img_5662.jpgQueenstown is dubbed the ‘Extreme Activity Town of New Zealand’ meaning that tons of companies offer everything from Jetboating to Power-Walking – Just so long as it is extreme. To cut a long story short (Stephan: You must read on!!!), we went the conservative route and went on a “Ride of the Rings” tour, a gentle horseback riding tour that showed us around some of the filming locations for “Lord of the Rings” such as Lothlorien and Isengard. To be honest, it must have been quite extreme for Jason because horseback riding isn’t necessarily something he feels comfortable with. But we’ve had a good time nevertheless…

After leaving Te Anau in the late afternoon, we arrived in the Queenstown area in the evening and found a great camping spot about 20 km south of the town directly by the lake. The next day, we drove into Queenstown and walked around the shopping area, and yes, we bought a few things such as new polarized sun glasses, shorts and hiking boots (huge sales going on at the moment, we couldn’t resist…). Anyway, not much else happened except for a geocache and a lovely walk through town. For the night, we parked the van near a geocache on a peninsula opposite Queenstown, and the funny thing is that our spot was right next to a golf course! We luckily didn’t get into trouble for that one!

But anyway, the next day was the day full of activities. A local had clued us in on “Deer Park Heights” which was really close to where we had stayed for the night. It’s an open-air wildlife refuge on a steep mountain offering the GREATEST views of the area while you’re driving through herds of goats, deer, alpacas, llamas, miniature horses, sheep and even bison! You can buy pellets and actually feed the animals (well, perhaps not the bison). It’s hilarious how they chase after you once you rattle the tin can ;-) Up on the hill top is where they’ve filmed movies such as “Lord of the Rings” or “The Rescue” (a Disney B-Movie that left a Korean prison set up there). We stayed up there for quite a while and then almost ran out of time for our afternoon appointment at the horse stables in Glenorchy, a one-hour drive along the lake.

Honestly, doing anything under the pressure of a deadline stresses me, so I drove as fast as I could with the camper van (average of 80 km/h), while Jason had to enjoy and photograph the scenery of misty clouds around the peaks, and a green-turquoise lake. It was quite nice I hear… We arrived at “Dart Stables”, checked in for our ride, and our group of 13 was then driven to a place called Paradise, and that’s where the real “Lord of the Rings” stuff happened. We mounted our horses and off we went. The guide pointed out filming locations of certain “Lord of the Rings” scenes, as well as scenes from the new Narnia movie “Prince Caspian”, and the new “X-Man” movie “Wolverine”.  There was even the filming location of a Viagra advert.

Before heading back into Queenstown, we stopped at a campground by the lake to cook some dinner but we actually didn’t stay there over night. Long story, but initially we had intended to move on towards our next destination when Jason realized that an important part of our water hose had gone missing. The last time we had used it was at the Golf Course place, so we went back there to look for it. Seeing how late it was at that stage, we stayed overnight. Fortunately, although we couldn’t find the hose attachment at night with torches, we did find it quickly the next morning with sunlight.

The next morning we drove to a lovely quaint village named Arrowtown, just 20 minutes from Queenstown. We granted ourselves a fancy breakfast before taking a spin along the main street with old-fashioned stores and houses. Looks cute! To get to our next destination, we took the scenic pass route across the mountains – the Crown Range. The drive was fantastic and we took loads of photos!