It’s not often that you get to visit iconic locations from Middle Earth, but that’s what I did with my family this past weekend. It reminded me how easy it is to ‘overlook’ the great hidden locations that might be tucked away near where you live, where-ever that may be. This place is actually called Mt Sunday, since the locals used to meet here on Sunday’s … back in the old days.
Of course it’s been some time since the dwarves, elves, hobbits and ‘men’ -bustled about the village of Edoras (featured in the Lord of the Rings movie, The Two Towers). However, watching that portion of the movie again … I can promise you that it truly is a windy place to visit.
From Christchurch, it is about two hours drive – the first 90 minutes was on sealed roads (although virtually no cars were travelling the same roads once turning off State Highway 1 in Rakaia … so an hour of peaceful drive), with the last half hour on gravel roads (again with very little traffic). The first glimpse of Edoras is shown below.
We elected to take a picnic lunch with us, rather than simply take some obligatory photos and leave. From the road, it was about 45 minute walk up to the top (although we took a bit longer since we stopped to take a lot of photos). It was fairly steep in some places, so I expect it would be quite slippery in the wet (since the track was generally over grass). We purposefully picked a nice day, and that made the picnic much more enjoyable.
It was a peaceful place to visit, and provides some of the best 360 degree alpine panoramic’s that you will ever see. Photos don’t do justice to this mountainous valley, and even the video clips can’t quite capture the enormity of the place. The rivers are clear, clean, fast flowing, and make a merry bubbling noise that soothes away any worries you may have.
Mt Potts Lodge is well advertised as you get closer, although when we went to investigate – were met by someone who didn’t speak English (which made it difficult to find out more). There are a delightful cluster of holiday houses at Lake Clearwater, en route, and with two lakes within walking distance … makes for somewhere to visit again in the summer (and a good option for a place to stay).
There are a variety of walking tracks in the region, and I’m keen to explore a little more.
Just a short time ago, I took my family to a park for some annual photos in the daffodils. While the seasons are reversed between the northern and southern hemispheres … it’s still a great thing to make a tradition of something as simple as taking photos during the relatively short daffodil season. It’s handy to have annual photos of the kids growing up, and while birthdays, Christmas or school photos are great, sometimes it’s good to have something scenic in the frame as well.
As noted in the photo caption, it’s much better to travel with those you love. So, while sometimes it may be easier to travel through challenging foreign environments by yourself, it is better and safer to travel with someone else …. however, it’s much more fun to travel anywhere with your loved ones (especially once the kids are a little older).
Make some simple annual family traditions, and capture them on film. (To kids – a tradition is anything they liked, and which we’ve done at least once.)
As a parent, I’m very interested in teaching our kids important life lessons – like ‘treat other people the way you want to be treated’. Sometimes the lack of noticeable progress can be quite frustrating, and other times they clearly demonstrate that something has sunk in (even if it’s only briefly).
This past summer we visited Lake Tekapo for a few days, and I wanted to share one moment with you. Even although the lake water is quite cold due to the glacier runoff, I took the kids for a swim at a spot where the water was supposedly a little warmer. While there, they found a large concrete block some distance from the shore on which to sun themselves warm after getting sufficiently cold playing in the water. I snapped this photo while they were relaxing, sharing a snack, and soaking up the warmth of the sun. It seemed to capture a glimpse of the positive sibling bond that can be shared between brothers and sister – as opposed to sibling rivalry which is much, much more common.
It would be nice if they could have more of these moments of friendship and cooperation, even throughout the teenage years. I am posting the photo as a reminder to myself that there’s always hope.
Don’t give up on an adventure just because the water is too cold, or some other seemingly unpleasant impediment … something surprising may happen as a result.
It’s easy to visit the popular locations, those which are easiest to reach, the place that everyone knows about, and it’s usual the default / safe plan for your trip. However, if you are prepared to be a little bit more adventurous – consider exploring what’s further down the road … and perhaps follow it to the very end. Obviously it’s a good idea to have a glance at a map before you do this, as in some parts of the world the road may take you thousands of miles across a large continent.
Our family recently followed the road to the end, primarily to find the last beach along a particular volcanic harbour in New Zealand. After passing several small townships, we reached the end of the pavement at a nice looking holiday-house type community. However, we continued onto the gravel road, past the “No Exit” sign, and after a short, but adventurous, drive – we found a beach that our daughter later said was her “favourite beach in New Zealand!” Best of all, we were the only ones there for most of the time we visited!
While this little beach looks remote, it was only about 10 minutes from the nearest shops, and about 40-45 minutes from the city. We loved the fact that it felt remote, and our view included no developed land (no buildings were in sight) plus a nice view out over the Pacific Ocean.
We also explored a very short walkway, and found “the niftiest, coolest little rock cove in all the world” – according to our son Luke. Mind you, I’m with him on this one as it was totally awesome – and photos can’t do it justice (it’s a 4D experience, not suitable for 2D pictures). There were little caves and tidal pools, shells and shellfish, cool volcanic rocks, natural hanging gardens, old jetty piles from some bygone era, and lots of interesting things for kids of any age … or even those of us just young at heart!
You’ll note that I’m not sharing the exact location of these beaches … primarily because I don’t want to find it crowded the next time we visit!! Obviously some of the locals know about it, but I’d prefer to keep it a well kept ‘secret’.
Check the map, but don’t be afraid of exploring a little bit further down the road!
As the visitor information says: The seaside settlement of Kaikoura, situated midway between Christchurch and Picton on the rugged east coast of New Zealand’s South Island, is overlooked by majestic mountains, which are snow-capped for many months of the year. Few places in the world can boast of such natural wonders as those offered by land and sea in Kaikoura. This unique combination of ocean and mountains offers stunning coastal alpine scenery and a host of eco-tourism oriented activities, including whale watching, dolphin swimming, walks, and much more!
We took a day-trip from Christchurch, although a long weekend would have been a much better idea! The road from Christchurch gets progressively more curvy as you get closer to this seaside town, and passes through a number of short tunnels along the rugged coastline (which the kids just loved). The mountains drop straight into the Pacific Ocean, into an area called the Kaikoura Canyon. The canyon extends northeast to join the Hikurangi Trough, which in turn connects with the Kermadec Trench, one of the deepest spots on earth (10,047 m at it’s deepest point, or 32,963 ft).
Simply put, Kaikoura is an ideal place for a wildlife nursery – hence the abundance of baby whales, dolphins and seals.
Sometimes a day trip just isn’t enough time … so make sure the preparation and total driving time still allows for a suitably long visit at your destination. If you want to see the whales, AND the dolphins, AND the seals, AND do some walks, AND check out the shops in Kaikoura township, plan on spending a weekend!