Trip to New Zealand, 2004

Though this is not a trip to any particular Event, I feel it still may be of interest to fans, considering how many fen love the move The Lord of the Rings, and may be interested in New Zealand, where it was filmed.

Saturday 17th of April 2004

Actually woke up about ten minutes before the alarm, but I dozed off again anyway. Managed to get everything ready for the taxi (and call the taxi) and even dialled on to the web, but had to cut it off as the taxi arrived.
Suitcase: check
Black backpack: check
Black handbag: check
Black trenchcoat: check
Brown wooden walking stick with bits of insulation tape stuck to it: check

I had allowed an hour for the taxi to get to the airport, asking him to come at 6am. But we ended up having a record run and arriving at 6:23. I had to keep an eye out on my bags because the fare was more than I had in my purse and he had to reboot the EFTPOS connection. Still, I got out in the end, and found out where FreedomAir had their check-in, which, oddly enough, had been where Qantas had had their check-in the last time I went overseas; booths 1-9. I wasn't too early but I wasn't too late -- there were five ladies staffing the booths and no other passengers there. I got seat 22F, which I calculated was probably a window seat, but I couldn't be sure how far down the plane it would be, because that would depend on the size of the aircraft, though it was probably going to be a smallish one. And it was, it turned out to be a 737-300, though I didn't know that until I got on board.

First things first; fill in departure card, and get some New Zealand dollars. There was a queue at the exchange, but not a really long one; I got my money. Then I looked at my watch and figured I had about an hour to kill (it was about seven and the lady said to be at the gate at 8:15), so I went to the food court that was open and had a smoothie and read my book (The Riddle-Master of Hed). Then I decided to go in to the gate anyway, since I could read my book just as well in the gate lounge as in the food court.

But before the gate lounge was Customs & Emmigration -- I don't know why I always blank out how much time that takes, but I never seem to mentally allow for it when I'm going overseas; but I'm usually enough ahead of time that it doesn't end up being a problem. So, long queue for customs, but by their standards it was probably a small to medium-sized queue.

Gate lounge 2. But wait! The flight listed at the gate was not my flight, it was a Qantas flight. What was going on? I double-checked the departures board. Yes, our gate was gate 2. But it seems that the Qantas flight was also Gate 2. They were scheduled to leave at 8:45, we were scheduled to leave at 9:30. So much for being at the gate at 8:15! But I was there anyway, mingled with the Qantas crowds. Unfortunately, they had two passengers who were very late. When they finally did arrive, they breathlessly said that they'd been stuck in Customs. Maybe they made the same mistake I do; not allowing enough time. The upshot of this was that they left about 15 minutes late.

Naturally, we couldn't board without a plane there, so I was glad when I spotted the "Freedom Air" plane coming around the corner. Then of course the wait while they do the cleaning and catering stuff. Then we finally started boarding. Me with my backpack and handbag, leaning on my stick as I waited near the door of the plane to be let on board.

Let me say, that stick worked wonders. First the stewardess wouldn't let me carry my backpack, she had to go up with me to my seat, and put my backpack in the overhead locker for me, and my coat as well. (I kept on saying "It's fine, so long as I don't have to stand too long"). Then, as we got closer to Dunedin, she suggested that she order a wheelchair for me. I demurred at first, and she suggested I think about it, with the parting shot "I wouldn't like you to lose sleep tonight because of the pain". Which was a rather telling point, actually. So I took her up on her offer. Then the steward asked me if I would need a lift (a chair lift) or if I could manage the stairs. After a bit of toing and froing and explaining, I got all that clear that yes, I would still be having a wheelchair, but the plane would be using stairs rather than a gate (obviously not a big airport!). I said, yes, I could manage the stairs if I didn't have to carry anything, and they said my stuff would be carried anyway. So when we landed, I just kept reading my book, waiting for everyone else to get off the plane, and then I got up, and the steward handed me my coat, and I had my handbag, and my stick, and I went out the back stairs, slowly, one step at a time. I was really rather grateful for that, because it was a bit drizzly, and having to negotiate those stairs in a crush of other people would have been a nightmare, because stairs are still hard with this foot.

