A Woman of Gondor in New Zealand

by Agape4Rivendell
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It almost looks like Tol Brandir, sitting there in the Pacific Ocean. But it is not. My heart, knowing that, still leaps for joy when I see it.

It is early morning and my body has told me, 'If you do not get up now, I will not be responsible for how you feel later!' So up I am, sitting here overlooking what could only be a scene from Dol Amroth. The ocean is in front of me and the forests rings me round. I can just imagine Finduilas sitting at her writing table looking down the cliffs on such a sight. The forests are not Fangorn's thought, too many huge palm-fronded trees interspersing them - pines and deciduous trees. But from afar, I can imagine!

Yesterday, our (Indis, Elentari and myself) first day in this enchanted kingdom, was spectacular. Veritablly took my breath away and brought tears of wonder and joy to my eyes - not because this was Middle Earth, but because it was so very beautiful and different. I knew I wasn't in 'Kansas' anymore!

The plane ride was difficult at best, especially the jog from Cleveland to Los Angeles. If I was looking for signs and portents, I would not have been dismayed. No sign of Indis or Elentari. Not to worry, I thought, their plane may have been delayed. Finally, as the hour for boarding approached, concern set in. The nice gentleman at the service center was stunned that I didn't know what plane they were coming in on, or what time their plane landed, or even where it came from. My goodness, if Frodo could find Imladris, how difficult could it be for me to find the girls??? The man didn't understand that logic, but when he told me he could find no record of them being on ANY of the day's flights to NZ, dismay set in. After a few moments with a thousand questions running through my mind, did I have their dates wrong, Indis had been ill - had her condition worsened and they decided not to come. That thought caused my concern for myself to vanish and I sent many prayers upwards ( or westwards depending upon where prayers may go!) At last, I decided. I would continue on my adventure. When I got to NZ, my nternational mobile phone would work and I wuld see if there was a message from the girls (pity Frodo didn't have one of these!). If there was no message, I'd get a car and set off myself. Perhaps our paths would cross. I have always said life in interesting and this just confirmed it again!

I was saddened to see that my Air NZ plane did not have a beautiful logo painted on the side...one little disappointment barely worth mentioning! And what to my wondering eyes did appear (wrong movie). Indis and Elentari standing in the aisle waving their arms about madly. I felt like Frodo when he first saw Bilbo in Rivendell. What joy filled my heart! If you EVER have met these women, you know what I mean - they bring Irish sunshine with them! The folks in the plane must have laughed at the hugs and kisses and non-stop chatter as we tried not to block the aisle. We discovered we were seated right behind each other - honest - we did not plan this...we settled down after a very nice dinner and tried to sleep. We were due into NZ at about 6am. I wanted to be awake and alert to enjoy the adventure. Plane sleeping is an art. But I was finally able to drop off and only woke twice during the long flight (13 hours). think that I might have got four hours sleep. I have no clue as to how many movies they showed during the night. I awoke to another one at 4am and decided to give up trying to sleep anymore. The NZlander next to me was awake too and we started to discuss a gazillion things. Pleasant way to spend the next two hours. God grief - when I used to think how shy I was when first I came to these boards!!!

We successfully left the plane with all our belongings, got throught customs - they didn't stop Indis when they saw her Frodo with Sting - not Elentari with her Merry - go figure! We got our car and after a bit finally fit almost everything in the boot (that's a term for the trunk!). We then went back into the airport for a second breakfast - by this time I really needed some coffee for the road. Then we were on our way with Elentari as navigator. I really missed my daughter Angela next to me in the navigator's seat - but Elentari proved quite capable. Bless her heart - she'd spent many housrs pouring over maps - shades of Bilbo - preparing for our trip.

We drove south out of Auckland towards the Pacific Coast. The land was covered with rolling hills - all slightly sharp on different edges. I could tell it was volcanic hills that the earth had covered in the most amazing greens. I remember PJ talking about trying to make the greens in his film, adding colored hues to create it. But the greens we saw were beautiful - every green as you sometimes only see in Crayola crayons. As we drove Highway 1 - the hills started to leave us and I was most saddened. In the short span we had been driving along them, they had become friends - like some cuddly teddy bear that you don't want to leave behind, but must if you want to go on.

We only drove a short way fruther when my eyes beheld mountains rising in front of us. Mountains, Gandalf!!! My heart soared along with them. The birds sing constantly, the flowers are profues (it is spring) and the mountains were glorious. We drove and drove - only going about 30mph and having to move over every now and again to let folks who forgot to look at the beauty arround them, pass by. The girls can tell you where we were. I had no idea, nor did I care. I was drinking in the beauty. It seemed every turn in the bend brought a new sight. I wish I could describe this to you. Let it suffice to say that mountains shot out of green valleys and shot right into my heart. We stopped occassionally for pictures, but the beauty drove us ever on. The forests are tropical - which I, for unknown reasons, did not expect. We laughed - it was perfect locations for King Kong and we kept looking for him crashing through the trees. Old forests and beautiful.

At last we came upon the ocean and Tol Brandir. We found our hotel - glorious little tree house - showered, ate and went to bed. So here I am now - full circle - sitting on the veranda with a cup of coffee, listening to the sweet bird-song and looking at Tol Brandir. God is good. Love - Agape

PS - we passed the equator - never had crossed it not the international time line - I still am me. Hmmm...


It is morning of day # 3 - don't ask me where day #2 went - I crossed a timeline and it disappeared! Yesterday was very tiring - I am getting over the jet lag. After the devoted hours I had at the verenda, we took off for a drive up the coast - the Pacific Coast! It was again - beautiful scenery. I don't think I could tire of it, but the NZlanders must - for they still drove like Wild Men. We are told it is very early spring here, but the flowers and the trees belie that fact. I feel as if I could be in Ithilien - the beauty, the forests, the smells of herbs and flowers are overwhelming. We stopped at the ocean and put our feet into the waters of it and it was cold! We had stopped at the Hot Springs Beach, where one is supposed to dig a hole in the sand near the waqter and the water would be very warm. It was high tide when we arrived and the only water we found was cold. Their was the pungent smell of sulfur in the air. I can imagine how strong smelling it would be when the tide was out. By this time, we realized Indis needed a doctor. It was 1pm - we had missed 2nd breakfast and elevensies and luncheon - no wonder she was sick! No - seriously, we stopped at a tiny cafe where we decided we needed sustenance first. After luncheon, we were off. We found the nicest doctor in a seaside town. While Indis was in being care for, I found a shop with postcards and stamps and mailed off a couple to family. Indis has a touch of bronchitis, so after the pharmacy, we drove off to Matamata telling her to rest. We had to go over some very high mountains and the scenery was to die for. Ooohs and ahhs escaped our lips every few moments - Indis even used what little breath she had to join in. We had set our sights a little too high and realized we would never make Matamata with our sick friend this day, so around 6pm we started seriously looking for a place to lay our weary heads. A waterpark with lodgings looked like a good place from the photo in the guide book. So off we went from the main road. As we drove, the road started to deteriorate until we found ourselves on a gravel road just big enough for one car. As I drove slowly around hairpin turns, I prayed mightily that no car would be coming towards us. We finally found the place and a closed gate guarded the entrance. Signs were all over the place saying it was open and that their were vacancies, but there was no way to get in or to call in. The blasted mobile phone was giving me headaches.... So - we turned around and headed back towards the main road. It was dearly hoping that the sun would stay up a little longer for I did not relish driving in the dark on these treacherous roads. The girls found another place in the book and we turned into its driveway. I swear it was a 80 degree angle. I prayed on the way up - must I add that it was again a one-lane road with hairpin turns??? May the Valar protect us! We reached the top and upon inspection, discovered it too was closed! I had seen a bed and breakfast right before we had turned up the hill and I told the girls we wer staying there, if it was open, no matter what it looked like. It was now 7pm and we were in the middle of nowhere and we had not eaten since 1pm. We needed food and Indis really needed rest. I had been up since 6am and ready to find a haven. We found delightful hosts in Bill & Paula at the Te Puru Coast B&B. They showed us to our rooms and said they would call us when supper was ready. Bill brought me a local beer (I know owe him my life) and I was happy. We spent a delightful evening with them. They knew very little about our 'madness' and Paula has now decided she must visit Hobbiton. I left them my location guidebook and told them to enjoy NZ from a different perspective. What a delightful couple. They have also promised to see the movie!


