Mavora, NZ to Te Anau, NZ

47.2 mi / 11.9 mph / 563 ft. climbing
Home: Tasman Holiday Park

We were up at first light, thinking of heading further north up the dead-end road to have breakfast where The Fellowship of the Ring once camped. But it was so cold that such complexities would have been more painful than pleasureable, so we just cooked and ate at our own camp (with Rett inside the tent).

It’s difficult for even me, the guy who took this photo, to understand what is creating the abstract painting. Well, it’s a layer of fog/clouds low on the mountains across the lake, with the rising sun somehow slicing under the fog to light up the mountain.

Then we rode (with no bags on Rett’s bike) to the road’s end (surprised to see how many people were camped up that way), and walked just a short distance to the spot where the Fellowship parted ways at the end of the first Lord of the Rings movie. It was one of the more obviously-recognizable scenes we’ve seen so far.

Legolas/Rett watches helpless as Frodo and Sam reach the far shore of the Anduin/Nen Hithoel/North Mavora Lake, completing the breaking of the Fellowship.
I think I can see Frodo and Sam escaping into the trees on the far shore. At least the Ring is safe…for now.
Even though this wasn’t the location used for the Falls of Rauros, the morning fog sure made it easy to imagine that this New Zealand lake geographically matched Middle Earth, and that’s the mist of a giant waterfall at the long lake’s end.

It’s fun to think of the cast and crew journeying to this remote location; it’s easy to imagine that the actors bonded in ways similar to the Fellowship as they traveled, even if Elijah Wood and Sean Astin probably used another method besides a boat and their bicycles to get  here.

Just a little deeper into the woods Peter Jackson shot a scene between the hobbits minutes before they separated, a rare case where movie geography matched the real world (even though the actual capture of Merry and Pippin by the Uruk Hai was shot way over by Glenorchy!)

Rett hides behind the same fallen tree where Merry and Pippin hid from Uruk Hai and were mystified as to why Frodo refused to join them in their hiding place.

Thrilled by the chance to see these places that were essentially along our route anyway (Rett even did an impressive job of slo-mo charging down a hill like the Uruk Hai leader Lurtz did), we got back on the bikes for the two mile return to Rett’s bags left at our campsite. But before returning to the main road, we had one final stop, to see an area that was used when the Fellowship left Lothlorien. This was a less-obviously-matching location, but it was pretty!

A little further back in time, this outlet of South Mavora Lake was one of the waterways the Fellowship floated along when departing Galadriel’s Lothlorien.

Then back on the main road (still gravel!), it was just a mile or so to filming location #4 of the morning! I got the feeling that Peter Jackson was like “we hauled ourselves and all this shit out here, what other scenes can we shoot around here?” This one was from The Two Towers, where Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli picked up Merry and Pippin’s trail as they escaped into Fangorn Forest while their orc captors battled the riders of Rohan on their tussocked grassland.

#FindRett #FindingHobbits, tracking Merry and Pippen to the forbidding edge of Fangorn Forest just as Aragon, Legolas, and Gimli did.

This was another location that was instantly recognizable, though in this case, not uniquely-so. The abrupt transition from grassland to nearly-black wall-of-forest is something that I thought only existed in fantasy novels, or Grimm fairy tales, but near the end of yesterday’s ride we passed miles of these sharp forest/grassland divides. So picking one of them for Fangorn Forest must have been the most-obvious thing in the world!

During an orc-Rohirrim battle, Merry and Pippin cut their bonds and escaped into Fangorn. Later Aragorn would discover the cut ropes and understand what had occurred in this place. Nearly a year ago, in the depths of our restoration in Seattle, Rett re-learned friendship-bracelet making, and I had been wearing the one she made for me ever since. It had nearly reached the end of its natural life, and with a slight tug it came loose in this place, left behind on this sharp rock as a tribute to searching for lost friends.
#FindRett trying to enter Fangorn Forest, looking for Treebeard.
Looking back down to our bikes from atop the Orc Mound. We had to hop a fence and navigate unmarked potholed ground to get up here.

