Yesterday was the coolest day ever. My coworker, Francis, and I got to go on a Lord of the Rings tour to Edoras!!! For those of you who aren't familiar with all the names and places in The Lord of the Rings, Edoras is the capitol city of Rohan and it's where the blonde lady lives. Eowyn. You see it for the first time in The Two Towers. And you can see a picture of it here:
The top bit was built by the art department for the film and the huts on the lower part of the mountain were put in digitally. But I'm getting ahead of myself. I'll start from the beginning of the day.
Francis and I met at Charlie B's in the wee hours of the morning. Well, not really. About 10 to 9. The tour guide picked us up in a special vehicle that this particular tour company uses. The vehicles use biodiesel which is made from recycled cooking oil and it helps minimize the release of carbon into the environment. So "good on them" as the Kiwis say. From there we picked up two ladies visiting from Australia and two couples from another backpackers. Two from Ireland and two from England. They were all very friendly.
Our tour guides name was Hammond and he was so cool. Full of all kinds of information about Christchurch and New Zealand in general. For instance, there's 4 million people in New Zealand and 43 million sheep. Crazy. There's also a hole in the ozone layer above New Zealand. Therefore, New Zealand has the highest percentage of skin cancer in the world. A bit depressing. I'll be sure to carry my sunscreen from now on. He also asked us some questions about Lord of the Rings like how many of us are fans. I raised my hand. How many have seen the films.........raised hand. Five times.........ten times.........twenty times..........thirty times..........forty times........hand still raised. Only hand raised in the car. Big surprise. I stopped there as I think that's probably about accurate in terms of actually sitting down to watch it. That doesn't count the times that I would put it in for background noise. Which is so many times I can't even count. So needless to say, I was the biggest fan on the tour. I didn't break the record, though. Believe it or not. Someone else had watched it close to 200 times (all 3 combined of course). I think I break that one with just having it on.
We had a few stops on our way to the location. The first one was a place called Rakaia Gorge (pronounced Ruh-kai-uh). We got out and took some photos on the bridge. Very pretty.
That guy, by the way, is Francis, who I work with. He's a big geek. But a cool one. The mountain in the 2nd pic is Mt. Hutt. Really good for skiing and all that.
So on we went. Hammond put in a DVD to watch on the location of Edoras. Of course, I had already seen it. It's just the extra bit on The Two Towers theatrical DVD. It was then that he told us that he actually worked on the trilogy. He was part of the sound team. His job is to record what happens in front of the camera. He worked alongside Peter and the cast for the entire shoot. Therefore, we were in the presence of an Oscar winner. He won one for Return of the King and one for King Kong. Freaking awesome. He's done all of Peter's films since Heavenly Creatures. Of course I was super stoked and I wanted to ask 50 million questions but I didn't want to look like even a bigger nerd that I already made myself out to be. So I just let him keep talking. He then asked if any of us were aware of the Easter Eggs on the DVD's. I raised my hand. He then asked if we had seen the Extended Editions of the films. I almost laughed out loud. Duh. I raised my hand. He asked me if I knew how many Easter Eggs were on them and if I was aware of what they were. Of course I knew and told him. He then played my favorite of them all, the fake interview between Dominic Monaghan and Elijah Wood. Brilliant. It was really cool to watch it 'cause I hadn't seen it in so long. I forgot how funny it was. "When will you wear wigs???" HAHA!!! Of course, only those who have seen it will know what I'm talking about.
We stopped in a small town, which I can't remember the name of, to get some coffee at a little cozy cafe. I got a hot chocolate and a white chocoloate raspberry muffin. I'm pretty sure it was the best muffin in the history of time.
That's the cafe there with our truck in the front. We sat down and enjoyed our drinks and Hammond came over to sit with us and chat. I then asked him how he got involved in film. I told him about my acceptance to the film school in Wellington and how I wasn't able to go for financial reasons. He mentioned how it's really hard for most international students for any kind of school they want to go to. (It's financially hard for ANYTHING here if you're not a citizen.) He said he got involved in the 70's when a friend of his, who worked at some studio in Christchurch, needed some extra help for the sound on a film he was working on. He showed him how everything worked and he went to it. He's been involved ever since. Now the man has two Oscars. Brilliant. He said that in order to make a living with it you have to be willing to do any kind of project. TV, documentaries, commercials, etc. Not just feature films. He says he does this tour every two weeks in order to make some extra money. I thought it was awesome that he ended up being our tour guide. (Synchronicity, right Donna???) I only got more inspired after talking to him. Filmmakers are such interesting people!!!
Across the road from the cafe was a field with a bunch of sheep. You know what is so cute that I want to kill myself??? Baby lambs. SO adorable!!!
Then it was time to head off. We had about another 45 minutes before we made it to the location. Hammond told us that the nearest town to the Edoras location was the small town of Methven. About 1,000 people in the town and it was where the cast and crew based themselves during filming. From that town it was an hours drive to get to Mt. Sunday (Edoras). So they had to bus in 300 extras, all the equipment and the cast and crew every day. What a pain. But, as Hammond said, totally worth it as the location was so amazing. There was one more stop before we got to the actual site. It was a place called Lake Clearwater. The land is part of a conservation of some sort so no one owns the land but there are plenty of holiday homes that you can rent throughout the year. None of them have electricity, they run on solar power and you get your drinking water from the rain that falls off the roof. You have to bring everything in that you need. They call them "Bach's" which is short for "Bachelor Pad". Funny. We got out to take some photos by the lake:
It was very pretty there. This area is about 20 minutes from the Edoras location. We hopped into the truck and continued on and after awhile we came around the corner and there it was. You'd think that since the set wasn't there anymore it wouldn't be a big deal. But the surrounding area was just so breathtaking that it wasn't hard to picture it still there. This was my first view of it:
We were able to get a view of the whole valley before we actually went down into it. So we took advantage of the photo opportunity:
We then started the journey down into the valley. I love that we went on the same road that the cast and crew used each day. It was so awesome. Here's a photo of it when we got into the valley:
We took the jeep to the bottom of Mt. Sunday, driving through the river that Gandalf and Pippin ride through in Return of the King. So cool. We got out of the jeep and Hammond gave us all some walking sticks since it was a bit muddy from the winter season. We started our trek to the summit. It was an easier walk than I thought it would be. It seemed bigger from far away but when you get up to it it seems smaller. It's usually the opposite but whatever. So we made it to the top and from there Hammond was able to point out each particular spot that was of interest. For instance, the spot where Eowyn stood looking across the plains:
I just love the one of me. I never thought I'd get to stand in the same spot!!!
