entertaining us along the way, roughly pointing out locations – only perceivable through layers of clouds and rain – and making us laugh when proudly stating: “Have you seen the second movie? I was a dead body!”. (He also was one of the humans fighting Sauron in the prologue of “Fellowship…”.)

Arrive at Jetboat Company. Not too surprising: all rides are cancelled due to weather conditions and not very encouraging forecasts. Probably wouldn’t have seen much of the scenery anyway, as mountains have basically disappeared in clouds and rain.

Board bus for transfer back to Queenstown. Spend afternoon in hotel lobby with most of the group, just talking, exchanging email-addresses and writing nice things into each others diaries.

Still raining when we reach the restaurant on top of the hill and take our seats around two big tables for our Christmas dinner. Giant buffet, live music, Christmas cracker and a Santa Claus included...
And finally, whatever weather gods there might be in New Zealand or middle earth, they treat us to a special gift by stopping the rain, lifting the clouds, unveiling mountains covered in fresh snow and a rainbow over the city of Queenstown. Simply beautiful. Think just found my Christmas spirit.

Retreat to lounge after dinner. Now truly realizing that this is the last evening we spend together as a group. Recapture events and indulge in ‘Fellowship-spirit’ until restaurant closes and group reluctantly splits up to leave to respective hotels.

Spend more than an hour standing around staircase in hotel lobby with some fellow travelers, talking about this and that or nothing at all, probably most of all trying to seize every minute we have left of each others company. Granted, am dead tired, but ready to spend the night on the stairs…

My personal highlight: Us. Vic pretty much summed it up: What started out as a group of strangers from different countries – united only by their interest in Prof. Tolkien’s and Peter Jackson’s vision – became ‘extended family’ to each other in less than two weeks.

Re-reading my diary now, I almost find it hard to believe that we only spent 11 days traveling together. These 11 days have been filled with so much excitement, so many incredibly friendly people and fantastic experiences at the most beautiful places imaginable that it is awfully hard to leave everybody and return to the day-to-day life, we left behind somewhere in Takapuna on December 15th.


The tour is over. Everybody went his/her respective ways on Boxing Day or the 27th, returning to England, USA, Australia, China or – in my case – to Auckland.

What follows now is not part of ‘the story’ and will perhaps be of little if any informational value. So if you’re one of those people, who can’t wait to leave the cinema after the last word has been spoken, this is your cue. Thanks for bearing with me throughout the whole report!

However, if you are interested in the credits, feel free to read on…

This tour truly was a unique experience. (You probably would have guessed by now.)

A lot of people added to that and made middle earth come to life for us. This report just wouldn’t feel complete to me, without adding a final word of thanks to each of them.

First and foremost there’s Vic James, guide-god and ‘adopted dad’ to all of us. He’s put so much work in organizing this trip and was amazingly cool about literally going the extra mile for individual people to meet everybody’s demands. Throughout the trip, I always felt that he created Red Carpet Tours primarily to share his own enthusiasm for LotR and his home country. Thanks for that!

Same goes for Erica/Tehanu, who (as I understood) has been tracking down locations and people for us, and who I hopefully will meet before I have to leave for Germany again.

Then there’s Bruce Hopkins. He’s just been the best! Always kind and friendly and a fantastic storyteller with a great sense of humor. I’d love to talk to him again, now that we’ve seen the movie… And I’ll never forget how he unwrapped that book from the pillowcase and handed it over to us, trusting that we neither spill drinks over it nor take it and run. (Though quite a few people would have liked to do the latter, I can imagine…)

So everybody, look out for Gam(b)ling, I say! May he ride again!

Tracy from the Powderhorn Chateau…Thanks for your patience and your dedication in showing us around and providing us with so much behind-the-scenes information! And some certain room numbers… leading to truly unforgettable moments and most embarrassing photos!

Everybody on and around the red carpet, especially PJ, Elijah and Alan Lee: Wow! You made my day!

Derek, our guide to Edoras… A true man from Rohan! Great to have him with us to cross the rivers and climb the mountains! And cheers to his daughter as well, also a Rohan-extra, who met up with us in Wellington and shared her impressions of the filming.

Simon & Priscilla, owners of the farm in Twizel / the Pelennor Fields… Awesome! I still envy them for hosting one of the greatest battles of middle earth. Even though the location itself has been merely a flat, vast field, it wasn’t hard to imagine the action.