Finally we started moving for real, and it was already 10am. Luckily the big hill we climbed yesterday bought us an extremely-gradual but extremely-steady descent for most of today (1300 feet over 30 miles). The “gradual” was especially good, because in this slightly-more-traveled section of road (this is the side non-cyclists need to use to get both out of and into Mavora Lakes), the road was a bit rockier, so a steeper downhill would have been pulling us down too fast for the bumps.

A couple of other bike tourers (the French couple we were leapfrogging yesterday) and a couple of through-hikers represent a good portion of the traffic on the offshoot to Te Anau.

The Tour Aotearoa route circles back southeast to Mossburn, but we cut southwest to Te Anau. The gravel got a bit worse on this section, especially on the steep curves. On one, the stones became loose and deep, and the road camber was pitched so deeply into the curve that Rett couldn’t climb out to a better line, and got pulled down into the curve as she stopped her bike. She skillfully leaped away to let the bike slide out from under her, and then luckily there was a grass-covered hillside rising up behind her (rather than a ravine continuing down, or a barbed wire fence) that she landed her hip on. Once we got her back upright and moving forward again, even I had trouble getting going again and almost got sucked down the same way.

Rett covers everything she can from the dust cloud generated by the speeding vehicle.

Ever since we were riding under-construction gravel roads in Glacier National Park last year, we’ve been warned about the dust clouds generated by speeding traffic, but somehow up until now we’ve been very lucky and have never encountered the dust problems that others have. Well, that came to an end today. More cars meant more opportunities for ourselves and our bikes to get coated. Then, after doing 8 miles on the offshoot to Te Anau and seeing one car, suddenly three farm vehicles/trucks dusted us just before we stopped for lunch. “Just bad luck, not an indication that traffic is suddenly quadrupling”, I said. Well, traffic suddenly quadrupled, and we continued to eat more dust with our lunches. Ironically, we knew we were about to get to the main highway, so had intentionally stopped for lunch while we were still on the “quiet road”. Whoops!

The highway brought an end to the dust, but a return to actual traffic. Luckily our early-afternoon timing seemed to have all the tour buses already at Milford Sound, waiting to return their passengers to Queenstown on this route, so it wasn’t too bad. After getting caught out by yesterday’s wind, Rett was pushing hard to beat today’s, but luckily it never came up so we made it to camp (past a line of “No Vacancy” signs at every motel) by 3pm.

The Takitimu mountains, a rare isolated circle of mountains surrounded by farming.
One of the southernmost ranges of the Southern Alps, and the southernmost that we will see.
There was quite a bit of venison farming in this area heading into Te Anau.
I don’t take photos of sheep every single day, so that might give the impression that we don’t see sheep every single day. Let me correct that impression: we do in fact see sheep every single day.

After our two days crossing no-man’s-land, we treated ourselves to a really good wood-fired pizza dinner (with beers!) We returned to the holiday park to find it much fuller than the mid-afternoon lull, and the kitchen was an absolute zoo, so going out was definitely the right call. The nice lounge though was basically empty except for us, computing and charging.

Day 2

A windy night of fractured sleep (for me at least) led into a rainy day off, a rare rainy day in a campground for us, except of course New Zealand holiday parks make “camping” in the rain far easier.

We could cook breakfast in the communal kitchen (after a massive group cleared out we had it (and their mess) to ourselves), could do laundry, could hang out in the lounge, and could steam in the sauna. Yeah, the last one was the best, even if we could have used more time (the heater had timed off without us realizing it). So we didn’t need to spend any time inside the tent!

The on/off showers were really stressing Rett out though, especially when the non-dryer bits of her laundry we’d hung on a line got re-wet.

Tonight the kitchen stayed quiet (well, it was oddly busy at like 9pm, like last night), but instead the lounge became the place to be. Surprising how the rhythms change from day to day.


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