Image: Warner Bros.
Lord of the Rings Tour with Nomad Safaris – Glenorchy
I’m going on an adventure! Much like Bilbo, I was at first hesitant about what I was to embark on. There were so many different tour choices from multiple different companies on offer around Queenstown that I wasn’t totally sure where to start or if it would even be worthwhile. But after stumbling across a Lord of the Rings store filled with more merchandise than I could possibly take home with me, I had my solution. The salesperson there recommended Nomad Safaris, the tour company attached to their business. So I tromped on down to their booking office and selected my tour for the next day.
Sitting in the lobby of my hotel, I could feel the excitement build as the black Jeep pulled up out front. My tour guide, Badger, was a wonderful conversationalist from the start, answering any questions I could think about Queenstown and the surrounding areas as we drove to collect the others who were to embark upon this quest with us.
Once everyone was loaded up, we started our journey, heading out of Queenstown toward the first of many filming locations. Despite the overcast day, the sights were magnificent. As we drove along roads winding up the mountains and looked down over the water, I couldn’t help but be amazed.
Our first stop gave us a fantastic view of The Remarkables, where I had been attempting (rather humorously) to snowboard not two days earlier. Badger explained that these mountains make repeat appearances throughout Peter Jackson’s films, being used as the snow-capped peaks we were seeing now, as well as the backdrop for the mighty city of Minas Tirith. What surprised me was that after viewing the magnificence and light that is the capital of Gondor in my mind’s eye, I was informed that when the camera pans around in the film to the hostile, craggy range that surrounds Mordor, I was still seeing the same backdrop.
Image: The Remarkables
To the left of this fantastic view, was a small (at least in comparison to the monsters behind it) hill. On top of this unassuming little piece of land, takes place many great scenes, including the evacuation of the people of Rohan, and the battle with the orcs and wargs; where Aragorn (Viggo Mortensen) is thrown from a terribly high cliff into rushing waters and Legolas (Orlando Bloom) and Gimli (John Rhys-Davies) stare despondently down believing their friend to be lost. Mind you, the ‘cliff’ that Mortensen finds himself thrown off is in fact only a few feet high.
After another short drive, we came to a spot that was rather more barren than the rest of the scenery we had passed. Our tour guide challenged us to look out and tell him what scene we thought had been filmed here. I piped up first, somewhat hesitant and rather uncertain in my theory, that it might be where the ents had come out of the forest, owing to the thick tree line that boarder the area. Unfortunately, I was incorrect. The other members of our group brought forth their theories but, alas, none were right. Badger had a bit of a giggle at the confused looks on our faces before drawing breath to reveal the answer to us when I saw the land before me for what it was.
“Oliphants,” I whispered, slightly in awe. Although the mighty animals obviously never really stood where we were now, I could see it in my mind. The mighty army of Mûmakil, making their way to assist Sauron, had passed over this very land. But that wasn’t to be the last piece of magic this area would give us. We disembarked from the jeep and took a nice stroll through the forest. As we walked, Badger continued to fill us in on anecdotes about the actors, trivia from the films and books, and information about New Zealand itself. Eventually, the trail we were following came to an end as we stepped out onto a large stony area with only a few scraggly bushes and sad looking trees to break it up. It was here that he led us to a small circle of rocks. I was looking at Sam and Frodo’s campsite. Although it wasn’t the original fire pit, they had recreated it in the same location. Stills from the movie confirmed it by looking at the trees behind which, although obviously bigger after a few years, still showed their resemblance.
Not far to the left of where we were, there was a small drop off, covered in more of the same dusty stones. This was where Frodo, Sam, and Gollum had watched the procession of oliphants in Return of the King.
Next on our list of destinations was a huge empty field with mountains in the distance on one side and thick forest on the other. It was here we were shown stills of Isengard and Beorn’s house. Imagining a groups of dwarves running around here wasn’t too difficult, but placing something as huge as Isengard here, I had trouble comprehending. But, sure enough, Badger could match up the specific shapes of the mountains behind the tower in his photo with the real-life land spread out in front of us.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Lord of the Rings tour without at least one stop to eat. To make our hobbit heroes proud, Badger showed us to a beautiful forested area where we had tea and cake. Then the swords and cloaks were brought out for anyone wanting to get a Middle-Earth style photo.
Our day drew to an end not long after this. Queenstown is an absolutely beautiful place and after being taking through these filming locations one by one, it’s easy to see why New Zealand was chosen for the back drop of Tolkien and Peter Jackson’s Middle-Earth.