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.
I’ve been to Amsterdam a lot. Most of the time it was simply passing through the airport, but often times I had several hours layover … enough to go into town for a visit. So, oddly, I have accumulated quite a lot of time visiting this city without ever having stayed a single night. While this might sound somewhat silly, it actually a great idea when you consider that the alternative is to sit around in an airport.
Amsterdam is an easy train ride from the airport, and doesn’t take long at all. I often would go into town for a quiet breakfast at one of the local cafes, before strolling along the picturesque canals, shopping if needed, and then jumping on the short train ride back to the airport.
Many years ago I nearly moved to Amsterdam to live on a houseboat, but choices were made and other paths pursued (like many watershed decisions we make throughout life). However, I think there’s something intriguing about the idea of living so close to the water, somehow separate from the very heart of the city where you may reside. It seems peaceful in many ways (like on the quiet mornings I would visit), yet it also seems that it could be loud and noisy from a vibrant city life (I am speculating). Perhaps I missed my calling, or perhaps I would not have liked it at all – I cannot say.
Did I say that there were a lot of bicycles in Amsterdam? What an understatement … they were everywhere! I liked that there were so many different types, representing the different character of the local residents. If I had been staying for any decent amount of time, I absolutely would have planned on renting one!!
To some the city has a reputation for certain activities, however, I found that morning life in Amsterdam started much the same as anywhere else in the world – with promise of adventure.
Get out of the airport if you have time on your long layovers! However, make sure you have enough time to get through any customs, immigration and security protocols … so check these things out ahead of time (if possible, ask someone who has done it before).
P.S. Don’t do what Matt Barnes and I did one visit – to take tons of photos, then lose the camera before downloading the greatest pictures ever seen!!
With a special thanks to my family for a great birthday present, I was given the chance to go jet-boating up the Rakaia Gorge recently with my brother. However there is no photo that can adequately show the thrilling adventure of speeding through the beautiful scenery … although I’m very glad that we stopped several times to soak it in (and take some photos).
Although winter has just started, it was a gorgeous day for jet-boating. The wind was very strong, enough to where I took my hat off so that it wouldn’t get blown off! I also put my good camera in my coat pocket once I discovered that the memory card hadn’t been returned to the camera after downloading the last batch of photos. These pictures were taken from a mobile device, so I’m thankful that new devices have such decent camera’s.
Take a river jet boat trip if you ever have the chance. Especially when visiting the South Island of New Zealand. However, check your camera for a memory card first!
My last post got me to thinking about the last time I went sailing, and it turns out that it was a Felucca trip out on the River Nile, not too long ago. I found that Cairo was an engaging city, with a fantastic blend of modern society and reminders of ancient civilization. While most people want to rush off an see the pyramids, myself included, it seemed that an evening on the River Nile allowed a quite different perspective.
Stepping onto a Felucca is like stepping back in time – not stepping back 10, 50 or 100 years, but stepping back to the days of the Pharohs. These simple wooden boats ply the river now, just as they have for centuries. I suspect the ‘captain’ of today is no different than in times past … a wizened old man with a quick smile, who tucks his Galabeya (tradition Egyptian male dress) around his waist, squats at the stern and steers with his feet. Felucca’s are usually furnished with cushions on the seats around the gunwales and feature a fixed table in the middle, perfect for bring-your-own picnic or party.
With the wind, we sailed downriver while the sky faded to black. The city lights seemed somewhat distant, but a reminder of the modern age. It seemed that many of the other boats were filled with locals who were enjoying the cool evening on the river, although I’m sure there were other travelers soaking up the experience as well. My friends and I had bought some fresh bread, and other local fare, and were able to enjoy a lovely meal while tacking to and fro across the river. While 2-3 hours on the river sounds like a long time, I can assure you that it seemed to go much too fast – and I wasn’t at all ready for the evening to end (but couldn’t miss my early morning flight the next day). Multi-day trips up/down the river are possible, and if you have the time – would be an incredible experience.
When in Cairo, or elsewhere along the River Nile, take some time to go out in a Felucca. Plan ahead so that you have all you want to eat and drink – but don’t do this the night before your flight home.