The Trip to Middle Earth ~ 2003 ~ Chapter 4 ~ The REAL Return of the King.
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If Hobbiton and Wellington were my special destinations, today marks the beginning of the trip for Phil. At last we will be in Rohan. His Hobbiton dream didn't work out due to the rain, but he will follow his heart at Edoras 'to whatever end'. Of course this is also the day my notebook diary breaks down a bit. So I will look at the photos and try to recall what I can of December 3, the real return of the King...Theoden.
The day started a bit dreary as I recall, but maybe that was just because I was contemplating my first role of the day 'Theoden's esquire', though valet would have been more like it, as I rolled up the outfit and got it all into my pack while listening to the usual helpful comments, "It won't all fit in there!" "You're crushing my velvet!!" "Don't forget my brooch." Just call me Sherpa. Thanks to the Fabulous Doloreses we at least have a seat on the bus as we headed out to Rakaia Gorge on the way to Mt. Potts Station.
Lots of picture perfect countryside, but different than in the North Island. This looks more like California in early summer, or the high desert of my native Arizona in spring. Finally, finally we see a plain and there in the distance it is. Mt. Sunday is unmistakably Edoras.
The coach begins to hiss with the sound of zip-off trouser legs zipping off. After the usual bio-breaks, we head for the hill. Crossing the first rivers are easy, but as luck would have it the Sherpa looked over her shoulder to answer someone and goes in ~ PLUNK! I sit there unable to get up because I'm trying to keep the boots dry! Finally Phil and Robert stop trying to 'save' me and take the boots. Then I can get up and slog out of the water. Brisk! Refreshing! Boy am I glad the sun has come out!
We all know it wouldn't have been a real outing without at least one wetting! Meanwhile I'm hearing that voice again. "You've ruined it. It will be soaking wet!" Imagine his surprise to find that the sole casualty of the dunk in the river is the edges of my Ian Brodie guidebook. There was a reason I brought my pack from Ireland. It doesn't leak! Get him dressed. Dry off the sword, and change to my second persona of the day, Peter Jackson, so that I can film the funeral scene (Symbelmyne...), the Wormtongue scene, (You would have had me crawling...), the rousing speeches (Forth Eorlingas!).
The drivers said they could hear him all the way down at the buses. Grateful thanks to everyone who helped make Phil-oden's number one dream a reality!
Then it was back on the bus heading into the McKenzie Country. Before we got to Geraldine we met sheep on the road. The bus driver told Phil it had never happened to him before in all his years of driving there. Lucky us to see it.
We also got some beautiful photos of the lupins at Lake Pukaki. These are among my favorite flowers, but I can't grow them successfully, not enough room in my yard in California, so it was a treat to see them growing everywhere. I know they are a weed in NZ, but still lovely to me. This was also our first sighting of Aoraki (Mt. Cook), and we heard another one of my favorite stories; the one about people water skiing in the canal below. We will head over to the Pelennor Fields in the morning.
Up bright and early for the Pelennor Fields. Keeping our eyes open for souvenier horseshoe nails and other goods, we meet Simon Cameron, owner of the best Merino sheep farm in New Zealand for the past 2 years. No sheep though, instead we see a lone rider coming at us 'hell for leather' from the horizon. At least Kieran wasn't shouting "Death" while he charged us. Kieran Giles and his horse, Pippa, are veterans of the famous 260 horse Charge of the Rohirrim. He was the second banner bearer on the left of Theoden, riding his other horse. Pippa was very good about letting all of us pet her and some even got to sit on her for photos.
After the excitement of the Monty Python re-enactment of the Charge, we continue the day's itinerary, looking for the scene of the Great Chase. On the way to Linder's Pass we see the 'Clay Cliffs' near Omarama, and become familiar with the new vegetation, tussock grass and briar rose.
Finally we arrive at the pine forest, where we discover that we will have to trespass to see the site. Seems that the forest now belongs to a vintner who is worried that we might look at his grapes or something. Phil photos the sign! We all head down what is left of the camera truck road and Vic tells us the story of 'Short Harry, Harry the Bastard, and the freshly cut polystyrene logs'. Those WETA wizards always have the last laugh.
No one arrives to evict us so, leaving our sins (but no trash) behind us, we sneak back out to the coaches and go to our next legal stop, the Rohan set. This is on a sheep farm out near Poolburn and Alexandria. Phil had to get a photo of Alexandria's giant town clock in addition to all the movie related scenes. Here Aragorn listens for the Orcs running ahead, finds the leaf brooch from Lorien, and Gimli takes a header down a hillside. This is also the site of the burned Rohan village. So many things in such a small space. Some only around the corner from each other, though many leagues apart in the film.
Friday, December 5. I will always remember Cromwell as the town where we put the Take Away out of business. On our second night there Phil & I got the last of the fish and chips. Robert got one of the only two pizzas left (both peculiar flavours to an American). I forget what Christina, Dodie and Dottie had, but there was not much to choose from. I felt really sorry for the locals who showed up just after we left the place. I suppose they could still get chips and ice cream. We called the hotel 'Bagshot Row' because of the little cottage style doors. We also saw the original Bungy Jump site. Phil is starting to collect advice and information on his second New Zealand dream. The bungy jump. Kawara Bridge at 40 meters is looking good to him.
This is the day we head into the Queenstown area for the first time. Some signs that the triathlon is taking place, but we needn't worry about that just yet. Today we visit Lake Wakikipu and hear the legend of the Tenufar whose monstrous heart causes tides in the lake as it beats. On the far shore is a sheep station which can only be reached by water. All this is a fitting lead in to the mysterious Fangorn Forest. We use Derek's GPS to try and locate the pile of burning Orcs. Our resident Gandalf tries calling up Shadowfax, but he's already been co-opted by little Frodo.
Mavora Lake is beautiful and peaceful. It also brings me closer to one of my goals, paddling down the Anduin. Since the time we signed up for the trip, I have walked from Hobbiton to Lorien and had begun rowing (on a machine) down the Anduin before I left. Now I want to row down the real river, Mavora Lake is the first part of the Anduin that we have seen. The beech trees are in blossom here near the trekker's bridge over the lake. The documentary crew want to re-enact the Orc run as they chase the boats. So today I am an Orc! They called it the 'Emyn Fuil (Fool)' Orc Run'.
Next we walk over to the other part of the lake for Nen Hitheol. Some wade out on Sam's Beach, being careful to look out for glass and other sharp objects! The water is cold! Up the hill we all take turns being hobbits as Frodo, Merry and Pippin hide from the Orcs in the tree roots and hollow logs.
The Fiordland Hotel puts on a dinner special for us that night, and some of us had the chance to experience the River Anduin on the Luxmore Jet Boats at Te Anau. We used a boat ramp built for the late Queen Mother's visit and went out in an absolute downpour. Fun, but no good photos of the river and thoroughly soaked by the time we went back. Still, we now know what a 'Hamilton Turn' is! We like 'em.
Only five days left. Stay tuned for Chapter 5 ~ We Become Adreniline Junkies.
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