There is in every tale a beginning and end. To make any story complete however, it is necessary and indeed it is impossible not to have a middle. The middle of a story is the child of the beginning and the father of the end and so in this way carries great weight in itself. This tale that follows as well as the next can readily be documented as the middle of my adventures.
Tuesday, December 3, 2003 was for the most part a day of rest. Yours truly had stayed at the premiere party till 3:30 in the morning and couldn’t get to sleep until much later. Tuesday was a rest day for the most part, so I will go ahead somewhat quickly to day 4 of my travels. However Tuesday night had in it QUITE an adventure which I simply must tell.
Remember the Hobbits adventures with Tom Bombadil and Old Man Willow and the Barrow Wights? That is in way what this part of the story is like. I went out in the late afternoon and took a cab to Mt. Victoria in Wellington hoping to see (foolishly without a guide) where the hobbits hid in the woods from the nazgul. I started out along with my trusty Samwise Gamgee of a friend (a friend of the family’s) and we traveled to and stood on the very summit of the Mount. It is important to note to all my North American and other readers that the mountains of the New Zealand are more like hobbit mountains…to us the would officially be large hills. To the Big Folk that is.
After reaching the top we went down and found a strange path that led to the shadier part of the Mount. The trees grew tall and dark in great abundance. Their roots were gnarled and ancient in appearance. It was probably for precisely this reason that Peter Jackson and Crew decided to use this forested area for filming as the whole look of the place is very “Middle Earthy”. We walked down the long winding paths just hoping to find the spot where the hobbits hid from the nazgul but we never saw it. Apparently there are different levels and different paths and we were not on the right one. Night was falling and trees just kept standing there tall and ominous (quite a scary place at night for hobbits). Then behind me I heard a sound and in a flurry turned and saw a Nazgul on mountain bike racing towards me. Yes that was definitely a “Get off the road!” moment and I warned my good Samwise (to save his life) to get out of the way. The biker passed in silence and with him most of my dread. Phew, that was close.
Frankly we weren’t getting anywhere, just farther in and farther out (farther into the deep darkness of the forest, farther out from home and hearth). This was getting to be pointless and it turned out we had to be heading back since the next day we are getting on a very early flight from Wellington Airport to Queenstown for a looong LOTR flight tour. We headed back up the winding paths and unruly gnarled roots that were determined to trip us up. It was a hard road but thankfully we found our way back. And oh my good heavens…did I mention I was filming all this a lot of the time? Madness!
The next morning came quickly, and I swiftly gathered my things, and met my Guardian in lobby and with swift hobbitish care got into a cab and rolled off to the airport to catch the flight to Christchurch and from there to Queenstown. I must admit the flight from Christchurch to Queenstown was quite delightful once we came in sight of our destination. Real mountains and breathtakingly tall hills appeared with immeasurable beauty. Queenstown is a bonny little town and probably is considered to be one of the prettiest locations on the South Island. This is where a lot scenes of LOTR were filmed, primarily for TTT and ROTK but some was used for Fellowship too.
We went into Queentown’s hobbit sized airport (really, and truly, it is small!) and looked for a sign that said Glenorchy Air (our transport for the day). We caught sight of it and traipsed over to where all these LOTR figurines and posters were.
Perhaps it will do to explain a bit about Glenorchy Air and what their role is in our tale. Glenorchy was primarily responsible for flying many of the cast and crew around to locations back in ’99 and 2000. Some of the many cast they gave transport too were Ian Mckellan, Viggo Mortenson, Orlando Bloom, John Rhys Davies, and Dominic Monaghan. They even still had some ORIGINAL call sheets that they showed us of what time what actor had to be where, and the Lord of the Rings emblem was at the top (really cool!).
Our purpose today was to take a six hour flight tour of various LOTR locations (primarily where major scenes of Two Towers were shot)and there were to be two people from Weta on the tour with us! One of them was the Visual Effects On Set Supervisor. They were taking one last nostalgia tour of where LOTR was filmed– something other Weta people had been doing in general.