Ian Brodie. The man with the book. And the pictures. And the stories. And the sword…Without his enthusiasm and persistence in researching the locations and putting together this awesome guidebook, this tour probably wouldn’t have happened in quite the way it did. It was fantastic to finally meet him in Wanaka!

And finally: Rich, the ‘elven’ rafting guide, and Kelly, Rohan-rider in disguise… They have been so much fun to talk to! Thanks for sharing your experiences!


My many thanks and all the best wishes to everybody involved in this ‘adventure’! I sure hope to meet you all again one day!

More Pics From The Wellington TTT Premiere - Xoanon @ 19:17 PST
frodo's girl sends along these great pictures from the Wellington TTT Premiere, a few weeks late...but fun anyway!

Sunday, January 12, 2003
American Fork, Utah Does LOTR Music - Xoanon @ 10:58 PST
Christi writes: I play in a community symphony and asked the conductor to watch for FOTR soundtrack music to become available. Today she passed it out!

We will be playing "Symphonic Suite from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring" at our concert in American Fork, Utah, on Feb. 24.

For those musicians or conductors out there who may want to seek out this piece, here are the details:

Music by Howard Shore, arranged by John Whitney
At the bottom of the music, it says: This Arrangement copyright 2002 New Line Tunes (ASCAP) and South Fifth Avenue Publishing (ASCAP) All rights for New Line Tunes Administered by WB Music Corp. (ASCAP)

The arrangement includes sections from "Concerning Hobbits," "A Knife in the Dark," and "The Breaking of the Fellowship" as well as "In Dreams."

Friday, January 10, 2003
Thank You Letter To PJ - Xoanon @ 11:00 PST

belethdelothiel, Eärendil The Mariner, grammaboodawg write:

Late in November, the TORnsibs on the Movie and Main Discussion Boards gathered together and created what started out as a Christmas Card and a Letter for Peter Jackson and everyone who contributed to the production of The Lord of the Rings film(s). The Card quickly became a full-size poster!

The letter and poster were designed and created by Discussion Board members, and the cost of producing the high-quality poster was paid for with contributions by Discussion Board participants who also included a short personal message. The poster, letter and personal messages were sent to Peter in mid-December (hopefully to arrive before Christmas).

Monday, January 06, 2003
The LOTR Locations Big Tour: Tanja's Report - Tehanu @ 19:03 PST
Here's Part I of a report from a German fan who took the Red Carpet tour of NZ for LOTR fans, which went to the Wellington Premiere.

The not so very secret Diary of Tanja - The North Island

Day 0 (15.12.02)

Sunday afternoon. I'm throwing the last bit of travel gear in my bag, briefly acknowledging the fact that I will forget to pack some minor important object for sure. Oh well... No time to worry now, with my flatmate waiting outside to drive me to the Spencer Hotel in Takapuna for our Welcome Dinner.

Am a good hour early, but already find my north-island-roommate in our room - along with a borrowed DVD-Player, the extended version of 'Fellowship...', a bottle of red wine and a basket full of strawberries, which she had managed to organize. Am seriously impressed. Go, Tour!

Down to the restaurant for our Welcome Dinner. Still so engaged in talking that we took the staff elevator. Brief detour included kitchen level and startled personnel.

Found restaurant. Most of our group already there, listening to a tall guy talking about Rohan. Vic waving at us to hand out our name tags and explains tall guy's name is Bruce Hopkins. Ah. He plays 'Gamling' in the movie. Oh. (My sincere apologies to Bruce. But at that point no one had seen the second movie yet...) Very relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Very diverse group. Very interesting insights into filming!

Great first evening.

My personal highlight: Along with sharing his experiences around filming LotR, Bruce at some point unwrapped a book from a pillowcase and handed it over for everyone to have a look. This book was a gift from Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh. Limited to only 100 copies, it contained still shots and behind-the-scenes pictures from cast and crew; each photo accompanied by a funny comment - an awesome souvenir reflecting the great time everybody had while working on the movie(s).

Day 1 (16.12.02)

First stop: Matamata a.k.a Hobbiton. 'Fellowship' score setting the mood while leaving flat grassland for rolling green hills. Camera team of TV One News following us. Tried to escape camera and almost got run over by travel mates, charging at "Welcome to Hobbiton"-sign.

Short walk downhill and suddenly find myself standing in the shire, now occupied by a few hundred sheep though. Down to my right the lake and huge 'party-tree', in the hills to my left several hobbit-holes, on top of all: Bag End.

Merely a hobbit-sized wooden frame and lacking door or windows, but as inviting as if Bilbo was still living there.