The day is winding down. We have been to Hobbiton - need I say more??? It was everything I imagined. I could just see M&P cavorting about, stealing Gandalf's fireworks, and seeing the children running after the butterflies. We turned the corner after getting out of the bus and I found my eyes closed and my breath held. Afraid to see. Afraid it wouldn't quite measure up....but there it was - I am sooo glad I knew the sets had been changed - the beautiful shrubs and grasses and flowers and woodwork on the smials were all gone - but I knew that and it didn't quite hurt sooo much! We stood in the Party Field and touched the Party Tree. The movie doesn't do it justice. It is the most gloriously huge wonderful tree. It is perfectly formed and huge. The smials were sad and forlorn looking - perhaps how they might have looked after the Scouring. What was saddest was the lack of the wood trimming on the doors and windows - skeletons of themselves. And sheep crawling everywhere over the hallowed grounds, eating everything in sight. The green is still that wonderful Hobbiton green that Peter was so able to recreate for the films. The hills rolled beautifully. It was the most idyllic looking place in the world. Heaven on earth. It was easy to imagine little Hobbits running over the hills calling Gandalf's name. Beautiful. And heart-wrenching. It was difficult to leave. I sat down on the steps leading up to Bag End and just enjoyed the moment and sooo wished I could stay there for awhile - write a poem or two, look for Rosie, drink a pint. Well, after much picture-taking, the hard old men forced us from heaven and back onto the bus. Ted Sandyman's relatives - no doubt.

We stopped at a Subway, had a quick lunch and headed off - all the while playing the 'Return of the King' soundtrack and talking about favorite spots. It was lovely.

Once again, however, finding night lodgings was a pain. Our destination hotel was full so we drove back down the road and saw a B&B - Big Bird - and drove in. It was getting very late and I was getting very tired. The B&B left much to be desired, but the people who ran it were delightful. Thankfully, we had a little box with crackers and cheese and nutella (lembas in disguise) and we ater our little repast (the Hobbits would have complained bitterly over its sparceness), and then Indis & Elentari went off on a tour - ostriches!!! Yes, that what the Big Bird stands for - the hotelers were ostrich farmers! So the girls went to see them feed the ostriches and then they went to see a glow worm cave (don't ask - I'll tell you about it tomorrowwhen we go to see the big cave). They came back very excited. I just did not have the heart to leave our little room - a touch of fatigue - so I sat and spent time with Denethor and Thengel and Amdir whom I must see what happens too.

Tomorrow - Lothlorien!

Love to all - hugs and kissed and we all miss you!!!


Lothlorien - we first went to see the kiwi birds at a lovely little sanctuary. The guide explained lots of stuff about these darling birds. Indis says she is an Elf at heart, but I believe she would be happier in Ithilien for I believe that is where the most variety of birds would live - and she so loves birds. One of the highlights of her trip came when the feeder at the sanctuary allowed Indis to go into the cage with her to feed a great Kea bird. We spent almost three hours there and then went to the Thirsty Weta bar for a quick lunch. After that we took off for the glow worm caves.

Steps lead down to this very dark cavern. The lights come up and we found ourselves in a large grotto formed from limestone. In the middle of the grotto, the guide said the acoustics were great. I hung back as the group went forward and did a short rendition of 'Into the West' - nothing attacked me so it must not have been too bad. We then got into a boat, the pilot steered it into the middle of the channel and turned off the lights. It was gorgeous. The ceiling and parts of the walls of the cave around us were covered in little tiny lights. It looked like the Elven lights of Lothlorien high above us. I could just imagine the Fellowship walking upwards and being in awe of the beauty of the place. We just sat there with our mouths hung open. I won't describe exactly how it is done - but it was the lights from thousands of little glow words. They have the same phorphorescent quality as our USA fireflies. It was stunning.

We drove towards our next destination which was Rotarua. We passed by the road that led back to Hobbiton and the girls had to keep telling me NO, we cannot go back. By this time, of course, the sun was shining and I so wanted to see Hobbiton in the sun. Did I tell you it was raining the day we were there - a light fine mist until we stood under the party tree and then the heaven's opened. But it did nothing to diminish that day - what could hurt Hobbiton except Sharkey?! So - alas and alack we did not go there.

As we approached Rotarua, we saw smoke coming out of trees and hillocks and all sorts of strange places. It was steam escaping from the earth and it was beautiful and eerie, all at the same time. The flowers were gorgeous - great profusions of them spilling from every window, every garden, every street corner. They were in full bloom and two to three times the size we have at home. We found our hotel on the lake and opened the car doors. The smell that hit us was obnoxious. Sulfur springs were everywhere - it was as if the very doors of Mordor has opened up before us. Poor Frodo and Sam - how they ever were able to stand it for such a long period - I do not know.

We ran to our rooms and poor Indis was the worst stricken by the funes. Thankfully, I had some pretty strong perfume with me (to use in case I met Boromir - DUH!) and she was relieved by using it on a kerchief and holding that to her nose.

After unpacking, we went to the restaurant and had the most wonderful Maori dinner and a cultural experience. The Maori put on dances and songs and tales for a large group of us. It was such fun. Their costumes were colorful and the singing was haunting. In particular was the traditional grimace of the Maori men - I can't explain it - go see 'Whale Rider.' They askef for women volunteers and I went up - how could I not take part in something so ancient and so fun! They gave us poi (?) instruments that we were taught to spin and catch and it was a disaster. I couldn't stop laughing. Then we were supposed to sway to and fro, sing a Maori song, and whack these little contraptions around. I laugh as I write this! I did not kill anyone - thankfully. Then they had the men volunteers come up and taught them the haka (the grimace dance used to intimidate their enemies before a battle.) It was hysterical to watch. A delightful evening.

Indis & Elentari then went to bed and I found a computer station and was happy for a few hours saying hello, posting these journal parts and posting another part of the Ten Thousand Years saga. Wow - long wonderful days. Miss you all and thank you for your comments.


We got on the road as quickly as we could Monday morning so Indis could get out of the smell as soon as possible. We didn't even eat - don't tell the Hobbits!

We drove to the site of a major volcano eruption that occurred in 1886. We walked for about an hour down a long winding path that had the hottest water bubbling up from the earth. No smell, but steam and heat. Indis kept talking about nice crunchy birdses. It was strange seeing them hop around from pebble to pebble. How they didn't burn their feet, I don't know. At the bottom of the gorge, we hopped a boat for a tour of the lake. The beauty that came out of the devastation was amazing. There is hope for Mordor!

After that, we drove to Mt. Ruapeo where parts of Ithilien and Mordor were filmed. We stayed at the Grand Chateau and the man at the desk swears we were staying in the same room that Sean Bean stayed in (I fainted) - then he said it might have been where Orlando Bloom stayed (Elentari fainted) - no maybe it was where Elijah Wood had stayed (Indis fainted.) After recovering from the shock, we had dinner & E&I went back to the room. I stayed in the main room with the fireplace and an Irish coffee and wrote in my journal. I went upstairs just in time to catch Orly in 'Pirates' on the TV. It was supposed to have been shown in the hotel's theatre - the same theatre where Peter did rushes every night after the day's shooting. I was looking forward to seeing it, but the room was closed for renovation.


