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New Zealand — 2nd Thursday

I begin today’s post in great pain. I am writing this on Friday night (our time) about our trip from Geraldine along the east coast of the south island to the central portion of the southern tip of New Zealand. We traveled to Alexandra (Alex’s namesake!) and then on to Queenstown.

The rolling green hills of the farm we stayed at.

The rolling green hills of the farm we stayed at.

Imagine driving out of those wonderful green hills dotted with cows and sheep and having an abrupt change in geography six different times in three hours! It is amazing the changes in the topography and the mountains and valleys in this country! One minute, you are surrounded by lush green hills. The next, brown grassy hills covered with sheep and cows. Next, an emerald green lake surrounded by rocky, brown hills. Next, towering peaks with blues and greens and grays. Next, the southern Alps not yet covered with the coming snowy mantle of winter. Next, a virtual rain forest!

As a man said to me on the cable car in Wellington — the south island is scenery overload!

So, we paused several times to take pictures and there was this huge open plain of brown grassland surrounded by towering gray and blue peaks with a touch of snow on one side and harsh rocky brown mountains on the other. I recognized it instantly. I had purchased a Lord of the Rings guidebook in Wellington that showed were all of the scenes in the movie were shot. Here in the vast plain surrounded by mountains I once again imagined the oliphants, those giant elephant like creatures rampaging across the battlefield toward the Riders of Rohan. I saw the ring wraiths swooping on their reptilian beasts attacking the fellowship of the ring. Here was the location of the final battle in the third movie, The Return of the King. In this vast area somewhere between the towns of Twizel (Twhy-zull) and Methvyn this epic battle was shot using many of the locals as extras. So, we stopped and I stood by a fence that overlooked this area.

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The wind was amazingly strong. We started down the road and stopped again as we got closer to the mountains used as a backdrop for the battle. There, sitting just off the road was a huge boulder with an inviting flat top. I grabbed my camera and hopped up on the boulder only to be grabbed, I thought, by the claws of the nazgul, only to learn it was the wind and tossed off the boulder like so much chaff.

I fell onto my left elbow and my camera and dug the lens into my upper left ribs. I was stunned and in so much pain I could hardly breath. I just knew I had broken or dislocated by elbow and had cracked or broken some ribs. I still have an indentation in the skin from the lens of the camera. It is now blue and green.

So, I have been trying to recover from my fall on the battlefield. Where was Gandalf when I needed him?

We soon found a lovely tiny stone church sitting on the edge of a huge, emerald green lake. IMG 2257

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This was the Church of the Good Shepherd erected in 1935 and we later met, purely by chance, a young woman in Milford Sound (on our tour) who got married in this idyllic setting. Nearby was a statue of a dog erected in honor of collies and their hard work in the area. We couldn’t get a good picture due to the heavy tourist load.

Soon, we pulled into Alexandra, a quaint little town on the way to Queenstown. Alex was ecstatic and we drove around the small town.

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We traveled back toward Cromwell and stopped to take a look at the crossroads sign above the convergence of two rivers that created a huge lake.

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The Kiawarau River is a large body of water that dumps into this gigantic lake. Near Alexandra in the city of Clyde, this huge lake flows through a hydroelectric dam. This river was the sight of the Argonaths — the giant king statues on the water at the end of the Fellowship of the Ring.

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As we headed for Cromwell and on to Queensland, we encountered more geography and a very common road sign that is self explanatory.

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Here are some high speed pictures of the river near the area where the scenes were shot with Frodo, Sam, Legolas, Borimir, Gimli, and Strider in boats fleeing the orcs. The orcs were heard running along the edges of this river. The actually area used is on a private farm where the river cuts deep into the rock to make the tall cliffs seen in the movie. Portions of this area were used for the forest scenes in all three movies and the scene with Arwin on the river where she confronts the nine ring wraiths to save Frodo.

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And then, over a hill we started to witness the beginnings of the Southern Alps. These tall, majestic mountains were the sight of the opening scenes in the first movie as the camera soared over the snow covered peaks. These mountains had little snow this time of year, but you can still appreciate the sheer, amazing size of these mountains as the rose up from the flat plain to over 2000 meters!

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As our day drew to a close and my pain began to intensify, we checked into our hotel in Queenstown on its lovely lake and ate on the hotel’s veranda. This was our view as the sun set. I will post more pictures of Alexandra and the trip later as soon as my pain permits.

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