So then I got into the wheelchair, with my handbag in my lap and my stick resting on one of the pads, and waited around a little. A lot of this ended up being waiting, because the airport person who had charge of me, also had charge of another lady in a wheelchair, and an unaccompanied minor, and she had to look after all three of us by herself. She was great (and her name was Janet, I looked at her badge). So first the cavalcade wheeled into the duty-free pickup area, but none of us had duty-free, so we bypassed that. Then we wheeled into immigration, straight to a booth that had "closed" on it (which had no queue for it either). Then a man came and opened the booth specially for us, and Janet handed my documents to him, and then handed them back again.

Then we went and bypassed the gate and went up the side, to the baggage collection area, and this was another point where it was wise that I'd said yes, because there was an awful lot of waiting for the baggage to come, and waiting in a wheelchair is better than waiting standing up. Not to mention it would have been a bit scary trying to struggle with my big bag to get it off the conveyor before it was dragged away again. The other lady and the girl's bags had been retrieved and mine was still out there somewhere, so Janet decided to push ahead with the other two, rather than wait for me, when she wouldn't have been able to push three things anyway -- no, four: two wheelchairs and two luggage trolleys. Instead, she got the girl to help with the luggage trolley that had the girl's and the other woman's bags on it, and Janet pushed the other woman's wheelchair.

So, I was waiting around some more. Fortunately, there was also a nice young woman standing by the baggage conveyor who was supposed to be a help-person, so she offered to grab my bag when it came, and she did. And then she helped push the trolley when Janet came back for me. Fortunately, that official airport groundstaff jacket opened doors and allowed for a bit of queue-jumping, because we didn't have go to the end of the queue, we just cut across it. A customs lady was going down the queue, and she took my form, and asked me about it. Now, I'd said I had food, because not only did I have Easter Eggs for Annie, but I'd brought on board a whole bunch of snack food, more than I could eat, and I didn't really fancy throwing it all away; I thought it would be better to ask. Though I did have a turn when the form asked about cheese: because one of the snacks was some LeSnack crackers-and-cheese-spread. So I just gobbled them up as soon as we were in level flight, so I wouldn't have to even have a problem with the cheese question. So I told the Customs lady about the Easter Eggs and the museli bars and fruit bars etc, and she said fine, and scribbled on my form. And then they were putting my bags through the x-ray machine, and then we were out of there, out into the grey skies of Dunedin.

I didn't spot Annie at first (her hair was lighter than I'd been expecting) but then I caught a wave, and Annie came up, and I got out of the wheelchair.

"How are you?"

"Being very well looked after," I said.

Then Janet came back with the trolley, which Annie took over, and there we were. In Dunedin, New Zealand.

Then to the car, and much talking and much driving. "This looks like country Victoria," I said, "Well, apart from the fact that it's green and Victoria isn't at the moment."

"Good," Annie said, "that means I don't have to go to country Victoria to see what it's like."

Driving past lots of green paddocks, unusual golden-coloured trees (as well as green trees and lots of huge pines). I was expecting the sheep; it was the deer that took me by surprise.

Tapanui is a small country town. Like, about four streets worth. The accommodation Annie had booked for me was attached to the local pub, but I was surprised that she walked into the bottle shop to get the key, but apparently that was the way of it. The rooms were actually self-contained cabins out the back of the pub, all around the edges of the gravel parking lot. The one I was in, was much nicer than I'd expected; it was two rooms, plus a bathroom; three beds in all, and the main room, besides having a double bed and a TV area, also had a kitchenette, with sink, kettle, microwave and fridge. And the proper cutlery in the cupboard. As I said, better than I'd expected.

So, after settling in a bit, we went around the corner and grabbed some fish and chips and came back and ate it at "my place", and nattered and chatted until about 7:30ish and then Annie went home, arranging to pick me up at 9am the next day.

Sunday 18th of April 2004

5:50am: woken up by this huge noise, a siren-alarm thing, that was so loud that I thought it could be heard over the whole town. What was going on? Was this some sort of evacuation order? What should I do? Should I get up? Should I lay back in bed and ignore it and try to get to sleep again? The alarm went on. Eventually I heard sirens like car sirens. What was going on? So I got up, put on my slippers, and peered out every window. All was still -- except out the back window, where I realized this huge billow of smoke was rising up and blowing across the sky, from something that might be a block or two away. Okay, so it was a fire. How close was it? Was I in danger? Should I get ready to be evacuated?

I dithered about for a bit and then went back to bed.

8:45am wake up.