I want to write this now, because tomorrow we are going on "THE" tour - sights of Middle Earth (Lothlorien, Mordor, Rivendell, Anduin, Minas Tirith, etc., etc., etc.)! I can hardly wait.

But today is Tuesday - Wow. Last night the name from the desk had told us about a plane flight over the mountains and we were seriously considering it until Indis asked him (Kevin) if he was here during the filming. He said he was a driver for some of the crew and once for Peter Jackson and that he knew where all the locations were. Well, I asked himif he was busy tomorrow and he said, if the weather was good, he was going skiing. I asked if the weather was bad would he consider driving three lovely ladies to some of the film sites. He said yes, so - here it is raining and here we are in his car driving up the mountain. He told us how great the actors were, how almost everyone on the set stopped an drooled when Liv Tyler showed up for a visit. The first actor he met was Viggo and he couldn't say enough kind words about him. LIN!!! Sean was there - well not when I was there, but I walked on the same places that he walked. Oh dear, oh dear! And Kevin said he was great. Mostly Kevin talked about moving the equipment up and down inhospitable slopes and how daunting it was from very early morning till late at night. He also talked about how he and some friends were conscripted into the Orc army for one of the scenes of the Battle of the First Age. They needed some more bodies in the back holding banners - he didn't have to get into costume - just he and some friends stood in the back holding banners and waving them. They couldn't be seen, but there banners were. It was fun watching his great smile as he relived the moment. He said we should watch the movie and look for the banner that was waving a little more wildly than the rest - that is him! LOL...he was the most wonderful man and so giving. It was snowing on the location and we could not get out to walk the place, but we took pictures - quite black rocky terrain. Different scenes were shot near the top of the mountain. Then he drove us past a pub where he said every Thursday night the cast/crew would meet and party. They always invited the locals to join them. Wouldn't you give your eye teeth to be there! The dratted pub was closed when we got there.

He took us down to a falls (Aiwa?) and we walked down a very steep path - with steps - that led to where they shot the Gollum's pool shot and the waterfall of Ithilien - parts of it anyways...How they ever got the equipment down there is beyond me - in fact how they ever got the equipment to many sites is beyond me. Very inhospitable, unreachable (almost) places!!!

I cried at Ithilien - to see the waterfalls and to imagine Faramir and Frodo looking out and seeing Gollum...it was an incredible experience. Besides that, the beauty of the river that led to the falls and the falls themselves - wow....the river was quite larger than during the actual filming, for it is now spring and the mountain snows are melting. A glorious scene that I will not forget. It was so strange being there as I am writing about Denethor in Ithilien - I drank it all in.

Well, on the the most incredible part of the journey so far!!!


How do I tell you about today? One of the most perfect Middle Earth days ever. Garth from (hyperlink) picked us up at our motel and took us straight to Middle Earth. Garth had a little action figure of Gollum hanging from his read view mirror and his identification for a tour operator was Gollum1 - he said his friends said he looks like Gollum, so that's why he took the handle.

Our first stop was the River Hutt otherwise known as the Anduin. This was the scene after the Fellowship leaves Lothlorien and the Celebrant joins the Anduin. This man knows his movie and carries Ian Brody's guide book with him, along with a picture book with blown-up scenes from the movie that he used as reference points for us. There was another group there as well and so Garth took up a little further down the river. He pointed out trees and things and compared them to the pictures to show us we were in the correct spots. Next, we drove to a little suburb of Wellington and came upon the place where Brego the horse nudges an unconscious Aragorn. It was really neat. He showed us the picture of the scene and the snapshots to coincide. He said the horse would not nudge Viggo at first, so PJ told him to take two weeks to bond with the horse and then come back and they would try it again. As you know from the movie, the bonding worked. This was a bizarre little place for a shoot for, as I said, we were in a suburb of Wellington and we drove behind someone's house and voila - the river!

Next we went to a lovely little park with a great many flowering trees and a playground called Harcourt Park - this was the place where the Orcs pulled down the trees. PJ found a really neat tree, had a mold made of it once they cut it down, and then brought the mold back to the location where the Orcs pulled it down, then they would move the tree a few feet, stand it up again, and pull it down again and again for different shots. One tree - many shots.

The same place was used for Gandalf riding up to Isengard. Garth showed us the very path used (which had been created by the crew then replanted when they left). We could still see the outline of the path and the three of us walked that very same path. It was neat. The next scene we saw was the same area (PJ really liked this park!) We saw where Gandalf and Saruman walked. We took lots of pictures at this location.

Then Garth - bless his heart - brought out tea and coffee and cookies and grapes and we sat and just drank in the beauty of NZ and shared our memories and joys of the place. I can't tell you how gorgeous the flowers, trees, birds, etc. are - spring is a lovely time to visit NZ.

Ah - the next part was Lothlorien. This location is not open to the public. Only Red Carpet and Flat Earth have permission to step on their property. A beautiful, tree-lined road led to a huge white Georgian mansion. The gardener (shades of Sam) was our tour guide for this part. Mike took us past the mansion (PJ & producers stayed there during parts of the shoot.) Then he walked us among the splendid gardens of the estate. It was so very peaceful and the gardens were breathtaking. Suddenly before us was 'the bridge' where the Elves stood and waved good-bye to the Fellowship. The bridge was a shadow of its former self. All the pretty filigree work you see in the movie had been taken down, but that did nothing to dispel the magic of the place. We were across a little lake from it. On the side we were on was where Galadriel waved good-bye. The magic of film made it seem as if she were on the correct side - off to Frodo's right - when in fact she was off to Frodo's left. He was waving to no one! We took pictures of us on the bridge. I admit, I cried at Lothlorien - the beauty, the peace were overwhelming.

Garth showed us pictures of where the Mallorn tree had been built next to the bridge - this is where the boats were moored and Sam is shown getting in. It was filmed in december. Later on, in March, they came back to film the Deagol/Smeagol scene. We stood in the very spot where Smeagol was strangling Deagol. Mike had been allowed to watch this scene. It had rained off and on from teh moment we arrived at Lothlorien, but now the skies opened and we ran into a little boat house for cover. Garth went to get the car and we then drove through a field, over a tiny bridge to get back to the road. It is in this field in the summertime that Garth prepares a picnic for his customers. The bridge was our downfall - it tore a huge hole in the tire. We limped to the drive by the main house, Mike came out and helped Garth change the tire and the girls and I had a last few blessed moments to drink in the beauty of the eucalyptus trees and smell the flowers in bloom and rejoice at the wonder of the place.

I know I use the word 'beautiful' too much, and Elentari and I were laughing about it. There is no other word to describe this part of the world. I could leave blank spaces throughout these reports and you could put in whatever word you wanted - but for me - each blank space would have the world beauty in it. No other word can describe it. I am sitting here now in the hotel room, crying as I remember us leaving in the car down this oak-lined tiny road with the new green leaves of spring on their branches making a canopy over the road and these two little tiny colorful birds flying ahead of us - as if to say good-bye, come again, we will miss you! Enchanting and overwhelming.

We stopped at the Lady Featherston cafe in Featherston. Homemade breads and soups and phillo wrapped crispy bacon, etc. The food was escellent and reasonable though it was part of the package that we bought. After that, we left for Rivendell.

