The Waitangi holiday weekend had arrived. This is New Zealand’s National day when they celebrate (with varying degrees of enthusiasm) their founding document Te Tiriti o Waitangi (The Treaty of Waitangi) signed by representatives of the British Crown and Māori chiefs on 6th February 1840. On that day a marquee was set up on the lawn in front of the home of a British resident and a proposal was made to the attending chiefs asking them to agree to British settlement in New Zealand. The Chiefs debated long and hard throughout the night at their Marae, but eventually they signed, and the treaty was signed by many more later. This is generally taken to be the time of the birth of modern New Zealand.
Everyone has a lovely late summer weekend. The schools have just begun their new year, but they all shut almost immediately for the holiday. Kiwi families disappear to the baches by the lakes with enormous picnics. In town the sheds and garages are opened wide, and the lawnmowers are in full throttle – both the ones driven by humans and the robot mowers purring over the neat green lawns.
On this day we headed towards Mount Somers and passed through the holiday village of Lake Clearwater, then on to gravel roads as we travelled through the Hakatere Conservation Park towards Mount Potts. The road was busy.
By which I mean that we passed at least one other car every ten minutes or so. The reason becomes clear. Not only are the views astounding, but as we descend into the wide Rangitata river valley we glimpse the seemingly tiny hulk of Mount Sunday in the distance.
But of course it can never again be just Mount Sunday. It will forever be associated with LOR Edoras, Helms Deep looming behind it. And it was not so tiny once we got there. It is just that everything around it is so spectacular! The last time I visited was 12 years ago and it was part of an organised LOR outing, which was great, and included all kinds of stories about the filming and the stars who stayed nearby, and a picnic lunch with a life-sized Gandalf mannequin. Because the filming site is part of the conservation park the film production team had to return the whole area to the exact state it was in before they arrived, including replanting original plants. We were also told about the famous mistake where Eowyn’s hair streams in the wind in one direction while the flag above her flutters in the opposite direction. I have never been able to watch The Two Towers in the same way again!
One of the benefits of the organised tour was the large Landrover that got us round the site and half way up Mount Sunday. It was then only a short climb to the top. Now there is a car park (and compost toilet) about 2km away, and a scenic trail over crystal clear streams towards the mount. We enjoyed the stroll, but did not make it to the summit due to my dodgy knees (although Hubby blamed the shoes).
We stopped at Lake Clearwater on the way home to watch the jet skis and boats, the water and hydro skiers and the shrieking children being towed in dinghies. They were having the time of their lives. Back to school tomorrow kids!