Hammond brought up props for us to use for photos. That was good fun. As you can see:
That last one is the Irish couple who came with us. They were really cool. I didn't get their names, though.
After giving us the layout of the top of Mt. Sunday, Hammond told us about the surrounding scenery and which bits were also used for the films. First was the backdrop for Helm's Deep. Here's my photo:
And a still from the film:
You can see the trees in the bottom left corner of each photo. NEAT!!!
And the hill that Aragorn and Brego are on is this one here:
In the 3rd film, Aragorn sees the lighted beacon from the top of this peak:
And the still:
I could be wrong on the location of that bit but I'm not too sure.
This is the bit of river that Gandalf, Pippin and Shadowfax run through on their way to Minis Tirith:
And again a still from the film:
It was really cool to physically see all of those locations. It's so true when they say the film doesn't do it justice. I just wanted to hang out on top of the mountain all day and enjoy the view. Before we left Hammond showed us one more thing. When the art department was getting ready to build the Edoras set, they made a deal with the conservation that they would leave everything the way they found it. That meant putting back any plants and rocks that had to be moved. It took them 8 months to build this set. During that time they had a gardner taking care of all the grass and plants that had to be removed from the site. They were all kept in a green house for that time and when they were finished they were planted back in. So it took them 8 months to build and they shot there for 11 separate days and then it was torn down. Once everything was put back the way it was supposed to be, the art department wanted to leave some kind of sign that they were there. So they took a nail and hammered it into one of the rocks on the summit of Mt. Sunday:
I think that's pretty cool.
It was then time to leave and go have lunch. We got our walking sticks and started out descent. Francis slipped and fell:
Geek. At least he could laugh at himself. We got back in the truck and headed to a shed that was just around one of the hills nearby. Inside they had various merchandise for sale. I got myself a shirt to commemorate my visit. We sat down and had lunch which consisted of ham sandwiches, chocolate cake and champagne. It was very good. Right when we finished lunch it started pouring down rain. We couldn't believe our lucky timing. Just 45 minutes earlier and we still would've been on the summit. Brilliant.
On the drive back, Hammond put in the special that they aired for The Two Towers right before the movie came out. That brought back tons of memories. (Remember that one Donna??? The one with the tape on Billy's chest and Dom ripped it off??? "He didn't ask me if he could stick it on. He just stuck it on!!!" Haha.) So that was really fun. And then on the rest of the ride back he told us about his experience with winning the Oscar for Return of the King. He said he felt like he was invincible. And at the end of the night they all had a party in Peter's room and they all lined up their Oscar's on the table. Twenty-two in total. And well deserved, if I do say so myself. Here's a picture I found of Hammond winning his Oscar:
He's the one on the right. Very neat guy. Now that I know what he looks like, I'm gonna make a note to look for him when I watch behind the scenes. He then started talking about what Peter's up to now. He's finishing work on The Lovely Bones which will be released sometime between May and September of next year. He's also getting things prepared for The Hobbit with Guillermo Del Toro who is directing. Then of course they're doing a second film which takes place between the end of The Hobbit and the beginning of The Lord of the Rings which I am SO excited for. Hammond said that he always had a feeling that Peter wouldn't direct it if it ever got the green light. With his history with New Line and the fact that he has so much on his plate for the next few years it just didn't seem like he'd want to do it. But he did say that Peter still wants to be involved and thank God for that because I just couldn't imagine any Tolkien film done without Peter's involvement, no matter how small a role he plays. But he is producing and writing it so it's not so small of a role anyway. For those who care it's the same writers from the trilogy including Del Toro so at least we know it's in good hands. He also mentioned Peter working with Spielberg to do the Rin Tin Tin movies and mentioned how the Halo movie is still something he is interested in doing. So that would be quite neat. I know my brother would love to see that movie. =)
We finally arrived back in Christchurch and everyone was dropped off. We were the last to get back and I we thanked Hammond for such a great time and I told him how it meant a lot to me to be able to see that place as the movies were so life changing for me. He said it was just how it was in '77 when Star Wars came out. It set the bar for how movies were made after that and Lord of the Rings has set the bar higher now for what a fantasy film is all about. "A Beautiful Mind" won best picture the year that Fellowship was nominated. But who's gonna pull out "A Beautiful Mind" 25 years from now to watch??? Maybe some people but The Lord of the Rings will be watched for many years to come and will be considered a classic. Of course, I already think it is.
This trip as been the highlight of my stay here so far. I totally recommend it to anyone who is in Christchurch and even if you aren't a huge fan, it's great even just for the scenery 'cause it really is breathtaking. I am so happy that Hammond was our guide for the day. As I said before, I got really inspired and even more excited about film making. As my good friend Donna once said, "AAAHH!!! MOVIES!!!" And as Dawn from The Office said, "It's better to be at the bottom of a ladder you want to climb than half way up one you don't."