It felt like it had been an age. Melissa and I had been in Samoa only 15 days, but the separation I felt from New Zealand seemed like it stemmed from an absence of months. Perhaps the displacement was because we were in Christchurch, a far cry from the rural pace of Te Anau. Whatever the cause, once we’d finished taking care of some business in the South Island’s largest city, I fled to the backroads of Canterbury as quickly as I could.
Home is behind, the world ahead, and there are many paths to tread through shadows to the edge of night, until the stars are all alight.” – J.R.R. Tolkien
The roads felt like a mind-numbing repeat of the one I’d driven in on, but as I drew further away from the coast and closer to the mountains, the scenery — ever so subtly — changed. By the time I made it to the Hart Arboretum near Lake Coleridge, I had gone from featureless pastureland to sub-alpine forest. I got out and followed trek markers through the woods, my tread muffled by a thick bed of fallen pine needles.
The walk left me refreshed, rejuvenated. I was back on the road, back in control. Giddy with the thrill of another grand adventure, I followed a random gravel road into the middle of nowhere. The campground I’d picked for the night was back the way I’d come and further down the main road, but there was bound to be something good ahead…
A tiny lake broke the continuity of the scenery, and I stopped at Lake Georgina to watch birds paddle across the mirror of its surface.
Then, at last, I saw the sign I was looking for: ‘Lake Access’. It led down yet another gravel drive until I found myself in Ryton Bay. The place was stunning, making up for the long and dusty drive there. Several vault toilets stood a silent vigil, and the tussock whipped in the wind.
One other car drove in soon after I did, but left after its occupants snapped a few photos. That suited me fine. I was craving some solitude.
Hungry as ever, I cooked dinner on the hood of my car — a thick gruel of oats, almonds, dried bananas, and honey. The wind was brisk and frigid, and I found my hands shaking as I stirred the porridge. The milk had taken ages to boil, and I was famished. After it was ready, I took my pot, a water bottle, and the book ‘I Am Pilgrim‘, and made my way to a picnic spot by the lake. From there, I watched the sun set.
It was like being in a Thomas Kinkade painting. I watched, spellbound, as the sky changed — its reflection mirrored on the glass-like surface of the pond just near me.
It was a magical evening.
The night was cold, balticly so, and I woke to a sheet of frost on my blanket and ice on the inside of my windows. After defrosting and scraping out Te Namu (and a much needed cup of hot coffee!), I set course for a place out of fantasy. Out of Middle Earth, more precisely…
It had been a fluke that I even knew about it — a haphazard glance at a map pinned on a wall. A flicker of recognition at the name.
A jarring 40+ km drive along a gravel road branching off from the highway near Mount Somers takes one to Mount Sunday, the location used in the Lord of the Rings films for Edoras — the stronghold of the Rohirrim. The drive — as with most things on this trip — was stunning, and the scenery seemed to grow ever more dramatic as I went along.
Mt. Potts Lodge sits just down the ‘road’ from Edoras — a picturesque setting if ever there was one. I’d come to set up on a non-powered site, but a bunk room was only slightly more expensive and, after the frosty night before, I was fine with the splurge. It turned out to be a good choice. I had the entire block to myself and took the liberty of a long, hot shower before setting off to explore my surroundings.
Dusk was fast approaching, so I contented myself with a short walk — I would save Edoras for the morning. A highland bull grazed in one pasture, several horses in another. Everything seemed muted, subdued, pregnant with anticipation…
I looked across the plain as the last daylight lanced through a cover of clouds. The temperature was dropping, and I jammed my fists into the depths of my pockets, clenching them for warmth. I took one last look at the diminutive land-form set against a backdrop of snowy crags.
Tomorrow, I would step into the pages of legend…
How about you? Have you ever visited a place featured in a story? Where was it? How was your experience? Share in the comments below, and don’t forget to tune in to the next post to visit Edoras with me!