New Zealand is known as the shooting location for Middle Earth. It’s also the home of Weta Workshop, the production company that created the makeup, armour, weapons, costumes, and special visual effects. So naturally, I had to take a Lord of the Rings tour.
Researching on the web, I found one “My Queenstown Diary” webpage that described three tours originating in Queenstown. I decided to take two LOTR tours there, four hours each, one in the morning and the other in the afternoon. I followed the links, booked one tour, then the other from another webpage. Or so I thought.
One was called Lord of the Rings Scenic Tour, hosted by Nomad Safari. This was a 4WD tour limited to six tourists. It would meet at Info & Track at 37 Shotover Street in downtown Queenstown.
Here’s their video promo:
The other tour, cited by the “My Queenstown Diary” webpage, was the Pure Glenorchy Lord of the Rings Tour. It picked up its passengers at the corner of Shotover & Camp Streets, 25 Shotover Street–which was right around the corner of Info & Track. This could be booked from several webpages.
Here’s Glenorchy’s promo video:
And a longer one here:
I booked both tours–or so I thought. Lord of the Rings Scenic Tour in the morning, with an hour-and-a-half break, followed by the Pure Glenorchy Lord of the Rings Tour in the afternoon.
To avoid any misunderstandings, I arrived at Info & Track at twenty minutes before 8:00 a.m. The place had only two people: the clerk and me. I offered my booking number to the clerk. “No worries,” said the clerk, who didn’t bother to check it. With some time to kill, I wandered out to the corner of Shotover and Camp, where the Glenorchy tour passengers were gathering. No, I was with the Nomad group. Or so I thought. “No worries,” the clerk had said.
So I returned to Info & Track. At 8:00 there was a flurry of people going through the store–but no sign of a bus outside on Shotover. It became apparent this was the Nomad tour, and their vehicle was behind the store. Too late. They were already booked, and before I knew it, they were gone. It turns out I had booked the Glenorchy tour around the corner (twice, but through two different websites)–and they were gone.
The afternoon tours for both companies were fully booked. And I couldn’t do it the next day because I had booked another activity in Queenstown that straddled morning and afternoon, an across-the-lake visit to Walter Peak Farm.
So, my opportunity to visit Middle Earth had evaporated.
Or had it?
I was about to experience an instance of Kiwi hospitality–one of many to come.
The clerk called up the owners of the Glenorchy tour–Nomad’s rival!–and put me on the phone with him. He listened to my harried but brief explanation of what had happened. In a calm, friendly manner, he offered to have me join the Glenorchy tour in progress. They would be at their first stop for 20 minutes. That would give his wife time to pick me up and drive me to them. It was a five-minute walk (or run) to the Crown Plaza Hotel parking lot on Beach St. After a few minutes wait, she came by in her van and away we flew as fast as the speed limit would allow. Had a nice, friendly conversation along the way. We caught the tour group just as they were leaving the first location.
The second stop–for me the first–was here, Bennett’s Bluff Lookout.
Recognize it, anyone?
Proof that I had arrived on Middle Earth.
And to Pure Glenorchy, thanks.
To be continued.