For the next few days we stay in and around Glenorchy, at the top of Lake Wakatipu. We have past and visited, the Dart Valley and Queenstown – the latter we would be partying in if we were younger and not with two kids. The boy has a new journal, but it is no ordinary/bog-standard journal, it is a: Lord of the Rings Travel Diary Location Guide Book. It is a thing of beauty, I have shied away from LotR, but nothing says NZ like Lord of the Rings film locations – forget sheep and rugby.
The boy has read it from cover to cover and held it aloft a few times to compare and contrast the photo with the scenery juxtaposed behind it. It was here I experienced two ‘precious’ Déjà vu Rings out of body experiences. Before any train spotters contact me, I started doing the research and I got bored – please don’t send me the exact gird references, I won’t thank you, no one will! We stay in Glenorcy in a bothy behind the pub, we look directly up at Mount Aspiring and it is quite spooky, on the snow-capped top we expect to see Frodo and Samwise climbing.
I know it is overused and rarely apt, but, it is surreal, we are in a film. It is this sleepy place that Jane Campion’s dark TV series Top of the Lake is partly filmed, and as that series may suggest, it’s quiet, too quiet, and is best not to break the surface.
It is with the excitement of Mount Aspiring as our backdrop we set of in the enema to find Mordor. The boy has his book for reference, but after about 20km the road has long since turned into a track and the track is fast about to turn into a path only accessible by Gollum. The Eye of Mordor is nowhere to be seen, both the boy and I are disappointed. On the drive back I stop and ask a young women with a horse where she’s hidden a bloody big place like Mordor. “There’s none of the set left now, it was mainly computer generated,” and she points in the near distance to a pine forest, “It was over there.” We have every right to be disappointed, I engage her in greater discussion about the film, until The Wife saves her, leaning forward and informing we have to get on. “You should be a tour guide for the Film,”I suggest. She points to lots of horses in two nearby fields. “All the horses here were in the film.”
From what I can see everyone in New Zealand had some involvement in the films. At the start of our time in NZ, sat outside a café in Auckland I got chatting to a couple in their twenties. I informed them the boy is obsessed with the films, “We were both Orcs,”they casually tell me. I convey this to The Boy, but he knows better than to encourage me in conversations with strangers.
When I used to teach the function of the eye in High School we used to have a model eye on a white column. I would start off by saying, “The Eye of Mordor is watching you,” in my best deep creepy Sauron voice. The kids loved this, and if they were messing I would look the other way and The Eye of Mordor would turn to watch them!
The second surreal moment came when we decided to make a dam. Dam building is probably my childrens’ favourite outdoor activity. On this occasion we made the dam at the exact location where the Wraiths are chasing Arwen and Frodo in The Fellowship of the Rings, when the wave burst down the river in the form of galloping white-horses and washes the Wraiths away. I found this quite spooky, when I looked over to the tree line, I half expected the Wraiths to come crashing through the forest. It shows how powerful the mind can be and how it can conjure up the unreal, like believing in the ghosts or Donald Trump!
We’re on the road again after a few days to see enormous slow-moving lumps of ice, through the Haast Pass; then we stop at a café with a fish farm. Tourists like us pay for fish food and feed it to the ravenous salmon – it appears to be a Win/Won relationship for the owners – and the fish – for now! We arrive late afternoon at the Fox Glacier National Park and stay nearby, we observe tinkling glow-worms in a cave guarded by an ‘Artful Dodger’ Kia parrot, any place with a Kia parrot can never ever be dull – all that surprises me is they don’t swear!
I have never walked on a glacier before, and after an over the top safety talk that would suggest we are taking on the north face of the Eiger without any safety equipment. We are lead to believe there is one quite treacherous edge we have to negotiate, where there is only a metal chain railing to hold on to, unless you fall precipitously into the depths of hell, as we pass the tame path, the wife turns to the young male guide and exalts, “Is that it? Bloody hell.” To which he meekly replies, “Yeah, that was it, we have to point out any potential hazards to guests.” “Bloody hell” is her repeated mantra, and he knows her well enough to just keep quiet and slip is magical ring onto his finger. It’s exhilarating to be on a glacier in the sun, the kids absolutely love it, exploring the well-beaten crevices, they cannot contain their enthusiasm and eagerness to explore. I suppose in the scheme of things it is not particularly cheap, you can’t do it for much under $NZ 200 for a family of four, but somethings are worth forking out for – somethings money can buy.
The Wife turns to me as the offspring disappear into an ice-cave, “This is why we came away.”
I smile and reply, “All we have to do,” I pretend to smoke an imaginary long pipe and stroke a very lengthy beard, “is to decide what we have to do with the time that is left to us.”
She gives me an obtuse look, and then adds, “I’d like a nice glass of wine.”
Next time: Rocks with your pancakes?
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