Oh dear - superlatives start again. Signs everywhere - discreet and tastefull pointing towards that enchanted area. We walked over the bridge and Garth showed us the map that Steve the Ranger had made while the cast & crew were there. Frodo's bedroom to one side, the scene where he and Bilbo sat and talked, the scene where the Hobbtis met after Frodo recovered were all filmed within a small radius of a gorgeous green field. Then we walked down a path to where the Council of Elrond scene was filmed. The crew had made a map of the area, dug all the plants out, built the set, filmed the scenes, tore down the set, and put the plants all back the way they had been. Very hard work. Garth showed us pictures of the trees and then pointed them out in real life and we could see how very large the set they built was because of the size of the trees. It must have been incredible to see. Then he showed us where Legolas stood for some publicity photos and then he showed us the photos themselves. Elentari, a dyed-in-the-wool Legolas fan, got to stand where he stood and we took pictures. She was sooo happy. Was that tears I saw!?!

We next went to a swinging rope bridge over the Fords of Isen. In the movie, this is where Eomer finds Theodred's decimated company. It felt very eerie to think of that group of men dying there by Orc hands. Garth said a horse had died and the folks from Weta took the corpse and created a mold from it and then they used the mold to create the dead horses lying about the river. As I crossed teh bridge, I thought of Sam as the Fellowship came to the borders of Lothlorien (in the book) and how terrified he was to cross the bridge made by just three Elven ropes thrown across the river. I was slightly terrified of this bridge and it had a bottom, albeit a small one. It swayed as I walked across. On the other side, Garth showed us what he considered an 'ent.' It certainly was fun having a fan as our guide.

We then drove back to Wellington and the quarry. I was getting excited - to see where Minas Tirith had been! Indis was delighted as this was also where Helm's Deep had been built. Well, it is a working quarry so we couldn't get in. Garth parked us across the street and we imagined the places. It was neat listening to him talk of how folks could drive by and see the 'castle' sticking out of the quarry. Surprisingly, it was a great experience. He said he now kicks himself for not taking pictures.

Because of the flat tire, we drove towards Flat Earth's offices to exchange cars. On the way, we passed a huge bunch of very large crates (the kind they put as piggybacks on trains) and people and parked cars and Garth said this is where PJ was shooting King Kong! He graciously let us out and parked the car. They were filming some Skull Island scenes. I could see almost nothing, for the cartons blocked the view. Some of the cartons had styrofoam blocks tied to them - part of the 'wall' that separated Kong from the villagers. On our side of the road were the food tents, etc. People were milling about or sitting playing chess, while others, across the road were putting pieces/parts of the set together or placing great electrical wires, etc. Everything was squished into a very small space - half on one side of the road and half on the other. We talked with Helen, one of the security folks who told us that PJ was in fact there and that they had all been there since about 6:15am. It was now about 5:30pm and they were still shooting. I walked towards the bacck of one of the blue screens and as I did, I heard men running. They were actors who were running from something and suddenly I saw them coming out from behind the blue screen and there they stopped. The scene was over. It was very neat to think that PJ was on the other side of the screen filming. They had to drag me away. We passed PJ's house on the way to Flat Earth's office and the Chocolate Fish where cast/crew relaxed. We also saw the wharf where the Hobbits learned to boat and often jumped off just for the fun of it. We then drove past Weta studios and PJ's film studio and new his studio, which is huge. Guards were everywhere. We could see nothing. Hopefully, one day they will give tours!

We changed cars and headed towards the Nazgul forest high up above Wellington. We parked and then started walking down a very steep, pine-needle covered hill to a bunch of sites all very close to each other. 1) where Frodo feels the Nazgul and yells 'get off the road' - hmmm - I heard myself say the very same thing!, 2) where the Hobbits fell down the cliff and landed near the mushrooms, 3) where the Nazgul chased the Hobbits around in that terrifying scene, 4) where the Hobbits all ran towards Buckleberry Ferry (the river was NOT there), and 5) where they hid under the tree branch. The tree branch was man-made and no longer there, but we saw the deep depression in the earth where they sat. Garth and his company were incredible. They had gone to all those places with pictures of the scenes and figured out where each scene took place using three, four, or more markers to make sure they were correct, along with using the latitude/longitude markers from the guidebook. They said their satellite system could not penetrate the trees in this particular area and so they really had to rely on landmarks in the photos of the scenes. The area is full of very large, gnarled pine trees and it was dark and fun to be there. A bit of a climb back up though and we had to stop for breath a number of times. I seem to remember Elijah saying it was very difficult for them to get back up after filming, so I didn't feel so bad.

We then went to a lookout station to just drink in Wellington. It is not a large city population-wise (about 300,000) but many buildings for this is the capital city of NZ. We then drove down to the Embassy Theatre and Garth showed us the red carpet area for the ROTK premier. He showed us pictures of his wife, Karen (she is an Aragorn fan), and his son as they stood waiting with all the other fans that day. Again, great to have a fan be our tour guide. Then we went off to Molly Malone's - a pub & restaurant where Sean Bean went many a night for a drink and a study of his lines for the next day's shoot. I was bold and spoke with the manager who showed me 'his' table. After dinner with Garth and Karen in the restaurant upstairs, we went back down to the pub and Indis was kind enough to take a picture of me and 'his' table. Karen is a dear too. What a great nation of kind and wonderful and sharing people. Unfortunately, we finally had to call an end to the evening. Garth and Karen drove us to our hotel. It was vvery hard to say good-bye. Garth kept calling us 'true' fans during the entire day and would introduce us to everyone as 'true' fans. We shared many parts of Middle Earth, the books (which he had read), and quoted lines all day. It was just the most glorious, splendid day. Nothing I have written even comes close to describing the places or the people we met or the fun we had sharing this Middle Earth and beautiful NZ.

Well, I so hope you enjoy sharing this day with me. I miss you all and do sooo wish you all were with us! Bless you!


We are on the ferry to the South Island. Everyone we met has told us how spectatcular it is and how much we will enjoy it. We three just look at each other and wonder how anything could surpass what we have already seen. I have found it very hard emotionally to leave the North Island.

The boat is huge - the trip takes about two and a half hours. It took me an hour and a half to finish writing yesterday's post. Of course, I waited until we left the mainland behind before I started writing. Had to have my 'last' (boo hoo) glimpse of the North Island. We lucked out - one last look at PJ's location site as we passed it on the boat! No lights were one - they were not filming at the moment. The boat cost us a small fortune because we did not book ahead - if you decide to go on the ferry to get to the South Island - book ahead of time! We paid 3 times the cost of a regular fare. Also, I wouldn't suggest flying as I heard a local talking about landing at Wellington airport. Winds can be 100 - 110 mph. He was telling his friend about being on one flight where the plane was coming in sideways and some of the passengers were screaming in fright. Wow - so we took the boat.

After finishing the writing, I went on deck - the South Island was in view. I called home - finally got the mobile phone to work - I must buy the woman at work a gift for lending me the phone. Bless her! It was sooo good to hear Angela's voice. The boat drove thru fjords to get to the dock. I'd hoped we would see dolphins - but no. We did however see a huge flock (?0 of jelly fish. White ones - just floating along next to the boat. I had never seen jelly fish in the wild and it was quite an experience. They were so delicate looking.

We got to the dock, got our car and drove off down a scenic route to Nelson. The road was not in the best of shape and wound around itself at least a hundred times. Quite a ride - it took both hands on the wheel most of the time. We arrived at Nelson around 4pm and found the most delightful motel right on the main street with 2 bedrooms at a reasonable price - the Quality King Motel with Diane & Grame Connelly as proprietors. Lovely people. We found a bank, a camera shop (needed more film) and a book store where we found 2005 ROTK calendar! Whoo hoo - then we drove back to the motel. We called the helicopter folks from there. The price is incredibly high to fly to the 'Crebain from Dunland' site on Mt. Olympus with a fly by of the Dimrill Dale. So we booked it for tomorrow and I'm going to get a job at the local Subway for the next few months to try to pay for it! Seriously, we decided we'd go to the local grocery store for food instead of eating out for the next few days.

