Red Carpet LOTR Locations Tour: Day Three
Click here for more images

Start: Okahune
Finish: Wellington
Mileage: 291 K/ 181 Miles
Film Sites visited: River Anduin, Elves leaving Rivendell and Arwen’s vision, The Green Parrot Cafe

Special Guest: Horse trainer Chris Rutten at Cavallo Farms

Visit Day 1 Here
Visit Day 2 Here

River Anduin

Our first stop today was at Taihape, where the Rangiteki River at Mokai Canyon is one of many locations used for the River Anduin in Fellowship. You’ll recognize the curve and bank of the river in the photo – just imagine the elven boats there. The view is from the Mokai Bridge 260 feet above the river! Mokai is also home to Gravity Canyon, which offers bungy jumping off the bridge and a speed ride on cables called a flying fox. The owners are planning to add a giant swing and swing bridge for their adventure-mad visitors. Remember, commercial bungy jumping was invented in New Zealand! (You’ll see where on Day 11.) Their gallery at has more pictures of the canyon (and the adventurers).

Leaving Rivendell

From Taihape we drove to the Waitarere Forest, where the scenes of the Elves are leaving Rivendell and Arwen’s vision were filmed. Also where Figwit spoke his only lines in the film, as Arwen turned back to Rivendell. This site is easily recognized by the look of the trees and the line of the path the elves’ horses followed through the pine trees. The forest looks a bit bare in winter. During filming, the bases of the trees were covered with ferns to make the forest look thicker and more lush. The Waitarere was also used for Ithilien, in the Ephel Duath foothills where Gollum and Smeagol have their conversation (“You don’t have any friends. No one likes you”) and Gollum tells Frodo and Sam, “Must GO!” and for Trollshaw Forest, where Sam and Frodo saw Bilbo’s stone trolls.

The forest is very quiet – because of all the pine needles and leaves all sound is muffled. It’s easy to turn around and expect to see the cloaked elves on their horses, carrying their lamps.

Chris Rutten/Cavallo Farm

The highpoint of the day was a visit to Chris Rutten at Cavallo Farm in Te Horo, north of Wellington. Chris trained both actors and horses for The Lord of the Rings. He explained that the farm was like a second home for the actors for their riding and fight practice. He showed us the training barn where Viggo Mortensen practiced the difficult scenes with Uraeus (Brego) in The Two Towers, where Brego comes to his rescue at the riverbank after he has ridden off the cliff. Many of the actors, although not Viggo, started their training with Chris six months before the start of filming. Chris spoke very fondly about his work with Bernard Hill, Miranda Otto, and Karl Urban, as the riding skills they developed were so central to their characters

Chris’s other principal responsibility was training the horses to be comfortable in the film environment, getting them used to obstacles, noise, and movement. The horses would walk though an obstacle course of plastic sheets and objects hanging around them to get acclimated.

Chris showed us one of the horses, a thoroughbred still at the farm, who was ridden by a Gondorian guard. He explained that he had sold one of the Black Rider horses to an American who renamed him Bilbo Baggins and plans to enter him in the next Olympics.

Chris provided more than 50 horses for the films and was very involved as a horse wrangler in the many scenes involving horses and riding He managed the ponies as well, including Clydie, who played Gandalf’ cart horse. The Black Rider horses and many of the others were geldings, but Shadowfax, Asfaloth, and Brego were stallions.

Everyone involved in the filming of Helm’s Deep had long days and Chris was no exception. He would leave around 3:30 in the morning and return around 7 at night. Chris also spent six weeks on the South Island at Tarras, working with Liv Tyler’s riding double Jane Abbott on the filming of the famous scene in Fellowship in which Arwen and Frodo are chased by the Ringwraiths to the Ford of Bruinen.

In addition to training actors and horses and wrangling, Chris appeared onscreen in a number of roles including a Black Rider, the Witch King, Rohan and Gondorian soldiers, and as riding double for Viggo Mortensen, Bernard Hill, and Bruce Hopkins. His family also worked as extras.

After showing us the horses, training barn, and grounds, Chris took us into his house to meet his family, served us tea and coffee and let us look at his photo albums and other memorabilia from the production, including a signed and dedicated work from Viggo Mortensen.

Chris was the first of several extraordinary people we met on the tour who were actively involved in the Lord of The Rings. Listening to him talk about working with Bernard Hill and Viggo Mortensen, facing the challenges of filming the chase scene, working at Helm’s Deep, and preparing horses for life on set, and being able to see up close horses that were ridden in the films, brought each of us closer to the creation process. Driving around on our own, we never would have met Chris and heard his stories.

Lindale Center

Heading down toward Wellington, we stopped at the Lindale Center in Paraparaumu, a wonderful combination of food shops and galleries, and also the chance to see New Zealand farm animals. After visiting Cavallo Farm, our fellowship was ready for something to tide us over until dinner, so among us all we sampled the local Kapiti cheese, ice cream, honey products, olives, candy, and wine bar. (More about Lindale at

It is really true that there are elves everywhere in New Zealand! Our bus driver Wayne met Mike working in the coffee bar at Lindale Center. Mike played an elf in Haldir’s contingent at Helm’s Deep, telling us he was the third elf from the second flag….He also played an Uruk-Hai, wearing full armor for that part. Mike’s uncle had applied to be an extra but was too short (guess all the hobbit extras had been cast by then) so Mike and his cousin applied. He was called back for The Return of the King but couldn’t work because he was away on vacation.

Leaving Lindale, we drove thorough Paekakariki, where the scene with the dead Mumakil was filmed, and Pukerua Bay, where Peter Jackson grew up, and headed into Wellington.

Dinner at the Green Parrot

Our dinner was at the Green Parrot Café, just a few blocks from the Embassy Theatre. The Green Parrot was a favorite of Viggo Mortensen, but many of the cast and crew ate here regularly. Can you find Viggo, Peter Jackson, Elijah Wood and Sean Astin in the large mural that decorates one wall? There is also a collection of photos featuring Viggo and Elijah.

On the next corner is Molly Malone’s pub, a favorite of Sean Bean. This pub had Legolas’ arrow hanging on it as part of the premiere celebrations. Driving through Wellington nightlife, we also passed Roger’s Tatoo Art at 198 Cuba Street, where the Fellowship cast members (and members of earlier Red Carpet tours) got their Elvish tattoos. Feedback or questions? Email me!

Tomorrow: Daniel Reeve (calligrapher and mapmaker), production facilities in Miramar, The Shire, The Chocolate Fish Café, and the Embassy Theatre.