When it rains it pours in the Southern Alps; at least in our experience.
It rained the day we drove Arthur’s Pass (to the point where the pass was closed) and it rained the day we were driving to Methven. With the help of Paddy, whom we stayed with while on our journey through the South Island, we were able to find the turnoff to Mount Potts Station – even in the pouring rain.
A 4WD is best for tackling this journey, there is almost 50km of unsealed chip road. If you’re like us and you do not possess one, it is still entirely possible to drive there. Just ensure you have a spare wheel or a good puncture kit, just in case. Otherwise, it would be a long wait for the AA. Not that this happened to us – I’m just thinking out loud.
We made the journey in my aunt’s Suzuki Aerio (she’s now the keeper of my first ever car – it’s the best car in the world. Seriously. It’s indestructible). The drive is rough and definitely takes longer than the suggested hour and twenty minutes from Methven. After twenty minutes or so, we came out of the mountains onto broad, golden plains and the skies cleared completely. We rumbled along, chatting and listening to podcasts, enjoying the surprising sun until we came to ‘the view’.
Probably my number one nerd moment of my life – and this trip – was coming over the rise and seeing Mount Sunday sitting, like the perfect little mound it is, surrounded by the Southern Alps. I could actually see the set still sitting on top in my mind. Someone bring me a horse!
Safe to say, this was very much a pilgrimage for me. Tiernan tolerates my Lord of the Rings obsession, but he wouldn’t do an annual viewing. If you’ve been watching the vlogs, please count up my LOTR references! I think I’ve made them fairly regularly.
There were a couple of cars in the little car park when we arrived. A few more pulled in while we were sitting in the car consuming our yoghurts. Rings is responsible for the increased popularity of the area and I think it’s a testimony to good film making that people are still seeking it out fifteen years after the release of the films.
Getting your Rings on is not all there is to do here. Mount Potts is a 1197 hectare working cattle station with a lodge that is bookable as accommodation and accommodates farm visits, hunting and scenic flights. It’s been a station in its own right sine 1911.
Although private land, there is remarkable access and the Department of Conservation has created a trail, well sign posted, helping visitors to climb Mount Sunday. The track is only 1.5 kms, so it takes 30 minutes to climb up the spine to the top.
When Lord of the Rings was being filmed, the set of Edoras, capital of the Rohan kingdom, covered the summit. The set was mammoth, taking 9 months to build on the condition that, after filming, everything would be removed. As I said earlier, it was not hard in any way to imagine what it looked like with the set in situ. Once we got to the top we tried to figure out where abouts in the Golden Hall we were standing relative to the trig station. The 360-degree panoramic views are simply astounding. We sat and enjoyed them for a long time, ultimately acquiring a nasty bout of sunburn.
The sun in New Zealand is no joke and, sometimes, no matter how high the SPF rating or how many layers you apply, the only way to not get burned is to get out of the sun. Thing is, there is no shelter on top of Mount Sunday. Knowing we were crisping as we walked, we made our way back to the car, counting how many minutes extra exposure we were getting.
Back in the car, we drove back towards Methven, hitting the veil of rain just where the stone chips meet the tarmac. A little over an hour later we pulled into the car park of the Blue Pub* (as opposed to the Brown Pub, of which there is one), where we would be spending the night. I was keen to get the after sun out and rubbed into my already protesting skin.
The Blue Pub* is reasonably basic hostel-style accommodation housed above the pub. If you’re looking for a place simply to lay your head, this could be it. Would be very suitable for skiers who intend to spend their days on the mountains and nights in the bar. There is not much there other than beds, but it is clean and tidy. The proprietors include a noise warning on their booking page as there are sometimes bands playing in the bar. I reckon if you’re the type of person to stay here, you will probably be the type of person to go and listen to the band, so it probably wouldn’t bother you.
For dinner, we thoroughly recommend the brilliant Irish Put, the Dubliner, where we met with a family friend for a feed that night. They were finalists in the 2017 hospitality awards for a reason. I recommend the Irish Stew: the taste of home!
Next up we’ll write about why we visit an Irish pub in every country we visit!
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