Take turns in exploring Bag End and stroll through the rest of the shire. Feel very much at home. Don't want to leave.

Lunchstop at Oraka Wapiti Deer Farm. Not LotR-related, but great food. Bottle-fed a little deer fawn, increasing today's level of 'cuteness' even further. Still in shire-mood...

Short photo stop at Huka Falls near Taupo. Awesome scenery.

Dinner at the bank of Lake Taupo. Mount Doom almost in view, if it wasn't for those clouds. (But then again, what else would you expect from Mount Doom?)

My personal highlight: Hobbiton. Before I went on this trip, several people asked me: "Why visit Hobbiton? There's nothing left except for some shabby hobbit-hole frames...". They were right. In a way. There's not much left of the hobbit homes as such. No doors or windows, no colourful paint, no flowers or vegetable gardens and of course no Hobbits... BUT the shire is still there and it is very much recognizable. The lake is there, as is the party tree, the hills, the stepping stones leading up to Bag End, the road(s) Gandalf traveled in his cart, the place where he lit the fireworks for the hobbit children... It's all there. Along with a lot of information on preparations and actual filming. You need but little imagination to make it all come alive again.

Day 2 (17.12.02)

Woke up with Mount Doom in view from bedroom window. Yay!

Within minutes scenery changes from green hills to flat brownish grassland and volcanic rock. Entering Tongariro National Park. Mountains again covered in dark clouds. Stop at Whakapapa Ski Fields. Head to the site of Mordor, 'orc road' to our left, ski lift to our right. Can't help but imagining Sauron and his army taking ski lift to fight 'last alliance of men and elves'.

Wander off to the right with a small group of fellow travelers, climbing steep rocks and enjoying the view of a river running in the deep. Beautiful! Thank god, am not afraid of heights! Try to climb down again without crashing camera or self...

Decide it's time to get back to bus. Follow fellow travelers into a gorge, seems to be an easier walk than climbing back over the rocks.

...Are these clouds coming up?

Gorge definitely not much easier than rocks. Ground slippery from drizzle. Thick fog everywhere. Can't see a thing. "I hope the others found a safer road..." unanimously chosen as quote of the day.

Eventually managed to find our way back to the bus.

Next stop: Mangawhero Falls, location for Gollum's fishpond / the Ithilien Camp. Stunning scenery. Absolutely lovely. And definitely worth a visit, even though the pond itself is not publicly accessible. Explore several overgrown paths, leading deeper into forest to rocky viewpoints or small meadows. Am sorry to leave this place...

Head towards our accommodation for the night: The Hobbit Lodge in Ohakune. Cute little motel with hobbit-pictures in the rooms and a menu that offers specialties even for the 'vegetarian elves'.

Quickly change and go out to meet other part of our group, staying at the Powderhorn Chateau, which served as accommodation for film cast and part of the crew for more than six weeks.

Guided tour through the hotel includes heaps of information on filming and room numbers. Leads to groups of people madly rushing from room to room and one 'lost' key. (Heard rumors that pictures exist of two highly embarrassed girls on a certain bed... Wonder, who that could possibly be. Wonder what happened to that video camera...) Definitely most surreal experience so far.

Attention shifts from bed to bathroom. Good. Sneak out and join room party in Ian McKellen's former suite.

My personal highlight: Walking through Mordor and getting lost in exactly the same spot that features Frodo and Sam in TTT with the following dialog:

Sam: "This place looks familiar.'"

Frodo: "Because we've been here before! We're walking in circles..."

I could so relate....;-)

Day 3 (18.12.02) - Premiere Day

Start early from the Hobbit Lodge.

First Stop: Hightime Bungy Bridge near Taihape, location of River Anduin. Two people of our group actually did the jump. Congrats to Nick and Jeremy!

(Somehow keep seeing stupid picture of Lurtz dangling upside down on bungy rope, trying to grab hold of Frodo paddling past in elvish boat... *sigh*)

Lunchstop at seafood restaurant. Yummy food, but tension in group caused by several phone calls telling us a) we do NOT have specially assigned viewing area for our group at the red carpet and b) Wellington City already packed with LotR Fans. Try to get used to thought of us standing way back in crowd. Fail.

Everybody eating really fast.

4:15 p.m., finally arrive in Wellington. Check into hotel, shower and change in record time and head to red carpet with rest of group. Some wearing most beautiful self-made costumes, mirror images of the characters... Awesome!