Went back to the hotel, took off the shoes, ate the chicken and cheese and I'm going to spend time with Denethor.

Good night dear prince - whoops - good night SWEET prince...LOL...


Wow - wow - wow - wow - wow - wow.....

I thought beautiful was the key word for Kiwi Kountry - but I was wrong....I admit it...the word is WOW - hands down!!!

We woke up to a glorious morning had cheese and crackers and fruit and then off to find the Ring Master. Jans Hansen (?spelling)....he passed away after designing the One Ring. His sons carry on the business here in a little off the main road by one block store front. As we come to the front door, we saw a nice sign about LOTR and the history of the Ring...we went inside and there it is - in a glassed-in display case with more of the story written down. The rings are for sale and they are a little dear - too dear for me - I'm going home and taking the ring off the bookmark and putting it on the ONE CHAIN - yes, I did buy the one chain. It is lovely and not anywhere near the price of the One Ring. The rings come in silver and gold and white gold and they are the official ring as made by Jans himself. Then one of his dear sons brought out the HUGE ring they had made for the first shot where the ring floats through the air. It is very big - around as large as my hand spread out and very heavy. It is made of steel. Then he took one of the one rings out of the case and let us hold us. What a neat man - Halfdan Hansen. Thank you if you ever read this! We took pictures and had a wonderful time and another fan came in at the same time and was gawking right along with us.

We then found the internet cafe - bless you!!! And I was able to post to this journal (see earlier entries) and another chapter of Ten Thousand. Amdir has been one my mind and Findegon had to get there - and this was to be a day of rest...REST - hah!!!

We ate a little lunch and then drove to a place past Richmond to Nelson Helicopters (www.nelsonhelicopters.co.nz). Oh my goodness gracious. What a wonderful decision. I owe Elentari! I know I would not have done this myself...oh dear oh dear oh dear - the best day every...well...they are all turning into the best day's ever - but this one !!!! WOW...

We drove up an extremely steep gravel road and were sure we must be on the wrong road. But at the very top was the hanger and a little tiny helicopter. We went in and spoke with Jeannette - one of the sweetest things on earth. She tried to calm our fears and tell us what a glorious experience we were about to have. Then Arnold introduced us to our pilot, Matt - nice rugged handsome YOUNG man....Arnold laughed and said Matt was the best helicopter pilot in NZ. Getting into the helicopter was a trick in itself but we finally managed it, buckled down and off the thing took!!!

We flew low and slow (200mph) for a bit and then it was over the hills and far away (snicker)...I felt like I was in some toy that had a line attached to it and one of the Vala was holding the line and moving us along. Very comfortable ride, but every now and then we'd take a little dip or be pushed a little sideways. But I refused to give into any kind of fear - this was an adventure. And besides, Indis - who swore up and down that she was deathly afraid of heights - was not even cowering in her seat. She was leaning against the window with her camera filming. Every now and then, I had to stop and breath. The scenery was exquisite. But more of that to follow.

We finally came towards the Dimrill Dell and Matt asked if we recognized it - unfortunately, it was a little difficult to envision it without the special effects and computer enhancements, but it was still very different from the lush farmlands and green pine forests that preceeded it.

Matt turned the copter to the left and THERE IT WAS - Crebain from Dunland! You could not miss it nor even think you were not looking at the sight. The familiar rocks jutting out, the little stool where Frodo, Sam & Aragorn hid, the little cleared space where Aragorn was viciously attacked by Merry & Pippin after learning all they could from Boromir! WOW...

The copter landed gently above the site and we went off to sit and kiss and lay on and just revel in the place and the moments that it represented. Indis sat on the rock where Sam served Frodo food, Elentari stood where Legolas says 'Crebain from Dunland' and I...I touched the ground where Boromir stood. *heavy sigh* *and another heavy sigh* It was an incredible experience. The rocks look just as they did in the movie and we did not have to imagine anything. The Fellowship was present with us. The surrounding area is full of these rocks too in different poses in the midst of a mountain. Absolutely stunning gorgeous landscapes. Matt had flown PJ after the original parts of the film were done and PJ wanted to go back for some more scenic photos. He never met the cast. But he said PJ was great. We stayed there for quite some time, giggling and laughing like schoolgirls and I myself did a little dance in the middle of Boromir's teaching spot. Ah life is good! Took pictures galore! We finally had taken shots from every known position and then some and then took off. Matt was kind enough to take a picture of us on the 'set' before we left.

The ride back was even more wonderful than the ride there...of course, we were all euphoric over what we had just been through and soaked in every moment. The landscapes were gorgeous - as I said wonderful green farmlands with little tiny sheep and cattle and patchwork quilt fields and then delightful pine forests and native forests too. It was incredible. We did not want to go back - I tried to talk Matt into just driving on past the first star on the right, but he took us back to the hanger. DRAT...son of an Orc!!! NOOOO - he was wonderful.

When we got to the hanger, we had another picture taken of us all as happy adventurers and then headed down the hideously high gravel road. But we laughed the whole way down and cried and giggled and said WOW so many times we couldn't stand it and sighed and sighed and sighed.

Thank you Bill Reid (the man who showed PJ the site) for what you have given to those who have seen the movie and to those who have been able to experience it first hand. It was incredible.

I was not going to post because I thought I would cry the whole time, but the excitement and joy of that time on the mountain was too much not too share immediately, before I lost one thought or one impression.

If every you get to go to NZ, please see if you can take this incredible ride. You will never forget it nor think the trip was not worth every penny and then some.

Bless you all - I will write again when I can - tomorrow is going to be mostly driving and then the next day - oh dear oh dear - Edoras and we are going to do everything in our power to find a helicopter that might take us to the sight. Wish us luck!

Love, Agape, Indis & Elentari - the three hunters!


So here we ride along the road and we are singing the 'Heigh Ho' song and laughing and rejoicing that we have been so blessed. Yesterday (it will go down in history as the helicopter day), the sky was gorgeous blue. We could not have asked for a better day. Matt, our pilot, had told us that a few days before it had been snowing and the week before they had had to cancel two trips to the 'Crebain's' site due to bad weather.

Today, it is overcast and rainy. We can't see the tops of the mountains and we wouldn't have been able to fly. God is good. New Zealand is such a wonderful spectacular country. It would be glorious to visit without Lord of the Rings. But PJ's movies have added another dimension to it - like adding sugar to coffee or friends to a Friday night in front of the fire. I find it most difficult to leave each area and even when we spend only one night there. Indis and Elentari have said they feel the same way. For those of you who have attended a moot and the time comes for leaving each other - the sadness that suddenly engulfs you. There is always the hope of meeting again, but the reality is that the precious time is ending. I find tears in my eyes at every good-bye. And the people we have met along the way and shared with have become special to me and I hate leaving them too. The same here but in an even bigger way. The chances of meeting in Toronto, or Boston or even Ireland far surpass any chance of meeting again in NZ.

Well, the day has ended. We cried as we left Nelson and all the memories that our short visit gave us - waved to the road that led to the helicopter people - sang our song, and then listened to the ROTK cd and cried a good cry.

We then went to see seals and I was so taken by these lovely creatures. The NZlanders seem to know how to care for the environment and it was a special place to watch them in the Pacific Ocean. Lovely area.

As I stook on the balcony of the lookout, all I could think of was Dol Amroth - I'm going to go now and write something about Finduilas and Denethor - maybe I'll be able to use it for Denethor day.

Tomorrow we are going to try to beg, borrow, or steal a ride to Edoras. Indis will not rest until she stands on that hallowed ground. Cross your fingers for us!

