Canterbury Station, Mt Sunday and Lord of the Rings

My exceptionally ordinary photograph of Mt Sunday, which is not the mountains behind (which I initially thought) but the big rock on the left side of the picture.

So, we’re back from our cruise to New Zealand (and Tassie, because, why not stay on the ship another five days). 

Both islands (or is that all three) were fantastic, as you’d expect.

And we have internet again.  Yay.  It’s amazing the connectivity you take for granted until you don’t have it.  Or, rather, you can have it, but you have to pay a lot for it.

In New Zealand we did a Lord of the Rings theme. We took four tours, three of which were Lord of the Rings (LOTR) related. I’m going to talk about those over the next few weeks, interspersed with some usual end of the year blogging stuff.

I used my phone to take photos, didn’t wear my glasses most of the time. As a result, my photos are terrible. But I’m going to inflict them on you anyway.  If they’re really bad, I’ll get some stock photos as well, just to show how good things really looked.

Our first LOTR trip was to through the Canterbury plains and up to Mt Sunday. This was the set for the exterior of Edoras, which was where the Rohan people lived.

We were told before we booked that there was nothing left of the set there. We just wanted to see it, and to see some of the glorious scenery that New Zealand provides.  It was a nine hour tour. The ship was in port for ten hours, but you had to be back in nine, so you can imagine how tight the time was.  (Tip. For a tour like this, always book through the ship, because they guarantee to wait for you if you do. If you book it through a private operator, they won’t wait.)

The tour started at 8:00am.  We didn’t get onto the port until after 8:30.

We spent at least three hours being driven through the Canterbury plains, and getting some interesting facts about the countryside, about farming, and how it has changed.  For example, even though it looks lush and green, there isn’t much topsoil. Erosion is a real problem.  The area used to be used sheep and wheat, but then they started using those massive irrigators which is lowering the water table and doing a lot of other damage.  Who’d have thought, says me, with some cynicism, because I live in a country where we’ve done exactly the same thing.  You’d think we’d learn by now, wouldn’t you. Nowadays, it’s dairy now and grass.

Anyway, enough of that.  Back to LOTR.

After the plains our bus started into the Southern Alps. The weather was overcast, but pleasant. A beautiful day in beautiful, beautiful, country. Another guide, Cheryl, joined us.  She was a local, and she and her family had camped out in the alps all their life.

She also told us—which Barry, our bus driver hadn’t—that Barry had worked with Peter Jackson as a security person in a number of Jackson’s films.

As we went into the mountains we started to get Lord of the Rings stories. A lot from our guide, Cheryl, but some from Barry, too. 

There was the tale of the station owner, the photographer and the helicopter.  They had an agreement with the station owner that he wouldn’t let anyone on his land to view the filming, but he ended up taking a photographer over in his helicopter. The pictures were published. Jackson’s company decided to sue, because they did have a contract. But then someone let the set horses out one night, and they needed a helicopter to round them up.  Guess who had a helicopter close by?

They got their horses within a few hours and but I believe that the station owner came out on top–at least monetarily.

Why did someone let the horses out?

Ugly fandom rearing its head. Apparently some people felt so strongly that Peter Jackson shouldn’t be making Lord of the Rings they went out of their way to sabotage the filming.

We finally got to the site.  You could still see snow on the alps in the background, even though it was summer.  The scenery was breathtaking.

There was a wind.  Apparently it was mild.  Guide Cheryl showed us the picture of Eowyn (Miranda Otto) standing on the outside of the hall at Mt Edoras with her hair swirling one way and a flag swirling the opposite way.  This is not a fake. The wind really does swirl like that. (You might see it in the video below.)

We posed with swords and axes and Barry took a photo of me with a sword (quite heavy), but my phone really doesn’t take good photos. My head was blurred.  That’s one picture you are not seeing.

On the way back we stopped for lunch at a memorial hall in a country town that reminded of all the country towns of my childhood.  Volunteers fed us juice, champagne, sandwiches and cake.  It was the best food we’d had on the whole trip.  (Don’t, whatever you do, get on a ship thinking you’ll get gourmet food.  You won’t. You’ll get more food than you can eat, and it’s okay, but nothing to write home about.  You can eat all day (and all night.) By the end of the cruise I was craving some good bibimbap, or crispy noodles, oh, and a decent pasta.)  This beef sandwich, with it’s soft grain bread, pickles, and cheese, was heaven.

On the way back, Barry told us a little bit about how he’d come to work for Peter Jackson. He’d been a policeman, worked for a while in the police museum, and had collected information about a New Zealand murder case that Jackson based his film Heavenly Creatures on.  Barry’d had quite a career, believe me.

When we went to get back in the bus, we found we had a problem. The rattling over the dirt roads had loosened the ignition barrel (if that’s what you call it—it’s the thing that holds the ignition) and the ignition had dropped into the barrel.  It had dropped so far down that he couldn’t get the key in to turn the bus on.

We had a tense half hour (for Barry, not for us, we stood around and enjoyed the scenery and talked to each other) while Barry tried to get the ignition thingy back up far enough for him to turn the key.

We got back to the port an hour after the last tender was supposed to leave. But because the tour had been arranged by the ship, it waited, it waited for us.

Sadly, we didn’t get to see anything of Akaroa, which looks a beautiful little port town.

Maybe next time.

All in all, it was a wonderful day.

Edoras as it was in the movie, courtesy of YouTube.

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