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Mileage: 276 K/ 172 miles
Film Sites visited: Emyn Muil, Mordor, Gollums Fishing Pool, The Powderhorn Chateau
We left Rotorua heading south, passing Lake Taupo, New Zealands largest lake. We headed for Tongariro National Park and its three famous volcanoes, Mt. Tongariro, Mt.Ngauruhoe, and Mt Ruapehu. The park was designated a World Heritage Site because of its cultural and religious significance to the Maori people. The volcanoes here are the highest mountains on the North Island, with Mt. Ruapehu reaching over 9000 feet. The views of the snow-covered volcanoes from the road were spectacular, especially as it was such a clear day. The perfect volcanic cone of Mt. Ngauruhoe was used to represent Mt. Doom.
The Emyn Muil and Mordor
The ski slopes known as the Whakapapa Ski Fields on Mt. Ruapehu were used for the Emyn Muil and Mordor. We were visiting in winter, not the season the filming took place. The opening of ski season was just a week away, so the path was already quite icy and slippery. It was a bit scary, our first real adventure of the path, and we needed to help each other up the path. One woman in our group had a fear of heights, but she did a great job, with the rest of us offering help, in confronting it and making it to the top.
It was well worth the hike to see the actual spot where Sam and Frodo climb over the rocky ledge in the Emyn Muil (easily recognized from the rock formations and the stream below), where they realize they are lost and stop to have some lembas bread. A little higher up and trickier to reach on the ice was the ledge Gollum crept down while Sam and Frodo were sleeping.
Gollums Fishing Pool
From Tongariro National Park we headed to the site of Gollums Fishing Pool, located at
Mangawhero Falls near Ohakune. These scenes were filmed in May, when the pool was covered with an early snow. Our guides told us the production company got a fire engine to remove it and also got some heaters. Andy Serkis must have nearly frozen in the icy water. And, there is a waterfall with quite a drop just past the part of the stream where the filming took place very far to fall! Good information on the National Park and the Ohakune area can be found at http://www.ohakune.info/
The Powderhorn Chateau
We stayed at the Powderhorn Chateau near Ohakune, where many of the cast and crew stayed during filming. You can examine the hotel register books with signatures and personal comments from Peter Jackson, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom, Sean Astin, Billy Boyd, Elijah Wood, Andy Serkis and many others, and take a look at their signed t-shirts. Best of all, you can stay in one of the stars rooms there is even a list of room codes to choose from. (I stayed in Orlando Blooms room!) We also got to see a beautiful suite of rooms built by the hotel for Peter Jackson and his family, known as The Mansion but located on the second floor of the hotel. At the hotels website (http://www.powderhorn.co.nz/) you can take a virtual tour of The Mansion.
Tomorrow: The site of the elves leaving Rivendell, where Arwen has her vision, and a visit with Chris Rutten at Cavallo Farms (Chris trained both horses and riders for The Lord of the Rings and played several parts himself)