Love to all....


We woke to rain and high winds. The streets were all closed due to a motorcycle race. We found out way out of town, down the coast a little way until we found the road that crosses the Southern Alps. Nice and flat for awhile and then it took a long sharp climb upwards. The clouds hung around the mountains and we couldn't see as well as we would have liked, but the scenery was great anyhow. The engineers had to build one special part as a covered bridge for it looked like the mountain would slide down on top of us at any moment. After this odd bridge came a huge water slough and the water was pouring out of it right over our heads, spilling into the valley below. A spectatcular man-made waterfall competing with a myriad of smaller natural ones coming from all over the mountain. I was glad, in a way, that it was raining for the waterfalls were worth it. As we crossed over Arthur's Pass, the skies started to clear and we were in Gondor - pure and simple. Huge mountains on either side of us, a great rive flowing through a lush green valley. It was not hard to imagine that I was on the fourth or fifth level of Minas Tirith looking across towards the Ephel Duath and the Anduin. The Pelennor Fields before the Orc attacked, lay before us in simple beauty and grace. The mountains before us were not snow covered but the mountains behind us were, adding to the 'Gondor' experience.

Further along the road, we came to the country of Lossarnoch. I laugh even now as I think of it. Do you remember in Close Encounters as the man & woman were climbing the mountains and he told her which way they should go and she said she'd had no idea of the path he was showing her and he said if she had sculpted like he had, she would surely have known it. That's the way I felt as I looked at the spectacular scene before me. If I hadn't been writing Ten Thousand Years and the fishing trip my three heroes took, I would not have known Lossarnoch so clearly in my mind. But it was indeed Lossarnoch! The white beautiful mountains climing to the sky, the soft hills falling from down them to the little valleys laying between the hills and the road to Dol Amroth nuding the southern border of it. Imcomparable scenery. I am a twit, I know, but I cried from the moment we came into Gondor, past Minas Tirith, past Lossarnoch into the valley. Exquisite scenery. Then the girls put on the Fellowship of the Ring soundtrack and we sighed. As we left the slopes of Gondor, the music swelled to the death scene of Boromir and then the Breaking of the Fellowship. Now a dry eye in the car!!!

I hate saying good-byes to these areas. They are so incredibly gorgeous and just steeped in beauty. We found a delightful hotel named the Chancellor in Methven where we found - hold onto your seats - that we could order the Fellowship on our TV. Did we? Hah, does it rain in NZ??? So after a delightful dinner, we ran to our rooms and waited, breathlessly. The squeels coming from our room, I'm sure, could have been heard on the very mountains. We were there...we were there....absolutely hysterical, wonderful fun!!!

Tomorrow - oh be still my heart - we have booked a tour for Edoras.....


We woke early, excitement in the room as thick as butter. Definitely NOT spread over too much bread! I fairly was jumping with joy. We were going to Edoras. Had a quick coffee and Mark from (hyperlink) picked us up in front of our hotel. Checked us for good walking shoes and coats and off we went in a delightful 4-wheeler. We were his ONLY passengers. I cannot even begin to tell you how blessed we have been. To have the three hunters together, free to be as expressive as we wanted, and with a Ringer for a guide - who could ask for more!!!

We drove off down a gravel road and passed low mountais to the left and right of us interpersed with little lakes. We drove for quite some time and then suddenly the landscaped changed and we knew we were in the land of the Rohirrim! The rolling plains, the yellow scruff - it was definitely Rohan! Then we turned a corner and there it was - the locals call it Mt. Sunday, but we knew what we were looking at EDORAS. Oh dear oh dear!!!

There it was before us, a tiny little hill, it seemed, but Mark laughed and said wait and see. Sure enough the mountain grew before us. It had looked so small because of the huge size of the snow-covered mountains around it. Though only little pieces of the mountains showed through the clouds, but they were dissipating and we had our fingers crossed. As we drove closer to the mountain, we saw that it looked exactly as it did in the movie. Even though Meduseld was not upon it, it was spectacular. The rocks on the side of it, the beautiful lush green going up its slopes. Wonderful. Mark turned the 4-wheel drive on, we went down a little hill into nothingness and our throats caught. We were really going to Edoras. We crossed over the river about six times - it was a strange feeling - and headed up the very slopes of Edoras. It was a breath-taking ride; I'd never been in such wilderness in a car like this and held my breath many times wondering if we were going to crash off the sides as the wheels slipped on the rain-soaked ground. But the little car stood its ground and we made it to the hill right before the last rise to the back of where Meduseld had stood. Oh dear what an exquisite feeling. We got out of the car, grabbed our cameras and our hearts - which had been left somewhere behind - and headed up the mountain. Mark, bless his heart, carried lunch for us. We made our way up to the top with a few stops to catch our breath - hard climbing, my friends!

Then we were there - standing on the very spot where Meduseld had stood and looking out at the magnificent valley where Eowyn had looked - saw the spot where the real three hunters had come, saw where they buried Theodred, saw where the bell tower stood and the tower where Aragorn sits and sees the beacon fire. Wow....all of it incredible. After sighing and taking a gazillion pictures, we sat down to the luncheon Mark had brought. He broke out the champagne and we toasted - the men of Rohan, the men of Gondor, the Elves, the Dwarves, the Hobbits, absent friends (that means YOU)...it was glorious. I cannot describe the feelings that welled through my heart. My eyes were always drawn though - to Gondor. I could see where the road led off towards that fair land. I thought of Thengel and his friendship with Gondor and how true allies they were - I had read Boromir's stirring words of the defense of Gondor that morning and how they would never sell their horses to Sauron. Ah - to think of that friendship. Wow. Oh dear - sorry about that, but this was another WOW day - what else can I say. We talked of Merry's fealty pledge to Theoden, and the Rohirrim's ride to Gondor's aid. Merry's running up the tower to watch Pippin ride away with Gandalf. Oh, by the way, Pip & Gandalf rode away in the wrong direction - camera magic again. We could see the river they crossed and almost I heard the music as they made their way towards Gondor. It was such a neat experience to see the river just as it was in the movie.

On the ride in, I had noticed a cleft in a cliff by the mountains to the right of Edoras and sure enough Mark said that was where Helm's Deep lay and the mound before it was where Aragorn sat upon Brego and looked towards it. Excellent site. It just screamed out at me...yes, this is the place! Mark took us a little closer after we came down the mountain, crossed the river again about 5 or 6 times and turned left so that we could have a closer look. That was neat. Then off towards our hotel.

Again - how does one say good-bye to Edoras? To these wonderful new memories? To Mark and the friendship and joy and laughter and tears that we shared.

We have been told time and again about how we are bringing NZ to life again for those who are taking us on our adventure...and I am so happy that we can do that. But I feel I can never repay these people who have taken the adventure to heart and want to share it - they are incredible - these people of NZ. And we are blessed beyond blessings to have met them.

It is Sunday evening - at least here in NZ. Alas, the woman from Gondor has returned home, nay, not home, but to exile once more. Yesterday we brought our dear, dear Agape to the airport in Queenstown and you will surely guess that it was a sad, sad farewell we said. Agape is such a lovely, easy-going, wonderful, humourous Lady from Gondor!!! Agape, it was our joy and pleasure to travel with you bows deeply to the Lady

Now, after we had left the airport we went to Te Anau, a small but busy village in which cast and crew stayed for some time to do shooting at the Mavora Lakes...which of course we visited today. After a looooong and tiresome drive on unsealed roads we found the lakes and at least some of the locations: the place where Eomer burnt the Orcs, Fangorn, the tree trunk under which Merry and Pippin hid at Amon Hen and also the tree that gave shelter to Frodo, sigh...of course I had to lie down in the very spot although you would not have been able to find a more uncomfortable place...We also think that we found the place where the camp site was at Nan Hithoel but we are not too sure. You really need a GPS monitor or at least a DVD player to locate the exact spots. The Mavora Lakes are awesome and we were blessed with wonderful weather, clear blue skies that reflect in the deep waters, sunshine that lights up the forests sleeping on the feet of the mountains, lonely bays, only visited by Paradise Ducks (yes, yes, nice birdsies...), a place of peace and quietness...at least part of the time! You also meet many campers and day visitors but the area is vast and you don't really mind to share the beauty. And of course we met some fellow ringers, recognizable by the Location guide in their hands and the inquisitive glances they cast around, hehehehe...

