Sam Gamegie is taking over the famous newsletter!
I encountered Clémentine and Nicolas while they were convinced to be in Middle-Earth. After a few exchanges over drinks at The Prancing Pony, at the end of their journey, they asked me to write the prestigious newsletter Voyage de Miel for February. Indeed, since some Peter Jackson guy decided New Zealand’s landscapes captures Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, there are many fans / tourists on the roads.
Their month’s trip to New Zealand is divided in two parts. To begin with, a car road trip in around the North Island where they slept in Airbnb, hostels, hotels and with family friends. Secondly, the South Island where they rented a van (without bathroom but with a kitchenette and a bench which turns into a bed). They have been alternating between freedom camping and a few campsites, in order to shower from time to time and connect their communication tools. Ah damn modern gear! When I was travelling through Middle-Earth we were considered lucky if we had a pony !
First moments in Middle-Earth
Clémentine and Nicolas landed in Auckland on February 2nd. They had their heart full of sunshine, eyes and nostrils filled with hibiscus flowers and sand in their shoes after 3 weeks in French Polynesia. They were happy to be greeted at the airport by the imposing statue of a once important dwarf king.
However, they were soon taken by surprise at how New Zealand has similarities with Great-Britain. This is reflected in the products, the food, the language and the ambiance, so British! Just like Middle-Earth, which is after all a British author creation. Ourselves, the hobbits, love our British kitsch and cosy (just look inside a hobbit hole).
To begin their quest, our human friends first tried to find a ring of power. They tried their luck by visiting caves. They found neither a ring nor Gollum, but glow worms illuminating the ceiling like a beautiful constellation of stars. So they came to a conclusion: no need for power when you have love (who was talking about kitsch?)! Check out their Facebook post on this for more information on this phenomena you can experience in New Zealand.
After all this effort, they tried to dig a hot tub in the sand at the Hot Water Beach. Unfortunately, they are not magicians and can not handle shovels like Gandalf. Read the story of this epic fail on their Facebook page.
They then continued their journey to arrive to my favourite place on Middle-Earth: the Shire of course! This visit took them to Hobbiton. As they are really lucky they were there for the annual summer harvest festival. They were able to party at the Green Dragon and feast under a big tent. Of course, the festivities involved real hobbit brewed beer as well as cider and wine from the Shire. They were flabbergasted by the amount of food. The most impressive they have ever seen (though standard for a hobbit feast!). Everyone was dancing and singing and they even met a magician and an elf. I also saw them working on some mischief with Merry and Pippin! They even took the opportunity to tour Bag End houses. They went to my house (uninvited!) and even went to Mr Frodo’s home. It is very annoying how his house has become very popular with inconsiderate human tourists, I need to change the lock. One of the best nights of their life according to them! To see the photos of the party you can check their Facebook page.
Hiking in Mordor
They recovered from the festivities on Lake Taupo shores before embarking on their Mordor trek: the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. So far from the Shire though, I find their itinerary questionable… They hiked 20 km in Mordor and couldn’t stop complaining! Can you believe this? I would have liked to see them doing it like we did: no food, no water and chased by orcs. I’m not even mentioning Sauron’s eye and Gollum’s shenanigans. I have heard they even had toilets on their way… More photos are available on their Facebook post.
After this they checked out to the filming location from Elrdond’s home: Rivendell. For most filming locations from our story visitors have to be very imaginative. Indeed, Peter Jackson had to return the lands in their natural states and all the sets were destroyed after filming. For this one however they re-built a reproduction of the arch through which the Fellowship of the Ring left Rinvedell. Clémentine and Nicolas were also able to have a picnic next to the waterfall where Gollum was fishing.
Meeting with trolls
Then, they enjoyed the city of Wellington for 3 days. There they slept in a youth hostel with a movie theatre (Lord of the Rings marathon). Wellington was the main location for Peter Jackson’s team. Indeed, this is where the Weta Workshop studios are located. They had the pleasure of taking a studio guided tour where they could take photographs (ridiculous in my opinion) with trolls, orcs and even Gollum. They also checked out dwarves’ armor and the swords of their Gondor and Rohan favourite characters. Apparently they also learned about film-making techniques. Maybe there is a video in preparation for you?
Around Wellington they were also able to visit part of the Isengard gardens. They also slipped into the hole where Mr Frodo, Merry, Pippin and I hid from the nazguls on our way to Bree. The tree above was added by the team and in my opinion their photo was not glorious, so I won’t bother showing it to you.
Back into the wild in the South Island
As they are really cheating with their modern transport, from Wellington they flew to Christchurch. Christchurch is located on the South Island, where they rented their van. The advantage of the van, like travelling by foot in Middle-earth, is they fall asleep and wake up in front of absolutely beautiful landscapes (but it gets cold at night).
They began, just like the Fellowship, to cross the mountains by Arthur’s Pass as a way to go from the East to the West of the island. They went through beautiful lakes surrounded by mountains, glaciers, beaches, cliffs and crazy rock formations (one even named Pancakes Rock). They have also seen sheep, deer and alpacas (all of those animals have been introduced to New Zealand, among many vermin attacking endangered birds). They were also able to relive moments like when Arwen invoked the waters to prevent the Nazguls from crossing the river and save Frodo. With no Arwen, no Nazguls and no Frodo! Anyway movie Arwen stole the show from book Glorfindel… They also stood by the Anduin River at the place where the Argonath is located, the gate of the stone giants… without the statues which were anyway added by the studio! Other stops on their way included the Battle of Pelennor Fields and Rohan. Fortunately they have a lot of imagination and left themselves be carried away by Tolkien’s magic. Almost all of the South Island landscapes seem to have come out of Middle-earth and they loved Glenorchy and the fjords region. They also met human friends from their home land, who are travelling for several months in a van, and with them they went mussel picking and goblin hunting!
They have never been so far south from home. In the south of the island, they were halfway between the equator and the South Pole (at the 45th parallel level).
What’s next ?
For their last few days in NZ they will go to Mt Cook and swim with dolphins (if the weather permits it). Another epic road trip ending. Now they are going towards Australia (never heard of this place) where they will stay for two to three months to prepare carefully for the second part of the world tour: the return journey (I hope they have enough lembas to go home)!