MIDDLE EARTH WITH KIWI EXPERIENCE PART 1
Whether you are a die-hard LOTR fan, an obsessed Hobbit follower, or just want to be blown away by the diversity and natural beauty of a place, then New Zealand is for you, this place is amazing. Everywhere you look you could be in Middle Earth. This was summed up by Elijah Wood, known in the movies as Frodo, who once said,
"New Zealand is Middle Earth. It has every geological formation and geographical landscape you can imagine, and some you can't."
He wasn’t wrong.
Our Journey begins as we make our way through Middle Earth with Kiwi Experience. We are brought even closer into being part of the world’s largest selling trilogy, The Lord of the Rings, and its much anticipated prequel, The Hobbit. The obvious place to begin would be Hobbiton, a working farm sitting in the rolling green hills of the fertile Waikato region. Here we take a tour through the set and literally step into the world of a Hobbit. The sets are all still standing, including the famous Party tree and Bilbo Baggins house. The photo opportunities are limitless and it’s crazy to hear about the attention to detail Sir Peter Jackson and his crew went to while creating this master piece from our guide.
MT DOOM (MT NGAURUHOE)
As our Kiwi Experience bus travels onwards we realise we are on a path that weaves its way from one unique landscape to another, each chosen for its own merits to be part of the 150 plus locations that were used. Dropping into the lake side town of Taupo we immediately see Mt Doom, (Mt Ngauruhoe) standing tall in the distance with the two other volcanoes at its side. In Taupo a scenic bike ride leads us out to the Aratiatia Dam. What was once the largest set of rapids in New Zealand has been turned into cool clear water pools with the construction of the dam. But to show us what it once was, the dam gates are opened a few times daily to recreate the rapids. It is in this scenic spillway the film crew threw barrels into the river to shoot scene where the Dwarfs are floating downstream in Barrels. Although looking seamless on screen, the location where the Dwarfs were actually filmed inside the barrels wasn’t going to appear until we hit the South Island. Thankfully the barrels thrown over here were empty.
A day off in Taupo with the great people we have met on the bus gives us a chance to do The Tongariro Crossing, one of the top ten day walks of the world according to National Geographic. Here we really get into LOTR’s most iconic scenery. Into the sacred Tongiriro National Park and World Heritage site to get close up to the landscape familiar with millions of movie fans. The most obvious and popular for the Bucket listers is Mt Doom, his cylindrical cone bringing back memories of the films. But he is not the only famous feature here.
Leaving Taupo Kiwi Experience takes us back into this Duel World Heritage Site to show us more. It’s easy to see why this was chosen as the location for the Plains of Gorgoroth. We can look up at the North Islands largest Mountain, Mt Ruapehu, and be looking directly at Mordor. It’s in the summer off season on the largest Ski Field in the country, Whakapapa that Sauron has his finger cut off, and Frodo and Sam catch Gollum who leads the Hobbits down the Emyn Muil.
Heading south from here we pass through the sleepy ski town of Ohuakune. Looking left towards the southern slopes of Mt Ruapehu, home to Turoa, the country’s second largest Ski Field, we can picture the Ithilien Camp. Frodo, Sam and Gollum looking out over the gates of Mordor, or Gollum catching his fish in what is locally known as the Mangawhero River.
RIVER VALLEY ON RANGITIKEI RIVER
Our Kiwi Experience bus takes us off the beaten track into the picturesque and remote River Valley Lodge. Here there is a chance to go White Water Rafting on the Rangitikei River. One of four rivers used as the River Anduin. After a night in beautiful seclusion we drive alongside the white cliffs of the Rangitikei River and imagine ourselves floating in a canoe down below them as the Fellowship once did.
We make our way into New Zealand’s Capital City, Wellington. Home to Weta Studios, along with plenty of locations, like the Quarry used for Helms Deep. An easily accessible site in the city, is a short scenic walk up Mt Victoria, which was the location used for Frodo and Sam to be hiding below the roots of a tree from the Black Riders. We say good bye to the North Island and take the ferry into the South Island. It’s hard not to be totally impressed by the North, but you hear nothing but good things about the Kiwi Experience trip down the West Coast. The anticipation is building.
Our Journey through middle Earth Continues…