Then we went back to Te Anau and on towards Milford Sound, for the day was still young, the weather still fine and our mind still hungry...And if you ever think that NZ has shown you all the spectacular sights then NZ will teach you that there is always room for a little more. The drive to Milford sound is so breathtakingly spectacular that all we could do was cry, for joy, for lack of words and because we were so sad that Agape could not share this with us. So sorry, honey, so very sorry !!! On the 110 km we found everything that Peter Jackson loves in NZ and tried to portray. Going down to the Mirror Lakes we walked on wooden walkways through the trees, as if in Lothlorien. We saw the walls of Moria rising to endless heights before we entered the mines through a tunnel...or was it Shelob's lair, dark and scary, carved from the very bones of the earth, water dripping from cold walls..We drove through forests of old, very old beech trees, moss on their trunks and lichen hanging like long hair from their branches...you just knew that the trees were talking to each other. Secret valleys we saw, with waterfalls cascading down mossy hills, meeting in rivers that take your dreams right to the sea.Mountains arose from the flat ground to unbelievable height, and I swear we saw Caradhras...
What a country, what a landscape, how can you live amongst such beauty and not not bless every day?

And if this was not enough I saw my greatest wish fulfilled: I met with some nice Keas, beatiful, big birdsies that have learned that tourists are a good source of nutrients! I fed an apple to them and I quietly hid a little tear of joy!!!

Now this day is nearly over and I think I will conclude this report because we have seen all the LotR related places and will only visit "normal" places from now on until we return home in 7 days. Surely Agape will add her account of our last day and the parting, she may even mention that we sang the Hobbot drinking song in the carpark of Queenstwn International Airport...
Good night to you, and please excuse any typos and other mistakes, I am writing on a weird kind of computer, where the monitor is covered with a glass screen that has seen better days, so I can hardy see what I write.

Again, good night, my friends, and love to you all!

Last Day...
Well, if we cried together yesterday, we did not today. We bit our lips, we packed, we tried to act casual - but in the back of our minds was 'today is the Breaking of the Fellowship.'

My plane was to take off from Queenstown at 12:20pm so we got up early to try to go to a toy store that the man from Dart River told us about. I know - we're sick! But we'd been told about the place called The Warehouse, that it was near the airport, and that they had LOTR toys and might even have the Hobbit Coronation grouping. Well, that settled it. Off we went. We said good-bye to our incredible apartment and drove off.

The store was right next to the airport. We went in all excited - and drat - not much of a selection at all. Most of the things I have found at my friendly, neighborhood Target store. I did buy two things, for I hadn't seen them before (Eowyn & Merry riding to war, and Pippin & Gandalf riding to Gondor). Well, they are probably at my local store, but I couldn't take the chance!

We drove to the airport, shopped a little for stuffed kiwi's and things, had coffee and then went out to the parking lot so that I could drink inmy last few moments of 'Mountains, Gandalf, Mountains.' Then we found a quiet corner and sang the 'Heigh ho to the bottle I go' song again. Then we tried to sing 'Into the West' and got past the first two words and could go no further. Tears flowing, chins quivering, and unbearable hugs. And then I had to get on the plane with my eyes all filled with tears and my nose red. We hugged, I started towards the waiting area, and then I ran back and hugged again. Finally, I broke away and they stood there - those dear sweet woman whom I so love - and waved little white kleenex and sobbed. It would have been comical if our hearts weren't breaking. After I'd sat down on the plane, a couple walked by and said, 'Your family is really going to miss you, aren't they?' and all I could do was sob and nod my head. My dear sweet Indis and Elentari - how I wish I was still with you. I finally remembered Bilbo's 'Road' song and started to sing that to myself and realized that the road was still going on and this parting was a different path on the same road. And that made me smile and I could leave NZ and my friends in peace.

May Eru be with you Indis and Elentari and bring you safely back to Ireland.

PS - the kiwi experience did not stop. The people on the plane were just as awesome as the people on the ground. I want to especially thank Kim for making the flight home such fun and to Air New Zealand for a great experience and most of all, I want to thank the people of New Zealand. No trip I have ever taken has been so filled with friendly, warm, giving people. Thank you!!!!

Additional entries:

October 31, 2004
The next dawn, clouds hung in the sky, but they seemed to be burning off. We drove to the airport for our appointment with our helicopter ride. We had told the folks at the i Site that our only real reason for taking this helicopter ride was to see the exact same mountain range that was in the opening sequence of The Two Towers. The woman called the company while we were there and the company promised her they would take us there. That was last night, if you recall. When we met the pilot, we again reiterated that we wanted to fly over the exact site. He assured us this would happen. The chopper took off easily - it was a much more comfortable one than the Nelson one and the viewing area was much larger. We flew for quite some time - the pilot pointing out different places where he flew PJ - the place where the Orcs were burned, where poor Sean Astin got hurt as he was trying to get to Frodo in the boat, and some others - and then Indis again told him that our one reason for flying this day was to go over the mountains that were in the first sequence of TTT. The pilot landed on a small piece of land near this lake, we took pictures, and then he said we had used all the air time that we had paid for and if we wanted to go further, we would have to pay more. So again I asked if we were going to fly over the mountains and he said yes. So we paid him $250 more. We took off again and headed towards Paradise. After only about five minutes of further flying, he said it was a little windy and turned around and headed back towards the airport. We never even came close to the mountains; he just pointed them out to us away in the distance. It was a bitter disappointment. I had to bit my lip to keep from crying. I felt taken. Poor Indis and Elentari knew what I was feeling and Indis asked the pilot 'when are we going to fly over the mountains' and he said it was too windy - but it wasn't bad at all from what I could see. I had felt very safe with this pilot, but really felt he took advantage of us. We hadn't been in the air but a few moments after he took our second lot of money, when he said it was too windy. So back to the airport we went. We thanked the pilot - what else could we do - and walked away - three very discouraged hunters.

We drove into town for a bit to eat and then back to our apartment for pick-up for our afternoon tour. We were to see Ithilien - the place where Frodo and Sam look over the hill and see the Haradrim and mamuk battle with the Rangers. Nice place and fun to stand in the very spot. It was quite a trek over some nasty terrain to get there, but we had to see it - Indis was very happy to be on the very spot her Frodo stood! The tour leader, though, left much to be desired. We had definitely been spoiled up until this time. We did not feel comfortable with him, he made snide remarks, and it wasn't a pleasant journey at all. We then drove to Lothlorien, which was incredible. This was for the scene in FOTR and the EE, showing our stalwart fellowship as they were led through Ithilien by Haldir. A most delightful moment to stand on the very place. Be still our hearts! We climbed up from the road onto a lush forest floor with trees all around. It definitely looked like the site - a magical, mystical green-clad, silent forest. Absolutely gorgeous. We could almost imagine Elves watching us from hidden flets!

We then drove over a few streams and into the area near where Boromir was killed and the Breaking of the Fellowship took place. The guide stopped on the dirt road, pointed to a pine-covered hill about a mile away, and said that is where it happened. We just stared at each other - the brochure said we would be going to the site. So we questioned the guide who said it was private property and none of the tours had permission to visit. I must say, we again felt very taken - cheated - thingee....