Not quite as many people at red carpet as feared would be, but still no room for us. Finally settle for some small space next to plastic-tape-barrier. Can't even see fence but at least can see big screen and back of podium...

6 p.m. Oops? Plastic tape gone. Suddenly find myself next to fence. How did that happen?

Giant Gollum is unveiled, crawling on top of embassy theatre, trying to grab giant ring. Awesome Weta-work! Where did they find the time for this?

First glimpse of Peter Jackson and three hobbit actors on screen. People around me madly screaming. Me too. Recognize Bruce on the red carpet. Yay, Bruce!:-) And is that Alan Lee, cheerfully working his way to our little corner...?

First glimpse of PJ and Elijah in front of the podium, giving interviews to press people. Dominic and Billy still on their way. Karl Urban strutting along, quite indifferently signing random books and papers. Doesn't look too happy...

PJ's signing my book!

Elijah's signing my book, too!

All cast and crew are called to take a seat at podium. Movie made for Peter Jackson is shown on big screen: "New Zealand says 'thank you' to Peter Jackson". Very emotional! Great country! Standing ovations from everybody including actors. PJ gives his speech. Forces Mark Ordesky from New Line to publicly announce world premiere of "The Return of the King" will be in Wellington. Find myself madly cheering, even though couldn't possibly pick a place further away from Germany. Briefly wonder how on earth I could finance another trip to New Zealand in 2003?!

Sooooo close to getting signatures of Dominic and Billy. Unfortunately they get picked out of the crowd by their assistants and directed into the theatre. Imagine they were very very happy and relieved though. Don't know how they survive hours of autograph-writing and screaming fans without letting it all get on their nerves.

Crowd disappears quickly once actors are in theatre. Have dinner with roommates. Return to theatre for the exit but learn from fellow traveler that hobbits had left through backdoor, 5 minutes after entering. Other rumors lead to change in plans: Take short run to Te Papa Museum, just in time to see PJ, the hobbits and all other premiere guests arrive for exclusive VIP-preview of LotR exhibition. Awesome venue! Fiery ring above the entrance, percussion groups all over the building, much less people around than at the red carpet... Wow!

Linger and enjoy mood. Then take short run back to Embassy Theatre, just in time for midnight showing of TTT.

My personal highlight: Being so lucky to have the opportunity to tell Alan Lee, Elijah Wood and Peter Jackson how much I love their work. I know, I know... they probably heard this a thousand times and more and it might not have been the most original thing to say. But this is MY personal highlight...

Well, that and of course having my picture taken with Elijah. J  (What really impressed me: He was just as enthusiastic as all the fans and truly seemed to enjoy every minute of the red carpet event. How does he do it?)

Day 4 (19.12.02)

Go to bed at around 4 a.m. Still excited.

Get up at 8, grab breakfast and meet others for exclusive non-VIP preview of LotR exhibition.

Get in through back door and freight elevator - 30 minutes before official opening. Am overwhelmed by amount of work and love for detail put into every single little exhibit. Interesting behind-the-scenes information on special effects and scale models, a hilarious video clip of Lawrence being transformed into Lurtz, an alarmingly realistic wax figure of dead Boromir in the boat, Gandalf's cart in front of a green screen (Interactive! Good idea not to wear green clothes for exhibition...) and many costumes, weapons and props. Not to forget the One Ring. Mmmm... would have loved to try it on! Looked like it would fit my finger...;-)

Exhibition room packed with people. Am really glad we got the preview! Meet the others in bus, heading for Chocolate Fish Café. Stopped on the way to visit location where entrance to the Path of the Dead ('Return of the King') had been filmed - now being a rather unspectacular hill where someone dumped a rusty car and a shabby old mat (at once identified as Aragorn's car and Legolas' bed...). Go back to town for lunch as Chocolate Fish Café and beach were packed.

Meet with Vic and fellow travelers in front of Embassy Theatre and walk up Mt Victoria to see "Get off the road!"-location. Very nice walk! Highly recommendable! Am surprised that location is instantly recognizable. Walk on uphill a little to find path leads to beautiful meadow with view over Wellington.

Go back to city with small group of fellow travelers - with several people doing Pippin-glued-to-Treebeard-impressions on several trees along the way.

Meet up with rest of group at "Green Parrot" (supposedly Viggo Mortensen's favorite restaurant) for dinner. Spend some time at "Molly Malone's" Irish Pub (supposedly Sean Bean's favorite pub) afterwards. End up at hotelbar, as some people didn't carry IDs and weren't allowed inside the pub. Depressing last evening before the "breaking of the fellowship", with 12 people leaving the tour and the rest of us flying to South Island...

