(back to Wanaka)

Sunday, March 19, 2006

I woke up at the wonderful campsite in Wanaka and set out for Queenstown. It wasn't far so I got there by late morning. A quick phone call and I was booked for a horse trek in the afternoon. I just needed to find a place to park the car and get to the pick up point for the bus. The bus drove us to Glenorchy - about 40 minutes north of Queenstown. (Actually, the 'bus' was what Americans would call a van.) There was only one other person with me in the bus - a Scottish guy name Rhu.

The views on the bus ride were amazing... the road basically went around a huge lake almost the entire way to the other side. I took this photo on the right when the bus driver stopped to let us get photos of this particularly pretty view. He pointed out where we would be riding. Basically, we rode halfway up (and back down) the opposite face of the foothill just to the left of the very center of the photograph. I didn't want to ruin this photo with a red arrow, but hopefully that written description is enough. Just know I rode IN this.

The photo below was another I took when the bus was moving again. I took quite a few - I couldn't help it - but this one turned out the best. In this one view I could see snow-capped mountains, a lovely valley and a lake (the lake doesn't show up well in the photo because I wasn't looking down on it (it's between the mountains and the fields in the foreground.) There were views like this every where I looked in the Queenstown area. Incredible... there were times like this during the entire trip... I didn't know where to look! 360 degrees, all gorgeous! These photos are pretty, but still don't come close to doing the place justice... If/When I go back to New Zealand, I will definitely spend more time in this place. Autumn was coming on and the colors were starting. Have I said it enough? This country is beautiful.

The horse trek I signed up for was called "The Ride of the Rings". The stables (Dart Stables) was one of the locations for the Lord of the Rings movies, so they offer a ride through the areas on their property where filming was actually done. The guide said people don't ask about Lord of the Rings as much as they used to, and alot of the touristy things related to Lord of the Rings are fading away, but this ride is still very popular so they still offer it. In fact, the only other Lord of the Rings thing I saw was a shop in Queenstown. I went in while I was waiting for the bus, but didn't buy anything.

The horse ride started in a lovely beech forest where they filmed quite a few scenes in the Lord of the Rings movies. As we rode though, our guide described the scenes that were filmed there - when Boromir tried to take the ring from Frodo... where the fellowship fights off the orcs... where Boromir eventually dies defending Merry and Pippen... Lord of the Rings fan will know what I'm talking about here. Our guide also told interesting stories about how the extras were mostly from Glenorchy, how they chose the horses and riders to be used (horses and riders had to audition). The horses that could show the most control were used... and they had to be the same roan color because often the horses were duplicated using computers, so a distinctive horse would be obvious if it showed up over and over again.


These two photos of the beech forest to the left are a bit blurry because I tried taking them from horseback and the horse kept moving just as I pressed the shutter.... but I really wanted to include them because this horse trek was another highlight of the trip. The guy on horseback in the top photo is Rhu trying to take photos for his brother... I imagine his photos ended up being blurry too. And I suspect the photos were actually for him, but he didn't want to seem obsessive about the movies... I snapped away without shame! I thought the photo below turned out particularly well.






We rode uphill to see the incredible view in the photograph to the right. That grassy, circular clearing at the base of the mountains is where they put in Isengard (using computer graphics) - again, Lord of the Rings fans will know what I'm talking about here. As you can see, the tower is the only computer graphic... everything else is just as you see it in the movie.

See how dramatic the land changes are? River beds are right up against foothills. And that river only has to travel a few miles before it pours into the ocean...



We rode back down the hill, using a different trail through the same beech forest, back to the barn. The photograph to the left is of me and my horse for the day, Presley. It was taken after we got back. Actually, I started on a horse named Chester (which would've been funny because that's my pop's name), but Chester was good for advanced riders and there was a much more advanced rider in our group so it made more sense for her to ride him... It was okay though, Presley and I did just fine.

After the horse ride I continued onto Te Anau - the town nearest the entrance to Fiordlands National Park. I don't want to give Te Anau it's own page because all I did was spend the night there. I spent the night in a bunk room which had 18 beds, but I had it all to myself. I thought I was going to get a great night's sleep, but I could hear heavy footfalls on the wooden plankways that went around the building. Oh well.



(on to Fiordlands National Park)