He then took us to the base of the mountains that I so wanted to fly over. It was the site, on the ground, of when Gandalf rode to Isengard, little tiny, but full-grown trees. It was a neat site - one that was easily recognizable. Well, at least Indis recognized it before the guide told us where we were! We had a snack, nothing like Garth's in Wellington, and drove back to the hotel.

It seemed to be a very disappointing all the way around day. Dear Indis scoured all the brochures we had picked up and many of them promised Amon Hen and the death scene. I finally called one and the man said, 'Oh this was filmed in three sites. We can't get you to the actual spot, nobody can, but we can drive you by.' I told him his brochure lied then, because it stated in black and white that they would take us to the exact spot where Boromir died. He got very flustered and said, again, well, no one has permission, but they were hoping one day soon....So then I asked him if he knew anyone we could contact on the property. He reluctantly said yes and gave me the name and the place. I hung up, we did a little dance around the room, and then prayed - LOTS. It was very hard to sleep that night.

See you all tomorrow.....

Location: Cleveland, Ohio USA

Sun Oct 31, 2004 11:51 pm
Friday - last full day in NZ - and there is still hope!

May I say this was the most incredible day??? Have I said that before??? Has NZ ever disappointed???

I woke up in the morning with tears in my eyes and 'Into the West' running through my mind. Today was my last full day in NZ, my last day with my sisters, Indis and Elentari, my last time to try to find 'THE' spot. I came upstairs and Elentari hugged me and we cried together. It was cold and cloudy and rainy, but I didn't even care - we were going to try! And that was the important part. After a quick breakfast, we drove off towards Glenorchy. We did find it. The manager of the property was incredibly kind. I cried as I asked him if we might be allowed to see it - to go there. He wanted to know if I was a Sean Bean fan or a Boromir fan. I told him it was Boromir, my love of Sean Bean came after that. So he said that we must be great fans to have done the research, found the place, and had the courage to come through the gate and ask him. (Elentari wondered if he might have a gun - she was afraid he would shoot trespassers - not an unwarranted fear). And because of that, he would personally take us 'THERE'. Tears really started to flow. After returning from the site, the dear man asked us not to say anything about what we had done or where we had been. We were not allowed to take pictures, nor take anything from the site. And we promised. I am so very sorry. I promised! I promised I wouldn't tell and I won't. We all three valued the chance we were being given, and all three hunters decided that we would not tell - that it was a sacred trust given to us.

Just know it was real and wonderful and we cried like babies. He showed us where the Orcs came running down, where the bridge was built that Merry & Pippin started to run across and where Boromir laid dying. Gorgeous green-carpeted forests of red beech trees all around us. We could definitely see where the battle had been and just stood with our mouths hanging open. Our guide left us alone after that - seeming to be very assured of us and our promise. We just walked all over the site pointing out places and just rejoicing in the spot and being there. Then I laid on 'THE' spot and took my broken sword in my hand and said, 'my brother, my captain, my king' and just sobbed and sobbed. Indis and Elentari were weeping as well. We walked back down the slope to the car and stood and cried some more. To think that Merry and Pippin and Aragorn and Gimli and Legolas and Boromir were on all this spot. It was very, very moving. I thought of Linaewen and Boriel and Samwisegirl and Avondster and Varda and all those who so love these characters and we just rejoiced that we were there and able to bring, in our hearts, our friends from this board. Incredible experience.

We stopped at a delightful restaurant in Glenorchy with great fish and chips and photographs on the walls by a local artist that were breath-taking.

On the way back, we stopped in Ithilien and Indis laid on the same place where Frodo and Sam had lain. Sometimes, the guides are great and sometimes they are not. But if you have a great navigator like Elentari and a good memory of the roads from Indis, you can go back after a tour, if it is public property and do what you want. Eru is good!

After that we drove to Deer Park Heights where the refugee from Rohan scene was filmed, the Eowyn's stew scene, the lake where the refugees walked past AND the warg attack places - all filmed in the same area. You can take a tour - arrange for it at an i Site or drive yourself for $20 NZ. We opted to try it ourselves as it was getting late in the day. The paved road turned into a gravel road and the incline was quite steep. I found myself wishing I had a four-wheel drive car! After awhile, we still hadn't gotten to any of the sites, and had been driving quite a ways upwards, but had passed quite a few animals along the way. Deer Park Heights is a wildlife refuge too. Rain started to fall, we were suddenly going through clouds, and the three of us decided it was getting far too dangerous to continue on. A real disappointment, as the landscape was starting to really look familiar - Rohanish. We turned around and went back to our apartment. It was a great day, nonetheless. In fact it was an awesome day!!!

Oh - I forgot - shopping. We went into town and found the Dart River Tours store. They have a bunch of LOTR stuff and it was neat. But then I went further down to go to the internet cafe and I just happened to pass a store with a LOTR sign and of course I had to go in and there - on the back wall - was a glorious set of BOROMIR's weapons!!!!!! Oh be still my heart....I had not seen it before. The thing that caught my eye was the horn, and then I recognized his dirk and his sword and its sheath and then Merry and Pippin's swords from Galadriel. Oh my gosh - oh course I bought it - DUH....how could I not.

So there you have it - a wonderful, glorious, stunning day. Eru, as I have said before, is awesome!

Mon Nov 01, 2004 12:14 am
Last day - bwwwaaah - Saturday   

Well, if we cried together yesterday, we did not today. We bit our lips, we packed, we tried to act casual - but in the back of our minds was 'today is the Breaking of the Fellowship.'

My plane was to take off from Queenstown at 12:20pm so we got up early to try to go to a toy store that the man from Dart River told us about. I know - we're sick! But we'd been told about the place called The Warehouse, that it was near the airport, and that they had LOTR toys and might even have the Hobbit Coronation grouping. Well, that settled it. Off we went. We said good-bye to our incredible apartment and drove off.

The store was right next to the airport. We went in all excited - and drat - not much of a selection at all. Most of the things I have found at my friendly, neighborhood Target store. I did buy two things, for I hadn't seen them before (Eowyn & Merry riding to war, and Pippin & Gandalf riding to Gondor). Well, they are probably at my local store, but I couldn't take the chance!

We drove to the airport, shopped a little for stuffed kiwi's and things, had coffee and then went out to the parking lot so that I could drink in my last few moments of 'Mountains, Gandalf, Mountains.' Then we found a quiet corner and sang the 'Heigh ho to the bottle I go' song again. Then we tried to sing 'Into the West' and got past the first two words and could go no further. Tears flowing, chins quivering, and unbearable hugs. And then I had to get on the plane with my eyes all filled with tears and my nose red. We hugged, I started towards the waiting area, and then I ran back and hugged again. Finally, I broke away and they stood there - those dear sweet woman whom I so love - and waved little white kleenex and sobbed. It would have been comical if our hearts weren't breaking. After I'd sat down on the plane, a couple walked by and said, 'Your family is really going to miss you, aren't they?' and all I could do was sob and nod my head. My dear sweet Indis and Elentari - how I wish I was still with you. I finally remembered Bilbo's 'Road' song and started to sing that to myself and realized that the road was still going on and this parting was a different path on the same road. And that made me smile and I could leave NZ and my friends in peace.

May Eru be with you Indis and Elentari and bring you safely back to Ireland.

PS - the kiwi experience did not stop. The people on the plane were just as awesome as the people on the ground. I want to especially thank Kim for making the flight home such fun and to Air New Zealand for a great experience and most of all, I want to thank the people of New Zealand. No trip I have ever taken has been so filled with friendly, warm, giving people. Thank you!!!!