My personal highlight: Hard to decide this time... Mt Victoria was very nice and the exhibition was impressive. Yet I think my personal highlight was to realize how close we all got within this short amount of time. In only four days, the group grew to be the 'Fellowship of the Tour'. And sitting in the hotel talking to everybody, realizing how much I'm going to miss all the people who stay behind, really added a great deal to the whole experience.

Coming Soon: Tanja's report from the South Island part of the tour.....

Sunday, January 05, 2003
Tolkien Birthday Celebration Report - Xoanon @ 19:17 PST
I thought y'all might like to hear about the District of Dark Whispers Tolkien Birthday Gathering which happend last night (a lot of people from the Uptown Theatre Line Party came to party with the DODW).

The DODW’s Tolkien Birthday Celebration - 01/03/03

This event was held at Bilbo Baggins Global Cafe in Alexandria, VA, starting at 6:30pm. We had half the first floor dining room to ourselves. B.B. has a wonderfully cozy and Hobbity feel to it, so it was very laid back and informal.............just the place for Hobbits.

We started the gathering off with introductions all round, as we had some new members attending and new Tolkien fans from the DC metro area and New Jersey there as well. For the first hour and a half we all ate, drank and mingled. Of course everyone there had seen ‘The Two Towers’ at least once, so we did not need to worry about ‘spoilers.’ I even did some LOTR ‘Oracle’ readings for those interested..............though I really was in need of practice (I did a lousy job).

Then around 8:15pm we started off the Tolkien readings. It was great, everyone did a fabulous job! We heard from The Hobbit, LOTR, The Silmarillion and more.................everything from the march of the Ents to Bilbo’s return to The Shire. Then DODW member Rachel (Eleanor Gamgee) brought lyrics for the ‘Tookish Pub Song’ and ‘The Walking Song’ for everyone. I could not believe it, 24 voices in perfect unison................we were awesome!!!

Just before 9pm we all stood and had a countdown to the toast. So at exactly 9pm we raised our glasses and said “The Professor!” Then of course I added something else to that:
“In remembering his 111th birthday, let us take to heart these words he wrote: If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.” And that signaled the end to the gathering.

This was a gathering that Tolkien himself would have liked..........just the simple pleasures of friends, food and drink, what more could one ask for.


Saturday, December 28, 2002
TTT Fandom Takes Oz - Xoanon @ 16:37 PST
ephor writes: I just want to report in on the chaos and rabid enthusiasm we are experiencing down here in Brisbane, Austraila, with LOTR:TTT.

I had bought tickets in advance for the first session (it opened nationally today) at 9:50am, and my friend and I arrived at the cinema at 8:40am, well in advance we thought to be able to line up and get the seats we wanted. When we got to the cinema, there was already a lineup outside and it didn't open until 9am. When the doors finally did open. everyone ran up the stairs to get in line. It was a strange and exhilirating moment with everyone sprinting up the stairs with wild enthusiasm, keen to see this film.

When I emerged from the cinema, the lines for the next sessions were sprawled around the central escalators/stairs and then back around the other side. There were lines for about three different sessions at one time, and it seemed as if no one had come to see any other film. I also attended a 1:50pm session, which meant I had to line up as soon as I got out of the first session. Both sessions were completely full. And this cinema isn't in the city centre, it's a suburban cinema (albeit one of the largest in Brisbane).

The response was also very positive with everyone enjoying the banter between Gollum and Sam especially. And Gimli's comic relief.

Being there at the same time last year, there was definitely a more excitable vibe.



TTT Line Party Report: San Francisco - Xoanon @ 13:20 PST
Nim, Bad, and Lila all write:

The Two Towers line party at the Coronet Theater in San Francisco was one of Special Magnificence! We got to the theater about 4:30 pm and promptly staked out spots under the marquee. Robert and Desiree were our TORn line party hosts. Lounge chairs, a propane heater, lots of snacks, and board games kept the ringers happy. As a special treat, Jeremy and Morgan projected the SE FOTR DVD on the SIDE of the BUILDING to entertain the crowd of 1200 that lined up in the inclement weather! Special VIPs spotted in and about the theater included local celeb Robin Williams, TORn founder Tehanu, a Balrog, some Hobbits and Elves, a few Ringwraiths, a Wizard, and a Dunedan...(and of couse, the local Pervy Elf Fancier contingent!).

