There was one thing we did in New Zealand, one thing that I was most looking forward to, One ring to rule them… I mean, one thing that deserves a post of it’s own, and that was the Lord Of The Rings Tour!
I mean Hobbiton was brilliant and all that, but when it comes to LOTR fandom, this was the bit I was most looking forward to.
We did the ‘Trails Of Middle Earth‘ tour with Southern Lakes Sightseeing; a full day, lunch included, package that cost us NZD$299pp (about £150 each).
Our tour started at 10am with pick up from our hostel. I was told to look out for “an unmarked grey van”, which made me chuckle as it sounded a little bit ominous, but thankfully the people carrier that turned up was anything but.
In it were Steph, an Aussie from Brisbane and our guide for the day, and our fellow ‘tourists’ Saul (or Sol, I was never sure which) and his wife Adelay, both visiting from Australia (Adelaide to be precise). We all made some quick introductions and then we were off!
Our first location was a short drive south of Queenstown, at a place called Twelve Mile Delta. It would actually prove to be a few locations in one, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
It was such a beautiful morning we stopped along the way just to admire the view.
We had to trek a little bit to get where we needed to be, which was fine by me as it was pretty cold in the shadow of the mountain and I was in need of a bit of warming up.
Ok! Time to play a game. I’m going to show you the location, and you see if you know where it is in the movie.
Ring any bells? If I tell you it’s from the second movie, that it stars three of the main characters, plus a few other lesser ones. Lots of CGI. Anything yet?
Ok, I’ll tell you. 🙂 Remember when Frodo and Sam have made camp, and they’re cooking “…a brace of coneys.” that Gollum caught? Then they see the Oliphaunts. Got it now?
It’s called the Ithilien Camp Scene, as they’re in Ithilien.
Steph was a font of knowledge, and gave us lots of great detail about the shoot they did there (one of the guys who works on the tour was an extra in this scene). She showed us a call sheet from the day’s filming,
and told us how the movie, when they shot it, was codenamed ‘Jamboree’ – a tale of the boyscout movement during the ‘years of turmoil’ – so that if anyone saw the script they’d be so put off by the title they wouldn’t look inside and and see what it really was.
In fact, when they sent the script to Andy Serkis, the guy who played Gollum, he almost threw it away as it sounded so dire, lol.
After showing us the stills and telling us the stories there was just one thing left to do, get down on the ground and recreate the scene of course! ..lol..
How I ended up as Sam I don’t know, but anyway… 😉
NB: Y’know what, I think Sam gets a bum deal in the movies. I mean everyone is shouting Frodo’s name at the end, but Sam did his fair share of the work too didn’t he? What about old Samwise eh? Reminds me of that Ginger Rogers quote. When asked about Fred Astaire she said “I did everything he did, except backwards and in high heels.”
For anyone who’s still not sure which scene I’m on about, you can click here and see it on youTube.
Location two was just over the river, and is connected to the scene before. It’s when Sam and Frodo are being interrogated by Faramir, and are accused of being spies.
Then right after it, and just round the corner again for us, is the march from Ithilien to Gondor, with Faramir and the Hobbits, and Galadriel’s voice-over.
Just looks like a bit of wood eh? Yet an important moment in the telling of the story. Just think of how many such moments there are in the three movies, each needing it’s own location, it’s own shoot days, it’s own crew and props and transport and that. You can see why movies cost so much now eh?
In fact, Lord Of The Rings is known as one of the most low budget epics in cinema. Until they knew it’d be a hit they didn’t want to spend too much money, so costs were kept as low as possible just in case it flopped. With that in mind, imagine what they could have done if their resources had been limitless?
Next we were back in the car and off to lunch at a nice restaurant near to the Old Deer Park, where the flight to Helm’s Deep (and the attack of the warg riders) was filmed. Unfortunately it’s a private estate, so you can’t get up there, but still it’s interesting to know where it is.
The food was nice. Pretty much just a smorgasbord of breads, dips, cheeses, salads, and meat for the carnivores, washed down with a tasty soy hot chocolate. We ate our fill, then we we off again to location number four.
