„I’m quoting The Lord of the Rings all day today.“ Bridget looks at me absolutely serious. We are on our way to Mount Sunday, a rather unknown hill on the south island. If you tell someone, that name definitely rings no bells. It would probably not even have a name if it didn’t play an important role in the Lord of the Rings as Edoras.
We left Arthur’s Pass early in the morning with a quick stop at Castle Hill. A nature made rock field that looks like it is the remains of an European castle. On the way to Arthur’s Pass it had even tricked my perception. „Castle Hill Rock was not in the Lord of the Rings, or?“
We have a debate going on that Google would solve later with a no. I remember the days before Google when it was a typical evening activity to discuss a random fact at the dinner table for which everyone could come with a plausible assumption but no one knew the right answer. Some things were solved by a “get the dictionary from the shelf, let’s see if they have an answer for us”. Some things stayed unsolved. I still enjoy discussions about unsure topics. Coming up with ideas why something is so or so is the greatest part. Most of the time I don’t even care about solving the question with Google.
Bridget Side Note: Google did let us know that Castle Rock was actually in the film “The Chronicle of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Warbdrobe”. Which did make me happy…but not as happy as I would have been if it had been a LOTR site. Oh well.
We drive along a never ending gravel road. (B side note: It really was unending. Leon would occasionally ask how much longer it was, and I would have a brief philosophical debate on whether it’s better to tell the truth, or keep the driver’s spirits up. Conclusion, Leon now really hates gravel roads.) It is extremely windy out here in the flat valley, surrounded by mountains. Windy and unreal. Is it really 15 years ago since the movies came out? Crazy how time passes by.
I remember that my first girlfriend dragged me into the first movie because I hadn’t heard about the Lord of the Rings at all back then. After the movie I read all the books during a very boring lecture in university. I am still thankful to the business informatics professor who gave me that opportunity. (B side note: and I’m thankful because now we can nerd out together and I get to share all my LOTR side trivia with you.)
An hour of intense gravel road and a thick patina of dust on the van makes me question our quest to Edoras a little. We don’t see cars, it is not a New Zealand highlight you can easily attach to one of the main routes. It is a two hours one way to nothing determination.
„There it is!“
A big rock appears in the valley. We burst out in humming the LOTR theme and Bridget starts shouting „Nerds!“ at the now more frequently upcoming cars.
We get out of the car at the small parking lot and almost jog towards a piece of rock that looks so much like the movies we can’t stop smiling. The winds blow harsh over Mount Sunday. We try to recreate an epic Eowyn shot on top which ends with staring majestically out into the horizon and then abruptly being knocked over by the wind. I guess they didn’t need any wind machines during these scenes. It’s hard to even stand upright and not be blown away while we explore the plateau.
„Can you believe we are really here?“ „No. Not at all.“
We spend two hours around Edoras, exploring Mount Sunday, soaking in the vibes and having a look around the beautiful and impressive area (B side note: normally, you’d only need an hour there but the path we took turned out to NOT be the path back. So we got to climb Edoras twice! oops) before we hit the road again towards tonight’s destination – which is by then still undecided. We aim in the direction of Lake Tekapo and further on but haven’t decided yet where to go. Maybe we will go to Mount Cook the next day but the weather forecast is rather wet and stormy.
„My guide book talks about an unmarked free but most likely legal spot on the East shore of Lake Tekapo. We can try to find it an see if we stay there – a bit more remote for the night? Otherwise we will drive further on.“
Yes, the spot was there and rewarded us with a beautiful never ending sunset over all the mountains to be seen around Lake Tekapo and a cloudless sky. It could have been a grand night sky but the super bright full moon stole the show. Even at 1:30am during the night the moon was still too high up to have a dark view of the Milky Way. So we kept sleeping and made the morning a long lasting sunny breakfast with a dip into the ice cold lake.
B side note: “dip” is an overstatement. It was more like, “I shall quickly put only one part of my body at a time in this ice water that’s been sitting in a freezer on Mars that was brought through space with a side detour of Antarctica to be placed in this lake… It does wake you up.