South Island, Pt. 9: Mount Sunday on a Sunday

Previously, on Nathan’s Life: I spent the night in Christchurch, rented a car, and started driving Southwest across the island. En route, I made a detour: Mt. Sunday. See that mountain? No, not that one. No, not that one either. The little one. The one that barely qualifies as a hill. Yeah, that’s Mt. Sunday.

Mt. Sunday was catapulted to international fame and stardom when Peter Jackson used it as the site for Edoras, the capital of Rohan and the town surrounding Meduseld where Theoden, Lord of the Mark holds court. You can see an image from the movie here for comparison purposes. Note that unlike Hobbiton, much of Edoras was never a real set and that which was there has now been torn down.

As a side note, while I’m a huge Tolkien fan and also a moderate fan of the Lord of the Rings movies, I’m definitely not obsessed with visiting all the filming locations. But Mt. Sunday also provides some excellent views, so I figured it would be worth a stop.

Getting to Mt. Sunday requires a looong trip down a windy gravel road, making me glad I was in a rental car. This shot is the carpark (such as it is) leading to the Mt. Sunday track.

The trail is…well, not brilliant. It intersects a stream in several places, requiring explorers to wade across. The water is not deep, except when it is, so be careful.

There are occasional tour vehicles that come through; the one in this photo (obscured by the cloud of dust it’s kicking up) had Edoras stamped on the side and appears to be a tour specifically for people wanting to see LotR filming locations. The tourists didn’t actually climb Mt. Sunday, I noted; they merely drove to the bottom of it, took photos, and then drove off. I wasted no time in judging them and basking in the smug glow of superiority.

Later on, of course, I encountered a hiker who had hiked over the mountain range I just drove over. But that’s obviously completely different, and not at all relevant to my hypocrisy :)

This part of the country is surrounded by mountains and feels quite remote. The rivers are also quite swollen due to heavy rains over the past few days. This little river here is even looking fairly deep.

Fortunately, there are a couple of bridged crossings. You can see the hill / mountain / whatever in the background here.

And there’s Mount Sunday, with real mountains in the background. This is a good shot for comparing with movie stills, though obviously when filming LotR they carefully avoided getting the gravel path in the shot.

The short climb gives some great views. I think the distribution of the rocks here is interesting, though I don’t know enough about rock things to know if it’s actually interesting or if I’m just dull enough to be interested by perfectly normal rocks lying about in a perfectly normal way.

The final push to the summit! It does get a little steep here, but it’s only like 20 meters or so. Not a hard push.

It’s totally worth it. A great view, and you get an achievement!

Sadly, this achievement has been defaced by orcs and goblins. The view is spectacular, but not spectacular is the number of sandflies, mosquitoes, and other annoying insects swarming around the summit. My word! I wanted to hang around much longer than I actually did, but the hot sun (the price I pay for such a beautiful day!) and the insects led me to beat a hasty retreat.

Not without taking a few shots, though. If you Zoom and Enhance, you can just baaaarely make out my car in the carpark. I was being eaten alive at the time so I didn’t switch lenses to get a good zoom, and it’s just the Sunny anyway so meh.

If I were a king, I would build my hall up here too just to get this view every day. I would also institute a policy of rigorous insecticide application, or perhaps some bats. Did you know that the only native New Zealand land mammals are bats? Let’s get some long-tailed bats on Mount Sunday and take care of the whole insect thing while helping preserve a species!

(I didn’t know the bat thing until a friend told me it appeared on Jeopardy! as a clue one night.)

Speaking of land mammals: hey, it’s some sheep! I know I make fun of Mt. Sunday for being the Pluto of mountains, but when you’re up on top of it and looking down at the tiny animals it does feel high, even when you look around and see so many taller mountains there too.

What a view. Let’s Zoom and Enhance those mountains a bit!


So that’s Mt. Sunday. There is a runic message beneath the achievement here…the real achievement is decoding it :).

In the next post, I actually reach my destination and explore a really neat little town in the Fiordlands. See you then!


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