Unfortunately, a recent rock slide meant we couldn’t go down the road we needed to reach the right viewpoint, so we had to settle for one nearby, which makes guessing what the scene was that much more difficult.
Here’s the view we were greeted with.
So it’s a river. That should be a big clue. But really we should have been looking the other direction.
Anyway, it’s the bit where the Fellowship is heading down the river in the boats, and they come across Argonath – the pillars of the kings.
Know the one I mean now? If not, here’s Lena and I re-enacting the scene just for you. 🙂
And if you still don’t know what I’m talking about, here’s a clip that should answer everything.
Since that location was a bit of a bust we instead got taken up to a nearby lookout from where we could get a decent overview of the river where they did the filming, not to mention a decent view of the whole area in general.
I tell you what, you just need to spend five minutes in New Zealand to see why it was the perfect location to film Lord Of The Rings. I mean just look at those views!
Back in the van and we were off to Arrowtown, a nearby well preserved old mining village that is popular with visiting New Zealanders as it’s generally not full of tourists and backpackers partying, like Queenstown can be apparently.
Two major scenes were shot here, both near the river that runs through it.
The first is fairly innocuous, and so you might not get it, but let’s see if this rings any bells?
It was one of two locations used for this scene, so don’t let the lack of a bank on the other side fool you. This was the location used for the mid-river shots.
Think horses. Think riders. Think black. Got it yet?
Ok, I’ll tell you. It’s when Arwen is taking Frodo to Rivendell after he’s been stabbed, and they’re being chased by the Black Riders. This was one of the locations used to shoot the ford, and the torrent of white water that came down to sweep the Black Riders away.
Here it is for you to watch.
Next up, and just a little further up the river, is one you might get from the picture alone.
Imagine that, but a bit gloomier, and with a column of riders coming down it. It’s from the start of the first movie, and stars an important character in the story, even though he wasn’t in it for very long.
If I tell you the Ring Of Power is featured heavily as well, does that give you a clue?
It’s the road King Isildur rides down wearing the Ring upon his chest, when they are attacked by Orcs. It’s also where he lost his life, falling into the river here,
before being shot full of arrows. You can watch the scene here if you like.
Apparently this is one of the few times when the secrecy of filming broke down, and word got out to the press that they were in the area. Not surprising really, as there’s houses within sight of the river, and it’d be hard to keep something like that quiet for long, what with all the activity and that.
This was to be our last location of the day. So with that, and with the sun starting to fade, there was just one thing left to do; go play with swords!
We drove to a park by a lake, and while Steph set up the pointy things, we went and enjoyed the view.
I tell you what, that fella in the last picture has got his life sorted, eh?
There was lots of weapons for us to play with, all official replicas, and all good and heavy too. 🙂
See how many of them your recognise?
Honestly, even though I was told what they all were, I can’t remember, lol. But the one’s I do know are:
Legolas’s Assassin’s Blades.
King Theodan’s Sword.
The Sword That Was Remade (from the Shards Of Narsul).
And finally, Aragorn’s Elvish Dagger.
We had a go with everything, and were encouraged to play around. And play around we did. 😀 First there was war!
But then we made peace. Aaahhh… 😉
And then, all too soon, it was time to pack up and go.
We had a fun and full day doing the tour. We got to see lots of bits of the area around Queenstown we would never have gone to on our own. We learnt a lot about the filming of the Lord Of The Rings. And we got to play with lots of sharp(ish) weapons, which in my book is always good.
I’d certainly recommend doing the tour, especially if you’re into Lord Of The Rings. (I know that seems a strange thing to say, but some people who go on the tour haven’t even seen the movies! Can you believe that?)
It’s not cheap, at NZD$299 each, but you get what you pay for, and a cheaper tour elsewhere probably wouldn’t include as much stuff (or as much insider information).
I’m glad we did it, as it’s an experience that will stay with me for a long time. And some of the sights we saw whilst gadding about were certainly an inspiration to me. But I’ll write more about that in my next post, which will also be my last from New Zealand.
Until then… 😉