Horizons: New Zealand - South Island 2012
Saturday, 02 March 2013 16:44
Last Updated on Sunday, 03 March 2013 10:20
The trials and tribulations of my flight from Doha to Christchurch, via Melbourne, will be left for another blog, but in short I was upgraded to business class by Qatar Airways, which was very nice, but then Jetstar, the Qantas subsidiary, managed to mislay my baggage for five days, which was quite nasty! My first few days in New Zealand were thus spent in a sort of clothes-less and smelly state.
Nobody visiting New Zealand in the last few years can have missed the fact that the Lord of Rings trilogy and now the Hobbit were filmed there; in fact the country has taken to calling itself “Middle Earth” with gusto. As Tolkien actually wrote a large part of these novels in Birmingham, England, I find this branding a little confusing and during my visit tried, for the most part, to ignore the walk on appearances of hobbits, wizards, elves and ents. I will confess I also deliberately avoided establishments involved in the purveyance of rings, with or without inscribed runes.
Air New Zealand have even shot a new pre-flight safety film in which the passengers of the aircraft are comprised largely of characters from Lord of the Rings and the pilot appears to be Gandalf the Grey, who also makes a second cameo appearance at the rear of the aircraft wielding an unlit pipe! I’ve put the link to this video, which has now of course gone viral, on the last page of this blog. In fact down at the bottom end of the piece there are links to all the transport, hotels, activities I used or undertook in New Zealand and, more interestingly, to all the sites I used in plucking random pieces of information from the Internet, either to confirm things I’d learned or, in the case of the moa’s sexual dimorphism for example, that were genuinely surprising.
Of course the reason New Zealand was picked as a location for Lord of the Rings was not simply due to the nationality of the director, Peter Jackson; if he had been Qatari the staged battle for Middle Earth would not have taken place in Al-Jumayliyah. Neither was the choice made solely as a result of the availability of startling scenery at every turn; in fact somewhere possessing the idyllic thirties rural quaintness of The Shire was also required. However hard New Zealand tries to rid itself of its “Olde English” label it comes back to haunt it; Hobbiton is simply the last example. It is genuinely hard to believe the fantastic range of scenery in New Zealand and the fact that it can cope with portraying both Mordor and The Shire and still leave room for the Plains of Rohan only goes part of the way to describing it.
English, Welsh and Scots are all likely to find elements of the country to remind them of their own home lands, it is often stated that there is nowhere on Earth to compete with Britain for such a variety of vistas packed into such a small area, but I disagree. Both Norweigans and Hawaiians would find environments in New Zealand they recognised immediately also. I know I’ll not succeed, particularly with Christchurch, but I’ll try to minimise International comparisons, for New Zealand is unique.