On Wednesday, we had booked on a horse riding tour called the Ride of the Rings, but we were a bit worse for wear from our skiing adventure and were concerned about our ability to hold ourselves on a horse using our legs.
But we dragged ourselves out of the cosiness of our bed and caught the bus (or more correctly, busses) into town. While we were waiting for the bus, at what turned out to be the incorrect bus stop which we had unnecessarily hiked up a hill to get to, we heard bleating. After a while, we realised that it was little baby mountain goats. Awwww.
In town, we did a little bit of souvenir shopping and had pizza for lunch.
Our horse riding tour began in Paradise, which is about 20 minutes drive from Glenorchy, which, in turn, is about 45 minutes drive from Queenstown. So we had some time in the bus to get psyched up for our ride.
We also had time to stop for a quick photo on the road.
No matter how many lake scenes I see in New Zealand, I still can’t get over the colour of the water. Just beautiful!
We got kitted up with helmets, boots and Drizabones (unfortunately mine didn’t stay that way for long due to it’s length compared to my legs, which meant it dragged in the mud as I walked). I shouldn’t complain. At least this time I didn’t have to have a child’s helmet. When I went skiing the day before, I had a Paul Frank helmet with a monkey skull and crossbones on it… Definitely, too cool for school!
After we crossed a little creek named “River Jordan”, we found ourselves in Paradise, which is actually closer to Milford Sound than it is to Queenstown, except there’s a range in the way. Paradise is an estate owned by a trust which has strict rules about what can be built there, who can use it and what animals are allowed in. Apparently, horses are okay.
We met our guide, Jaimie, who rated herself as a 9.5 out of 10 Lord of the Rings fan (she even used to work at Hobbiton). I was only game to rate myself a 5, given that I haven’t spoke Elvish for years…
Jaimie assigned us horses based on where we were going to travel in the pack. It’s all about the popularity. The coolest horse (judged by the horse mob, not by the people) gets to go first. So it went, Oscar, Presley, Court and then poor old Boris at the end.
Here’s Davey, in Paradise, waiting to alight his horse, Boris.
And here’s Boris:
Jaime originally assigned me to Court, but I had to swap with Caitlin, an American undergrad biologist, because my legs weren’t long enough for Court’s stirrups. So I got an “upgrade” (from a pack point of view) to Presley.
The scenery was amazing, as expected. This is Mount Earnshaw, which can be seen in a lot of the skylines of the Lord of the Rings movies, playing the part of one of the Misty Mountains.
The first LotR location was a bit of forest where some Lothlorien scenes were filmed, particularly where Gimli almost gets shot by an Elvish archer, because dwarves breathe so loud…
Very close to this setting, was another where Aragorn “avenges?” Boromir’s death by decapitating an Uruk-hai. I didn’t get a great shot of this one given my less then average horsewomaning skills, but Davey did and he even got a selfie.
Jaimie also led us past some wilderness that had been used in The Lovely Bones (where the girl is meeting her spirit guide) and Wolverine (where Hugh Jackman is running through the countryside naked).
Jaime also told us some LotR trivia, such as the fact that Peter Jackson had to install plumbing and roads throughout the property as part of his conditions of use, and that he had to return all filming locations to exactly as he found them, including repositioning dead trees that he had moved. And that the actor who played Aragorn not only bought his horse at the end of filming but paid for Arwen’s stunt double to have keep her’s too (which would have been about $60.000).
It was a very easy ride, with not too many steep bits. It was very easy to get caught up with the beautiful landscape.
Here’s us enjoying it.
As I mentioned before, Davey seems to have mastered the art of horseback photography much more than I have. He was even stable enough to take a panorama:
After going up a bit of a hill, we got a wonderful view of the Dart River, which is where Isengard was inserted via CGI as first a lovely forest and then as an Orc-ish wasteland/workshop.
We also got to see this bit of wilderness where Boromir met his end, and where apparently a lot of footballers dressed as Uruk-hai twisted their ankles during filming.
Apparently, there was a lot of accidental falling off horses when they were filming many of the scenes with the riders of Rohan. But Peter Jackson still used all of that footage and just added arrows to provide a reason as to why the riders were falling from their horses. Jaimie told us 70% of the actors playing riders of Rohan were actually women in muscle suits, so Eoywn wasn’t quite the only girl on the battle field.
This was a great tour! The scenery was beautiful, Jaimie was practically an Elf herself and the horses were very well tempered. But like all good things, it had to come to an end, which was at just about the time I realised that my toes had gone numb from the Glenorchy microclimate.
We gave the horses a bit of attention at the end for a job well done.
Me and Presley:
Davey’s steed, Boris:
Presley giving Davey a nuzzle and then trying to use him as a scratching post…
Jaimie rode Oscar, who was aptly named, given that he was one of the horses of Rohan. It is no wonder he was the leader of this pack, given his celebrity status.
Here’s Davey getting up close and personal with the star:
We had a warm milo at the stable and then were driven back to Queenstown.
Davey and I enjoyed our last Speight’s (at least for a while) at the Speight’s Ale House and then returned to the hotel, exhausted, for a sauna and sleep.