After our first night of tent camping, we set our sights on Mount Sunday.
For Lord of the Rings (LOTR) fans, Mount Sunday is one of the most scenic and recognizable film locations in all of New Zealand: Edoras, the capital of Rohan, where King Theoden sits with his mind imprisioned by his advisor Wormtongue. (To see film footage of Edoras, click here for a short Youtube video.)
From Peel Forest, we had to drive northward and follow the Rangitata River. We did not pass any grocery stores (we had hoped to get something to take back to the campground for an easy dinner that night) and ended up stopping for breakfast at a small cafe. It wasn’t ideal, but there were not a lot of options!
At one point on the way, James said, “This is so remote. We flew to the far corner of the earth. Only to fly from a large city to a smaller city on the sparsely populated South Island. Then we drove out of that smaller city to a remote campground, and then off the paved road even further into the wilderness.”
The last 30 kilometers to the Mount Sunday carpark in Hakatere Reserve were on gravel road.
After a short battle (apropos given the warrior nature of the LOTR characters who lived in this valley, I guess) with getting Calvin in a frame of mind to walk, we finally started the trek across the stream-strewn valley to Mount Sunday.
Some highlights from the hike:
- crossing a swinging bridge–only one person at a time!
- reading signage about the river’s importance to salmon, who come there to spawn and then die each year
- enjoying the sheer absence of many other tourists/visitors
Mount Sunday (at 500 meters) is quite short compared to the snow-topped peaks surrounding it, and the view of it was unmistakeable.
It didn’t take very long to reach the spine of the trail that took us to the top. The kids were troopers, too.
A weather vane / beacon at the top had been marked and written on by visitors over the years. I noticed “Frodo lives,” “Not all who wander are lost,” “All hail Theoden, king?” and “Where the horse and rider?” among lovers’ names and other more personal carvings.
Then I noticed Calvin prancing.
“Do you need to use the toilet, Cal?” I asked.
He quickly nodded.
No toilet in sight, I led him around a rocky outcropping and was about to help him pull down his pants when he desperately muttered, “I have to poop.”
Are. you. kidding. me.
There wasn’t any other option, so I helped him squat amidst the tussock and rocks (sorry Eowyn…) to relieve himself, then got a large ziplock bag from James (it had been holding first-aid supplies in his backpack).
For readers who are regularly in the practice of cleaning up after their dogs, I don’t know how you do it.
So for the 30 minute walk back to the car I got to carry Cal’s waste, but at least he didn’t have an accident in his pants, which would have been much more unpleasant.
Going to Mount Sunday was truly a dream come true for me; it’s a place I have wanted to visit for nearly 20 years, and it definitely met my expectations with its natural beauty and rugged wildness. The price of admission (life’s “realness”) was still worth it.