Right. Since Peter Jackson filmed the Lord of the Rings trilogy in NZ, you can’t escape LOTR effects on tourism there. Week-long coach tours and pricey four-wheeling trips to locations, picture books, tea towels, keychains, Gollum figurines staring out of the windows of the souvenir shops, and lots of posters of Legolas — it’s everywhere. They say that LOTR put NZ on the map for many Americans, who all wanted to go to Oz before, Land of Crocodile Dundee. The LOTR filming locations are even on the official AA national road atlas, with their own little unique yellow movie camera logo→
Now, in my day I’ve been as much as a Tolkienophile as the next person (maybe more; I know the difference between Sindarin and Quenya) and I enjoyed the movies. But the LOTR thing was never a part of my desire to visit NZ. Beyond the fact that it was an inspired choice for filming Tolkien’s story, the whole angle of being interested in an entire country with an astounding human history and complex natural history just because little bits of it stood in for a fantasy landscape made me mildly crabby, I’ll admit. By contrast, the good-natured Kiwis are astute enough to have recognized the giant kiwi-sized golden egg that Peter Jackson, a Kiwi himself, laid on them, and (to scramble metaphors) they’ve run with it: Yanks want to visit the wind-riffled golden plains of Rohan? “Nye problim — Paint a Hobbit on the Jeep then, mate!” Good on ’em, I say: ka-¢hing!
So, there we were on a bright, blustery day driving along the Desert Road in the Tongariro National Park, the center of the Volcanic Highlands area, the most volcanically active region of all of NZ, when there it was, an ominously symmetrical volcanic cone jutting up all by itself from the arid tip-tilted plain at its feet.
What was my reaction? Was it, “Oh, look E, there’s Mt. Ngauruhoe, the youngest volcanic peak on the island at only 2500 years old; its summit is tapu to the Māori, and it last erupted from 1973- 1975 when it chucked lava chunks 3 km and issued a 13 km-high column of ash that collapsed and flowed down the slopes in gaseous and destructive scoria flows…” ?
No, it was: “Cooooooooooolllllllllllllllll! Mt. Dooooooooommmmmmmmm!”
It was kind of like when the Company of the Ring was ambushed by orcs on the banks of the Anduin after leaving Lothlorien, and
“Yrch,” said Legolas, falling into his own tongue.
— these gut reactions are inevitable in moments of excitement.