8:50am finally manage to get myself awake enough that I can drag myself out of bed. Annie is due in ten minutes. No way I can get ready in that amount of time. Oh well, we're going to be late. I brush the tangles out of my hair.

9:00am Annie arrives, I open the door and explain the situation. She comes in and waits, I shower, dress, pack. The informality of the pub is that one pays the night before, and leaves the key in the door. This is because nobody actually turns up at the pub until 11am, but the cleaning staff clean the rooms at 10am.

So we're off on the road to Queenstown. More countryside, more trees, starting to get beautiful mountain vistas, and more gold trees, and some red trees, and more sheeps, and more cows (varying from black, black+white, red-brown, brown+white, and some other shades of brown) and more deers as well.

We stop at Gore for breakfast, and have a nice cooked breakfast of bacon eggs toast onions and mushrooms. Yum. Not something one has every day.

More driving. The clouds have burned off and it is a bright sunny day. I with my layers and my trenchcoat am getting quite hot, as it is warmer in the car anyway than it is outside. We stop to take pictures of the mountains, and find that we've stopped at this picturesque little railway station called "Fairlight". A notice on a blackboard in front of the white weatherboard building (with neat green trim) says that the 4:15 train is cancelled until next season. Annie hypothesises that it's some seasonal train like Puffing Billy.

We drive on some more, and then stop when we come to the head of this breathtaking lake, which is actually lake Wakitipu; the top end of it, where Queenstown is at the other end. We take more photos. The sun is so bright that in some of my photos the sky looks white, but it was really blue.

More driving, past lanes of lovely golden trees (but nowhere to stop to take pictures of them) and the mountains looming, and the lake with its little waves looking so cool (I wished I had my bathers) and lots and lots of winding winding road. We cross a narrow bridge over a winding river, and suddenly we're in suburbia. We're in Frankton, which is basically a twin town to Queenstown -- well I'd have to look at a map. Then we're in Queenstown, looking for Pinewood Lodge, which is where we are staying. It was advertised as being "five minutes walk" from the town centre of Queenstown, but we couldn't see it anywhere. Eventually we drove through to the other side of Queenstown, and Annie parked by the side of the road to find the map and then consult it. As she was doing this, I took a picture of a steamer on the lake. (Actually, I took two pictures, but only kept one of them. Ah, the joys of digital photography).

Having consulted the map, Annie knew where we had to go, but first we had to turn around, so we drove on even further until we found a place where we could turn around. Then back through Queenstown, and up a steep road to Pinewood Lodge, and then up a really steep set of hair-pin bends to Cottage C, where we had Room 1. The room is fairly small, just enough room for the two beds. The place reminds me a bit of the kind of camp places you'd get for conferences or house parties at somewhere like Mount Tambourine. This has a common area with a small TV and some old couches, and an open kitchen (with stove and sink and fridge and cupboards). This cottage has three Rooms, the common area, kitchen, and a loo, and a small bathroom. It is also cheap for Queenstown. But it has a lovely view -- Annie and I took photos.

So, we unpack. Annie consults book and map and we decide to go to Arrowtown for lunch and maybe look at the museum there. It's about three by the time we get there, and we basically go into the first cafe we see. I have a hot lunch but Annie is content with just a smoothie. She keeps going off to investigate things (and finally has to change her shoes, the ones she was wearing seem to have a nail poking through). So when I'm finished, we go up to where she found a supermarket, but we don't go there, we just wander around a bit, get sucked into an arty touristy store, stare a lot, but don't buy anything. Then we just sit down on a convenient bench and watch the world go by. There are lots of lovely trees in Arrowtown, so I take a few more photos.

Annie consults her LotR guide book and notes a few things we might want to see, including that the Ford of Bruinen is supposed to be here in Arrowtown, about 200m away from the car park where we parked our car. We decide that we'll come here again tomorrow, early, so we can get some nice piccies without all the cars around. We also decide to buy stuff for dinner and breakfast in the supermarket. So, then, laiden with bags, we cross the street and Annie goes down some steps to what seems to be more car park (which turns out to be the same car park) and the river. I stop to take a picture of all the grey ground and the yellow and green trees on the mountainside on the other side of the river. Then I try to catch up with Annie, and find that she herself has stopped to take photos further on, looking down the river at what she thinks is the Ford of Bruinen. I'm not so sure, but I take pictures anyway because it is pretty.

