Sunday, March 7, 2010

Ride of the Rings

"So, Sue?" I asked with a quiver in my voice. "This Ride of the Rings trip is set in Paradise (the actual name of the place!) and takes you to the stunning movie locations of the Lord of the Rings?".

"Yes" she replied. "And if you're lucky, you may get to ride a horse that starred in on one of the films".

It was the famous horses that clinched if for me and with that in mind, I went off to buy an autograph book that would be big enough to fit a muddy hoof print.

Return transport from Queenstown was provided by a friendly bus driver called Trevor. After a quick stop in Glenorchy to pick up some hard hats and boots, we were driven to a large field with tall glossy horses and were met by two guides. After working out our riding abilities (totally crap to Bronco Bill) we were assigned horses and helped on to our furry mounts. To my sheer delight, I was on a horse called Red who had been in Return of the King. I continually patted his neck and giggled at him as he eyed me cautiously out of the corner of his big watery eye.
Before long, our guide Megan began to lead the way on a huge black horse called Boris. As we set off, she told us that our horses would form a line of natural order. "Red likes to be in front" she told us. "Merlin likes to be in the middle and Pip… well Pip has a mind of his own." She stated as Pip wandered off down the wrong track.

Red did like to be up front, just in reach of Boris's bum which he slyly nipped and then was whipped in the face by Boris's burly tail. It was then I discovered that these gallant horses were actually more like kindergarten kids than the sophisticated mammals I thought they were.

Their childish ways included eating mud, (in fact eating anything in sight off the floor), if one peed, they all peed and being scared by monsters (trees stumps). Luckily, they were a lot easier to control than a bunch of five year olds! Entering a beech forest (or the golden woods of Lothlorien) was a welcome relief from the hot sun that beat down from a cloudless sky. Shards of light poked through the branches and created a wonderful fairytale like setting. As Megan gave us a continual commentary about the Lord of Rings scenes we were able to admire our surroundings whilst walking at a peaceful pace.

Coming up out of the forest, we were met with a truly breathtaking view. Stretching out for miles, soft swirls of turquoise water, flowed and wound amongst a white sandy bed of the Dart River whilst towering pines and snowcapped mountains (or the Wizard's Vale and the mighty peak of Methedras) stood proudly in the background. It's an extremely special place where orcs, wizards and talking trees could easily exist. Heading back into the beech forest, Megan talked to us about the flora and fauna and more interestingly, began to reveal the secret antics of the actors whilst on location. Red lowered his ears in disapproval as she exposed the doings of his famous fellow co-workers!
The whole trip was amazing from start to finish. The beautiful drive to Glenorchy, the hour and a half horse ride in true Paradise, the professional guides, and not forgetting the lollies that were given as a treat at the end!

Dart Stables have many various trips available. You can book all of these through both Central and Lakefront YHA in Queenstown. Check out their website for more information: