Jet Boating at Dart River and Discovering Middle Earth in Glenorchy

Sunday, November 19, 2017

The fun part about Queenstown is that it’s so close to many exciting activities that cater to all ages and adventure level. On our fourth day, the heavens finally granted us a perfect, cool and sunny day which meant we’re finally heading to Dart River Valley! (Yay!)

snow-capped mountains, lake view

We left Queenstown at 7:50 AM through a scenic drive going to Glenorchy. The view was spectacular, for the ray of sunlight emphasized the snow sprinkled mountain peaks and the flourishing greens that stand out against the dark water of Lake Wakatipu. After the 45-minute drive to Dart River Adventures base in Glenorchy, we put on our rain coat and life vest for our high-speed jet boating tour.

alps, lake, trees
two men, jet boat, river, alps

After a few safety checks and important instructions, we sped through the Dart River and into the World Heritage area of Mt. Aspiring National Park. This national park is New Zealand’s third largest one, embracing a mix of stunning river valleys, towering mountain ranges, and beautiful countryside. If Queenstown is charming, wait ‘til you get to Mt. Aspiring National Park. In addition, Mt. Aspiring National Park is a camper’s dream as New Zealand doesn’t have snakes and other predators.

Everywhere I looked was a sight to behold! The handy dandy GoPro was my companion while the jet boat sped and spun, while my DSLR camera was ready to capture scenic nature everytime we took a short break for our driver-tour guide’s commentary. Landforms in the park were produced by intense glaciations and parts of Dart were glacier-fed rivers. In one of our stops, we were brought to the exact location of Isengard where Gandalf rides up through Nan Curunír (Valley of Saruman). Of course with CGI, everything looks different.

river, alps, mountains
rivers, alps, plants, trees
man with background of the alps

We continued our jet boat ride towards the bluish-green pool of water of the Dart River. On this part, tourists can enjoy funyaks where they kayak through the still river and the surrounding trees that lie along the river valley. A huge Greenstone (Pounamu) was passed along our group (which I didn’t attempt to carry though because it was too heavy), and this stone was kept hidden to where it always belonged. Greenstones (or jade as we commonly know it) have been used by the Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, for trading in earlier times.

Fact: These greenstones are sold in souvenir shops in Queenstown as accessories or ornaments. Should you buy one, these should be gifted to other people and not to be used by yourself, for the Maori people believe that using it for yourself would mean bad luck. Greenstones can only be found in the South Island of New Zealand.

bluish green water, mountains, trees
man, kayak, river, mountains
chasm, rocks, river
lake, alps, trees, nature

After more than an hour of jet boating (my face and hands were already numb and cold), we stopped somewhere in the middle of the river and continued on foot as we discover Middle Earth through the beech forest. Beech trees are indigenous to New Zealand and they were left untouched, for these trees grow in mountainous areas which aren’t ideal for agriculture.

beech trees against sunlight

On the first five minutes of our walk through the forest, our tour guide plucked a number of leaves from a plant and handed each of us a piece, which we were instructed to chew. The first few bites tasted like unripe guava but after a few seconds came the enormously spicy flavor! I forgot what it’s called, but in New Zealand these leaves were used as spices for many dishes including steak.

As we discover more flora and fauna deep into the forest, we saw many entrapments for possums which were considered pests in the beech forest. Before heading back to our drop off point near the river, we saw a huge wooden chair. It’s so odd to see such object in the middle of the forest, but our tour guide pointed out that it was the exact representation of the prop used for Lord of the Rings. They call it the Hobbit Chair and was used to emphasize the size difference between the hobbits and other middle earth people. Since Peter Jackson didn’t want too much CGI on scenic clips, he used camera tricks and effects with the help of props.
girl, forest, wooden chair
Laughing so hard, I can't contain myself! The effect looks very hilarious and the experience was so much fun!
alps, river valley, pebbles

We boarded a minibus as we go through the rocky road going to the stunning farm and alps backdrop of LOTR and The Hobbit. Narnia (The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe) also used the same location, though I can’t remember which part. Another film in that location was Wolverine where Hugh Jackman was filmed naked. Our tour guide even gave us an insider scoop of how lucky and timely some tourists “met” Hugh Jackman while they were on a horseback riding trip.

alps, farm, trees
alps, farm, road, trees
cow, farm, trees

The overall jet boating experience in Dart River Valley was exhilarating! The astonishing views and preserved Mt. Aspiring National Park is a must-visit destination for all nature lovers and mountaineers. Conservation of wildlife is an utmost importance and the park’s location being isolated is perfect for those who adore the beautiful stillness of nature. In addition, the visit through Middle Earth and other filming locations were fascinating! Big movies aren’t always made in the sets of Hollywood, but the most natural, picturesque films can be found in the backyard of Glenorchy, New Zealand.

Are you planning a trip to Dart River and Mt. Aspiring National Park? Bookmark this post for your future travels to New Zealand!

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