Thursday, June 3, 2010

Following the Lord of the Rings

Well, I didn't wake up quite so late as I thought I would. 11:00. It's no post-noon, but it's no seven to nine for free breakfast either.

I think this is the first time I've not ripped myself awake for free breakfast. I've been known to wake up, eat, and then go back to sleep again. But not now. Another hint that something not quite right is upon us.

When I did get up I thought long and hard about what to wear. It was cold in my room, and if that was any indication of what it would be like outside (it wasn't – it's colder in room than outside... bloody hell) then I should put on my thermal top and thermal pants. In full butterfly outfit, I then dressed for the day.

Two hours before I had to meet the Land Rover for the LotR tour, I had some time to wander the town and explore a good five of its ten streets. When looking at a map of Queenstown, I can't help but think I was handed one of those abbreviated maps. One of those maps that shows the major streets, but none of the minor ones in between. But then you're out walking, and you discover you've crossed half the town in about ten minutes.

There is a mall here. I don't know much about it, but I do know it has a food court, and in that food court is a McDonald's supplying me with a BBQ Bacon cheese burger (sweet! It was a giant thick slab of bacon, the type you'd never expect to find at a McDee's, and the BBQ sauce? Not from their packets – no. It was very close to, if not the same as, McRib sauce. This was a treat.

Then there were the six McNuggets. Which would have been fantastic, were there not only five nuggets in my pack of six. Returning to the counter, I was met with dubious eyes – but who would lie for one nugget? And while I felt somewhat petty, that was 80 cents of chicken.

Hey – remember when McDonald's changed their nugget recipe a decade or so back, and started the big “100% white meat” campaign? Well – and I just had this pointed out to me – what the blood would they have been before? Chicken only comes in one colour of meat – white. It's not like we're talking turkey here.

With meal in belly, I wandered away down to the water. I passed a number of cafes offering free wifi. We'll see, cafes, we'll see.

Down by the water I made my way onto the pier to grab shot after shot of the mountains. I've said it once or twice already – I never get tired of looking at mountains. Never. They're constantly impressive, one might say remarkable. After all, the range I was shooting didn't happen to be called the Remarkables for nothing.

And then it was time to go wait at the top of my street for the ride out to Middle Earth, or some such thing.

It seems impossible to come to New Zealand and not see something Lord of the Rings-esque. Even ten years later, it's all the rage. And for good reason – it's not just that these locations were used in the film, it's that these locations are beautiful.

I took Nomad Safaris: Safari of the Scenes – Trip B: Glenorchy (not the gentlest title, but descriptive. I've managed to find the brochure with all this information and spelling, you see. Who needs the internet when you have advertising materials?)

The tour took us past Isengard (they're taking the hobbits to Isengard, to Isengard, to Isengard), the Camp of Ithilien, and the Forest of Lothlorien (which brought back terrible memories of the theatrical production which featured a five minute song of a girl just singing the name Lothlorien over and over again. You can't imagine something this terrible. I don't care how good the Balrog was before the first intermission – who watches this and thinks, ah, this is high quality art?)

Our guide had a book to show images of the scenes as they existed in the movie, and how they looked now. It was interesting to see them come together, but I found myself wandering away more often than not to take a picture or two beyond the range of their lengthening shadows.

Yes, they were just more pictures of mountains – but mountains are like giant chunks of floating ice. You need to photograph them from every conceivable angel. Nothing less will do.

And when we entered the forest, I went for a wander. It should be said that we visited, also, the forest which Treebeard called home. The only real difference between the two is that Treebeard's had smaller trees – which acted to make him look much larger on film. I had no idea he wasn't CG, but in fact a giant puppet.

The New Zealand landscape was a breathtaking one, and if I never manage to get myself out of the city again, I'm glad to have made my four hour escape on this day. Every moment there was something to swing your head around to look at, and check out, and be impressed by.

The greens, and the blues of both water and sky, were things I'd not seen in some time. And they were things I'd undoubtedly miss. I was told the South Island held the country's beauty – but after my bus ride from Auckland to Wellington I found that hard to believe. Not anymore.

The highlight of the trip? Well – not highlight, but moment that made me giggle... other movies are filmed out here. X-Men Origins: Wolverine was filmed here. And the guide, while describing it (as we all said we'd not seen it... which wasn't true, I had – but was in a haze and not 100% comprehending) claimed it was some movie about a man who turns into a wolf every now and then, and runs naked through the fields. You know, the more I think about it – not entirely inaccurate. But far from the truth. You'd think she'd have picked up a plot summary once or twice? Still – the license plate FR0DO leads me to forgive easily.

When finally I returned to the hostel, the the frozen confines of my room, I saw that I was still alone. Another long shower to be had. I also watched The Usual Suspects, not having had the ending ruined (somehow after all these years) but not being too surprised by it either.) Everyone talks about it being this great shocking ending, and once you watch it, you need to watch it again to see what was really going on – but nothing seemed all that out of place. It as more or less how I expected it to be.

Mind you – I do believe the movie was created in those days before shock endings were normal, with that M Night Shamalamanamalong guy, yeah? Still – this shock ending worked well in the Fight Club way to make you appreciate the movie more, rather than in the MNS way that made you just hate the entire thing: Aliens come to earth and are hurt by water. Really? Did they not see that that stuff falls from the sky? I mean what if it was raining when they dropped in on Earth, were they not even prepared with biosuits? And then that one where trees kill everyone, and at the end we're to believe that that would make the world take care of the environment, rather than clearcut every forest they could? Please.

I also finished up Once Were Warriors – not a happy romp through a magical wonderland, that film.

And then for good measure I explored the hostel, finding the TV room. And what greatness this was. Not because it let me watch movies until I was ready to pass out (that one where the girl becomes a boxer, fights, and dies cause some chick with dreads is a cheat – Hot Fuzz, yay! - Rise of the Foot Soldiers, which makes me wonder how many Brits are going to die horrible deaths this coming year in South Africa.) But, this room was heated. Really heated. Super warm heated.

It was wonderful. Pull up a bean bag, pop some pills, grab some juice, and tuck in for the night.

What could be better?

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