Rivendell, New Zealand – June 25, 2016
This time of year, the sun does not rise until nearly 08:00. It was dark when we departed home.
The first stop was Macca’s for fuel. Some orange juice and a couple of Sausage Egg McMuffins and we were ready for the trip. When we got back in the car, we could begin to see the faint hint of a sunrise.
Our destination was a mere 32 kilometers (20 miles) away, Kaitoke Regional Park. The draw was Rivendell. Many of our past trips along State Highway 2 took us up and over Rimutaka Pass. On each trip, we passed a sign, pointing to the north, with the words “Kaitoke Regional Park” and “Rivendell.” Not too long ago, I asked one of my Kiwi colleagues whether the “Rivendell” on the sign referred to the Rivendell in The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) movies and books. I was happy to hear, “yes.”
In roughly 20 minutes, we made that often-passed turn to the north. At the entry to the park, we stopped at the information pavilion. No one else was around. It was interesting to read about the longfin eel. I had never heard of that species of eel. Perhaps that was because it is endemic to New Zealand (found nowhere else on earth). The eels may live in rivers for decades before returning to the sea to mate.
Leaving the pavilion, we continued north. In about one kilometer, we arrived at the small parking area for Rivendell. Once again, we were by ourselves. Exiting our vehicle, I grabbed my camera gear. We walked down to the Pakuratahi River. The river water, like every river we have seen in New Zealand, was crystal clear. After taking some photographs, we decided it was time to hike to Rivendell.
Our hike began at the parking lot. We knew which direction we were to travel; however, we were unsure about the distance. It ended up being only about 200 meters until we found the Rivendell Path. We did not know at the time, but the walk along the path to Rivendell was also only about 200 meters. In addition to being a short hike, it was very level. The hiking surface was a combination of sealed road and well-groomed gravel path.
We knew before we set out that Rivendell no longer exists; however, there is some preservation of the area used for filming. There are a few signposts throughout the site, which help interpret portions of what happened in Rivendell in LOTR. One signpost demonstrated the relative heights of Hobbits, trolls, Sauron, etc.; while another showed a plan indicating the location of various parts of the Rivendell site. The only structure at the place that harkens back to the movie set is the Elvish Archway. While the archway is an interesting photo opportunity, it is a reproduction. Regardless, we enjoyed our brief trip to Rivendell.
We walked back to the parking area to prepare for our next activity, the Swingbridge. At the Kaitoke Regional Park, the Pakuratahi River merges with the Hutt River. A bridge crosses both rivers. Over the Pakuratahi River is a cement girder bridge leading to Rivendell. On the other hand, over the Hutt River is a suspension bridge dubbed the Swingbridge. As soon as one steps on the suspension portion, it becomes very evident from whence the name comes. Luckily, the Swingbridge is only about ten meters above the water. If it had been 100 or 150 meters above the river, I am sure I would not have managed the crossing.
The draw of the Swingbridge is more than merely the view of the Hutt River. It is the quickest way to get to the Loop Walk, a short trail through the rainforest. Rainforests have become one of my favorite things about New Zealand. The flora of the rainforests is impressive. The loop trail winds through numerous species of trees, ferns, and other plants that are endemic to New Zealand. Some of the trees reach heights of 50 meters. While the circumference of the trees is no match for the California redwood trees, they are still imposing.
New Zealand is host to about 200 species of fern, and there are numerous species located along the loop trail. The silver fern, at up to 10 meters in height, is the most imposing and famous. The Maori call the new, tightly coiled fronds “koru.” The koru is one of my favorite things to photograph in the rainforest.
Leaving the rainforest, it was back across Swingbridge. At the parking lot, I retrieved our folding chairs from the car. We took those down to the edge of the Pakuratahi River and sat at the river’s side for a long time. It was such a peaceful setting. The sound of the river (I would call it a stream) was very soothing.
While sitting beside the Pakuratahi, I had my camera on a tripod, capturing photos now and then. We saw two mallard drakes and two mallard hens coming toward us. They were kind enough to allow me to take several photographs.
When we got cold, the temperature was right at 50 degrees Fahrenheit; we packed up and took another short walk to warm up. A sign near the river indicated kayakers faced a three-hour trip down the Hutt River, through a gorge. When we got back to the parking area, there just happened to be three kayakers. Leslie struck up a conversation with the young men. They told us they could make the trip downriver in about two hours. What increases the time is the existence of inexperienced kayakers. That day, they were the only kayakers around. One of the young men indicated he might have been suffering from a hangover. He added that he could not wait to get in the river and overturn. He thought that might help his condition. Sure enough, once in the river, he deliberately turned over. I do not know if that helped him or not.
After that walk, we had a picnic lunch and then returned to Lower Hutt.
For anyone in the area, I highly recommend a trip to the Kaitoke Regional Park.