This report brought to you by Nim, Bad, and Lila!

TTT Line Party Report: Houston - Xoanon @ 13:12 PST
Vince "Thenamir" Smith writes:

Attached are pictures from the Houston Line Party! What a blast! We had nearly three THOUSAND people show up for the opening. By way of comparison, last year the same theatre sold out the three largest theatres in the 30-plex to around 1600 people, using only two prints of the film, and we could get no media interest at all. This year they had five prints of the film, they sold out almost 8 theatres to over 2900 rabid Tolkien heads, and we had news crews from TWO television stations show up to film the line!

Thenamir is "yours truly", dressed in my best impression of Gandalf the White, and I was in charge of the festivities for the Houston line party on TORN. We gave away all the posters, action figures and collectibles you see on the prize table pictures, donated by the Barrow Treasures website including a Treebeard action figure, and the new TTT CD Cardz donated by Serious USA. How did we give them away? Tolkien trivia -- First one in the audience to show a hand and give the correct answer to some simple trivia. We also did an expert version of trivia for those who considered themselves Tolkien scholars, "Last Man Standing", in Spelling Bee style -- answer the question correctly and you stay in the game -- miss one and you have to sit down. The last one standing got the Treebeard figure!

We also had a costume contest for a complete set of CD Cardz, Won by the young man dressed as, you guessed it, Legolas, and an impeccably detailed replica of his costume it was. There were a bunch of hooting guys who wanted one of the pretty girls to win, but in the end, the Legolas groupies won out in the audience-applause-meter judging.

The movie, well, there's not much more to be said that hasn't already been said. We laughed a little (Go Gimli!) we cried a lot, and left the theatre stunned. My stock answer to those who ask me how the movie was (with no spoilers, of course) is that "it's the best three hours I've ever spent having all my senses and emotions pummeled and bludgeoned into utter exhaustion". I've never been so affected by a movie before - even FOTR doesn't begin to come close. Don't wait for the lines to die down if you have not yet seen it -- see it in a theatre packed with people you don't know and share an amazing 3 hours with them. You'll come out of the theatre as family.

Friday, December 27, 2002
Tolkien's Birthday: Tolkien Society Celebration in Kent - Tehanu @ 14:49 PST

The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers follows an awe-inspiring quest of Frodo Baggins, and The Fellowship, as they battle the evil Dark Lord Sauron and attempt to destroy The One Ring. With an array of special effects, dazzling scenery and a fantastic cast, this film is truly breathtaking.

JANUARY 3rd 2003

Tolkien's 111th Birthday
(The age of Bilbo at the start of Lord of the Rings!)

The Tolkien Society‚s 33rd Birthday
(A significant age for hobbits!)

An excellent night to go and see The Two Towers in the company of other Tolkien fans.

On January 3rd Tolkien fans around the world are invited to raise a glass and toast the birthday of this much loved author at 21:00 ("9 pm") local time. The toast is "The Professor".

A discount is offered to all members of the Tolkien Society for all shows of The Two Towers on this date.
All you have to do is show your membership card to receive £1 off your normal admission price.

TTT Line Party Report: San Diego - Xoanon @ 14:21 PST
Lottelita writes: Here are some photos from last night's really fun line party at the Edwards Theater Mira Mesa in San Diego, California -- over 250 TORnadoes were there and four theaters were sold out! Thanks to everyone who came for making the very first line party I ever went to extra special, and to Sauron's Truss (Bill) for organizing the event!

TTT Line Party Report: Chicago - Xoanon @ 14:06 PST
Tigerlily Gamgee

Well, for the first major Chicago Line Party it didn't go too bad. We were a little scattered due to the fact that the theatre had six sold out houses for the midnight showing, but we still managed to run the raffle and costume contest. The line started around 8pm and grew rapidly. There were great prizes and giveaways compliments of Decipher and a few Line Party members who donated. The time passed so quickly that we were in the theatre before we knew it. A few local news channels were there, and I was interviewed by one. There were also some really nice T-shirts given out by a local radio station.

All in all, I've had a lot of positive feedback from everyone, and we plan on doing this again! I had a great time!

~Tigerlily Gamgee (Chicago Line Party Administrator)

TTT Premiere: Los Angeles - Xoanon @ 13:34 PST
Ringer Spy Kailin sends along these great pics from the Los Angeles premiere of TTT! Take a look at these pics of Andy Serkis, Orlando Bloom, JRD, Karl Urban, and more!

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