Return to Rohan

I knew I couldn’t leave the South Island without seeing Rohan properly. The time back in September when I drove through it aimlessly on a cloudy day just didn’t count.

So, heading west from Dunedin, I drove to Bonspiel Station in Central Otago, the site used for most of the LOTR Rohan locations. Sue, the landowner, gives tours in  her SUV and, as schedules worked out, I got a one-on-one Rohan immersion for more than an hour. It was a hot, clear day when the rough hills, dotted with schist outcroppings, seemed to stretch forever.

Although Sue admitted she’s not a Tolkien fan (never read the books and watched the movies only for the scenery), I think over the years she’s given enough tours to geeks that she really gets into the spirit of it. We started at the rocky low saddle where Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas first meet Eomer and his Rohirrim (“What business does a man, an elf and a dwarf have in the Riddermark?”) where Sue suddenly swaggered a bit and, her voice lowering, said “I would cut off your head, dwarf, if it stood but a little higher off the ground.” Without any prompting from me, I might add.

And is it me or does Eomer have all the best badass lines in the LOTR movies?

Next it was to Poolburn Reservoir, where the Rohan village was burned and pillaged. The fishing huts there now were camouflaged for the movie with thatch to look like village houses, though they also actually burned some prop houses which must have been cool to see. Even if the place had no LOTR connection, it was still “magical” as Sue said, with the strange rock towers and bright blue water.

We drove then to a spot that served triple, no, quadruple duty in the movie. First Sue told me to stretch out on a rock, my ear to the ground, and say “their pace is quickening” just like Aragorn did at the start of The Two Towers when he and the others are tracking the Uruk-hai. God help me, but I did, though I was laughing hysterically the whole time.

Then she walked a short ways and dropped a replica silver and enamel Leaf of Lorien onto the ground, just like Pippin, and we intoned together “not lightly do the Leaves of Lorien fall.” A few steps more and it was easy to see the spots both where the Uruk-hai, carrying Merry and Pippin, meet up with the orcs, and where Gimli tumbled down a rock wall while trying to keep up with Aragorn and Legolas.

If you’re totally lost by now, just watch the first 20 minutes or so of The Two Towers and you’ll see what I mean. Sue told me scenes for the movie “10,000 BC” also were filmed just over the ridge, but not having seen the movie, I couldn’t get excited about that.

Even though, alas, I didn’t find my Rohirrim, it was a perfectly beautiful day in one of the most stunning places I’ve seen in New Zealand, which is saying something.


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