Then we get back to the car and start taking pictures of the lovely golden trees.

Then it is more driving, back to Queenstown. We take a different route this time, and when I exclaimed at a sudden vista, Annie stopped the car (well, she was probably going to stop it anyway) and we stand around taking photos of the sun on the peaks, and the valley, and the sheep, and the old-fashioned stone gateway, and it is all very picturesque. Then Annie runs out of room on her camera so we pack it in and continue on our way back to Queenstown.

Back in Cabin C, we appear to be the only ones there as we eat our separate teas, read, download photos (and compare each others') and then I wrote up these entries, which took, er, a couple of hours.

11:30pm - disaster. I was vaguely aware of a banging noise, tried to ignore it, five minutes later the light was switched on and Annie asked if I was awake. Well, I was by then. She asked if I could roll on my side. I said what? It seems I was snoring so badly it was keeping the girls in the next room awake. I mumbled something about how I was on my side when I started, so I was either snoring on my side or I was going to fall off my side anyway... lights went off, all was quiet, more or less.

I tried not to sleep, so as not to snore, but I think I dozed off every now and then. Sometimes when I woke up, Annie was snoring, but presumably not as badly as me.

Monday 19th of April 2004

Naturally we were both very bleary the next day. Annie offered to get ear plugs, but I gently pointed out that she snored too. So she suggested we see if we could get separate rooms.

It was an odd sort of day. Both of us were very tired, and less than chipper. It was 9am when we set off for Arrowtown but we still managed to get a park in the main street. We wandered around looking first at the museum store and then at other shops in that street. I suffered from jewelry overload; I couldn't find anything I liked. I did, however, find in the museum store, just the kind of stuffed animal I was looking for: something very New Zealandish but not a Kiwi. They had some small stuffed toy birds, about four of them, all in a row. I picked the Kea (intelligent alpine parrot) because it was pretty (all green) and clever. I'm also not sure, but I think I might have read a novel once which had a Kea as a protagonist (same sort of genre as Watership Down).

After window-shopping for a while, we went to a cafe and Annie had breakfast (I'd already had breakfast before we left).

We then decided to see if we could find the film site for the Gladden Fields, which was also supposed to be in Arrowtown, but the directions were vague and I don't think we found it. We took some pretty pictures though. Especially of this park we saw on the way.

Then Annie suggested we go to Deer Park Heights (which is where a number of the Rohan sequences were filmed). I hadn't expected us to leave Arrowtown so soon, but, hey, we did want to go to Deer Park Heights at some point, so now was as good as any time. It was about 11 by that time, I think.

So we drove back through Queenstown, and then off in a different direction (hey, I was just the passenger) around the lake, past more trees and of course the looming mountains all around, until we got to the sign which said Deer Park Heights. It turned out that this was a deer farm, as well as other exotic things like llama and bison, and less exotic things like sheep, goats, and ponies. It was $20 admission but it was all automated -- the only other people we saw were visitors like us. The entrance gate had a thing full of one-sheet guides to the place; one side was all about the farm and what was on it, and the other side was a map with numbers -- and one section of that was about LotR sites there -- there were six, but we only ended up looking at two, because the others were a bit far to walk. That didn't really matter, because the landscape was all there, these rugged rocks and rolling hillocks with frost-kissed grass, and the occassional tarn, as well as animals here and there. There was also a piece of a movie set still there, left over from another movie called "The Rescue" which was supposed to be set in Korea. And what they had was this fort, very chinesey looking, with grey forbidding walls and towers with chinese pagoda roofs. It looked especially impressive looking up at it with the Remarkable Mountains behind it.

Basically there were two "summits" on Deer Park Heights, the eastern and the western, and we took pictures from both, looking up down all around, at the mountains, rivers, lake more lake and ground and over at Queenstown, which had a haze of smoke about it. We then drove back down to look at site 2 (a tarn where Gimli fell off his horse). I couldn't figure exactly where it all was, but it was pretty, so I took piccies.

Then we went further down to where site 3 was, which was apparently 130m away from the road, so I wasn't sure if I would go all the way, but I started down, at least, and I could see it was the same kind of landscape, the rugged rocks sticking out of yellow grass in rolling hillocks. But as the track got longer and more precipitous, I was afraid I wouldn't be able to keep my footing, so I stopped (though I took pictures of Annie forging on ahead). Then I turned back, and there was one portion of the track/road that was so steep that I was really scared I was going to lose my footing and fall over.

