To the foot of the top...

Trip Start Feb 12, 2011
Trip End Jul 09, 2011

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High country backpackers.

Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Monday, April 18, 2011

Hello all,

We arrived into the sleepy town of Twizel after a bus jouney up past the huge lakes and dramatic scenary of the south island, settlements here are few and far between as the landscape dicates the few pieces of land suitable for building on, its amazing the roads they have managed to build there.

A town of only a thousand we were dropped nearby the centre pedestriansed square, it was made up of cafes, wine bars, restuarants a hardware store and a chemist, a supermarket and information point was nearby and that was your lot.  It was adorable, surrounded by many of the huge alpine lakes the town was originally doomed from the start.  It was built to house the workers of the nearby hydro electric dam project (a quarter of NZs power comes from hydrodams - an awesome statistic).  However when the project was finished and town was due to be demolished and returned to its original farming land the people had fallen in love with it and formed a strong tightly knit community, the protested and voila - power of the people eh - its here for us all to enjoy still

We stayed in a motel that had a section for backpackers and enjoyed the final lord of the rings film (on video!!) that evening, we have now watched them all while in the country! the owners were really friendly and the communal social areas were huge, full of nice people. 

Saturday I hope you do not judge me for our morning activities...due to steves persistance we embarked on a lord of the rings tour...yes i see the judgement on your faces, we paid money for this!! haha! luckily due to it being the end of the season it was just us on it (which as you will see later i was uber uber thankful for) and so it was personalised and we got to ask loads of questions.  We drove out of the town in a four wheel drive mini bus and headed out onto the massive landscape that was used for the Pelennor fields, basically massive battle scenes and horse charging scenes, with shots of the mountains behind them you can see why this location was chosen.  Many of the locals were extras and we learnt all about the behind the scenes secrets.  Many of the armoured warriors in the horseguard cavalry were women, it was filmed during lambing season for the town so many of their men were up in the fields with the sheep and didnt have time to be extras on filmsets!! We heard how those villagers who were partial to nipping over the fences of this private land at night to nab themselves a rabbit or two for dinner which they had been doing for years (they are considered pests out here with no foxes to control their numbers - sorry mum and mim) suddenly found themselves being hoisted up and growled at by burly security guards who told them in no uncertain terms to get of the property (security was massive at all filming locations.  To when a disgruntled Aragorn (or at least the man who played him) took some time out to do some fishing in a nearby canal (part of the hydrodam project) as it was impossible to do any of the talking scenes within the battle as all the extras dressed up as disgusting latex covered orcs got so into their battle fights they kept killing off the main cast members when the film was rolling, this ended up in the police being called as too local villages saw "a mad man dressed up in medival gear fishing in one of the canals".  How they used wide angled lenses to make the view of a dramatic crossing of a river on horseback when it was acutally just an over sized stream and finally the poor man who acted faramir (son of the steward) who had to ride into battle but had an uncontrollable fear of horses so was on a trailer moving at the same speed as the galloping horses and was told to move like he was in a love making scene with his wife!!! (he as you can imagine got very bullied at the pub that night!).  We heard how the health and safety rules swim over a film set, local village boys got paid to walk up and down this massive massive cross valley landscape and fill every pot hole and rabbit burrow with sand so the horses wouldnt trip and in talking of horses vets were on location at all times, horses in heat and stallions had to be managed properly and they had to be ordered by speed and competitiveness so when the charge happened they gave the illusion of all moving forward at the same time.  Screens were in the van so each section was shown to us on film and looking at the location, it is unbelieveable how much time, preparation and thought went in to these films. In the boot they had many of the costumes from latex orc faces, cloaks and daggers, swords and helmets and a golum face, we were left to play, i will say no more for fear of even further teasing.

The afternoon was spent sipping hot chocolate in cafes before walking out to a nearby salmon farm.  Normally you would be able to feed them, they become piranha at the surface accordingly to a local lady who was upset her kids couldnt do it.  The fish couldnt be seen and werent coming to the surface due to the peppermint milky colour of the water, when the earthquake in christchurch struck it caused shockwaves through to the nearby glaciers which feed the mountain lakes and caused more movement than normal (some move up to several meters a day anyway) as they move they grind rock into powder which the locals call glacier flour, when this enters the water it turns it this strange colour.  It was a shame not to be able to see the live fish but they had many frozen ones to buy, the full ones were huge, we bought a fillet a good size for two and had the best tasting salmon for dinner that night.

Sunday we booked on a shuttle to the nearby Mount Cook village, near the base of the awesome Mount Cook - the tallest mountain in New zealand, a whopping 3700meters high.  The shuttle stopped at a nearby lake which gave us amazing views right across towards mount cook, in the distance the mountains looked blue.  We walked from the village along a four hour track of scrambling valley walking and across some of the scariest suspension bridges (very low sides, pretty high and shakey!), ate lunch in a wooden shelter - wraps and tuna tins, before we rounded the valley, and there was mount cook.  at the bottom was the hooker lake, the wall of ice stopped at the top, the hooker glacier - my first glacier!!! literally a river of ice that stops abrutely forming a huge wall of ice, the melted water forms the ice cold lake which runs out of the river at the other side and looming out from the side rises the impressive 3 peaks of mount cook.  unable to take it all in one look it was amazing! Back at the village we went into the edmond hillary centre (first guy to climb everest and he was a kiwi so they are very proud.  He did lots of his training here, we learnt all about the first women to summit mount cook - in a skirt! very impressive! sipping hot chocolate to defrost us from the cold mountain we learnt all about mountain rescues, amputees climbing and all the gear they used to use, makes us very thankful for technology today!!!

Back in twizel we chilled out before heading on...

Lots of love to everyone,
P xxxxxxxxxx

Ps I would like to thank Sir Thomas Crapper for inventing the flush toilet, after all of the isolated walks here in the bottom of the south island, I am ever so grateful whenever we return to civilisation and do not have to use the sandfly ridden long drops.
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