I woke this morning with a mission and a very strict timeline.  My mission, drive to and hike Mt. Sunday…the mountain used in LOTR as Edoras, the capital of Rohan.  The strict timeline….be on a plane at Christchurch airport this afternoon at 4:55 to travel to Auckland.  So the clock was ticking and I was focused…..

Mt. Sunday was one of several places that I absolutely knew I wanted to see when I started planning my trip to New Zealand.  As I loosely mapped out my journey around the South Island I planned to do Mt. Sunday on my way back to Christchurch.  However, that was of course before the multiple car issues that set me back 2 days and (quite frankly) caused me to be very paranoid about taking the car anywhere off the “beaten path”.  So I went back-and-forth in my mind for 3 days (prior to today) considering “if” I should do Mt. Sunday and if so “when” I should do it.  
You see the “if” part had to do with the location of Mt. Sunday and the access road.  It is pretty much in the middle of nowhere (seriously, look it up on a NZ map and there is nothing even remotely close to it) and on 16-20 miles of “unsealed” (gravel) roads. My rental contract sort of/kind of….ok, specifically said, “no use on unsealed roads”.  While that didn’t stop me from driving 16 miles on a gravel road to get to Rob Roy Glacier (see Day 33 – My “Oh My Gosh” Spot) that was before the busted rim, before the blown tire and on a day when I still had 2 weeks of travel ahead before I “had” to be anywhere.  If anything went wrong today it was pretty much a guarantee I would miss my flight this afternoon as it was 2:30 from Mt. Sunday to Christchurch airport.  So no pressure there. πŸ™‚

The “when” part I decided yesterday as I was considering doing Mt. Sunday yesterday and just skipping Mt. Cook…..and man-oh-man am I forever glad that I did not skip Mt. Cook (if you read yesterday’s blog you know why).  So, it was today or not on this trip.

So what do you think I did?  What would you do in this situation?  I can’t honestly say that I’ve ever been a gambler so “rolling the dice” is not something I do all the time.  However, in this case, I decided to roll up my sleeves, grab dem ole bones (Why are Dice called Bones?) and give ’em a whirl….

So off we go to Edoras!

According to Google maps it was a little over 2 hours from Timaru to Mt. Sunday with the first hour being paved and the second hour not.  It was a gorgeous day and I made good time to Mount Somers where you hit the gravel.  I was hoping the gravel road was in good condition and not as bad as the one to Rob Roy Glacier (recall several fords on that road). While there were a lot of “washboards” and it was very dry and dusty the road was in good condition and fairly wide.  I’m sure a lot of people come to Mt. Sunday and I know there are tours of it (they use large 4x4s for the tours as I passed a couple).  I sped up where I could and slowed where I needed to but generally made pretty good time….so far so good.  πŸ™‚

The area was mostly dry farmland with some sheep and cattle.  You also pass through a small recreational area with some vacation cabins between two small lakes called Lake Clearwater (GoogleWikiImages).  I could image this area would be quite beautiful in the winter and some of the pictures on the Images link above confirm that.

After another 15 minutes or so I topped a hill and got my first look at Mt. Sunday and the beautiful mountains behind it.  It was really spectacular and enormously cool to be looking at a valley and mountain I have seen so many times in a movie (yeah, I’m a geek I’ll admit it :-)…..

Although it appeared to be “close” it was still 10 more minutes before I arrived at the parking area….+ 5 more as I stopped several times for pictures…..

And cows…..(more cowbell! πŸ™‚

But I finally reached my destination…..YAY!

From here the information I had read said it was a 45 minute hike to the top…..but I didn’t have 1:30 to spend hiking this (remember we’re on a strict timeline) so in order to give me more time at the top, and to get some much needed exercise since I’ve been doing no physical activities on this trip at all ;-), I grabbed my pack and started running.  I ran all the way from the parking area to the beginning of the very steep (but luckily short) climb to the top. 
Once I reached the top the view was just incredible in all directions.  I know this was a fictional city but I could easily see why someone would have chosen this location for a castle….or a movie.  You could see for miles in all directions and with the mountains on 3 sides there was only 1 valley where anyone could approach.  It would have certainly made a good location for a castle….which I guess is why Peter Jackson chose it for the movie huh?  πŸ™‚

I spent probably 30 minutes or so at the top and then the dreaded sandflies (or their cousins the dirtflies) discovered there was “fresh blood” on the hill and I made a quick retreat to the bottom.  πŸ™‚
I stopped a few times on my way back to the car to take some more pictures of this beautiful valley….

I arrived at my car and began the 2:30 drive to Christchurch feeling very fulfilled and happy with my decision and my trip to Mt. Sunday.  Buy before I left the valley I had to stop for one (ok two) more picture….

Thankfully my drive back to Christchurch was uneventful and I made it back with time to get lunch, return the car and get to the airport.  I had a good flight to Auckland, picked up my rental car and headed south to my Airbnb for the evening in Hamilton, about 2 hours away.  Knowing that the restaurants would soon be closing I got off the freeway and chose a Thai restaurant called Muang Thai in a small town named Pukekohe (remember this name).  I went in, sat down and the waiter brought me a menu…..

My first thought was….uh, maybe I should rethink my choice?  ha ha  Then I was like, is this a Roman vomitorium?  πŸ™‚  Of course it means a restaurant in Pukekohe and I didn’t see any of the other customers running for the restroom or the front door so I assumed I was ok.  πŸ™‚  But I did have a good chuckle…at the table….by myself.  ha ha

Unfortunately I ran into several construction zones (I determined driving around NZ that literally every road in NZ is under construction and most are every 2 – 3 miles….seriously) and a couple of detours so it took longer than expected.  I finally arrived at my place for the evening around 11.

I had been in contact with my hosts along the way to keep them updated and as soon as I arrived they came out, introduced themselves, grabbed my bags and took them inside.  Their names were Sue and Garry. We made it as far as the kitchen when Sue turned to me and said, “You can probably use a drink after a long day and a long drive…beer or something stronger”. We opened a couple of local NZ beers and started talking and it was seriously like we had known each other for years.  They were such cool and interesting people.  They were both 61.  Sue had been a professional dancer and Garry was a drummer who had been in several bands…yeah, we had nothing in common. πŸ™‚ They told me that I had just missed Garry’s band as they had rehearsed tonight for an upcoming acoustic gig for St. Paddy’s day.  I was sooooo bummed!!!  πŸ™‚  I told them I would have loved that.  We talked for about 30 minutes when I asked Garry if he would mind if I played one of his guitars that I saw in the living room when I walked in.  Well that was it….

Long story short, Sue said she would leave us boys to play and said goodnight and Garry and I sat up for over another hour playing and singing song after song.  It was a total blast and so unexpected. I’ve played a little since I’ve been here but haven’t had access to a guitar for most of it so I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this.  I know both Garry and I wanted to play all night but I was really tired and he had to get up for work the next day so we finally called it a night sometime between 12:30-1.

Needless to say, it was another great day in New Zealand!

Where Am I
not the exact angle, but you get the picture

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