Before we'd actually gone off to look for site 3, Annie saw some deer on a nearby hillock and suggested I rattle my tin of feed at them, but I decided to photograph around site 3 first. So then, when I'd struggled back from the site 3 track, I looked over at the deer again. And looked again. There was a small cliff between me and them, and a high fence at the bottom of it. In order to get anywhere near where the deer were so that they could come up to me, I would need to either go back down the steep track and through the gate there, or back along the road to where the fence was nearer the road. Unfortunately, near that spot, the road forked and there was a feed-buying station in the fork, and a whole lot of very canny goats hanging around it. I was interested in deer, not goats.

And then I saw a white car go past, around to that fork. And then I heard some yells, and saw that the white car was being mobbed by goats. No way was I going to go over there!

So it was all too much and I just sat in the car and cried (remember, this was lack-of-sleep telling). Then Annie came back before I'd stopped crying and she asked me what was the matter and I told her and then said that she probably thought I was being silly. She said something to the effect that these things happen, c'est la vie. But she was kind enough to take us on further down and stop the car at another spot where deer might come.

Unfortunately, the stag in charge of the herd was a wary fellow, and wouldn't let any of them near me. However, another couple of tourists a little further down the road were accosted by some very forward llamas, and when the tourists left, the llamas came up to where Annie and I were, so I fed the llamas instead. Then I threw out the rest of the feed on the ground, for the deer (or more probably the llamas) to eat later.

Further down the road there were a couple of bison standing, but I didn't want to get out to take pictures of them, because they were rather formidable beasts, so I took pictures through the window. Then we drove on some more, though I think the exit route was slightly different from the entry route. Then there was this deer right by the side of the road! On Annie's side, unfortunately. And by the time I had my camera ready, it was grazing and wouldn't look up. So I handed my camera to Annie, but when she opened the window, the deer came right up, expecting some food, so it was far too close to take a picture of! I managed to take a photo of it walking back up the road, but it was too far away by then and not a good enough photo.

I did get out to take a picture of some ponies, though. And that was the end of Deer Park Heights.

It was about 2pm by this time. Annie suggested we go to Glenorchy for lunch, but she hadn't realized it was so far from Queenstown. Some absolutely lovely trees on the drive, but nowhere to stop to photograph them. I was so tired by then that I kept on nodding off and then waking myself up. It was about three by the time we got to Glenorchy, which was not only further, but smaller, than Annie had expected. Still, there was a nice pleasant cafe open, and a lovely view of those looming mountains (though the foothills of these ones were actually green with grass not trees).

Annie had picked up a brochure in the reception lodge this morning, about "trilogytrail" tours, which were small-plane "tours" of LotR sites, done by the same company as had done some of the flying for the films, Glenorchy Air. While she was waiting for me to finish my lunch, she rang them up to find out how much it cost. I had obviously had no idea how much these things usually are, because I was staggered at the "$285 is really cheap!" she came back with, but as we had agreed earlier it would be a cool kind of once-in-a-lifetime thing to do, I was already half-agreed, and she persuaded me it really was worth it. Well, it wasn't as if I didn't actually have the money, was it? I'll just not buy as much of other things.

So, on Thursday morning, we were going flying!

Then we went for a tiny walk around the tiny town, and then drove back to Queenstown. Annie got the keys for her room, grabbed her stuff and left. I lay down for a little, then I wrote this up and also downloaded my photos. Gee it is a lot easier to write up a journal entry when one has a whole bunch of photos to look at!

Tuesday 20th of April 2004

I woke up at 5:30am, went to the loo, and then back to bed. I woke again at 8am, but kept on dozing off again before I could drag myself out of bed. I had the vague idea that Annie was going to be coming at 9am so at 8:40 or so I dragged myself out of bed, showered and dressed. Then I had a leisurely breakfast. I ate out on the balcony, because it had a table and chairs one could sit-up-at-the-table at, and it was also quite pleasant out there.

The weather we had all the time we'd been in Queenstown so far had been lovely; grey and cool in the mornings but no rain, and then puffy clouds in the afternoon with bright sun. Just as well I packed some T-shirts; I had been using them. I did not use my long johns nor my jumpers -- not yet.