So we all got on the same 7 person plane and flew over to the tufty fields of Rohan. We walked over to the spot where the Uruk Hai were carrying Merry and Pippin and Pip dropped his brooch for Aragorn to find. At this point I must admit I had some fairly “Tookish” mishaps. The tour guide was kind enough to point out to everyone to be careful of the marshy mud–WELL…guess what…I stepped in it ANYWAY! ACK! Fool of a Took! And my pant leg got mud along with my boot. So yes I had to walk about like that…
We continued on walking for seemed like miles across the golden grasslands that were Rohan. What a walk it was! As such a little hobbit I was in constant danger of getting lost (as my legs are shorter and mind you that group did NOT always stay together), and after some time my face got to be red a those strawberries Sam talked about in ROTK. On and on we walked until arriving to the spot where they had filmed the scene in the Two Towers of the Rohan village being attacked and burned. We approached this very large pond like thing, and they showed us the exact spot where the village had been. They pointed out a pile of old wood which had been torn down from the village set and I bold hobbit like I am took a piece to bring home as a souvenir (no small piece mind you, and I still have it too). We moved on to another part of the village where several of us took photos, and we could see on the ground the markings of where a Rohan building had been burned. We were fortunate enough to hear a story at this point from the Visual Effects Supervisor (forgot the fellow’s name, sorry). He told us how when they were filming the orc extras actually got to burn a building…but these guys were having TOO much fun and got a little carried away and mind you scared the cameramen quite horribly. They added SO much wood to the fire to make it as big as possible that the fire got really big and got a little to close for comfort to some of the cameramen who were nearby filming with their cameras on some large rock face. You can imagine how much the poor cameramen scolded the extras…and how truly mad the latter were (they had to be prevented from just grabbing any old important prop and just THROWING it into the flames!). Some day on set, lol.
After all this we started heading back to the plane (a VERY looong walk mind you, and add to that the poor state of the cherry hobbit). I did have a very nice talk with the pilot and found outthat he knew who Erica Challis of TORN was and said he had been one of the Ringer Spies back in the early days! (Sorry didn’t get his Ringer Spy nickname 😉 ).
The next stop Rings location was the famed and glorious Edoras with its sweeping vistas and astonishing hill. We landed (much to my disappointment) a ways away from the actual hill so had to content ourselves at viewing it from a distance (and later flying over it). I must at this point mention that this hobbit decided to be a little adventurous and STARTED to meander over there but was stopped when our ride came to take us to the lodge. Mushrooms! Next time I’ll go with Aragorn, since rangers go anywhere even difficult rocky long walks without a fuss. 😉
We all went to a local lodge in Twizel where everyone had their lunch except this hobbit. Who cares about lunch! I was in Middle Earth! I must mention that I STILL yes STILL had half a mind to walk up to that lonely but fascinating little hill where Edoras had been but it was just to far… My hobbit heart at that moment yearned for wings.
After lunch we got a ride back to where the plane had set down and took off to fly over that lovely, lonely hill. I took some nice pictures (especially because I was sitting up front that time.)
Our next and last major stop was–can you guess? Ok here comes the hobbit dreamer talk– Our next stop was the BOLD, the GLORIOUS, the MAGNIFICENT, SWEEPING, dazzling, Pelennor fields!! (Ok I think that was enough of a build up to get everyone excited you can sit down and breath now. 😉 ). Also in Twizel, this extraordinary field that became a field of battle in the last film was a truly magnificent site. There were small mountains and large hills all around, some of which were snow capped. The field was of course vast, and definitely large enough to have an army of thousands there (although only a few hundred were used for the films).
This was the great field where Aragorn, Eomer, Eowyn,Merry and others had all fought their greatest battles. This is where the nazgul had swooped down upon the armies of Gondor and the city itself, and seeing it all in real life was truly awesome sight! They showed us where the actual city had been digitally added against the side of a mountain, and gave us a heads up to keep our eyes peeled for bits of armor that might have fallen off during filming. They showed us where Theoden and his army had made their charge. We never found any armor, nor did we see any orcs (did we want to? lol), but it was an exciting adventure, and it was a truly exhilarating feeling to be standing where armies had fought for the freedom of Middle Earth. Gondor was there, though unseen, as were thousands of beloved characters from literary legend whose memory and deeds had been recorded by the greatest author of the 20th century. We will never forget them, or him, till the world ends.
So ends part III of There and Back Again, a hobbits tale by Pippin Skywalker (descendant of the great Took hero who fought and lived during the war of the ring in the Third Age of Middle Earth). So long my friends, and look for the continuation of this tale in parts IV, V, VI, and VII, and learn how Pippin of Sky went on various other adventures including going home to Hobbiton, and the GREAT STRUGGLE, which is surprise for part VII (I promise you will all love the tale).
Till then so long!