New Zealand: The Lord of the RingsEdoras: On Location with Hassle Free Tours
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...
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.
Although the tour starts from Christchurch (at 9am), Hassle Free also does pick-ups from the inland town of Methven (at 10.45am).
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.
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.
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.
Everything was immediately recognisable and the opportunities for sceneframing were endless, as you can see here.
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.
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.
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:
I couldn't resist either.
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.
If you want to book this tour with Hassle Free, you are best do it through their online booking system.
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.