August 2, 2003
When Peter Jackson was 18 years old traveling through New Zealand on a train, he read Tolkien for the first time. He noticed then how the landscape resembled Middle Earth but waited 20 years to share his vision with moviegoers.
Since the film's release, three operators in Queenstown area created tours to visit magical landscapes where scenes were shot:
* Nomad Safaris offer half day tours (NZ$120) leaving Queenstown at 8:30am or 1:30pm. We chose Wakatipu (Misty Mountains, Pillar of Kings, Ford of Bruinen, Road to Mordor) over Glenorchy sites (Seat of Seeing, Amon Hen, Lothlorien, Isengard).
* If you'd rather fly than drive, Trilogy Tours offers a 2-3 hour helicopter ride over the same sites. For NZ$260 you can soar like Gandalf.
* Lord of the Rings Tour based in Wanaka visits up to 20 locations with the added opportunity to meet Ian Brodie, author of Lord of the Rings Location Book.
Devoted RING fans may be interested in an upcoming two week guided trip departing late November 2003. For NZ$2815, you'll see major movie locations and the World Premiere Return of the Ring shown in Wellington Dec. 1st. Contact Red Carpet Tours.
NOMAD'S WAKATIPU TOUR
Our energetic guide, an Orc extra, drove us to a high vantage point over Queenstown to show us where Gandalf stood on a grassy knoll, and hobbits cried after he disappeared. These Misty Mountains (Remarkables) were frequently used as backdrops for battle scenes.
At Kawarau River we saw where Pillar of Kings stood on cliffed banks of the river. Obviously the pillars were computer generated, but the turquoise river was immediately recognizable, although MUCH smaller in person. River Anduin where the Fellowship traveled in boats after leaving Lothlorien was also filmed here.
In Arrowtown, our Land Rover bounced along the banks and through the river leading to Ford of Bruinen where the Black Riders were swept away. In this memorable scene Arwen, protecting a dazed Frodo on her white horse, invoked the waters to rise to the demise of the hooded Nazguls. (Here we panned for gold. Our guide brought out metal pans and showed us how to swish around gravel in water. None of got lucky, but there IS gold we're told.)
Our final stop was Road to Mordor, (Skipper's Canyon). Closed to rental cars (for good reason!) this skinny scenic serpentine road snakes along precarious mountain ridges overlooking jagged peaks and steep valleys. Just don't expect to see Mordor here, as it was filmed at Tongariro on the North Island.
Amazingly beautiful landscapes were fun to explore with an insider, and I have to agree with Sam's Sean Astin . . . It's like Tolkien walked across New Zealand then sat down to write the trilogy.
From journal Tramping the Routeburn...one of NZ's Great Walks