Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Visiting Lord of the Rings locations

The tree was right beside Frodo's bedroom in Rivendell. Gandalf was in that bedroom, i.e. that tree might very well have been touched by him!

During the last week of January 2012, I was lucky enough to be able to stay with a friend who is living close to Wellington. A friend who had never seen "Lord of the Rings" before! My mission while in that area was:
1. to turn my friend into a "Lord of the Rings" fan
2. to visit "Lord of the Rings" locations
3. to run into Ian McKellen

I managed 1+2, but still have not seen my favourite actor! Anyway, in this blog entry, I would like to show you a few photos of the locations I have been to (the seagull photos will get their own blog entry one day because they deserve it and I will combine them with the seagulls of Taranaki, Whanganui and Bethell's Beach).

The very first location we visited was Mt. Victoria which was the location for the scenes in which the Hobbits fell down the hill and then encounter a black rider for the first time. When you watch the movie, it's hard to believe that the next cafe is just a few minutes' walk away.

When we visited, it was a very windy day and I guess the location would be better to view when there's not so much wind around - but you'd have to be very lucky to get Wellington on a day without wind (there ALWAYS seems to be wind when I visit Wellington).

The Legolas Tree
The next place we went to was beautiful Rivendell. It took us a while to actually find the right entry to the park - but then, an elvish place shouldn't be easily found anyway! Rivendell was filmed in the Kaitoke Regional Park, which is indeed a beautiful and magical place. Next time I return to Wellington, I might want to take a tent and live in that park for a few days. Who knows what might happen? There are some beautiful streams running through the forest and you can even see a few unusual native NZ birds (I saw a Tomtit and you usually don't see those very often). While we were in the park, I noticed a tree that looked suspiciously familiar. So my friend had to take one or the other photo with me and the tree. When we continued our tour through the area, we ran into one of the many LotR tourist tours and the tour guide had no issue with us listening in. The tour lead back to the tree and the solution to the mystery: The tree was the tree that had been used in the commercial shots of Legolas (see photo).

Rivendell / Kaitoke Park is a very beautiful place and I understand why they have chosen it to represent the home of Elrond. Just a pity that there is no more Elrond in those forest!

For the movie, a few stairs had been built next to that tree (Rivendell)

As Harcourt Park would be our next stop (and of the tour as well), my friend decided it would be safer to follow the tour so we wouldn't get lost (again!). But what did Frodo say: "I will take the ring to Mordor. Though... I do not know the way." So we followed the tour guide... and Harcourt Park would not be the last time we'd meet him. I'm sure my friend also wouldn't mind meeting him another time, but that's a different story!


While Rivendell was, of course, holy ground for a Tolkien fan, Harcourt park was even better because this park was the set of Isengard, the home of Saruman. The scenes in which Saruman and Gandalf took a walk in the garden was shot here. The scene in which Gandalf was riding on a horse called Kenny was filmed here. The scene in which the orcs felled down a tree was filmed her.

This is a place in which you can walk in the footsteps of Ian McKellen AND Christopher Lee (both geniuses). There was a curious wooden stick on the floor and I took it with me. When I returned home, the bus driver only had one comment: "Oh! Fancy taking a piece of firewood with ya!" Of course he couldn't know that this piece of wood might have been witness to Ian McKellen's acting skills!

If you are someone who doesn't know me personally, you might not know that Ian McKellen is one of my few big heroes. Since I saw him as Gandalf for the first time, I was fascinated by him (and I was someone who had refused to watch LotR for a while because I was 100% sure that NO ONE could ever portray my favourite character in the book properly, i.e. Gandalf). But my brother then convinced me to watch LotR and since then, Ian McKellen has turned into someone I look up to. I also watched other movies and he's one of the few actors who can really act. You believe him EVERY role he plays. Apart from that, he's also a very good person in real life and a good role model for many people.

If I could meet him one day, that would be fantastic because my other big hero died in 2009 and I will never have a chance to see him, ever.

Walking with the wizards

During the following days, we visited Weta Workshops (and even got to talk to Richard Taylor, about which my friend was very excited. She said she'd never wash her hand again!). The Weta Cave was a lot smaller than I expected and I hope they'll become bigger soon because you can hardly move around without bumping into someone. They also didn't sell all the merchandise I had expected to find (i.e. swords, costumes and jewelry in different sizes).

Red Rocks area

We went to the place where they shot the Dunharrow scenes (you couldn't really get very good photos of the area because on of the locations was behind a fence and no matter where you take photos from, you'll either be too close to the fence and don't get the whole thing or you'll have the fence and power poles in the way).

We went to the area in which they have built the (miniature) Black Gate and I'm quite sure that we walked passed the place in which Sam slid down the hill in front of the Black Gate - but as the location guide wasn't very exact about the location of it, it's only a guess. The area, however, looked very Mordor-like, esp. if you hike a bit away from the beach (even though most of Mordor was actually filmed in the Tongariro National Park, the Black Gate was located in the Red Rocks area of Wellington).

Maybe some hobbits were there!
Even though we might not have seen the proper Black Gate area, the whole area felt quite Tolkien-ish and it was easy to imagine an army of orcs and Dunlendings to march through there. We also saw a little old campfire. Who knows? Maybe there have indeed been some hobbits around. Or maybe wannabe hobbits.
On the way back, I made my friend stop at a place with DOZEN of black-backed seagulls. They have nothing to do with Tolkien but they were wonderful!

The beach at Red Rocks - there are also supposed to be some seals in the area and people say they're dangerous. I didn't see any and I don't believe they could be that dangerous if you are respectful.

We also drove past the studio and visited the Roxy movie theatre. I will not post the photos I took of the studio here because I don't want to get into trouble with Mr Jackson - just so much: there's something exciting going there at the moment. You wish you'd be a seagull who could just spy on the studio all day long and also get a peak on Ian McKellen!

I could go on and on about "Lord of the Rings", but for today, this shall be enough and I end the entry with a wise quote from my beloved Gandalf!

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