Edoras: On Location with Hassle Free Tours

New Zealand: The Lord of the RingsEdoras: On Location with Hassle Free Tours

Experience

When you start searching around for guided location tours to Edoras you quickly realise that there really is only one out there: Christchurch-based Hassle Free Tours. Founded by Mark and Nikki Gilbert back in 2003, the company has grown from a two-person band to one of the region's most accredited tourism businesses. Their tour programme is quite diverse, but of course I was only interested in their Lord of the Rings experience.

Apart from meeting like-minded fans and having the chance to pose on top of Edoras with the Rohan flag, what was most appealing about going Hassle Free was the opportunity to be driven around in one of their seriously cool six wheel land cruisers...

This truck will get you anywhere.

This truck will get you anywhere.

The tour is a full day experience, departing 9am from Christchurch and returning at around 6pm. A picnic lunch is included in the tour price.

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Although the tour starts from Christchurch (at 9am), Hassle Free also does pick-ups from the inland town of Methven (at 10.45am).

Review

Being a huge LOTR fan, it was Stefan's turn to do this tour.

On a frosty July morning in 2017, I got picked up by our guide Gaike in the small alpine resort town of Methven, which lies about 1.5 hours inland from Christchurch. In fact, I heard the approach of Gaike's six wheeler long before I shook his hand. Very cool.

I climbed on board the land cruiser and was greeted by ten excited fans from all over the world - Germany, Denmark, UK, US and Australia. After a brief introduction from Gaike, we were off. After following some rather featureless country roads for around 30 minutes, we turned towards the snowcapped mountains. It was remarkable how fast the landscape changed from flat green paddocks to a winter wonderland. When we stopped for our first photo opportunity at the picturesque Lake Clearwater, the snow was already ankle-deep.

Into the mountains. The six wheel drive was much needed on these roads.

Into the mountains. The six wheel drive was much needed on these roads.

On we went, ever deeper into the massive expanse of the Rangitata River valley, passing by several rental cars with tourists desperate to figure out how to fit snow chains to their 2WD vehicles. The road climbed a small hill, rounded a corner and there it was: Mount Sunday, quite possibly the most famous movie rock in the world. It looked tiny in this vast landscape.

Gaike pinpointing Mount Sunday. 

Gaike pinpointing Mount Sunday. 

From here, the going got a little harder, as we left the road soon afterwards. Gaike unlocked a gate and then it was all off-road driving for the last kilometre or so, ploughing through snow and a frozen creek. You could literally feel the anticipation in the vehicle. When we finally got out of the cruiser, Edoras was right in front of us. It was a very special moment. Yet, in order to climb up the top, we still had a 20-minute walk ahead of us.

The track to Mount Sunday requires crossing a creek or two.

The track to Mount Sunday requires crossing a creek or two.

Everything was immediately recognisable and the opportunities for sceneframing were endless, as you can see here.

The Fellowship approaches the summit.

The Fellowship approaches the summit.

The last few hundred metres to the top are quite steep and slippery, but most of us made it up unscathed. Only one person had to return - with a rather muddy backside.

Almost there.

Almost there.

The scramble was worth every curse. The summit welcomes you with a 360 degree panorama of unspoilt mountain wilderness. Even without the film set in place, this location is truly magical.

The summit of Mount Sunday.

The summit of Mount Sunday.

Gaike pointed out various scenes before pulling a number of LOTR props out of the enormous duffle bag he had been carrying up the mountain:

Fans posing with replica weapons.

Fans posing with replica weapons.

Anduril, Herugrim, Sting and Gimli's battle axe (from right to left).

Anduril, Herugrim, Sting and Gimli's battle axe (from right to left).

I couldn't resist either.

Waving the flag of Rohan.

Waving the flag of Rohan.

Having satisfied our inner geek, we made our way back down. After a late lunch break (included in the tour price) at around 4pm, we left the vales of Rohan and travelled back into the real world.

You can check out our sceneframing location shots here.

Contact

If you want to book this tour with Hassle Free, you are best do it through their online booking system.

Travel Tips

This is an all-day tour. Even though you will spend a considerable amount of time in the vehicle, you should definitely bring sturdy shoes for the hike to the summit of Mount Sunday.

Don't forget your sunscreen and sunhat during the warmer months, whereas in winter, warm clothes are essential.

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