Sam and Stu's Kiwi Travels
Today was our Paradise Found and River Wild Horse Trek Combo. Paradise is about 45mins outside Queenstown in a place called Glenorchy and is one of the places they filmed Lord of the Rings, so were having a bit of a Lord of the Rings Tour in the morning, and then we had our horse trek planned for the afternoon. Carl, our guide, picked us up at the Kingsgate in a minibus at 7:45. We were the only two on the tour today so we had the whole bus to ourselves. We headed off along the road to Glenorchy. Our first stop was 12 Mile Delta. We parked up and walked into the forest to find the filming locations. The main location we found was the ridge where Frodo spots the Oliphants, before he and Sam are kidnapped by Faramir. We got our picture taken in the spot where Frodo and Sam lay, Carl pointed out a few other locations where filming had taken place, the area where the Amon Hen set had been and where a couple of the fight scenes had taken place, he also pointed out a remote house that sits above the the lake overlooking the whole area which is actually owned by Peter Jackson, before we headed back to the minibus to continue our tour. Carl's girlfriend had worked as an extra on Lord of the Rings and was also in charge of the child care facilities provided for the families of the cast and crew so we heard a few interesting facts about what had gone on behind the scenes and also a few amusing stories. Carl had had the opportunity to work on Lord of the Rings as well but he is really into his rock climbing so he had decided to work on another film called Vertical Limit that was being filmed at the same time, so we got a bit of inside information about that film as well! The road to Glenorchy runs alongside Lake Wakatipu so we stopped at a couple of scenic spots along the way to take some pictures. When we reached Glenorchy we headed up into the farmland known as Paradise, where a number of Lord of the Rings scenes were filmed. We drove past the Shire that never was, a field full of grassy mounds that was originally going to be the location for the Shire. A day before the gardeners were sent in to plant more trees and flowers to make it look more enclosed, as Tolkien described the Shire, a location scout spotted a better loaction on some farmland in the North Island. Peter Jackson flew up immediately to take a look. He thought it was perfect and asked the farmer if they could use his land to film the scenes at the Shire. The farmer was a bit dubious, but he eventually agreed and he now runs his own tours of the Shire! We headed further into Paradise to find the location where they filmed the Forest of Lothlorien. We found the site where Boromir is killed as he tries to protect Pippin and Merry, and Carl told us about the painstaking attention to detail that went into making the movie. All the leaves in the Forest of Lothlorien had to be gold according to the book, so the crew had to vacuum up all the leaves in teh area that the camera could see, spray paint them gold, and then blow them all back out into the forest again. One of the conditions Peter Jackson had to agree to before he was allowed to film in New Zealand was that everything had to be left exactly was it was found - so was filming had finished, someone had to go back around the forest and vacuum up all the gold leaves, before burning them in big piles! Our next location was the setting for Isengard. Although Isengard itself was computer generated, we were shown the exact spot it was superimposed onto, and we also saw the plains that Gandalf galloped across as he raced to warn Saroman that the ring had been found. While we were up at the Isengard location we also got to meet a few of the horses that had been in the film -one of them had also been in the old film 'Willow' that was filmed nearly twenty years ago! That was about it for our Lord of the Rings locations. We stopped at a popular walking trail and went for a quick walk so that Carl could show us some of the native birds, trees and wildlife, befoire heading back to Glenorchy for some lunch. Carl showed us the Dart Stables where we'd have to go for our ride, and then dropped us off at the Glenorchy Hotel for some lunch. It was about 12 by this time and our ride wasn't booked until 2 so we had plenty of time for a nice leisurely lunch. We had a cup of tea to warm up while we looked at the menu - Stu went for the Steak and I decided on the Chicken - then we had a couple of games of pool while we waiting for our food. We got chatting to the bar maid and found she wasn't a kiwi like we were expecting (Glenorchy only has a population of 250 people so we figured most of them would be New Zealanders!) but she was actually from Essex and had spent the last four years in Bristol! Such a small world!! We ate our lunches, spent the best part of an hout chatting about home, and then decided to go for a quick walk through the marshes before heading to the stables for our horse ride. We wandered through Glenorchy to the footpath that leads you into the marshes. These marshes are where the scenes were filmed as Gollum leads Frodo and Sam through the Swamps to Mordor (the swamps are full of dead bodies and ghosty figures in the film...not in real life of course!). We took a few pictures of the marshes and the scenery before heading back to Dart Stables. Once we got to the stables we were kitted out in wax jackets, riding helmets and boots - we both looked a bit silly by the time we were finished (Stu especially as his helmet made his ears stick out a bit more!!!). There were about 12 people milling around for different rides but there was only me, Stu and two other Australiens doing the River Wild ride so we ony had a little group. We were asked about our riding experience and were then assigned horses. Mine was a chesnut gelding called Isaac, and Stu's was a bay gelding called Cork. After a load of girth tightening and stirrup sorting we were off!! Katie, our guide, asked me to stay at the back as neither of the Aussies had much riding experience and I think Stu's only ridden once since he was eight! She told me to yell if I saw anyone having any problems. Isaac wasn't too happy about being at the back as it meant he had to plod along behind the big shire horse that one of the Aussie guys was on, he kept trying to dart round him and I felt bad having to keep poulling him back, especially as I was up for a bit of a faster pace, but Katie had promised me a canter later so we stayed put. We headed out into the marshes and wade through a couple of rivers on horseback. The scenery and views were amazing and it was sooo nice to be back on a horse out in the open. Katie decided to try and get everyone trotting for a bit, just so they could experience a faster pace. Unfortunately, the shire horse in front of us didn't really want to go and his rider wasn't going to make him so we got to trot for about two paces before he dropped back into a walk and Katie, Stu and the other Aussie trotted away into the distance. Fortunately they didn't go far and we soon caught up. Katie gave us a bit of background info about the area, how the lake had been