Red Carpet LOTR Locations Tour: Day Nine
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Start: Wanaka
Finish: Te Anau
Mileage: 302 KM / 187 miles

Sites: Two areas in the Mavora Lakes region, including the edge of Fangorn Forest and Nen Hithoel/Parth Galen, where the Fellowship was broken, and the Redcliff Café in Te Anau

Leaving Wanaka, we followed the road over the Crown Range for a view of Arrowtown and the Remarkables. The view from the Crown Range looking down on Arrowtown and the valley was spectacular, an amazing mixture of fog, light, snow and muted colors early on a New Zealand winter morning.

We continued south past Arrowtown, skirting the Remarkables Range, then turning west to pass through Mossburn, the southernmost point of our journey at 45.41 degrees south. A few miles past Mossburn we headed north on a gravel road for about 18 miles to come to South Mavora Lake.

Several important scenes from The Two Towers were filmed here in a very small area of grassy, rolling plain, bordered by thick forest and surrounded by mountains. On the golden plain near the edge of the forest Eomer and the Rohirrim burned the dead orcs. Aragorn, Logolas, and Gimli arrived the next day, and at first feared that Merry and Pippin were dead. Viggo Mortensen broke two toes kicking an orc helmet , then fell to his knees screaming in grief and pain. That’s the take Peter Jackson used in the film.

Aragon then discovers signs that the hobbits are not dead but have escaped into Fangorn Forest. The scene showing the edge of the forest and Gimli wondering “what madness drove them in there?” was filmed right here. There is also a photo in today’s gallery taken inside the forest.

The last important scene filmed here was Gandalf summoning Shadowfax as Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli watched. The magnificent Andalusian playing Shadowfax approached gracefully through the distant fields and stopped directly on his mark in front of Ian McKellan. Surely one of the few scenes in the Lord of the Rings completed in one take!

We returned to our bus and proceeded a short way to the larger North Mavora Lake, a camping area popular for hiking, boating, and fishing. This lakeside area and the adjacent forest represented Nen Hithoel and Parth Galen, where many scenes at the end of The Fellowship of the Ring were filmed.

A lot of action took place in the forest. We saw where the orcs ran down the slope and others entered from the left (foot stepping on log) to start the battle with Boromir, the hollow under the tree stump where Merry and Pippin first hid from the orcs and then called to Frodo, and the tree where Frodo hid from the fellowship, having decided to go on to Mordor alone (see gallery)

On the shoreline are the sites where the fellowship camped when they landed at Parth Galen, and where Frodo and Sam entered the River Anduin to sail away from the fellowship, across the river and towards Mordor. This is also the location where Sean Astin badly cut his foot walking out toward Frodo’s elven boat. (see gallery)

The lake water here is brilliantly blue and fairly still, the shoreline a fine gray gravel. The mountains rise steeply from the far side of the lake. We had our picnic lunch by the shore, not far from where the fellowship made camp on its last day together. Today the setting has none of the atmosphere of menace and uncertainty it held on the last day of The Fellowship of the Ring.

From Mavora Lakes, we headed south and then west to Te Anau. We had dinner at the Redcliff Café, in the small dining room often used by The Lord of the Rings cast and crew while staying in Te Anau. Megan, manager of the Redcliff Café, has some great stories from her work as a runner during filming in Te Anau. One night she had to deliver a script to Orlando Bloom’s room – she heard the shower running and sure enough, Orlando came to the door wrapped in a towel to get his script revisions.

Many cast members were regulars at the café. Sean Astin came in using a walking stick after he cut his foot at the Mavora Lakes. Megan cooked for Christine Astin’s birthday. The Café was a favorite location of Sean Bean, who stayed ‘til 5AM one night and missed his flight back to the United Kingdom. On another occasion, John Rhys-Davies recited a Shakespearean sonnet on poetry night, and at the time no one recognized him. Viggo Mortensen came in to get spices for a curry meal he cooked one night for the scale doubles. Megan’s Lord of The Rings display in the café has a t-short signed by Elijah Wood, Orlando Bloom, and Billy Boyd, and a thank you note from Sean Bean. Questions or feedback on the series? Email me!

Tomorrow: Ithilien, Amon Hen, and the Ford of Bruinen