At the top of my New Zealand to-do list was a visit Mt. Sunday. It was the site of Edoras in the Lord of The Rings movies, and the closest LOTR movie location to our place. So the third day after arriving, Aman and I piled into the car and made the 1-hour 20-minute drive up to the Southern Alps.
Mid Canterbury is a very interesting place. It is farming country, so naturally Ashburton is surrounded by green farms and pastures on all sides, quite like Iowa. However, quite unlike Iowa, there are imposing snow-capped mountains to the west. Visible from anywhere in town, but they really open up once you get right outside town.
After about 40 minutes, we hit the end of the paved road and continued on gravel as we entered Hakatere Conservation Area. As we kept going, the views just got more fantastic.
There are several lakes in the area, and since it was a calm day, they provided a glass-like surface.
Soon after, we came upon an overlook. And what a sight it was. The whole valley was spread out beneath us, ringed by snow-capped peaks under a perfect blue sky. And in the middle of it all, was the little hill of Mt. Sunday, instantly recognizable as Edoras.
As we got closer, Edoras got even more majestic under the high peaks.
Pretty soon we parked off the road and started on the short walk up Mt. Sunday. The hill sits on private pasture land but a walking path is open to the public. It sometimes requires navigating a herd of cows (which we had to do).
A short walk (a bit steep at the end) brought us to the top for exhilarating 360-degree views.
There were only a few other people there. After a quick lunch and exploration, we headed back. And it just whetted our appetite for the fantastic scenery in New Zealand!