The day after we got to New Zealand, we woke up before sunrise. We blame a combination of jet lag and the fact that it is fall. Regardless, this was good, as we needed to get our things together and grab some breakfast before they picked us up for our tour.
Our guide, Simon, was quite chipper for so early on a Thursday, I mean FRIDAY, morning. We spent the first hour picking up the other travelers on the tour. (Of the 10, we were the only Americans. There was one student studying abroad from the UK and then 2 other families from Mexico.)
After everyone was loaded up, we headed west. Along the way we made a few stops in some small villages. The last one was Mt. Sommer. We stopped at the local domain, which supposedly had the last set of flushing toilets we would see before we came back. It also had a rather robust rugby field. According to Simon, every town in New Zealand has two things: a pub and a rugby field.
An hour later we arrived at our destination: Mt. Sunday, aka Edoras. The landscape and surroundings looked exactly as seen in the films, minus some snow on the peaks and the Golden Hall itself. I didn’t care. I was loving every minute of it as we hiked our way to the top.
The hike up delivered stunning view after stunning view. I must have taken over 100 photos in the space of 45 minutes alone. You truly feel as if you’re in the middle of Rohan here. It’s rather amazing that this location was never even initially on a location scout list. Peter Jackson was apparently rather pessimistic about their chances of finding a location suitable as a stand-in for the land of the Rohirrim. The scouts only stumbled across this valley when they had to put down due to bad weather.
At the top we were treated to quite the panorama. If you look closely in the first picture below, you might even catch a glimpse of Helm’s Deep. (Not the set, that was at a quarry outside Wellington. This is the valley that stood in for it.) Although, the wind was quite impressive, and this wasn’t even a bad day according to our guide. The longer we were up there, the worse it got. The valley acted as a giant funnel, just channeling it along. (Interesting side-note: the scene in two towers where Eowyn is standing just outside the Golden Hall and the flag rips off, only to blow away, was never in the book. It apparently just happened on a day when the winds were topping out at over 50 mph. Appreciating how it fit the scene, Peter Jackson decided to leave it in the film.)
After a short stay at the top, we hiked back down. Thankfully, we moved a little faster as the wind continued to pick up.
We got down and loaded up. On our way out of the valley, we made a short stop at a convenient overlook to take in the scene one last time. A shot I will always be thrilled to have had the opportunity to take.