191 Days on the Road
“For Rohan! Deaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaath!” We scream as we hold our swords and battle flag to the sky in the tussock fields of Twizel. Yes, we are reenacting scenes from The Lord of the Rings – arguably the movie that introduced the New Zealand scenery to us millennials. Now we are here in the very same spot that the Riders of the Rohirrim once stood for their introduction into the Battle of Pelennor Fields. All our nerdy dreams are coming true today.
One ring: Five Lord of the Rings geeks
So how do we find ourselves in our very own battle for Middle-earth? Well, it all starts in the small town of Twizel, the first town on our journey through the McKenzie Basin. We meet Dawn from OneRing Tours at the Musterers Hut Cafe for a quick smoothie on this sunny day before jumping in the OneRing van with two delightful “Ringers” from Australia, Katie and Brady. As we drive away from the town to alongside the most magnificently blue river, Dawn gets us all to introduce ourselves and state where we are on the scale of The Lord of the Rings fandom. Despite Robin looking like an elf with the nose of a dwarf, he has never had the attention span to get through the LOTRs movies more than once, whereas Laura never gets sick of them! Bring on Pelennor Fields!
Crossing the river to Gondor
Before we get ahead of ourselves, Dawn stops the van for us to hop out at our first Lord of the Rings filming location. She takes out a booklet full of screenshots to help us visualise the scenes that were shot in various locations along the tour. Here, we can see the very mountains that made the backdrop to the scene where Gandalf and Pippin cross the river from Rohan to Gondor! See, there are LOTRs locations even on the side of the freakin’ road in New Zealand!
The gate to Pelennor Fields
Taking a replica of The Hobbit’s Key to Erebor, Robin is on gate-opening duty as we enter the private land used for many different shots for The Lord of the Rings. The very gravel road we are travelling along is the only remains on the South Island from The Lord of the Rings trilogy! Other than Hobbiton in the North Island, none of the sets remain. Nevertheless, the images in Dawn’s booklet mixed with her detailed explanations helps us understand exactly which shots were filmed here.
But, let’s be honest, with the vastness of this field carpeted in tussock, there’s no denying that we are in Pelennor Fields. The landscape itself feels refreshing, as we’ve spent most of our time in New Zealand closely surrounded by mountains, forest, cave walls… It’s not often that we find ourselves in such an open space.
Becoming Middle-earth warriors
Each time we get out of the van to look at another scene or shot that was filmed here – because Peter Jackson really knew how to utilise this space – our photo opportunities get more and more epic. First, it is just us: Robin, Laura, Brady and Katie just enjoying the landscape of a farmer’s field in Twizel. Next thing we know, we’re Gondorian warriors! Dawn is getting a helmet, sword and flag out for us to pose for photographs with. She gives us some awesome photo ideas, from the badass warrior poses to the hilarious horse-riding pose (please refer to photos – you’ll know which one we mean when you see it).
Having way too much fun running around as the many creatures of Middle-earth
Battle scenes, behind-the-scenes insights, and fantastic photo ops!
We are now driving towards that very hill where the Ride of Rohirrim scene took place – that moment when King Theoden gives his speech before the army charge down the hill into battle. However, there is a lot more to that scene than meets the eye. Dawn reveals a ton of interesting stories from behind the scenes. Her knowledge into the making of The Lord of the Rings is incredible – aside from when she is helping us all take the best geeky shots, she is talking for the whole 2-hour tour. Even those on the lower scale of the Lord of the Rings fandom can appreciate that they are bound to learn something about the use of angles, movie extras, special effects and more on this tour.
Running onto the battlefield
“For Rohan! Deaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaath!” We now stand on the top of that very hill the Rohirrim stood on. However, much like Peter Jackson, the director of The Lord of the Rings, we don’t have enough people to make an army, so, like the special effects experts at Weta Digital – a tour we took back in Wellington – we are going to attempt to Photoshop ourselves over and over again to make up the numbers. (Perhaps not quite to the same effect as the movie though…)
“I am no man”
As we said, the photo opportunities get more and more epic throughout the tour. The finale of which is when we get to re-enact that famous scene where Eowyn boldly says: I am no man, before killing the Witch King. Not only does this give us ladies on the tour the opportunity to pretend to stab our boyfriends in the face, but we get to dress up in the costumes and take some mean photos.
A backpacker battle of Pelennor Fields
Once wearing those costumes and holding our swords/orc’s club (yes, Laura appropriately ended up being an orc), something changes inside of us… We shamelessly pretend we are in a battle scene, fighting each other in super-slow motion while filming the whole thing. The best way to enjoy it is to not hold back!
Rounding off a geek-tastic day
After a geek-tastic afternoon revisiting some of the most memorable scenes from The Lord of the Rings, Dawn brings us back to Twizel, dropping us off at the High Country Lodge and Backpackers. Join us tomorrow, where we’ll just happen to do some cheese tastings with the backdrop of the Ben Ohau mountains. See you then!
Squaring each other up for the ultimate battle Theta 360 Loading...
Of course, you do! For more Middle-earth articles, check out these:
- 23 Lord of the Rings Locations You Can’t Miss in New Zealand
- The Famous Lord of the Rings Filming Locations in Ruapehu
- The Hobbit Location Guide
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See you tomorrow!