Thursday, January 30, 2003
Middle-earth Vacation Photos - Xoanon @ 20:32 PST
Arod writes:

Ever since we saw the Fellowship Of The Ring, myself and my 2 mates had always wanted to go to New Zealand to visit the film sites. And in June we decided to do that in December of last year. So we planned and plotted, and unfortunately the booking didn't turn out the way we'd hoped. We had hoped to be in Wellington on the 18th/19th for the TTT premiere, and to go to the Te Papa Exhibit. Sadly, we couldn't get flights around these times (it was really really really busy) so we had to rearrange our times and we just missed the premiere by 3 days. We flew out of Brisbane (QLD, Australia) on the 1st of December and made for Middle Earth!

On the plane, we even asked if the flight attendant would say "Welcome to Middle Earth" when we landed, but unfortunately she had no clue what we were talking about. We flew into Christchurch arriving there at about midnight, and after two nights (and plenty of LOTR posters everywhere!) we headed for Queenstown, with one night's stopover in Dunedin for a visit to The Cadbury Factory (being chocaholics it was too hard to resist - I strongly recommend it for anyone like us!). Our first LOTR filmsite was on The Kawarau River - The Great River Anduin and The Argonath. We didn't have time to do a jet boat or rafting tour past it, so instead we did our best to get a view from land. Unfortunately we couldn't get a photo of the actual spot (it was on private property) but we came pretty close. Then it was Queenstown for a night, which was beautiful.

On the 5th of December we headed for Glenorchy, where we were destined for Dart Stables' "Overnighter" which would take us through Amon Hen and Lothlorien. It was fantastic! One of the most exciting things was that myself, being not a very experienced horse rider, was a bit nervous about which horse they put me on. But eventually I met my horse, Sam (!), who was not only beautiful and very easy going, but he had been in The Two Towers! We think he was one of the horses involved in the scene where Eomer, Gandalf and the Rohirrim charge down the hill to Helm's Deep! The horse ride was wonderful, the scenery spectacular, and the company was great. In fact, one of our instructors is in ROTK! She is dressed as a Rider of Rohan! The film location was absolutely stunning! Very recognisable. I highly recommend that any LOTR fan who gets the chance do this trek, however, be prepared for a fair amount of pain unless you are an experienced rider!

After the Overnighter, we went back to Queenstown for another two nights. We did a small plane flight to Milford Sound and back, in which we saw some of the Mountains used for filming (I believe the ones at the start of TTT). Then we took a trip to the Mavora Lakes, the location of Nen Hithoel, the edge of Fangorn Forest, and the tree stump where Merry and Pippin hid from orcs at Amon Hen. All of these were great. The edge of Fangorn Forest was really cool, even though we only had a picture in the Location Guidebook to go by and didn't really know what we were looking at. The tree stump was hard to find, as there are several of these in a 150m stretch of forest, but it was still very exciting. And Nen Hithoel was beautiful. The water was absolutely freezing though - and our hearts went out to Sean Astin imagining him having to endure first the freezing water, then getting the glass in his foot! Then it was back to Queenstown for one last night.

Early next morning, we headed off for the North Island, driving up the West Coast. I admit we were very sad to leave Queenstown, but some of the scenery we encountered along the way to Picton (where we would catch the Ferry across) was spectacular. We had 2 overnight stops on the way, at Fox Glacier and Murchison. Then finally on the 10th of December we caught the Ferry to Wellywood! We arrived there at about 3pm, and after a quick check in at our accomodation, we were off on the trail of film sites once more. First we visited Rivendell and the Fords of Isen (Kaitoke Regional Park) which were beautiful. There were several signs pointing the way to Rivendell, and a board up explaining what the location was all about. Next we visited the gardens of Isengard (where the orcs where chopping down all the trees in FOTR) which were nice, and then finally another part of the Great River Anduin (Hutt River) which was very cool. Then we collapsed exhausted, and watched TV all night to see the occasional TTT ad!

The next day we were up bright and early to go to Mt Victoria ("Get off the road!") which was awesome. We did a lovely little re-enactment of the scene which was great fun. Next we visited Lyall Bay (where the cast supposedly surfed - although there wasn't much surf around when we were there) and I'm pretty sure we drove past Orlando Bloom's house for the 18 months. Then it was second breakfast at the Chocolate Fish Cafe, which was great! We talked to staff who told us all about the cast's visits. One of them even lived 2 doors down from Liv Tyler, and saw her cleaning her toilet! After very nice pancakes we were off into the heart of Wellington - to the Embassy! And to our dismay we realised that we were there exactly a week before the premiere! It nearly brought us to tears when we saw all the LOTR posters and standees and what not. They even had banners all through the streets advertising TTT! We took a visit to Dymocks (supposedly housing the largest range of Tolkien books in NZ) and picked up a few things, and by that time the day was just about over. So we headed back to our accomodation and read LOTR for the remainder of the night (where we could see the TV in case of TTT ads).

On the 12th we headed for Ohakune, with one stopover at the Waitarere Forest (Trollshaw and Osgiliath woods). Only when we saw TTT did we pick up that Waitarere was where Frodo, Sam and Gollum are walking through at the end of the film. Very exciting. Once in Ohakune we found Ithilien (half way up Mt Ruapehu near some waterfalls that I can't remember the name of!) which was beautiful. And again when we saw TTT we picked up that the scene where Gollum is trying to catch a fish, and Sam calls him Stinker, etc etc. was filmed at the top of this waterfall!

We stayed the night in Ohakune, then headed off to Rotorua the next day. First stop was a drive up Mt Ruapehu to Mordor! It was freezing up there! It even snowed! The site was easily recognisable, and most exciting was the place where Frodo and Sam are lost in Emyn Muil! Then we drove on to Rotorua, with one stop at the Rangitikei River (The Great River Anduin). That night we did the Luge and went to a Maori concert, which was great. And then it was a sad day on the 14th, our last day in Middle Earth, and we certainly did make the most of it. We packed up and headed out of Rotorua, with one stop just outside Rotorua to do a "Swoop" (involving getting hoisted up 40m in the air and then "flying" - a lot of fun!) then we went on and on... Until we came to the most anticipated thing on the holiday - HOBBITON! We did the tour which was absolutely brilliant! I highly recommend it to everyone! We saw everything from the technical carpark, to the party tree, to Bag End. It was great, a highlight of the trip. Then we said sad goodbyes to Hobbiton, and drove up to Hamilton, which was where we would fly home to Brisbane at 5am the next morning. We tried to stay awake all night, but fell asleep after watching some of Sean Bean in Goldeneye, and singing the Hobbit Drinking Song about a thousand times! Then we got up at 5am to catch our plane at 7am, and said our teary farewell to Middle Earth. We got on the plane and it was decided that we were definately gonna come back for the premiere of ROTK! Then we talked about how good TTT was gonna be for the rest of the flight. It was awesome.

Of course, when we eventually did see TTT on the 26th, it just added to the excitement when we saw all the places we had been up on the big screen. Cheers.