Annie came up just as I had finished rinsing my breakfast bowl. The plan was to park down by the lake and then walk back to Queenstown and have breakfast (well, for Annie to have breakfast and me to have morning tea). Unfortunately, though the park by the lake was as lovely as it has been the first day we passed it, there weren't actually any places to park there, and by the time there were, it was too far to walk. So we were about to turn around when Annie suggested we take a look at Fernhill while we were there, so we did, finding it was basically a residantial area, with lovely trees and houses on the steep hillside, and we passed by a milkbar as well. And then back around back to Queenstown. Annie was asking if I minded if we went to Arrowtown, since we would obviously never find somewhere to park in Queenstown -- when we found somewhere to park. Meter parking, though it is probably all meter parking. But we parked anyway.

Then we went to a cafe for breakfast, and then a bit of shopping and window-shopping. Annie was in search of some good shoes for walking, because the only decent pair of shoes she had left, weren't good enough for unsteady ground, as she'd discovered yesterday. When she went back to fill the meter, I sat down on a bench to wait for her, reading "Heir of Sea and Fire" some more. And I sat in the hot sun and got hot. Then I moved to a cooler bench, and not long after that she arrived, apparently not having seen me on the other bench.

Then, after consultation, Annie drove me back to the lodge, and she departed in search of a special shoe store on the way to Arrowtown. I finished my book, and then wrote this up -- and I think I hear her car...

Alas, she returned shoeless. No shoe store was found.

We went for lunch to Arthur's Point -- not to Arthur's Point Pub, but to the cafe attached to the Shotover Jetboats operation. Unfortunately it was about 2ish and their fare was limited. However we had a magnificent view of the bridge (Edith Cavel Bridge) over the Kawarau river and took many photos. I think there was some other part of this river used for filming, so we got a look at the kind of terrain, anyway.

Then we jaunted over to Arrowtown (we seem to be going there a lot) seeing as we needed to buy some stuff (and I needed an ATM) and we were already on the way there anyway, and one can park more easily there than in Queenstown. So we did shoppy stuff, and I got money, an LotR Location Guidebook, and bought the T-shirt I had mused over on the first day.

On the way back, we were confronted by a herd of sheep trundling its way down the road, preceeded by a truck with a big sheep sign on it. I took a bad photo out the front of the car.

We then got back to the lodge and Annie moved into room 2. She then wandered around taking photos in order to try to figure out the capacity of her new memory card (because there didn't seem to be any way that the camera would give her that information). So I wandered around taking photos too, just to show that, when one ignores the buildings, it's really quite pretty there.

We basically just sonked around for the rest of the afternoon/evening, reading. I was wrong about the weather; it has turned rainy. I can hear the rain on the roof.

Wednesday 21st of April 2004

Woke at about 7 and decided not to try to get more sleep. Again I had breakfast and Annie had not. This time we wandered around Queenstown and I was starting to get tired before Annie settled on a cafe.

Looking around for information about places to stay in Cromwell. Annie found. We went back to the Lodge reception where there was a phone; Annie phoned, booked.

Then what next? I was feeling worn out already, so when Annie asked me if I wanted to go to the gondola-up-to-Bob's-Peak I said "If you'd asked me yesterday, I'd have said yes, but right now I don't think I'd appreciate it properly." I asked if we could go back to Arrowtown to get some Paua shell, for gifts. Annie kindly agreed. I ended up getting three half-polished shell, one fully polished shell, and a hand-picked bag full of pieces. Though none of them were the deep blue-green one saw in some of the nicest jewellry, it still looked pretty.

Then Annie suggested we picnic by Lake Hayes, so we bought some takeaway stuff from the supermarket, and set off. Unfortunately, we didn't find anywhere we could turn off and picnic, so I suggested that we go to the lakeside park on the other side of Queenstown, since that was nice too, and we could park there. So we ate lunch at St Omer's Park, and took lots of photographs, of the trees, the sky, the lake, the shore, the wet waves, and more.

