Last Saturday, we got on a bus at the square in Christchurch and met Rex, our tour-guide. Apparently he was previously a director for NZ television and such for most of his life and now he travels and gives tours through Middle Earth! Our tour was his 455th time taking people to Edoras, Capital of Rohan (geographically known as Mount Sunday).
Rex talked the whole trip about Christchurch history, New Zealand info, and then got into the Lord of the Rings scoop. He told us about the casting of the actors and who the director had originally wanted in the movies and showed us pictures of scenes, actors, and maps. We made several stops along the way, the first of which was at a gorge. The water is so intensely blue because it is filtered by the rocky mountain sides as it runs down and into the valley gorge.
We had another photo opportunity at Lake Camp where 100 little vacation homes are nestled between two lakes at the base of towering mountains. It was beautiful.
We stopped at a little tea shop in a tiny town to get our lunches for later and spend a bit of time outside. Then back in our off-roading tour bus, we got onto a gravel road and found ourselves in Rohan at the base of Mount Sunday, where the Golden Hall of Edoras once stood.
Rex showed us pictures from the Two Towers so we could see the identical scenery. He told us that they had to take down the entire village and Golden Hall for environmental preservation reasons and that the Tolkien family had refused to have any of the scenes set up anywhere except for Europe.
Rex then pointed up to a white marker at the top of Mount Sunday and said he wanted to see us there in about 30 minutes. Little did we know we still had to plummet through sparkling blue rivers and streams before driving up part of the mountain. On our way through the last river before heading up the mountain, we rocked side to side and suddenly got stuck in the pebble bottom and buried half of the wheel into the river bottom. The 15 passengers piled out of the bus and the women sat on the prairie land while the men set up a "come-a-long" and hammered pegs into the ground to get the bus out.
After about an hour we finally defeated the river and got back into the bus. Rex then stopped up on the mountain, handed out swords and axes and we started our trek up to the top of Mount Sunday. I got to stand right where Princess Eowyn stands on the deck of the Golden Hall. We saw the identical marking on the mountain as in a still frame of the movie, Helm's Deep, and a peninsula where Aragorn pauses on his horse.
The peninsula is to the right and Helm's Deep is to the left:
It was crazy windy on top of Mount Sunday; we could even lean completely into the wind and it would hold us up! We took lots of pictures with Aragorn's sword, Gimli's axe, and the banner of Rohan. Here's Julia as Eowyn in the wind:
Defeated by Julia:
It was an incredible trip, even though I hadn't seen Lord of the Rings for about 3 years. On the ride back, Rex put in several inside the scenes DVDs about the making of the 3 films. Peter Jackson, the director, filmed everything for all three movies in about 2 years. He chose around 100 locations in New Zealand for all of the filming. The next night, we crowded into the Stevens Hall Lounge and watched The Two Towers and showed all of our friends where we stood and told them all about the inside info we learned! Now I can say that I have truly been to Middle Earth!