My first full day in New Zealand began with one of my favorite parts of the trip, a journey to Edoras, aka Mt Sunday. It was a long but beautiful drive past the foothills of the Canterbury plains, with lots of amazing scenery, like this:
Our tour guide was Rex, a 60+ year old with more spunk than just about anyone I’ve ever met. He spent most of his life as a television director in New Zealand, as well as helping transport some of the Lord of the Rings stars around while they were filming. He was full of stories, and perhaps full of beans, but he was delightful and made the experience non-stop enjoyment.
I think it takes about three hours to get to Mt Sunday/Edoras. Hasselfreetours does a brilliant job of breaking up the drive with stories from the tour guide, and video clips of behind the scenes filming of The Lord of the Rings. While these clips were rehash for die hard fans (same information as seen in the extra cds from the Extended versions, or the LOTR specials they had on TV), they kept your attention and time passed quickly. They also helped build the excitement with that wonderful sound track constantly in our ears…so that when we finally rounded a corner and got our first glimpse of Edoras, we instantly transformed into paparazzi.
Even as we pulled up and parked to begin our hike to Edoras, it didn’t look like it would be a challenge. I have since learned that when a mountain (note, it is a mountain, not a hill) is surrounded by alpine peaks, it is very difficult to judge the size of the mountain.
We began our journey by bundling up against the cold. There were wind gusts up to 100 mph coming straight down off those snow-capped mountains. After crossing a fixed bridge and a wobbly one-at-a-time suspended bridge, we finally arrived at the base of Edoras and began our climb. The first half was not bad at all. I stopped to take pictures.
Then I turned to see that the side of the mountain became so steep that I was surprised people weren’t sliding back down it. I knew I could make it, if I paced myself; but at this point another gal on the trip decided she was done. She also had asthma and was having a really hard time. She sat down, told her boyfriend to go on without her, and the group began to ascend. I debated, did I want to push myself to make it to the top and be sore for the next four days of my trip, or was this enough? I looked around me, loved the view…and in the distance saw the tiny speck that was our 6-wheel drive vehicle (see tiny dot in middle of this picture).
I realized how far I had come. I remembered that there were no sets left on the mountain, it was just a different perspective on this same view. I decided to wait with the other gal. Not too long later her boyfriend came back down (much younger and in better shape than I), huffing and puffing and fuming. He had only made it 7/8 of the way to the top before he felt like he was going to die of a heart attack. He couldn’t breathe. He came back down. I knew I had made the right choice.
We made our descent and celebrated our journey with a little champagne (very little for me, never cared for the stuff). Then Rex took us on a short drive up to a scenic overlook where we could see exactly what they had seen from the top of Edoras, the backdrop for Helm’s Deep….(just between where those two mountains break)…
And here he is showing us a still from the movie, and pointing out where the mountain just behind Aragorn’s shoulder is the one we can see in front of us.
It was a wonderful trip. It was beautiful, fan-tastic (as a LOTR fan), and perhaps surprisingly I do not regret not making it to the top of Edoras. What I did not yet know was that most of the cities in NZ are built into the side of mountains. Most of the walking I would do for the next 10 days was up and down the sides of terraced cliffs. I know I would have missed out on a lot had I pushed myself to the top of the mountain. No regrets. I’m actually happy that I allowed myself to enjoy every minute of the trip to the fullest by recognizing my limitations. Had I spent the next four days walking like a 90+ year old and slowing everyone else on the tour up because I had overdone it the day before, THAT I would have regretted.