formed, how cold the water was, what there was to do in Glenorchy, and the general history of the town as we plodded along through the marshes. We waded through some more streams and once again tried a trot when we reached some flatter ground. Once again me and Isaac were stopped dead in our tracks by the stubborn shire in front of us, and the others had to wait patiently for us to catch up. Katie came back for a quick chat and said we were going to be stopping at the half way point soon. She was a bit worried about Isaacs left hock as it had been a bit swollen this morning and it didn't seem to have gone down. She thought he was ok walking on it but she didn't want to put too much strain on it so she asked if i'd mind swapping horses with Stu at the half way point so that Isaac could just walk back and I could still have my Canter. Cool! The half way point (it was a two hour ride) was on a little island in the middle of a group of streams that flowed into the lake. We stopped to take some pictures (unfortunately Stu's digital camera ran out of battery so we couldn't get one but the Aussies kindly offered to take one with their camera and said they would e-mail it to us once they got home). Stu and I swapped horses and off we went again. Katie warned me that Cork wasn't quite as eager as Isaac and pulled a little branch off one of the trees for me to use as a crop when we went for our Canter just in case he didn't want to go. Katie called me and Cork to the front and said I could go off for my canter now if I wanted to. She said not to go too far since I didn't really know where I was going, just to wait a bit further down the track. Yey...I'd been looking forward to this since we booked the ride. I squeezed Cork into a trot and he seemed quite happy to quicken the pace, it was a bit harder getting him to Canter but as soon as we were cantering he picked his head up, pricked his ears and we were off! It felt sooo good - I was really surprised at how eager Cork was, he was like a different horse to the one that had been plodding along earlier, im sure he was just bored! We flew through the marshes, hopping over the little ditches and drops in the path, the wind was whipping through the trees and I felt so free - I'd forgotten how good it was just to jump on a horse and go. All too soon I realised that we were miles away from the others and I thought I'd best stop and wait for them since I couldn't even see them anymore. Cork was as reluctant as I was to stop but I managed to pull him up and we sat and waited for the others. After a while they appeared through the trees around the side of the lake. We trotted up to them and I asked Katie if we could go off just one more time - she said she had just wanted to check that I really could ride before she let me go too far on my own and that I could definately go ahead on my own! Yey!!! Off we went again! We cantered away from the others, following the path that lead around the side of the lake. Cork was really pulling this time, now he knew we were gonna go a bit faster than the usual walk and trot. I looked behind to check for the others - they were nowhere to be seen, so I leaned forward, stood up in the saddle and gave Cork his head...just like that we were galloping! Such an amazing feeling, flying through the marshes, jumping in and out of the little streams...I was sooo happy! After a bit we came across a fork in the road and I wasn't sure which way to go so I thought I'd best wait for the others to catch up. Cork wasn't quite so keen to stop though and I ended up having to circle him round and round before he eventually dropped back into a trot. Again we sat and waited but I just couldn't keep the smile off my face -when they caught up with us Stu said I had the biggest, cheesiest grin ever! Katie pointed us back in the right direction (we'd gone a bit off track!) and off we went again, this time along a river bank. We only cantered this time as the ground was really uneven, we crossed the river at one point, and Cork wanted to take a second look at a few things around us so I figured it was safer that way! We reached a long line of willow trees where Katie had told me to wait, so once again we sat and waited for the others. When they caught up we went through a bit of a foresty area where the trees were hanging pretty low - we had to duck down a few times to avoid the branches, so me and Cork stayed with the rest of our ride and I had a bit of a chat with Katie about horsey type stuff! Pretty soon we were out in the open again. Katie said me and Cork could go off one more time - we were nearing the end of the ride now so she said if we went off ahead we would pass a yellow gate on the right that leads to the grazing field and the end of the ride. She said if I could get Cork to go past the gate (he's not silly, he knows where home is!) we could continue up the path and have a bit of a canter up and back. The others would wait for us by the gate. Off we went again. Cork was really keen now, he knew we were nearly home! I kept him in a canter as I wasn't sure I'd be able to stop if we galloped! We cantered along a river bed this time (the rivers are only trickling at the moment because the snow at on the mountains is clogging them up at the top) and splashed in and out of the water. I could see the yellow gate to out right in the distance so I steered Cork down a path to the left behind some trees - he was a bit annoyed at going the wrong way but he still went. We carried on a bit further - I really didn't want it to end - but then Cork started getting a bit annoyed and tried to whip round the other way. He'd been so good and I'd had the best ride, I didn't want to ruin it by making him go too far away from home. We stopped and headed back towards the others. We had one last canter and flew back towards the gate - Cork was pulling like a steam train! As we emerged from behind the trees I managed to pull Cork back into a trot (I was a bit worried about startling the other horses as the other three were all learner riders) and we pranced back to meet the others. We went through the gate, rode into the paddock and dismounted. Katie grabbed the head collars and I was most surprised to find that I could still remember how to knot a lead rope! We left the horses with some hay and said a fond farewell to our faithful steeds! I thanked Katie for letting me go off on my own (she said she thinks its really good for the horses when they get an experienced rider as they rarely get to stretch their legs) and then she left to grab the horses rugs. The four of us waited in the paddock to get a lift back to the stables (the ride finished about a mile away from the stables we'd started at). Ten minutes later a mini bus picked us up and took us back to Glenorchy. We had a quick cup of tea at the stables and then the bus took us back to Queenstown. We didn't get back until 7 - nearly 12 hours after we'd left. Pretty good value for money! Stu popped into town to drop his rental skis back (they were closed when we got back from night skiing yesterday) while I cooked us some dinner and daydreamed about galloping across the open plains!