Then we went back to the lodge, I to rest. Annie went out information-hunting, then came back. It was basically a sonky afternoon, each of us in our rooms. I suggested we go out for dinner, so about sixish we did. Drove down to Queenstown, and then wandered around looking for an appealing restaurant. There was one in the mall that was upstairs and called itself the HMS Brittannia, and had a wooden balcony supposed to be like the prow of a ship. It was so silly, I thought it would be fun. It turned out to be very nice. It was laid out like a cross between a faux-sailing ship, and an Olde Inne, and a castle, with the waitresses in striped shirts and candles in bottles, and shields on the walls; it had atmosphere. We both ordered the venison, and it was delicious.

We got back to the lodge and the guys in room 3 and their female friends were still watching the TV. I had a shower so I wouldn't have to in the morning, and packed most of my stuff.

Thursday 22nd of April 2004

Bang on the door at 7:30am. Fortunately since I'd had a shower last night, I didn't need to in the morning, so I just got dressed, washed my face, packed the rest of my stuff, moved my cases out of my room and into the car, and then had breakfast. Annie walked down to the reception lodge to call the Trilogy people to see if it was still on. The sky was grey with lowering clouds, so I started worrying if it might end up being cancelled, but it wasn't. So, park the car down the road, and wait on the park bench in front of the reception lodge to be picked up. The van came finally at nine.

Off to Queenstown airport. Then, Glenorchy Air. Bent our plastic to the tune of $285 each for the "Two Rings" "trilogytrail" flight, a scenic flight to view various Lord of the Rings locations, and set down at one spot. We waited a little for our pilot, Jim, and then he came, a red-headed fellow with a Scottish accent. Off out of the terminal building across the tarmac to a little 4-seater Cessna. Annie and I were the only passengers -- it was really neat. I was in the back, and Annie was up the front next to Jim. I think I may have had the better seat for photographs, because, while Annie could see more through the front windscreen, you couldn't really take photos out there because the propellor would get in the way. Wheras I figured out a good level of zoom that let me take photos without the wing in the way, most of the time; but my problem was the flash kept going off. But I get ahead of myself. I climbed in (and "climb" is the right word) and managed to adjust the seatbelt so it was big enough. Then I noticed something digging into my shoulder and it was a set of headphones and mike. Yes, we had to put those on too. All very exciting. Oh, and we had to put lifejackets on before we got in, because some of our flight was over water.

Then we took off, very smoothly, and flew over various sites. The Kawarau river, where these gorgeous gorges were used for the Pillars of the Kings, as well as Arrowtown, with the Ford of Bruinien, and then up near Glenorchy, flying past the "Misty Mountains" (only they were so misty with cloud you couldn't see their tops) and flying around the three fields where the army assembled near Dunharrow were camped. I took lots of photos; some of sites, and most because it was just so beautiful. The cloud over the mountains was so mysterious, and then, though most of it burned off later, some of it still lingered, in fluffy picturesque puffs. Jim said at one point that he wished he'd brought a camera, which shows what an unusually lovely day it was.

The landing spot was at Paradise (I think that's the name of the farm) in a paddock! There were two sites we could have walked to; one, a hillock relatively close, where you could get a good view of the landscape that they used for Nan Curunir (the Wizards Vale) upon which they digitally placed Isengard later. The other was to walk deep into the woods, to see where they filmed the death of Boromir (and the bit with Merry and Pippin and Frodo during that same sequence, and also some parts of Lothlorien). We ended up just going to the knoll, which was sensible, because I don't think we could really (especially me) have coped with the rough ground inside the forest. Especially as we could just look at the edge of the Black Beech forest and recognise it as the same forest, even if we didn't go to the exact spot. It was hard enough for me walking across the paddocks and up the hillock. My feet got totally soaked. But it was beautiful. The mountains, some with snowy tops, and wreathed in clouds; the river plain, the green fields; and the woods so dark and deep (alas, I don't think any of my photos did justice to the woods). Jim kindly took pictures of Annie and me standing on the knoll in front of the "Wizard's Vale".

Jim had an amusing story about this site: it seems one day while they were filming here, Glenorchy Air got a call asking if they had a plane free to go to Paradise as soon as possible. They did, and Jim was the pilot. So there he was getting ready to fly, and someone rushed up to him and handed him... a key.

"Get this to Paradise as soon as possible" they said. So he shrugged, and flew over to Paradise, and landed, and someone met him as soon as the plane stopped.

"Have you got the key?"

