Madelyn Given, enjoying the forest where they filmed for The Lord of the Rings, in Glenorchy, New Zealand.

Glenorchy, New Zealand

I took a ride to Glenorchy to trek in the forest of The Lord of the Rings movie fame. Actually, there were many areas of New Zealand that were used to film the series: the Southern Alps, the pasturelands, and the very-moss covered forest of Glenorchy. This is not a dense, covered forest, but a mixture of deciduous and evergreen, with lots of moss-covered trees and rocks. There were few signs that man had been there, aside from one giant chair sitting out in the middle of the woods near a large hollow tree. The natural hollow is big enough for six or eight people to stand inside it. After The Lord of the Rings movies were released, tourism skyrocketed in New Zealand.

In Glenorchy, a very popular activity is to take a jet boat ride on the Dart River. At the center of this tiny town, which appears to have a population of only a dozen or so, there is a small building where you sign in and pick up a heavy weighted blanket (like a poncho) and a life jacket. We were bused a couple of miles to a place where we would be picked up by the jet boats for a one-way ride up the river. The boats are flat bottomed and hold a dozen passengers and a driver.

It was a fast, bumpy boat ride, going past car-sized boulders, around sandbars, and over small rapids. There is a rapid current and the water is frigid. The ponchos, which seemed as heavy as lead, covered the passengers from the splashing water. The scenery is beautiful: mountains covered with glaciers, green hills, and waterfalls were visible around some of the turns.

We were warned at the beginning of the ride that if the captain uttered the word, “Hamilton,” we should watch out. It was true—a moment after he said, “Hamilton,” he pulled the jet boat in a 360-degree turn! He did this a few times and it was an exhilarating ride. At another dock a few miles downstream, we ended our ride, thanked our captain, and took a bus back to the activity center.

Back in Queenstown, I enjoyed sitting in the park. It is a peaceful, safe place with a flow of activity. There were children playing ball, parents with baby strollers, pets being walked, and people of all ages taking time to enjoy this beautiful environment. I would enjoy spending more time in New Zealand: it is clean, healthy, and safe. The way of life there is very desirable to me. I hated to pack my bags, but it was time to return from this journey.

(posted May 24, 2016)