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Sunday, May 8, 2011

The Ride of the Rings

4/28/11     Te Anau -> Queenstown
The four of us in the tent happily rose for the day around 7 or so.  I think I was the only one in the tent who slept reasonably well.  Poor Kaleb was probably close to getting frostbite on his toes and only slept for around 30 minutes.  Nora was also super cold and didn’t get much sleep.  Tony was fine until his nose stuffed up midway through the night and he couldn’t breathe properly.  I was plenty warm, thanks to Nic’s sweet as sleeping bag.  I did get some pretty intense leg cramps at one point, but that was all.  Jess and Travis slept in the van and they seemed to be fine.
For once on our trip we were on schedule.  We left exactly when we wanted to, somewhere between 8 and 8:30.  We stopped for a quick breakfast then began our drive.  Due to our spectacular timing we ended up taking a detour to Arrowtown before going to Queenstown.  Arrowtown is a cute little town.  They filmed some of the Rivendell locations for LOTR here.  I don’t think that we went to any spot where they actually filmed, but it was easy to see.  Take a look for yourself…
We spent about an hour in Arrowtown before once again heading to Queenstown.  Upon arrival we checked Travis and Jess into their hostel, found some parking, food, and bathrooms.  A quick lunch later had us splitting up once again.  Kaleb, Nora, and I headed to ‘The Station.’  Here Kaleb and I were picked up for our horse ride and Nora was picked up to go do the Nevis Bungy, the largest in the world at 134 meters (440 ft).
Kaleb and I jumped onto the shuttle and rode 40 minutes out around Lake Wakatipu to their base in Glenorchy.  There we paid for our rides, dropped off our bags, and received riding gear in the form of helmets and boots.  Those of us going on the Ride of the Rings tour then got back on the bus and rode another 20 minutes to where we began our ride.  I was paired with a horse named Cort and Kaleb was placed with Bob, the biggest horse there.As there were 16 riders we were split into two groups of eight, each with two guides.  Our group was off first.  The horses quickly formed a single file line, with very little instruction from us.  And we were off, exiting the paddock at a nice, sedate walk.
Our first LOTR site was actually a distance shot.  Across the road and a large pasture was the edge of a forest.  This tree line was used as the edge of Fangorn Forest when Treebeard and Merry and Pippin come out to find the total destruction around Isengard. 
The first forest we entered was used for a few things, both in LOTR and in The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian.  The main scene filmed there was at the end of the Fellowship where Sam and Frodo leave while everyone else is fighting.  The big tree in this picture is where Aragorn has his head pinned by an orc shield.  Pretty cool.
This patch of trees, particularly the one with the moss on it was used for the scene when the Fellowship enters the Lothlorien forest and they are quickly surrounded by elves, unbeknownst to them until Gimli makes a comment about having the eyes of a hawk and the ears of a fox.  Haldir then proceeds to say "The dwarf breathes so loud we could have shot him in the dark."
We also learned a lot about the filming of the movies in this area.  The area is named Paradise and is in a trust to remain the same way it is now and has been for 50+ years.  Because of this trust Peter Jackson had to receive permission to film there from a committee in charge of the area.  Basically, it took a lot of persuasion and some hefty donations, but he managed it.  He took such care to preserve the area during filming that those standards ore now enforced for anyone else who wants to film there.  Pretty neat, right?
The next filming spot we saw was actually in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.  Having never seen the full movie I couldn’t tell you the part, but here’s the picture.
Our next LOTR sight was Isengard.  We saw where they based the tower and the mountain that’s in most of the backgrounds, not to mention the crevasse thing where the Ents destroyed the dam to release the river at the end of the Two Towers.
The location where Prince Caspian flees across a river was pointed out to us from a distance.  Bob, Kaleb’s horse, was actually one of the guard’s horses in that scene.  Look for the largest of the bunch and you’ll be looking at Bob.
Our next stop was the top of a ridge.  Nothing movie related happened here, but we did do a quick photo shoot.
Cort’s only downfall during the entire ride was his stomach.  He was constantly ripping the reigns out my hands in his search for food.  Our short photo shoot was like heaven to him.
After convincing Cort to stop eating and re-aligning the horses we were once again on our way.  Our first sight on this half of the ride was ‘Viagra Hill’ where the Cialis commercial with the two bathtubs in the middle of nature was filmed.  It was thus dubbed by the guides because it’s hard to get up and takes a while to get down.  Our next stop was in another forest, this time the scene was where the orcs run down the hill after Boromir in the Fellowship, and where Boromir dies.  About three feet from that exact spot is a scene from Prince Caspian.  Such a popular forest!
Our ride was over soon after that.  We bid goodbye to our horses and clambered back onto the bus.  Once back in Queenstown we were picked up by the van and headed to our hostel, Bumbles Backpackers.  We were booked for a tent site but decided to upgrade to a dorm.  Best decision of the trip as the beds were uber comfy, and it was again below freezing outside.  Our night was far from over, however.  Our room key came with a voucher for 2 for 1 drinks at the Buffalo Club.  We proceeded to locate this fine establishment and have a good night in Queenstown.