He gave them the key, and they ran off. It turns out that they were all ready to shoot one of the Orc scenes; all the masks and makeup on, the costumes layered, the cameras ready to shoot -- and they went to get the bows and arrows and swords from the locked cabinet... no key. Hence the emergency key run.

There was one point when we were by the forest when Jim asked if he could borrow my camera, saying "You can delete it if you don't like it" and I said fine, okay; and he lay down on the ground and took a photo up the trunk of this hoary old tree. It was a dramatic shot and I didn't delete it.

Then we took off (bumpy but exhilarating -- I've never taken off from a paddock before!) and flew on the other side of the "Misty Mountains" (they'd been hidden with cloud earlier). They were very sharp and brown (no snow, with all the hot weather). We saw the gorge that they also used as part of the Ford of Bruenin sequence.

We were landing all too soon. I took a photo of Jim by the plane. Then we were dropped back at Pinewoods Lodge, and we walked down to the car full of our stuff, and we went to Arrowtown for lunch. We went to the Saffron, which the LotR guidebook said was a favourite among the cast, and, well, it deserved it. The food was delicious. I had the soup of the day, which was mushroom, and you could tell it was practicaly just pureed mushrooms, it was so thick. And fresh bread and butter too. Yum.

Then we drove off to Cromwell, and found the Twin Rivers motel, and checked into our unit (very nice) and basically lay around and read for the rest of the day. And downloaded photos. And wrote up this.

Friday 23rd of April 2004

Woke after 7, but managed to get showered and dressed barely in time for breakfast at 8. Packed and got ready to leave, but put off leaving to work more on yesterday's photos which I'd only gotten as far as Paradise, having to figure which ones to delete and which ones to crop or otherwise try to fix. So we didn't leave Cromwell until about a quarter to ten. Then much driving, driving, driving. There were more scenes I wished I could have taken photos of, like the Clutha river being such a deep blue against the brown hills, or the area of hills and mountains which had all these grey layered and carved rock formations which made me think of Ettinsmoor.

We stopped at Alexandra to look at the supermarket because Annie wanted to see if they had something she couldn't get in Tapanui, but they ended up not having it. I was glad to shop anyway, because I got some more Hubbards cereal, for breakfast tomorrow. And discovered that there's Bundaberg Root Beer as well as Bundaberg Ginger Beer. Hmmm, they export it to NZ but not to Melbourne?

On we drove, and it started getting cloudy ahead. Annie stopped at a sign saying "Welcome to West Otago" because she wanted to take a photo of the hills as they were caught between sun and cloud, but who knows if the photos will work. The tricky thing with cloud is that sometimes it just looks like a grey smear across the photo, rather than the ethereal thing it was when one was looking at it.

On we drove, into cloud or fog as thick as mushroom soup (why do they call it a pea-soup fog? It isn't green.). Annie gestured and said that the Blue Mountains were over there -- completely hidden by fog.

Tapanui at last. The supermarket for sandwiches etc for lunch. Checked in to my unit. Annie went off to her place to soak clothes, and got caught up in a phone runaround, so came back two hours later than she said she'd be. Nattered and chattered until evening; I ended up having the cereal for dinner as well as breakfast.

Saturday 24th of April 2004

Packed, off early so as to get to Dunedin by tennish, so that we could look at the Otago Museum before I had to go catch the plane. Driving, driving and more driving, past many green paddocks full of sheep and cows.

I like museums, but it may have been a mistake to go to this one, because Museums, Art galleries and shopping are the worst thing for my foot, as one stands, stares, takes another step, stands... You can't really look at the exhibits while sitting down. Still, it was a nice museum. I learned one or two things, and admired many Mauri carvings.

We ate lunch at the museum cafe, and then off to the airport. The most irritating thing was that we were supposed to pay departure tax as a separate, extra cost; they told us to go pay at the Bank of New Zealand near the Duty Free store -- and the Bank of New Zealand was shut. So we sat around waiting on these airport chairs, waiting, waiting. And the only ATM in the building was broken. Humph. Luckily I had just enough money on me to pay the departure tax. And the bank opened eventually.

And then it was time to say goodbye, and go up to the gate, and then wait wait wait some more. I was in seat 10A this time, a window seat over the wing, sitting next to a little girl and her mother. I started reading "Savage Empire: Dark Moon Rising" by Jean Lorrah. The rest is not worth mentioning. Except that it was colder in Melbourne than it had been in Queenstown...